Many Americans are beginning to return to the office after working remotely for an extended time. With this return to work comes a multitude of possible inconveniences, from dealing with rude coworkers to having to complete unpleasant assigned tasks. It can be hard to know when these inconveniences rise to the level of a hostile work environment, as defined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and various other federal and state laws.
Hostile work environment often based on harassment
Generally, if you are experiencing harassment at work based on your membership in a protected class, you may have a claim for hostile work environment. If you are enduring harassment, look for the following characteristics:
- Discriminatory: Harassment is based on your actual or perceived age, race, gender, or another protected characteristic.
- Severe or pervasive: Harassment is ongoing and regularly interferes with your ability to do your job.
- Illegal: Conduct that creates environment that reasonable person would consider hostile, intimidating, or abusive, or conduct is condition of continued employment.
- Offensive: Conduct includes crude jokes, offensive photographs, requests of sexual favors, derogatory slurs, isolation or degradation of employee, etc.
Proving the above characteristics will require presenting correspondence, such as texts, emails, and voicemails, involving you and other employees or supervisors.
While you may not like everything about your job, it is important to remember that not every uncomfortable situation qualifies as a hostile work environment. An attorney specializing in employment law for employees can help determine whether your experience at work constitutes a hostile work environment and advise you on whether to move forward with a claim against your employer.