Disliking your work environment does not make it a hostile work environment.
To be legally considered a hostile workplace, your situation must meet several criteria. Understanding these requirements may help you advocate for your rights as an employee.
What constitutes a hostile workplace?
If you think you might be working in a hostile environment, ask yourself these questions:
- Is someone discriminating against a protected class of people?
- Is the problem common in your workplace?
- Does it disrupt your work or career progress?
- Has the behavior continued over time?
- Does your employer know about the behavior?
- Has your employer investigated the behavior and tried to make it stop?
Depending on your answers to those questions, you may work in a hostile environment.
A hostile work environment usually involves discriminatory comments or actions based on someone’s sex, race, religion, age or other protected classification. The person who is discriminating may be a co-worker, a manager, a supervisor, a contractor, a client, a vendor or a visitor. It may even be a group of people.
In a hostile work environment, unwelcome behavior may be pervasive. It can significantly disrupt an employee’s work or career progress.
What can you do to make the discriminatory behavior stop?
If you think someone’s behavior is inappropriate, you could consider asking him or her to stop. Sometimes this is enough to end the behavior.
If the behavior does not stop, it might be best to report it to your manager or the human resources department. By making your employer aware of the problem, you put the onus on the company to investigate.
If your employer does not stop the behavior, you still have options. The proper course of action will depend on your situation. It may be appropriate, for example, to file a charge of discrimination.
If you have questions about hostile work environment, contact an experienced employment law attorney.