Hostile Workplace Environment
This section discusses both sexual harassment in the workplace and racial, national origin or ethnic discrimination in the hostile workplace environment.
Hostile Workplace Environment: Sexual Harassment In The Workplace
Hostile environment sexual harassment in the workplace is a situation in which the employer, supervisor, or co-worker does or says things that make the victim feel uncomfortable because of his or her sex. Hostile environment sexual harassment in the workplace does not need to include a demand for an exchange of sex for a job benefit. It is the creation of an "uncomfortable environment."
The conduct must be "offensive." If two employees have a good time exchanging sexual jokes, it would not be sexual harassment in the workplace. If one employee kept telling another employee sexual jokes that the second employee found offensive, it "would" be sexual harassment in the workplace. If two employees dated and engaged in consensual sex, this would not be sexual harassment in the workplace. If one of the two then wanted to terminate the relationship, and the other used the unequal relative terms and conditions of employment of the work place to further the relationship, this would be sexual harassment in the workplace.
Jokes, pictures, touching, leering, unwanted requests for a date have all been found by courts to be sexual harassment. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be between people of the same sex. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be a woman harassing a man.
Hostile Workplace Environment: Race, National Origin, or Ethnic Discrimination & Harassment
The court's have held that if you are harassed in the work place about your race, ethnicity, or national origin you may have the right to sue your employer. Discrimination and harassment go hand in hand here. Where there is discrimination in the workplace, there is also usually harassment in the workplace.
Severe & Pervasive Harassment & Discrimination
First, the discrimination or harassment in the workplace must be severe and pervasive. An idle comment, even if, offensive is not the basis for a lawsuit. Ongoing use of the "N" word could be severe and pervasive. Having derrogatory words and racial or ethnic slurs written on the bathroom walls could be severe and pervasive. One has to look at it on a case by case basis.
Next the conduct must be carried on by management or management must know about it and have had an opportunity to stop it and in fact, do not. In other words, management condones the behavoir.
Report The Behavior
If a fellow worker is the one doing the discrimination and harassment, you should follow the company policy and report the conduct to your supervisor and Human Resources. Report it in writing to have proof of the date you reported it, and be sure to be specific about the exact nature of the discrimination or harassment. Saying things like Joe is bothering me or harassing me is not sufficient. Also, saying that Joe called me the "N" word once is insufficient. Don't retaliate back, or you can be fired.
Who Can Sue?
Anyone who is offended by a discriminatory or sexually harassing hostile environment may theoretically sue. However, that employee's offense must be reasonable. An extremely sensitive person might not be able to maintain a claim, if his or her feelings, that have been offended, were not reasonable.
Damages In Discrimination or Sexual Harassment In The Workplace Cases
Victims of discrimination in the workplace or sexual harassment in the workplace can recover for their lost wages, future lost wages, emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorneys fees. The section on Damages discusses this further.
- For Legal Help see Finding an Attorney and David H. Greenberg, California Employment Law Attorney.
- See related sections: Damages, Sexual Harassment In The Workplace, and What is Job Discrimnation?