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Hostile Environment

Hostile Work Environments in CA

Your Workplace Should Not Be a Hostile Environment

Sometimes work is a fun, invigorating, and pleasant place to be. You walk in to work in the morning and have a smile on your face all day. Other times, work is slow or stressful; these are days where it seems like the clock cannot reach 5:00 p.m. quick enough. Sometimes work can be a downright hostile, intimidating, frightening, or threatening place to be. If this latter description of work sounds too familiar, you may be working in a hostile work environment.

The law prohibits an employer from fostering or allowing a hostile work environment to exist. But just because work is unpleasant or nerve-wracking does not mean that you are in a hostile environment. If your workplace truly is a hostile working environment, however, you may be entitled to legal remedies.

What Is a California Hostile Work Environment?

A boss yelling at you or a coworker who seems to get upset with everything you do can certainly contribute to negative emotions in the workplace. Having a bad day or dealing with frustration being vented by coworkers does not make a workplace a hostile environment. Rather, a hostile environment is one that is threatening, intimidating, demeaning, and/or harassing toward you and/or other employees, and it must be a form of discrimination. What is more, a hostile environment is one that exists either to discriminate or offend a person or to retaliate against a person for taking lawful actions, even though these lawful actions might be damaging or unpleasant for the business owner. A hostile work environment can also be actionable as a contract breach if it violates the employer's policies, or if it amounts to an unsafe working condition.

A hostile work environment may be characterized by any number of behaviors, including:

  • Employees or supervisors who make offensive jokes against another person or group of people;
  • Racial or ethnic slurs;
  • Ridiculing or name-calling directed toward you or another employee;
  • Displaying offensive or obscene drawings, pictures, or displays that discriminate against you or a group of people;
  • Threatening or aggressive behaviors meant to intimidate you.

If you believe your work environment qualifies as a hostile environment, know that you are not required to accept this as the status quo and that you are not powerless in this situation. You may be able to take certain legal steps to correct the situation at work and/or recover compensation for any injuries and distress you suffered as a result of the hostile environment.

What Should I Do if I Work in a Hostile Environment?

If you believe your work environment is hostile, two of the most important steps you can take to protect your legal interests are to document and report. You should document instances of discrimination or hostility directed toward you or that you observe. Include information about the date, time, location, employee or supervisor involved, and a detailed description of what happened. Include the names of any coworkers who may have observed the incident as their testimony may be beneficial in corroborating your own testimony.

Next, report the instances to your supervisor in accordance with your company’s policies. Inform your supervisor that you believe the work environment is hostile and request that the situation be corrected. You should also document the contacts you have with your supervisors – who you met with, what you said and what the other person said in reply, when the report was made, and any action that was taken on your report.

You should also seek out experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel to help you protect your rights and obtain any compensation or other remedies the law may make available to you.

If you find yourself in a hostile work environment, contact the Law Offices of Gay Carroll-Haring immediately by calling (916) 443-3553. The sooner you contact my office, the better and more effectively I am able to assist you.

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