Everyone has heard the term “hostile work environment” before. However, quite a few people are at a loss to explain what that really means. How do you tell whether your situation at work truly constitutes such an environment and what should you do about it should you decide that it does?
Let’s begin by examining what does not add up to a hostile work environment from a legal standpoint. Having to work with people you don’t like, do tasks you don’t want to do, or occasionally put up with irritating requests from bosses and higher ups does not make a workplace “hostile”. You are also not dealing with a hostile work environment if you are asked to come in on your day off, work overtime, attend company meetings, or deal with problem customers. These are simply things that come along with any job. A hostile work environment will involve factors such as the following.
People are being discriminated against.
If you or others are being discriminated against or harassed in any way, shape, or form at work, then you are dealing with a hostile work environment. Qualifying factors can include race, gender, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, disability (either real or perceived), and age. Discrimination is more than just something that can be stressful and painful to deal with. It’s against the law and it’s important that proper action be taken against employers who allow this sort of thing to go on unchecked.
Labor laws aren’t being followed.
All employers are required to adhere to the labor laws as laid out by the state. There are no exceptions in regards to this, so don’t let an employer tell you that they are one. Every employer has to pay employees at least the minimum wage dictated by the state. Lunches, breaks, and days off must be granted as well. Proper overtime adherence must also be observed.
If you have a reason to believe that your employer is breaking state labor laws, then definitely take a moment to look up what the laws actually are. If your workplace isn’t in adherence, then you have a right to take action and get the ball rolling in regards to making things right for yourself and your co-workers.
Severe harassment is occurring.
There’s a big difference between a boss being a little strict or grumpy and a boss terrorizing or threatening their employees. If your boss or any of your colleagues have been threatening you, using severe intimidation tactics, abusing you in any way, sexually harassing you, or behaving in any other way that makes you feel bullied and unsafe, then you definitely may be dealing with a hostile work environment and should consider seeking assistance. No one should have to put up with feeling like they or others they work with are being terrorized at their place of business.
If you have reason to believe you’re dealing with a hostile work environment, then consider getting in touch with an experienced employment attorney in your area to discuss your unique circumstances. You could very well be in a situation that necessitates legal action and if that’s the case, you have a right to know about it and seek compensation. Most attorneys will offer you an initial consultation free of charge, so you really have nothing to lose by making an appointment to speak with someone about your options. It just may turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made.