Nearly every working American has heard of the term hostile work environment, it is, after all, a fairly easy concept to understand. As easy as it is to understand, it is equally as difficult to define. It is not uncommon for American workers to have various definitions of what a hostile work environment truly is. Fortunately, there is a general set of guidelines meant to offer a legal definition of a hostile work environment.
While everyone typically experiences a certain level of criticism while on the job, any act or behavior by coworkers or an employer that discriminates against a person based on a protected classification like religion, race or age is considered to create a hostile work environment. Likewise, this behavior must last over a certain period of time and should not be limited to one or two remarks.
The behavior or acts in question must also be severe enough to disrupt an employee’s work. This behavior, communication or action can also be considered severe if it prevents an employee from progressing at work.
In order for an employee to claim that their workplace was a hostile work environment, the behavior or action in question must have been reported to Human Resources. If the behavior and actions continued past the report, it was not investigated, or the employer did not take sufficient action to stop the behavior, an employee can claim a hostile work environment.
Essentially, discriminatory communication made against a person in reference to a protected classification like religion, age or race over a long period of time, creates a hostile work environment. Individuals that are subject to this type of harassment may benefit by speaking to an attorney.