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Do you work in a hostile environment?

It is simple – no worker should endure harassment in the workplace.

Unfortunately, instances of harassment are still all too common. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that harassment becomes unlawful when the conduct creates a hostile work environment.

Many employees might wonder: how do they know if they work in a hostile work environment?

What factors make a hostile work environment?

Individuals should take every case of harassment or discrimination seriously. However, one incident does not necessarily mean an individual works in a hostile work environment.

There are specific elements that must exist for a work environment to be hostile. These factors include:

  • Discriminatory behavior against an employee or group of employees who are part of a protected class;
  • This behavior is pervasive and frequent in the workplace;
  • It disrupts the individual’s work regularly and impacts their performance; and
  • The employer or supervisor is aware of the behavior but takes no action to stop it.

These are not only the elements that create a hostile work environment, but they are the elements individuals must prove if they plan to take legal action against this harassment and hostile treatment.

It is important to note that hostile work environments are often linked to sexual harassment. This is generally because sexual harassment often involves repetitive and unwelcome sexual advances, comments or jokes in the workplace that are inappropriate.

What can you do?

There is no doubt that working in a hostile work environment is incredibly stressful. All employees must be aware that they have the right to take legal action against those who perpetrate such an environment.

However, there are some critical steps employees can take, including:

  • Ensuring they understand their rights under New Jersey and federal law;
  • Taking detailed notes of the harassment, including the date it occurred and who was involved; and
  • Reporting the employee and behavior to their supervisor or Human Resources.

It is often necessary for employees to take these steps before they can pursue legal action. Employees must know that it is helpful at any point to consult an experienced attorney to determine the next steps they should take.

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