A hostile work environment is created by a supervisor or fellow employee whose demeanor or actions make it challenging or even impossible for you to do your job.
While annoyances such as talking at a high volume, chewing with an open mouth, or other rude and obnoxious co-worker behavior can aggravate, 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, it constitutes a hostile work environment.
If you are experiencing unnecessary stress, violence, anxiety, or harassment, we urge you to call our California hostile work environment lawyers now at (800) 561-4887. Our employment attorneys have been serving Californians for over 45 years, and we may be able to help you too.
Hostile work environment resources
How do I prove a hostile work environment in California?
You’ll need solid evidence to prove that you are dealing with a hostile work environment. The number of claims that employers receive claiming to be victims of a hostile workplace is often declined because of a lack of evidence. In California, if an employee can show proof of discriminatory or harassing behavior, they may be able to show that they did in fact work in a hostile environment.
Emails, text messages, recordings, or other records that show the behavior in question should be used as proof in your hostile work environment lawsuit.
Be sure to write down and document all the conversations you’ve had with supervisors or people from human resources about the hostile work environment you are experiencing. Dates and descriptions of events, as well as information about what occurred are crucial.
Other staff members who have witnessed or experienced the same behavior should be asked to give statements. Eyewitnesses will be critical to your case. If there is video footage of any hostile behavior, immediately have your lawyer secure that footage for your case.
How to Take Legal Action Against an Employer or Employee
Hiring an experienced hostile work environment attorney as early as you can in the process can go a long way in ensuring that you get the 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. In addition, your lawyer can give you legal advice during the process that will benefit your best interest. If you are being harassed or discriminated against at work, please do not suffer in silence.
Most Californians have experienced hostility in the workplace at least once in their career. This conflict may originate from either a boss or a fellow employee. While conflict can instill anxiety and stress in the workplace, not all conflicts are illegal and can be settled confidentially through arbitration or mediation. However, it is illegal when the hostility is driven by hate, discrimination, or in retaliation for whistleblowing. It is a violation of your rights as a worker in the state of California.
Under California law, your boss can terminate your employment at any time if you are an at-will employee. However, they must have a justified reason for letting you. Suppose an employer blackmails you, forces you to do something against your beliefs, or terminates you due to your background (race, religion, sexual orientation, gender preference, etc.). In that case, your employer will have violated the law, which may qualify you for compensation for your damages and mental anguish.
What Defines a Hostile Work Environment?
What are the leading causes of hostile work environment lawsuits? A hostile work environment is where people are treated unfairly, threatened, or abused.
A hostile work environment can be created by one person or by a group of people. It can be difficult to know whether a particular situation is a hostile work environment because it is often subjective and depends on the person’s perspective who believes they are being harassed.
The leading causes of hostile work environments are:
- Sexual harassment
- Offensive pictures, texts, or videos
- Repeated attacks on sex, religion, gender or race
- Unwanted touching or groping
- Physical attacks
- Workplace violence
Under federal and state law, the general legal definition for a hostile work environment is so poor in morale that the worker fears going to work.
According to OSHA, federal code and case law describe the atmosphere as “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.
To establish a hostile work environment, the plaintiff must prove each of the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence:
- The plaintiff was subjected to slurs, insults, jokes, verbal comments, non-consensual 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.
- In the plaintiff’s circumstances, a reasonable individual would consider the working environment abusive or hostile.
How to Handle Harassment in the Work Environment
The first step is to properly 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 report the issue 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. It would also be well advised to get the contact information of anyone who has witnessed the harassment or any other victims that may have been affected.
If your company has one, take the issue to your manager and the human resources department. You must cover your bases and ensure everyone is in the loop. When you take the issue to management, keeping calm and professional would be in your best interest, as 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 continues, you may have grounds for legal action. If this happens to you, our California employment lawyers can help you with the legal process of pressing charging and obtaining compensation.
What are some tips for dealing with workplace violence?
Violence in the workplace is a serious issue that can have adverse effects on employees. To deal with this, employers should take the necessary steps to protect their employees.
Some employers do not feel that they need to address the issue of workplace violence. This is because they think it will never happen in their office. But the truth is that there are many ways violence can erupt at any place and time, including in the workplace. This is why employers need to take appropriate steps to protect their employees from violence and provide them with a safe environment for work.
How can we help prevent workplace violence?
The first step is to identify the problem. Assess the situation and identify the risk factors, and we should take a proactive approach, where we try to address the risk factors before they escalate into violence.
Have a way for employees to report workplace violence anonymously and without fear of retaliation. There needs to be a clear policy that outlines what managers are allowed or not allowed to do in response to reports of workplace violence.
Have a clear protocol for action when an incident does occur. This protocol should include how supervisors are supposed to respond and what resources are available for victims after the incident. It is important for employers and managers who witness violence to take immediate action.
If you are experiencing violence in the workplace, please contact our hostile work environment attorney for a free consultation.
Worker's Rights in California
You have the right as a worker in California to work in a safe environment and earn income. When toxic elements in the workplace create a hostile workplace, your rights are directly violated, affecting your ability to work effectively and efficiently.
If the stress and anxiety you experience in the workplace go unchecked, it may affect your mental and personal health years after you leave your place of employment.
We urge you not to put up with these illegal and unethical factors in the workplace and to call us now if you have been affected. The employment lawyers of Bisnar Chase can inform you of your legal rights at your free consultation.
What Agency is responsible for investigating hostile workplaces?
The DFEH is the state agency responsible for enforcing civil rights laws in the workplace.
The DFEH provides free services to all Californians regardless of race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age (40 and over), disability, veteran status, or other protected characteristics.
If you feel that you have been subjected to a hostile work environment in California such as discrimination or harassment based on any of these categories listed above, then it is important to file a complaint with the DFEH as soon as possible. You can do this either online through their website at www.dfeh.ca.gov or by calling them at 800-884-1684.
Resignation Due to a Hostile Work Environment
If you had to resign because of a hostile work environment, you might have an employment case to bring a lawsuit. Suppose an employer knows that a hostile work environment has been created and takes no action to correct the situation. In that case, the employer can be liable for discrimination and harassment.
However, under federal law, the employer cannot be held responsible if that employer does not know about the situation. This is especially true if the employer has a program or procedure that allows employees to report harassment or discrimination.
This is why employees must 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 to notify your supervisor, human resources, or management about the problem, along with facts about whatever response you did or did not receive.
How Can Hostile Work Environment Attorneys help me?
Employment attorneys are experts in this field. They can help you with any aspect of a legal issue that you might have. If you face a hostile work environment, our employment lawyers can help you get justice for what happened to you.
Call us toll-free today at (800) 561-4887 for more information and to set up your free, no-obligation consultation.