Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Hostile Work Environment/Unwelcome Conduct

All employees are entitled to a workplace that is free from racial discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation. Although there isn’t any complete list of behaviors that would constitute a hostile work environment, a hostile environment might be seen at a workplace where:

--an employee is set up for failure by being intentionally denied the tools they need to successfully complete a task or where obstacles to completing assignments are maliciously applied to hinder a successful outcome;

--an employee is subjected to racial slurs and/or epithets;

--an employee is subjected to threats of physical violence or threats to their job/employment;

--an employee is subjected to stare down contests or has their physical boundaries encroached upon as a method of intimidation and to create an uncomfortable environment;

--an employee is subjected to false and malicious allegations of poor performance;

--an employee is punished for errors committed by other staff; and/or

--an employee is forced to view offensive pictures or objects.

Again, the list is not exhaustive. The point is that a hostile and offensive environment clearly represents unwelcomed conduct.

Unwelcome conduct is something that an employee doesn’t invite. Unwelcome conduct is undesirable or offensive. According to the EEOC, “When the conduct involves mistreatment or is racially derogatory in nature, unwelcomeness usually is not an issue, even when the alleged harasser and victim are of the same race.”

In addition to being unwelcome, conduct must normally be severe or pervasive to violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. HOWEVER, racially abusive conduct does not have to be so egregious that it causes economic or psychological injury.

A hostile work environment (harassment) is analyzed on a case-by-case basis, by looking at all the circumstances and the context. Relevant factors in evaluating whether racial harassment creates a sufficiently hostile work environment may include any of the following (no single factor is determinative):

--The frequency of the discriminatory conduct;

--The severity of the conduct;

--Whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating;

--Whether it unreasonably interfered with the employee’s work performance; and

--The context in which the harassment occurred, as well as any other relevant factor.

The more severe the harassment, the less pervasive it needs to be, and vice versa. Accordingly, unless the harassment is quite severe, a single incident or isolated incidents of offensive racial conduct or remarks generally do not create an abusive working environment. But a single, extremely serious incident of harassment may be sufficient to constitute a Title VII violation, especially if the harassment is physical.

Examples of the types of single incidents that can create a hostile work environment based on race include: an actual or depicted noose or burning cross (or any other manifestation of an actual or threatened racially motivated physical assault), a favorable reference to the Ku Klux Klan, an unambiguous racial epithet such as the “N-word,” and a racial comparison to an animal, such as a monkey or gorilla.

Racial comments or other acts that are not sufficiently severe standing alone may become actionable when repeated, although there is no threshold magic number of harassing incidents giving rise to liability.



Blogger Meredith said...

Interesting reading this post, since I am a white woman and these are the very things I have dealt with in my various workplaces from black women-extreme hostility.

5:32 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Toshiba Computers
Blogarama - The Blog Directory <