What is a Hostile Work Environment?
A hostile work environment refers to an unstable or sometimes even dangerous work setting. In most cases, a hostile work environment exists when an employee experiences habitual workplace harassment at the hands of his or her co-workers or boss. The harassment becomes so debilitating that the victim fears going to work because of the oppressive, hostile or intimidating atmosphere spawned by the aggressors. A hostile work environment, as somewhat of a broad term, may also be defined as when an employer, boss or manager engages in a manner designed to make the employee quit or perform his or her job function in a poor manner.
Examples of Workplace Harassment:
Suppose an employee reports a safety violation while at work. The report is unheard and promptly sparks an injury. In response, the employee attempts to join a union where he or she can actively complain to upper level management about the problem at work. Following this, the company’s response is to put pressure on the employee so that he or she quits and ceases the whistleblowing actions. In this situation, the employee, in essence, frames or blackmails the employee by writing him or her up for work violations that weren’t’ broken, by reducing the employee’s hours or increasing them to impede productivity or to create conflicts with the employees out-of-work schedule.
Other ways to essentially force an employee’s hand through workplace harassment include the following: reduce the employee’s salary without merit, adjust his or her responsibilities to either underwhelm or overwhelm the individual, start rumors about the employee to create a rift among his or her co-workers, or perpetually make comments about the employee’s appearance or skill set. In essence, any reaction that prompts a company to create a hostile work environment is instituted to protect the company’s best interests or to disqualify the individual from receiving unemployment compensation.
Laws against Workplace Harassment:
Laws protecting against workplace harassment are instituted as anti-discrimination statutes. These regulations govern are; however, not a civility code. As a result, federal laws will not prohibit simple harassment, such as teasing, isolated incidents, offhand comments, or any remarks that are not extremely serious. Workplace harassment, as a broad term, will be enforced to the fullest extent if the conduct attached is objectively offensive to the point where it alters the conditions of the individual’s employment. These situations arise only if the workplace harassment culminates in a tangible employment action or is sufficiently severe to create a hostile workplace.