Under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal to subject an employee to discrimination or harassment based on certain protected characteristics, such as national origin, race, sex, religion, age or disability. Therefore, understanding what constitutes a hostile work environment is crucial for employers and employees.
It is important to note that a single incident may not be sufficient to establish a hostile work environment, as the behavior must be both severe and pervasive. Please continue reading to explore what constitutes a hostile work environment.
How to recognize a hostile work environment
Certain factors must be present to determine whether a hostile work environment exists. When viewed collectively, these factors can help establish the severity and pervasiveness of the conduct in question.
For starters, discrimination based on protected characteristics, such as race or gender, can contribute to a hostile work environment. Examples of discriminatory conduct may include:
- Derogatory remarks
- Offensive jokes
- Unequal treatment based on these characteristics
Additionally, harassment that occurs repeatedly and over an extended period is a significant indicator of a hostile work environment. This can include:
- Verbal abuse
- Intimidating behavior aimed at belittling or demeaning an employee
The presence of offensive materials, such as explicit images or derogatory posters, can also contribute to a hostile work environment. Such materials create an atmosphere that is hostile, uncomfortable and inappropriate.
Reporting and addressing hostile work environments
Employees who find themselves in a hostile work environment should keep a record of specific incidents, including dates, times, locations and descriptions, to make their claims credible when reporting the situation.
Informing a supervisor, manager or the Human Resources department about the issue is essential in addressing the problem. Employees should follow their company’s established procedures for reporting complaints.
Suppose you’re working in a hostile company environment. In that case, you may need to consult with a professional to understand your rights and the legal options you can explore if the issue is not resolved internally.