What is a Hostile Work Environment?
A “hostile work environment” exists when an individual is subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct in the workplace, which substantially interferes with his or her performance. Typically, if an employee feels intimidated, offended, disrespected, and scared to be at work and the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take prompt remedial measures, it is a hostile work environment.
In order to prove a harassment claim, an individual must prove that the treatment he or she endured created a hostile work environment. While teasing, derogatory comments, and offensive jokes are always wrong, it is not harassment unless it creates a hostile environment.
For example, in order to prove sexual harassment, an employee must prove the following type of behavior happened frequently and severely enough to alter the working environment to the point of abusive and hostile.
- Sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Verbal or physical conduct or contact of a sexual nature
- Deliberate, repeated, unsolicited gestures or comments of a sexual nature
- Deliberate, repeated display of offensive, sexually graphic materials not necessary for business purposes.
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