Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What is a Hostile Work Environment?

A hostile work environment (included under discrimination/harassment of Title XII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) occurs when unwelcome comments or conduct based on sex, race or other legally protected characteristics unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Anyone in the workplace might commit this type of harassment – a management official, co-worker, or non-employee, such as a contractor, vendor or guest. The victim can be anyone affected by the conduct, not just the individual at whom the offensive conduct is directed.

A hostile, intimidating or offensive work environment might be indicated by:

--Use of racially derogatory words, phrases, epithets or being subjected to intentionally malicious and false gossip;

--Demonstrations of a racial or ethnic nature such as a use of gestures, pictures or drawings which would offend a particular racial or ethnic group;

--Comments about an individual’s skin color or other racial/ethnic characteristics;

--Making disparaging remarks about an individual’s gender that are not sexual in nature;

--Negative comments about an employee’s religious beliefs (or lack of religious beliefs);

--Expressing negative stereotypes regarding an employee’s birthplace or ancestry;

--Negative comments regarding an employee’s age when referring to employees 40 and over;

--Being intentionally prevented from performing the requirements of your job;

--Derogatory or intimidating references to an employee’s mental or physical impairment; or

--Physical violence or verbal threats of physical violence or retaliatory actions.

A claim of harassment generally requires several elements, including:

--The complaining party must be a member of a statutorily protected class;

--S/he was subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct related to his or her membership in that protected class;

--The unwelcome conduct complained of was based on his or her membership in that protected class; and

--The unwelcome conduct affected a term or condition of employment and/or had the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with his or her work performance and/or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question for you. There is a situation at work where I need to meet with a coworker. The coworker has walked away from me, ignored my requests, made appointments on days we were suppose to meet, and respond to other requests to meet. This has gone on since June. Then my manager said it was because I sometimes come on strong?? After asking someone 20 times it gets a little frustrating. Not serving our clients appropriately can have legal implications. By this individual not allowing me to train them and pass on information the client is suffering. There is also a culture of gossip and slander of new employees of me that other staff has witnessed. What should I do?

8:07 PM  

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