Hostile Work Environment
A person’s workplace should allow them to prosper professionally in an environment where they feel safe, comfortable, and free to complete their daily tasks to the best of their ability. However, when a workplace is hostile or it makes a person feel uncomfortable, a person’s ability to achieve professional tasks and goals is hindered greatly. These hostile work environments can be created by backstabbing co-workers, hostile bosses, harassment based on gender, sexual orientation, or age, and any other behavior by any other employee of a company that is done to make a co-worker feel uncomfortable performing their job on a day to day basis.
What Creates a Hostile Work Environment?
Many different actions can create a hostile work environment, and the victims of these behaviors are not limited to the employees in which the comments or actions are directed. Anyone made to feel uncomfortable or intimidated by these actions can be considered a victim, making these actions particularly damaging as they spread much farther than simply to the intended target or targets.
The actions performed by the individual creating the hostile work environment must be harassing and discriminatory in nature, but what these comments or actions may discriminate against can vary. Some common types of discrimination and harassment that create a hostile work environment are:
- Discrimination against gender or sexual orientation
- Discrimination against age
- Discrimination against a mental disability or impairment
- Inappropriate comments made about a co-workers ancestry or place of birth
- Discrimination against a co-workers religion or lack thereof
- Lewd or sexual comments made to another co-worker
- Intentional touching or brushing against a co-worker
- The sharing of inappropriate pictures or comments though E-mail
While these are just some common subjects of discrimination or harassment, the discriminatory actions made to create a hostile work environment are not limited to these specific guidelines.
What is not Considered to Create a Hostile Work Environment?
A hostile work environment must be created by offensive or discriminatory behavior against an individual or a group of people. Behaviors that create an annoyance, but are not intentionally discriminatory in nature, may cause an employee to become annoyed or irritable, but they would not be considered to be contributors to a hostile work environment. Some of these behaviors may include:
- An employee that talks too much
- A co-worker that speaks too loudly
- A co-worker that has work habits, such as taking too many breaks, that a co-worker does not agree with.
- Isolated offhand comment instances
For behaviors to be considered those that create a hostile work environment, they must be considered offensive by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the EEOC.
What to do if Faced with a Hostile Work Environment
The first step a person should take if he or she is working in a hostile environment is to ask the offending party to cease their behavior. In some instances, a person may not realize that their behavior is creating a hostile work environment, and when asked to stop, they may be brought the realization that their behaviors are making another party uncomfortable and they will then stop what they have been doing.
If asking a person to stop does not work, the party who feels they are working in a hostile environment should then bring their situation to the attention of the company’s human resources department or to their manager. A manager or the human resources department of a company will typically work hard to make sure that the behaviors cease in order to avoid any type of lawsuit that may be brought about should the behaviors continue.
If neither of these actions works to stop the offensive behavior creating the hostile work environment, a lawsuit is typically the next step in ensuring that the behavior is ceased.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, was created during the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and this federal agency works hard to protect employees from hostile work environments caused by discrimination in the workplace under equal employment opportunity laws. All types of jobs and places of employment work with these laws to ensure that all workers have a comfortable and safe place to perform their professional tasks every day, and all workers are protected.
Hostile Work Environment Lawsuits
If an employee takes the necessary steps in trying to stop offensive behaviors, and these behaviors fail to cease, they may then decide to file a lawsuit against their employer or the offending employee. The mental trauma caused by the hostile work environment can then be compensated for if an employer or company neglects to stop the behaviors that caused the situation to continue. Employers and companies have an obligation to keep their employees comfortable and free from harassment or discrimination, and when this is not done properly, they can be made to pay for the damages incurred.
When filing a lawsuit stemming from a hostile work environment in the state of Maryland, it is always best that the employee who experienced the behaviors seek a skilled Maryland area attorney to help them with their case. The assistance of a professional in law will help a person to make the most of their case and receive the best possible compensation to cover the damages they have experienced from prolonged exposure to discrimination in the workplace. These situations are handled in a way that reflects the seriousness of these behaviors, and an employee should always make sure that their lawsuit will be sufficient for their individual situation.