Has My Boss Created Hostile Work Environment?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 05, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

"Hostile work environment" is an often misused term.

There's a tendency to use it to describe a situation in which a supervisor simply dislikes an employee and decides to make her miserable until she quits.

However, the concept of a hostile work environment falls under the ADA, ADEA, Title VII, and any state employment discrimination laws.

So, unless the alleged at-work harassment is based on race, color, religion, sex, national original, age (40+), disability, or some state-protected characteristic, a hostile work environment most likely doesn't legally exist.

A hostile work environment legally occurs when there is severe and/or pervasive conduct that a reasonable person would consider intimidating or abusive such that it impacts their desire or ability to work.

Conduct needs to be based on one of the aforementioned characteristics, or done for a retaliatory reason. Typical at-work harassment includes offensive jokes, slurs, touching, threats, ridicule and insults.

Mere rudeness is not sufficient to prove a hostile work environment--conduct needs to be objectively offensive.

It is important to note that even if an employee is not the subject of at-work harassment, if she is affected by it, she has a right to sue an employer for creating a hostile work environment.

So, if the conduct described above is directed at you or a colleague, you may be a victim of at-work harassment and/or a hostile work environment. If this is the case, contact an employment lawyer immediately to find out about your rights.

No one should be subject to at-work harassment.

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