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What is a Hostile Working Environment?

What is a Hostile Working Environment?

Work in a Hostile Work Environment? Call 1-800-ATTORNEY!

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was created under the Civil Rights Act of 1963, was given the authority to enforce violations of the act in 1971. From 1971 to 2012, the definitions for employment discrimination have fluctuated depending on the social climate at the time. The constant that binds the EEOC actions is that the behavior pattern of the employer must create a hostile working environment for the employee. Sometimes the employer does not make the actions that create the hostile working environment. Another employee makes it. It becomes a problem only when the employee puts the company on notice that they were offended by the behavior.

Understanding the Procedures

Hostile Working EnviornmentMost employers post the sexual harassment guidelines and complaint procedures in their break rooms. Some have even begun to require newly hired employees to take a written test that can be used later in court if they claim that they did not know that their actions were considered in violation of company policy. It becomes a hostile working environment only after the victim of the behavior has approached the person who is behaving in a manner that makes the victim feel uncomfortable. That victim must make the offender aware that their behavior is offensive and that the victim does not want to work around that type of behavior.The victim must document this action.

If the offender commits the act or a similar one after being placed on notice, then the victim is required to notify a supervisor. If the supervisor does not address the problem, and it continues, then the person has an EEOC claim under hostile working environment. That is because they can prove that the conditions of employment involve enduring an overwhelming atmosphere of hostility toward the victim. The workplace is deemed hostile to the victim when they have asked for help through their proper chain of command and either met with the same treatment from the superiors, or no action was taken to alleviate the problem.

Defining “Hostile Working Environment”

The definition of a hostile working environment usually includes some type of wording to the effect that it involves behaviors of a stereotypical nature that are so pervasive or severe that they would alter the working conditions of the individual. It is a broad definition. It has to be broad in order to encompass every type of discrimination that an employee or employer can have for another. Some examples of this type of environment in a sexual harassment hostile working environment include, but are not limited to:

  • Making sexual, racial, ethnic, or religious jokes in the workplace
  • Posting sexually explicit pictures, or pictures that could be viewed as offensive.
  • Improperly touching an employee or coworker.
  • Glances, gifts, or other unwanted attention

Some people do not realize that their behavior is unwanted. Under the current social atmosphere, it is the victim’s responsibility to ensure that the offender has been put on notice to stop their behavior.

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