What constitutes a hostile work environment?

On Behalf of | Oct 2, 2023 | Employment Law |

In every workplace, it is essential to foster an environment where employees can thrive, feel safe and be productive. Unfortunately, there are instances when the workplace turns hostile, which can have detrimental effects on employees’ well-being and job performance.

It is not always easy to determine whether an employer has created a poor work environment, so employees must be aware of the common signs.

Defining a hostile work environment

A hostile work environment refers to a workplace where employees face persistent and unwarranted harassment or discrimination. This negative atmosphere can result from various factors, including actions, behaviors or communication from coworkers, supervisors or even third parties like clients or customers.

Keep in mind that isolated incidents or minor disagreements do not necessarily create a hostile work environment; rather, it is the ongoing nature of the behavior that defines it.

Harassment and discrimination

Harassment can take many forms, such as verbal abuse, offensive jokes, insults or unwanted advances. Discrimination involves treating employees unfairly based on protected characteristics like race, gender, age, religion or disability. In a hostile work environment, these actions are not isolated but pervasive.

The role of management

Management plays an important role in preventing a hostile work environment. When employees report incidents of harassment or discrimination, it is the responsibility of the employer to take appropriate action. Failure to do so not only perpetuates the hostile environment but can also lead to legal consequences.

Creating a safe work environment

Preventing a hostile work environment starts with creating policies and guidelines that promote respectful behavior and inclusivity. Regular training on diversity, equity and inclusion can help employees identify unacceptable behavior. Encouraging open communication channels where employees can report issues without fear of retaliation is also important.

As reported by NASDAQ, 55% of workers in the U.S. claim to have suffered from discriminatory practices where they currently work. That is why employees who find themselves in a hostile work environment should take immediate steps to seek resolution.