A Hostile and Offensive Work Environment
• Use of racially derogatory words, phrases, epithets;
• 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; or
• Derogatory or intimidating references to an employee’s mental or physical impairment.
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;
• 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.
According to the EEOC, an employer is automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in a negative employment action such as termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages. If the supervisor's harassment results in a hostile work environment, the employer can avoid liability only if it can prove that: 1) it reasonably tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior; and 2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.