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Understanding hostile workplace environment

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2018 | Employment Litigation

At the Law Offices of Levi Williams PA in Florida, we know that your workplace often can be a stressful place. It is full of people, and people do not always get along. Some even go so far as to harass their coworkers in subtle or not-so-subtle ways. But whether this harassment rises to the level of a hostile workplace environment is a complicated question.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bans workplace harassment based on race, religion, national origin and gender. But what is harassment? As FindLaw explains, to constitute a hostile workplace environment, the harassment must go well beyond a few off-color jokes, inappropriate comments or even the occasional inappropriate gesture.

Words versus actions

Words themselves seldom amount to a hostile workplace environment, no matter how offensive they are to you. For one thing, the standard is not how you feel, but rather, whether a reasonable person would feel the same. Usually an offensive act must accompany the offensive words.

The exception to this general rule is the case of verbal assault. If you can prove that the words aimed at you were so vulgar, lewd and/or egregious that they caused you extreme workplace embarrassment and/or humiliation, this amounts to verbal assault and is the “act” required for a hostile work environment.

Female harassment

The vast number of workplace harassment and hostile work environment victims are women. In the past several years, more and more female workers have come forward to report such workplace discrimination and file suits against their employers to be compensated for it.

If you wish to do likewise, at minimum, courts generally take the following four factors into consideration when determining the validity of such a complaint:

  1. How severe was the harassment
  2. Over how long of a period did it occur?
  3. Did the words and/or acts amount to a physical threat against you?
  4. Did they negatively impact your workplace performance?

Hostile workplace environment and female workplace harassment are both continuing serious issues. Despite the protections of Title VII, you and other female workers must remain ever vigilant while at work. For more information on this subject, please visit this page on our website.