What the law says about toxic workplaces
Is being rude and abrasive at work against the law?
In most cases, the answer is obviously no. There are no legal standards that govern workplace civility.
However, there are some exceptions. For example, what if someone’s hostility is directed only toward women or people of a certain race? That sort of behavior may create a hostile work environment and in some cases, it may be unlawful.
In general, a hostile work environment is one in which discrimination or harassment is so severe that it changes the terms and conditions of a person’s or a group of people’s employment.
Elements of a hostile work environment include:
- Discrimination based on religion, age, race, sex or disability.
- Intimidating environment
- Offensive behavior
- Physical or mental abuse
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Now, let’s take a closer look at three signs that may indicate that you’re working in a hostile work environment.
What behavior constitutes a hostile work environment in New York State?
To prove a hostile work environment, you must be able to show you were targeted because of your inclusion in a protected class.
Protected classes may pertain to:
What are considered criteria for a hostile work environment?
As we mentioned before, a hostile work environment requires behavior that is more than just rude. That is, the behavior must be so severe and pervasive that it interferes with your ability to do your job. For example:
- The behavior involves discrimination on things such as gender, race, etc. Sexual harassment may be included in this.
- Any person that is considered reasonable and rational would find the behavior to be offensive or hostile.
- The conduct is ongoing, meaning it is occurring more than once.
You must make a complaint
One key element to proving a hostile work environment is that your employer should have an opportunity to remedy the situation.
That means you have to speak up about what’s happening. File a complaint with your human resources department or your supervisor. If you have a company handbook, be sure to follow the procedures for making a complaint.
If the complaint is not addressed or is inadequately addressed, you should speak to an employment law attorney about your rights.
Contact us for a consultation now
If you believe that you’re being subjected to a hostile work environment, it’s a good idea to seek out legal representation.
Call or contact us online today to discuss your unique situation.
For further reading, visit Basic Elements of an Employment Discrimination Claim.