What constitutes a hostile work environment?

On Behalf of | May 16, 2023 | Employment Law |

You have the right to show up to work without fear of harassment, bullying or hostility from your colleagues and supervisors. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a hostile work environment occurs when unwelcome conduct creates an offensive, intimidating or hostile atmosphere.

Generally, discriminatory acts and harassment create a hostile work environment.

What are hostile behaviors?

Hostile behavior can refer to insults, microaggressions and degrading comments by your colleagues, supervisors or customers. While one-time statements or teasing does not always constitute hostile, it can be hostile if a person makes comments or gestures that mock any protected characteristic. If you object to how someone treats you and he or she insists on continuing, this could be considered harassment or creating a hostile work environment.

In addition to direct comments, your coworkers and supervisors cannot display belittling objects, signs or objects linked to a history of discrimination.

What does a hostile work environment feel like?

How you feel at work is part of defining a hostile work environment. If you feel offended, threatened or humiliated regularly, the environment is likely hostile. The law looks at the frequency of conduct and the severity of the behavior before determining if the harassment violates the law.

If you cannot concentrate on your work or if your mental health suffers because of the harassment you face, then the conduct extends past teasing and into harassment territory.

If you work in hostile conditions, you have every right to report the environment to your management team without fear of retaliation.