If you are an employer, you’ve probably heard the word “hostile work environment” many times. You probably shake your head and tell yourself: “Not on my watch.”
But, the fact remains that employment lawsuits catch many employers off guard. Many are not aware that their firm or company has an environment that is ripe for abuse, harassment or intimidation.
Some may not be in touch with day-to-day operations in their companies and may be unaware of the existence of such a hostile work environment.
Identifying a Hostile Workplace
As an employer, it is important you understand what a “hostile work environment” really is. That’s because having such an environment in your business can create serious liability issues in the form of harassment claims and employee lawsuits.
Worse, it can also bring down the morale of your organization, reducing productivity and killing job satisfaction for your employees.
It’s not a hostile environment when you have a rude supervisor or an annoying coworker. Also, random and isolated incidents do not create a hostile work environment.
According to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a hostile work environment involves “unwelcome conduct” based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability, and occurs when the offensive conduct is sustained creating an environment which a reasonable person would find intimidating, hostile or abusive.
Examples of offensive conduct include offensive jokes, epithets, physical threats or assaults, intimidation, discrimination and interference with job performance. The conduct can come from supervisors, colleagues or even clients or non-employees.
Preventing Such an Environment
When it comes to a hostile work environment, prevention is best. If you are an employer, take prompt action when you get a complaint or reports of harassment. Never dismiss an employee’s complaints especially if you see evidence that the harassment occurred.
Failing to heed such as complaint could prove costly and damaging to your business.
If you are an employee who is suffering in a hostile work environment, remember that you have legal rights. You can seek compensation for your damages and your employer cannot retaliate against you for filing a complaint.
If you have suffered harassment or intimidation in the workplace, contact an experienced California employment lawyer who can help protect your rights and hold the wrongdoers accountable. You do not have to suffer in silence.