How To Handle A Hostile Work Environment

It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, your employees should be able to come into a positive, healthy work environment every day. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, many employees are struggling right this very minute with a hostile work environment.

A hostile work environment can take on many faces, it’s tough to pinpoint just one definition that would cover every base needed to accurately describe it. With that being said, let’s start with the mainstream definition of a hostile work environment.

What Is A Hostile Work Environment? 

By definition, a hostile work environment is a workplace in which unwelcome comments or conduct based on gender, race, nationality, religion, disability, sexual orientation, age, or other legally protected characteristics unreasonably interfere with an employee’s work performance or create an intimidating or offensive work environment for the employee who is being harassed. 

This type of conduct can severely affect any employee. This can lead to a downfall in well-being, productivity, self-esteem or health. This can affect the employee at work and at home. 

The workplace can become hostile when a person or persons commit this type of harassment. It’s not just limited to regular staff, it could include co-workers, supervisors, managers, executives, contractors, clients, vendors, volunteers or visitors. 

The person or persons that are being harassed are victims, but they may not be the only ones that are impacted by the events. 

Other employees who are impacted by the harassment, either by hearing or seeing it, they would also be considered victims. It’s likely they could find the work environment intimidating or hostile too, this can affect their work performance and home life also. In this manner, bullies and harassers can affect many more people than just the targeted employee or employees.

Examples of a Hostile Work Environment 

There’s a wide range of hostile work environment examples we can give you. Please do keep in mind, every scenario is different. 

  • Offensive Jokes
  • Offensive Photographs
  • Verbal Threats
  • Physical Threats
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Ridiculing Others

Harassment may be based on race, color, sex, religion, pregnancy, gender, nationality, age, physical or mental disability, or genetic information. While many people are familiar with the concept of sexual harassment in the workplace, there are many other types of workplace harassments that can be included here.

Hostile Work Environments and the Law 

The good news, employees are protected by the law. Laws that are related to hostile work environment are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

An important thing to note: Harassment becomes unlawful when either the conduct becomes a requirement to continued employment (or if it affects an employee’s salary or status), or the conduct is considered hostile, abusive, or intimidating.

If you believe that your employment rights have been violated, you can file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Charges can be filed in 1 of 3 ways: 

  • File By Mail
  • File Over The Phone
  • File In Person

Now, you have to file your complaint within 180 days of the incident. There may be a few opportunities to get an extension, but we highly recommend you file your paperwork prior to the 180 days ending.

We also recommend getting yourself familiar with definition of unlawful harassment in the workplace before you ever file a claim to the EEOC. If you’re not sure, try speaking with an attorney. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a website with useful information, you can try viewing their resources there as well.

If the EEOC can’t help you within 6 months, or if you feel your case is not being handled properly, you’re urged to reach out to an attorney. If you can afford doing so, it may not be a bad idea to go ahead and seek counsel. 

Employers are usually held liable for harassment caused by a supervisor or co-worker unless they can prove that they tried to prevent it or that the victim refused the help provided to them.

Lastly, we recommend documenting everything. This may be able to help you prove your case and could be considered as authentic evidence. 

Is There Anything Else I Can Do?

Besides everything we’ve mentioned, there’s a few other options you have. 

Find A New Job

Sure, it’s the obvious but this is one way you can immediately get away from the harassment. You don’t have to walk out, but you may feel that’s the best thing you can do. We’d recommend giving a proper notice but understand if you can’t. 

Human Resources

If you feel there’s no one to talk to, you may want to reach out to Human Resources. You might speak to your company’s human resources office, ask them if there’s anything that can be done to eliminate the harassment. 

Staying In Place

If you’re going to stay in place, things will likely get worse. It can be tough to find a new job with your current pay or benefits, but being in a hostile work environment is not healthy. 

Are You An Employer That Has A Bad Work Environment

If your company has a reputation for being a hostile workplace, changes will need to take place.

Here at Kadalyst, we can help you build a powerful workplace culture. We can help you build a positive work environment that empowers your employees, helping you build positive employee engagement.

Want to learn how we can help? You can reach our team by calling 503-512-5175 or by using our online contact form.

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