Working in a hostile environment can cause both mental and physical harm. For this reason alone, the law allows employees affected to bring claims against their employers. There are a range of factors which sometimes prevent employees from leaving hostile environments once they’re discovered. Therefore, it is incumbent on managers and company owners to create and foster positive work environments where, at the very least, workers do not have to worry about their mental and physical well-being each time they clock in.
In the case that a hostile workplace is running in the open and consistently harming employees, it’s possible—in fact some regard it as a duty—to bring charges (civil or criminal) against such businesses so the harmful environment ceases to exist. Below we will discuss the elements of a hostile workplace case that one would have to prove in court. Knowing these elements before bringing a case is essential. A hostile workplace attorney can help in establishing whether or not a case is present.
Understanding the Elements of a Hostile Workplace Case
While hostile work environment discrimination is not expressly prohibited by current employment discrimination statutes, employers are not allowed to discriminate against individuals because they belong to a protected class. The protected classes are race, religion, national origin, disability and gender. Original employment discrimination statutes were created to eliminate discrimination in hiring, promotions, wage earning, etc., and federal courts have expanded the reach of these laws. Now, it’s implied that offensive conduct directed at employees because of their membership to a protected class is, in fact, discrimination.
The courts have over the years ruled that discrimination must be severe and pervasive in order to constitute a hostile work place; an individual must be personally or subjectively injured by the offense as a reasonable individual would be.
Example: If a workplace has a culture of promulgating sexual harassment and assault, then this would be deemed an overtly hostile workplace, and individuals who’ve been subjected to such hostility would likely be able to bring suit against those who create and maintain such an offensive work environment. With sexual harassment cases, specifically, there’s a requirement for harassers that they must know that their conduct is offensive.
Pervasiveness and Intent as They Relate to Hostile Work Environment Cases
One severe act of harassment can cause a work environment to become hostile. Similarly, while pervasiveness is often equated with frequency, pervasiveness can also have to do with how far a problem reaches throughout the workplace.
For example: If offensive, racist language is used and heard throughout a workplace, then the enormity of the discrimination and its ability to permeate will render the environment hostile. In most cases, members of protected classes who work in such a space will be able to bring a hostile workplace claim because of this.
Do you believe you’ve been harmed as a result of working in a hostile environment? Contact Sandberg Law Firm now and speak to a qualified hostile workplace attorney. We fight for our clients so their rights and interests are always protected! Call (507) 282-3521.