Many California employees find themselves stuck in an unflattering work environment. While we all notate the expression of negative feelings from time to time, it can be difficult to determine just what is considered hostile and what’s not. Before you take legal action, it’s a good idea to learn more about what constitutes as ‘hostile’.
What is a hostile work environment?
In legal terms, a hostile work environment is one where you’re unable to do your job due to another person’s actions, behavior or communication. This other person may be your coworker or your boss. Their behavior or actions must alter your working conditions, terms or reasonable expectations for a comfortable environment to work in.
To make a claim for a hostile work environment, you must prove that the other person’s actions, communication or behaviors were discriminatory in nature. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has jurisdiction over these matters. The workplace discrimination that takes place must be proven by the victim. Discriminating against a person can be verified as making comments about their disability, age, pregnancy, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, religion, color, gender or race.
Drawing the line
Some actions that other employees participate in may feel hostile. However, they don’t always classify as creating a hostile work environment under federal law. For example, if your boss chews their gum while leaning over your desk to talk to you, this doesn’t classify as hostile. It can definitely be obnoxious behavior, but there’s no part of this example that is discriminatory. Let’s say the same boss sends nude images they think are funny around the office and tells sexually explicit jokes at the water cooler. In the second scenario, your boss is creating a hostile work environment.
No one likes to work in a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable or annoyed. However, only certain behavior classifies as a hostile work environment. If you have been the victim of these types of actions, it might be advisable to discuss your situation with an attorney.