Retaliation Attorney: What is Considered a Hostile Environment in the Workplace?

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  2. Retaliation Attorney: What is Considered a Hostile Environment in the Workplace?
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Memphis Retaliation Attorney

Have you ever been in a workplace with a mean boss? Where everything your boss says just rubs you the wrong way. Do you try to avoid your boss in hopes of evading a verbal assault? Depending on the nature of the supervisor’s words and conduct, you may have a hostile work environment. Our retaliation attorney, Alan Crone, details what can constitute a hostile work environment.

Conduct that is considered “hostile” is intimidating, offensive, and abusive. Someone’s conduct must reach the point of pervasive and ongoing harassment, mockery, ridicule and teasing. Small and isolated incidents do not reach the level to create a hostile work environment.  To qualify as a “hostile” workplace, conduct must be intentional, severe, recurring or pervasive to the point where it interferes with the employee’s ability to perform their job functions.  To determine whether someone’s conduct rises to the level of creating a hostile work environment, an investigative agency like the EEOC will consider how often it occurred and the reaction it garnered and ask how a “reasonable person” would characterize it.  There is always a human element to workplace issues.

Employers should have sympathy when an employee informs them he or she is unable to perform job function as a result of someone’s action. So, yes there must be some consideration in how the person making the complaint saw the person’s conduct. However, the circumstance need to be looked at from the objective basis of a reasonable person. The investigative agency must adopt the perspective of a reasonable person and determine what his or her reaction would be to a similar environment under similar or like circumstances. To avoid a complaint of hostile work environment, employers need to understand when a workplace truly qualifies as being hostile. Through taking proactive measures such as implementing clear policies against harassment and discrimination; establishing, following and enforcing protocols and procedures for reporting and investigating complaints; and making a good faith effort to swiftly and adequately respond to and resolve any substantiated complaints or legitimate issues that do arise with open communication, confidentiality, education, and corrective action whether that be to institute policy changes or discipline.

Even if comments do not rise to the level of hostile, employees need to know that infrequent off handed comments can breed an unprofessional workplace and hence a hostile work environment. If you think you’re experiencing a hostile work environment, notify your supervisor or human resources representative to have your concerns addressed.

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