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When is my hostile work environment unlawful?

hostile work environment

Believe it or not, not every hostile work environment is illegal. Rude coworkers, unappreciative bosses, lack of perks and privileges and micromanaging supervisors might make employees uncomfortable. More specifically, on their own, behaviors such as the following do not demonstrate hostile work environment harassment: cursing, yelling, name calling (stupid, dumb, idiot), belittling someone, talking in a demeaning tone. While certainly hostile, these behaviors will not give rise to a legal claim. The law does not guarantee every individual a nice place to work or a kind and caring boss.

When the hostility in the work environment is the result of a form of employment discrimination, the conduct crosses the line into illegal activity.

Some examples of an actionable hostile work environment would be:

  • Your workplace is sexually charged with explicit sexual jokes or photographs
  • Racially derogatory terms are used in the workplace on a regular and repeated basis
  • You are excluded from promotional opportunities, referred to as being too slow and asked about retirement on a persistent basis
  • Unwelcome touching or invading your space in a personal way
  • Derogatory religion-based insults
  • Upon learning you are pregnant, remarking on your sexual activity or use of birth control in an insulting manner and insinuating that you will not return to work after giving birth

The conduct giving rising to a hostile work environment claim cannot be episodic. It has to be severe or pervasive.