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Can I Sue for Hostile Work Environment?

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Can I Sue for Hostile Work Environment?

You might be familiar with the term “hostile work environment.” However, only certain types of hostile work environments can form the basis for a lawsuit.

A claim for hostile work environment is brought under statutes that prohibit discrimination based on certain protected characteristics. Under federal law, this includes race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, age, or disability. State laws may be broader and prohibit discrimination against additional protected classes such as weight or height.

To bring a claim for hostile work environment under these statutes, the harassment must:

1.) be based on one of these protected characteristics;

2.) be unwelcome;

3.) be severe and/or pervasive enough to alter the terms and conditions of employment; and

4.) there must be a basis for employer liability.

The first requirement, that the harassment be based on a protected characteristic, simply means that the harassment must be occurring because of your race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability, etc. Sexual harassment is considered harassment based on sex.

In general, to satisfy this requirement, the harassment must include discriminatory statements based on your protected class.

For example, if the harassment includes a racial slur, you may be able to bring a racially hostile work environment claim. Likewise, if the harassment includes derogatory comments based on your sex, you may be able to bring a hostile work environment based on sex claim.

However, if the harassment is based solely on a personality conflict, the harassment is not illegal and therefore you will not be able to bring a successful hostile work environment claim.

For example, if you are constantly being ridiculed for driving a red car, the harassment is not based on a protected class, and you will not have a claim for hostile work environment.

The second requirement requires the harassment be unwelcome. This simply means that the harassment was offensive to you. While this may seem obvious, employers sometimes argue that the harassment was not unwelcome where the employee engaged in similar behavior.

The third requirement is that the harassment be severe and/or pervasive enough to alter the terms and conditions of employment. Petty slights and minor inconveniences do not qualify. Rather, there must be severe incidents of harassment, or the harassment must occur on a frequent basis, or some combination of the two.

There is no bright line rule for what qualifies as severe and pervasive enough to alter the terms of employment. However, as a general rule, the more severe the harassment, the less pervasive it needs to be to satisfy this requirement.

The last requirement is that there must be a basis for employer liability. This means that the employer must have had notice of the harassment, but failed to take prompt, remedial action reasonably calculated to stop the harassment.

For example, if the employer was unaware of the harassment, there was no duty to act, and thus there is no basis for employer liability. However, if you have complained to human resources or management about the harassment, and the harassment was allowed to continue, there likely will be a basis for employer liability.

Instances where the harassment is so open and obvious that the employer should have known of the harassment may also qualify as a basis for employer liability.

If your situation satisfies these four requirements, you may be able to sue for a hostile work environment. In such a case, you have two options.

First, you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC will investigate and attempt to resolve the case. However, these agencies usually cannot bind the employer to any settlement. Moreover, studies estimate that the EEOC only brings a charge on behalf of the employee in about two percent of cases.

A much more effective means of recovery is to seek representation from an attorney. It is important that you research and find the best employment lawyers in your area. The skills and experience of employment lawyers vary greatly, and ensuring you obtain the best representation possible will help you maximize your recovery.

There are various directories where you can find workplace harassment lawyers. You can also find a local attorney simply by searching “best employment lawyers near me.”

SEE ALSO: RunPost: Your Go-To Source for Tech News, Games, Instagram Tips, and Beyond!

Salman Ahmad is a seasoned writer for CTN News, bringing a wealth of experience and expertise to the platform. With a knack for concise yet impactful storytelling, he crafts articles that captivate readers and provide valuable insights. Ahmad's writing style strikes a balance between casual and professional, making complex topics accessible without compromising depth.

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