How to Sue for Hostile Work Environment
A hostile work environment is detrimental to the employee as well as the employer. When employers overlook workplace harassment, this creates a hostile work environment. Federal law protects employees from working in a discriminatory workplace. Therefore, if the workplace harassment intensifies to become a hostile work environment, the employee should file a complaint and take next steps to file a lawsuit.
Symptoms of a Hostile Work Environment
True criteria of a hostile work environment is not just an unpleasant interaction at work. No, to fall into the category of hostile workplace, the conduct must be so severe that it’s unstopping and causes the employee to feel unsafe. This treatment is not just a one-off inappropriate comment.
Hostile Work Environment – the climate created by pervasive physical, verbal, or visual conduct at work that is excessively intimidating, offensive, and abusive.
- Unwelcome – you have clearly stated to the offender that the conduct is unwelcome
- Pervasive – the behavior is so constant that it influences your employment situation
- Discrimination – unwelcome conduct is due to your legally protected status
- Unstopping – despite your best effort, the behavior continues
Anyone can cause a hostile work environment. This type of behavior can come from a manager, coworker, client, independent contractor, or someone else that must be interacted with at work. A hostile working environment is illegal. Therefore, employers should endeavor to resolve anything that might cause such a claim.
Hostile Workplace Examples
For a workplace to be categorized as hostile, the inappropriate and harassing conduct must be ongoing with a refusal to stop. In some situations, the environment may cause an employee to be overlooked for promotion or to receive a demotion. Another effect of a hostile workplace is that productivity may suffer since the employee is under such pressure.
Lizzie, an engineer, worked for her laboratory for five years. She was transferred to a different department, where the supervisor made sexual comments to her. Lizzie point-blank asked him to stop. He did not. His sexual and sexist comments only intensified until Lizzie was afraid to be in a room alone with him. Previously a rising star in her field, her work began to suffer. Lizzie notified her HR department, but they refused to transfer her or her supervisor elsewhere.
Richard, ethnically Chinese but a citizen of the USA, is working his way through grad school by being a janitor. A few of the students at his college call him names. Richard asked them to stop, but instead, when they saw Richard coming, they intentionally made messes for him to clean. Richard informed his supervisor and was told to quit.
Occasional jokes or simple teasing are not harassment nor are they grounds for a claim of hostile work environment. Every situation is different. A hostile work environment attorney knows what conduct constitutes filing a complaint.
Sue for a Hostile Work Environment
When you decide to sue for the claim of hostile work environment, you must be able to prove that you did everything in your power to resolve the issue before turning to a federal or state agency. This means speaking to your offender to ask them to stop before going through your company’s process. Know your rights and how to pursue them.
1. Are you a part of a legally protected class?
Although federal law outlines a number of rights for most employees, employees who belong to a legally protected class receive more protections from discrimination and harassment. Legally protected classes include age, race, religion, national origin, gender, ethnicity, and disability.
2. Check your employer’s policy handbook.
Every company should have an employee handbook that outlines the company policy for different situations within the workplace. In this book, you will find how the company wishes you to report harassment, discrimination, and hostile work environment. When you report this type of problem, your employer should take steps to resolve the issue.
3. Consult an employment lawyer.
When your employer does not initiate any interactive process to resolve the ongoing hostile work environment, you need to reach out to a lawyer. Years of experience of real life situations and legal work ensures that an attorney recognizes when your situation belongs to the category of hostile work environment. Your lawyer lays out next steps and guides you through the legal process.
4. File a complaint.
Your employment lawyer will help you choose the right federal or state agency to file your complaint with for a hostile work environment claim. In some cases, it may be better to file with both to keep your options open as the situation is processed. A lawyer will know your best options.
5. File a lawsuit.
After the federal or state agency investigates the situation, you may receive a Right to Sue letter (you may also request this letter) so your lawyer can file a lawsuit for you. In most cases, the employer will want to informally settle the situation outside of the courtroom. However, every situation is unique.
Contact KM&A Hostile Work Environment Lawyers
Navigate the legal system like a pro with the aid of the lawyers at KM&A. If you’ve been working in a hostile work environment that fits the above scenarios, reach out to a lawyer today.