In addition to protecting employees from adverse employment actions, Federal law also protects employees from harassment. These types of cases are often referred to as “hostile work environment” cases.
Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. It can take many forms, but includes–among other things–conduct such as lewd, racist or sexist comments; physical assaults or threats; ridicule; and the display of offensive objects or pictures.
Harassment does not include petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless the incident is extremely serious). And the harasser can be a supervisor, co-worker, or even a non-employee.
There are several elements to a hostile environment claim. In order to win, the employee must show:
- There was unwelcome conduct;
- That was based on one of the protected categories (e.g., race);
- The unwelcome conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the individual’s employment conditions and create an abusive environment; and
- The employer should be responsible for the conduct.
If you believe that you may have been subjected to or are working in a hostile work environment, please contact us for a consultation.