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California Hostile Work Environment Attorney

A hostile work environment is one that is created by a supervisor or a colleague whose demeanor or actions make it challenging or even impossible for you to do your job. While annoyances such as a loud talker or a rude or obnoxious co-worker can be aggravating, they do not legally meet the requirement for a "hostile work environment." However, when the behavior of a boss or co-worker alters the terms, conditions or reasonable expectation of a comfortable work environment for employees and when that behavior is harassing or discriminatory in nature, it constitutes a hostile work environment.

Contacting an Attorney

Bringing in an attorney as early as you can in the process can go a long way in ensuring that you get justice and relief you need from your hostile work environment claim. Your attorney can help you gather all types of evidence of discrimination and harassment that will help bolster your claim. If you are being harassed or discriminated in your workplace, please do not suffer in silence. Contact an experienced California employment lawyer at Bisnar Chase to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights. Call us at (800) 561-4887.

What Constitutes a Hostile Work Environment?

Under federal and state law, the general legal definition for hostile work environment is one that is so horrible that the worker fears going to work. Federal code and case law describe the atmosphere as being one that is "offensive, intimidating, or oppressive." Whether the environment constituted a hostile work environment is determined by looking at the totality of the circumstances, including the frequency of the harassing conduct; the severity of the conduct; if the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interfered with an employee's work performance.

In order to establish a hostile work environment, the plaintiff must prove each of the following elements by a preponderance of evidence:

  • The plaintiff was subjected to slurs, insults, jokes, verbal comments or physical contact or intimidation of a discriminatory or harassing nature.
  • The conduct was unwelcome.
  • The conduct was severe or pervasive enough to alter the conditions of the plaintiff's employment and create an oppressive, abusive or hostile work environment.
  • The plaintiff perceived the work environment to be abusive or hostile
  • A reasonable individual in the plaintiff's circumstances would consider the working environment to be abusive or hostile.

How to Handle a Hostile Work Environment

The first step is to properly and clearly communicate to the offender that the speech or behavior was inappropriate and that you want it to stop. If it continues, repeat your previous message and let the individual know you will be reporting the issue both to management and human resources. At this point, you should be documenting both your conversations and comments made to you by the offender. This type of detailed information will be helpful later.

Take the issue to your manager and to the human resources department, if your company has one. It is important that you cover your bases and make sure that everyone is in the loop. When you do take the issue to management, it would in your best interest to keep calm and professional. Getting emotional will not help make your case. Be prepared to be methodical and give specific examples of what constituted the hostile work environment. Once this process is complete and management has talked to the offender, follow up to ensure that they did take action. You will not get a full account as that is confidential under the law. But you are entitled to know the result and if disciplinary action was taken. If the offending behavior still continues, you may have grounds for legal action. Contact an experienced California employment lawyer who has handled similar cases successfully.

Holding Employers Accountable

If an employer knows that a hostile work environment has been created and yet, takes no action to correct the situation, then, the employer can be held liable for discrimination and harassment. However, under federal law, if that employer did not know about the situation, then, the employer cannot be held responsible. This is especially true if the employer had a program or procedure in place that allows employees to report harassment or discrimination.

This is why it is crucial that employees maintain careful documentation of any instance of harassment or discrimination. A journal with the dates, times and a detailed description of the event can be very helpful. It is also imperative to keep a comprehensive record of any attempts you made to notify your supervisor, human resources or management about the problem along with facts about whatever response you did or did not receive.


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