What is a Hostile Work Environment?

What is a Hostile Work Environment? Work Shield Blog

Workplaces should be safe, positive and inclusive environments where employees feel protected at all times. However, hostility in the workplace can negatively impact these efforts and create a ripple of toxicity throughout the office. To prevent a hostile work environment from festering, we must first recognize what qualifies as a hostile work environment and how we can diminish any hostility to prevent future instances from occurring.

A hostile work environment is created through unpleasant and unwelcome actions, communication or behavior from a boss or coworker that makes one feel intimidated, uncomfortable or scared. A hostile work environment provides an actionable claim in court under the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and related anti-employment discrimination laws. To be considered “actionable”, the abuse must be related to the employee’s race, sex, religion, etc., otherwise known as protected characteristics.

It is also important to recognize the signs of a hostile work environment in order to take steps towards resolution and create a positive workplace environment for all. To determine if a workplace is hostile, all circumstances must be considered, such as the frequency of the offense, severity of the misconduct, whether it is physically threatening or if it creates a disturbance in one’s daily work performance.

Many of the grounds for recognizing a hostile workplace correlate with the different types of harassment, such as sexual, psychological, or physical harassment. According to the United States Labor Law, offenses such as harassment or workplace bullying that are intimidating, hostile or abusive are considered to be a hostile work environment.

If a fellow employee or a business leader is contributing to a hostile work environment, the EEOC has the right to take legal action against the offense, specifically in cases where the conduct becomes a requirement to continued employment, or the conduct is considered hostile, abusive, or intimidating. Employers should be clear when it comes to workplace expectations and have zero-tolerance for any behaviors that could lead to a hostile work environment.

Work Shield is creating a clear path to resolution with effective reporting, investigating, and resolving of incidents occurring in the workplace, thus preventing hostile work environments. By managing employees’ misconduct or hostile work environment concerns, employers can feel confident their business is meeting and exceeding EEOC guidelines for protecting their employees and creating a more safe, equitable and inclusive workplace. For more information, visit the Work Shield website.

About Jared Pope

Jared is Founder and CEO of Work Shield, the only start-to-finish workplace harassment and discrimination reporting, investigation and resolution solution that protects employees, employers and cultures at the same time. Jared practiced law and ran a practice focused on human resources, ERISA, benefits and employment matters for over 15 years and is a knowledgeable resource on workplace culture and harassment and discrimination issues.

Connect with him on LinkedIn.


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