Posted by Tamara
Several Nevada employees have wondered exactly what constitutes a hostile work environment.
This term can be confusing, especially because it is often misused on TV and in other media. Just because a coworker or employer is ill mannered, it does not automatically mean the employee is being subjected to a hostile work environment.
According to the legal definition of a hostile work environment, two situations must exist.
Negative behavior is being directed at an employee due to his or her color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, pregnancy or age
In most cases, the employer must be aware of this negative behavior, but has not done anything to eliminate it
When these conditions exist, the employer is creating a hostile work environment for employees in that protected group. In doing so, the employer is discriminating against those employees, which violates federal laws.
If a Nevada employee is concerned about the negative behavior in his or her workplace, he or she should consult the company’s Human Resources department. The federal anti-discrimination laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If evidence points to a hostile work environment, the EEOC can investigate and take the matter to court.
In fact, the EEOC recently won a case against a Pennsylvania bakery. An African American employee was repeatedly subjected to racial slurs by the other workers. The employee complained to management, but the slurs did not stop. The court mandated that the employer pay the worker over $1 million.
Consider another situation. Jose’s employer does not like him. Jose considers his performance as average, but his boss constantly finds fault with his work and constantly nitpicks. Jose is constantly afraid of being fired. Though Jose considers his performance as average, he does make mistakes. Last month, he made an error that cost the company $7,322. Does this situation constitute a hostile work environment?
No, it does not meet the legal definition. Though Jose was singled out, it was due to what his boss perceived as poor work performance, not Jose’s race, color, sex or religion.
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