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WHAT IS CONSIDERED A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT?
Offensive comments, discrimination, bullying, or unwanted sexual advances by a supervisor, manager or coworker can create a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment.
Often it is sexual harassment or workplace discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religious beliefs, age, disability or sexual orientation that create a hostile work environment. Hostile work environment means that there is severe or pervasive offensive conduct in the workplace.
To have a valid legal claim, the offensive conduct must be severe in nature, or pervasive (one incident or comment would not be considered pervasive). Federal laws such as the Civil Rights Act, the American Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and state laws provide legal protection from being subjected to a hostile work environment.
There are adverse negative consequences that can result from working in a company with a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment can make anyone unable to perform job duties and feel reluctant to go to work every day, which can greatly affect work performance and affect career advancement or promotions.
It can make the employee fearful his or her direct supervisor, co-workers or managers. In some cases, a hostile work environment can be serious enough to the point that the employee feels the only way to remedy the situation is to resign.
There are many types of workplace harassment and interpretations that even the most experienced HR professional could miss obvious signs or work-related harassment.
With a more clear understanding of workplace harassment, an employee would be better informed to help a coworker deal with their experiences, report to HR ( or help report ) a harassment claim.
The most common harassment cases in California are:
Employee Racial Harassment
An employee may experience racial harassment in the workplace because of their race, skin color, ancestry, country of origin or citizenship.
Even generalizations of a certain ethnicity (curly hair, accents, customs, beliefs or clothing) may be the cause of harassment behavior at work. Racial harassment often comes across as:
Racial slurs and insults
Degrading comments or gossip
Intolerance of differences and criticism
Employee Gender Harassment
Gender-based harassment in the workplace is also very common, this type of harassment is discriminatory behavior towards a person based on their gender.
Negative and offensive gender stereotypes about how men and women should or do act are often the cause of the harassment.
Some examples are:
A male dancer faces harassment for having what is commonly perceived as a woman’s job
A female office manager isn't promoted for not being “leader material”
A male employee makes comments degrading to women colleagues.
Employee Religious Harassment
Religious harassment is often related to racial harassment but narrows in specifically on the employee's religious beliefs. An employee with a religion that differs from the “norm” of the company may face harassment in the workplace or intolerance in a variety of ways:
Intolerance toward religious holidays
Criticism toward religious traditions
Being made fun of because of religious customs
Negative religious jokes
Offensive stereotypical comments
Disability-based harassment in the workplace is a type of employee-related harassment directed towards individuals who:
Suffer from a disability or incapacitation themselves
Are related to a disabled person
Use disability benefits (sick leave, FMLA or workers’ comp)
An employee with a disability may experience harassment in the form of offensive teasing, patronizing statements, refusals to accommodate or isolation from the rest of the employees.
Employee Sexual Orientation-Based Harassment
Sexual orientation-based harassment is a very common type of workplace harassment. Employees face harassment because their sexual orientation is different from most employees around them.
People of any sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, etc.) may experience this form of workplace harassment regardless of their line of work or position within the company.
For example, a homosexual male employee may face harassment on a construction site whereas a heterosexual employee may be teased for working in a beauty salon.
Employee Age-Based Harassment
Employees over 40 years are protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in an to promote the employment of older people and reduce age-based harassment claims.
A person facing age-based harassment in the workplace might be:
Teased or constantly insulted,
Left out of company activities, meetings, or projects
Unfairly criticized and often isolated
More often than not, this type of harassment is inflicted with the intention to wrongfully force the employee into early retirement.
Sexual Harassment In The Workplace
Examples of Sexual Harassment:
Posting sexual material
Sexual suggestions, statement, jokes, or questions
Invading personal space in a sexual manner
How Big is the Sexual Harassment Problem in California?
For decades, there have been rumors that sexual harassment is the "norm" in California's entertainment industry. More recently, there’s been a constant flow of sexual harassment accusations coming from Hollywood creating the #MeToo movement that highlights the prevalence of sexual harassment in this industry.