What is the Legal Definition of a Hostile Work Environment?

The hostility that exists in a corporate environment is actually counterproductive and eats into productivity because it sucks out any individual desire to make the office work together as a team, the hostility creates small pockets of a clique. The creation of an ingroup acknowledges the creation of an outgroup.

The corporate cost can be astronomical on two counts, the first is the sheer drop in productivity, employees who dread coming to work are not likely to brainstorm ideas. Instead they are forced into small cliques that maintain a hostile and disruptive stance.

The second cost is the individual stress to the employees. They suffer from headaches, hypertension and other real or imagined symptoms, that lead to them calling in sick. They are frustrated and the brightest will leave and find a more conducive working environment. The least able stay because they feel that they cannot get another job and their productivity and creativity is also reduced.

It is therefore in the employers interest to stamp out any hostile working environment, yet in many cases it is the bosses that fan the flames of this hostile environment. They force their staff into a position where they are isolated and frustrated.

The U.S. has an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and they confer several legal rights to employees. The job of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is to enforce federal laws that prohibit employees being discriminated against. These laws protect both employees and prospective employees against employment discrimination. However whilst many people know that employment discrimination is a crime the details can be a bit fuzzy around the edges.

Employers are not allowed to show any kind of favor or discrimination on the grounds of

  • Race
  • Color
  • Creed
  • Sex
  • Ethnic origins
  • Age (over 40)
  • Genetic information.

However the issues can be slightly broader no discrimination against sex includes any discrimination against women for being pregnant. It also includes harassment by co-workers as well as employees on the above grounds.

Recently it was reported in the British press that a business told a prospective Conservative member of parliament that they would not be considered because the sight of a pregnant woman made him feel sick! American legislation extends to preventing retaliation when complaints were received on the above grounds.

However the laws are not necessarily clear cut because not all employees are protected, it does depend on the number of employees and the type of employment discrimination alleged.

Despite this any employee can lodge a”Charge of Discrimination” even if they are not protected In fact all discrimination lawsuits must be preceded by a charge of discrimination, unless the employee is filing for discrimination on the grounds of unequal. However there is a time limit against these charges and that time constraint is strictly enforced.

The charge of discrimination is what it says it is an allegation and there are no claims at all that the government agree Wit the charge. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has a legal obligation to investigate the charge of discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has the power to force the employer to disclose certain records regarding their employment policy.

The next step in the process is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issues a right to sue, which gives the employee the right to take legal action against their employers’. The employee has a year exactly to procure the right to sue, but this figure is not always the same for government workers.

One benefit about discussions with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the fact that there advice is both free and implies confidentially which means that you do not pay and they cannot take any action without your approval.

However it is crucial that you accept that their word is not necessarily written in stone – they may feel that you do not have any grounds to sue for discrimination, but a lawyer may well advise you differently. This is because defining a hostile working environment is by its very nature contentious. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission tends to confine its definitions to the categories which are listed above and any other local laws, because they carry federal protection.

Sometimes that can leave you in a situation that you feel you have no options, and this is rarely the case. In most cases there are options, but you are not aware of those options. Pre-Paid Legal Services, which have a fixed low cost monthly charge provides phone consultations with labor lawyers.

Some cases are rejected because the employee has not stated to their employer that they are a victim of discrimination. However there may be valid reasons why an employee has failed to do that, they may feel that they will aggravate an already hostile working environment.

An employer has a legal responsibility to provide a mechanism for reporting experiences, that confers some levels of protection to their employees. It is often grounds of discrimination that this protection is not in place nor enforced. It is not enough to be there, an employer cannot pay lip service to this, they must make a situation safe for the employee to speak.

However some form of document is essential if only the alleged times and dates of the employment discrimination. never give your employee a letter or a document without retaining a copy. State clearly your objections and grounds of the discrimination and ask for the behavior to stop. Write down any actions from your employer in retaliation of the alleged discrimination and if possible provide witnesses. it is often best to speak to trusted colleagues outside of the working environment.

This has a two fold effect you feel less isolated and alone and are not treated as a pariah in the workforce. This reduces the stress a little. Also their is someone backing up your allegations.