Criteria for a Hostile Work Environment

In order to ensure a healthy workplace culture, it’s important for employers to be able to decipher between workplace situations that are hostile and those that are simply difficult or annoying. In order for a workplace to be considered hostile, the behavior, actions or communication must be discriminatory in nature. 

To meet the requirements of a hostile work environment, behaviors must be:

- Severe or pervasive

- Disruptive to the victim’s work

- Part of a situation that the employer was aware of, yet did not adequately address

Examples of Hostile Workplace Behaviors:

- Offensive jokes or using insensitive terms: “It’s just a joke,” is not an excuse for the use of slurs, insults or offensive language. There’s a clear line between workplace humor and harassment. Inappropriate jokes that make fun of others on the basis of gender, race, culture, or heritage have the potential to create a hostile work environment. 

- Sexual harassment: Sexual harassment claims are the most common type of workplace harassment cases.  They can occur in a variety of ways, all contributing to a hostile work environment. According to the EEOC, there are two types of sexual harassment classifications: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. A hostile work environment occurs when the inappropriate conduct is so severe that it negatively affects a person’s job performance. This type of sexual harassment can be initiated by anyone in the workplace, including peers and subordinates. Repeated requests for dates, sexual jokes, and offensive pictures are all examples of hostile work environment sexual harassment.

- Touching, physical assaults, and threats: Every year, approximately 2 million people in the United States are victims of non-fatal workplace violence. Violence or threats of violence are unacceptable and contribute to a hostile work environment.

Hostile work environment claims fall under harassment cases, which make up about 10% of all charges filed with the EEOC. Employers can take steps in hostile workplace prevention by:

- Establishing an effective complaint process with third-party, unbiased solutions

- Providing anti-harassment training to managers and employees 

- Taking immediate action upon receiving employee complaints

Work Shield offers safe and secure reporting, investigation, and resolution recommendations to protect employers and ensure employees’ voices can be heard. This allows employers to take prompt corrective action, which is imperative to avoiding employer liability. To learn more about Work Shield and our solution, please contact us here

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