A hostile workplace may be defined as one where an employee or employees fear attending work due to an intimidating, offensive, or oppressive work environment caused by a co-worker or employer. Evidence of a hostile work environment may include harassment, racially-motivated slurs, sex-based jokes or comments, and obscene gestures. Cases involving these types of conduct are also known as hostile work environment cases. 

Hostile workplace laws aim to prevent these types of environments and incidents from occurring. They require employers to prohibit such actions and impose sanctions on management that perpetuates such conduct. The laws also prohibit employers from harassing or firing workers who report work violations.

How Is a Hostile Work Environment Proven?

A hostile work environment may be proven using:

  • Witness testimony
  • Photographs, video footage, or audio recordings
  • Various documents, such as employee policy handbooks or hiring documents

Courts will usually find an employer or manager liable for hostile workplace violations if the supervisor:

  • Had actual knowledge of the work environment or harassment
  • Could have reasonably learned of the conduct (for instance, if the employer failed to look into a complaint)
  • Failed to take action in order to remedy the situation (this is usually required for all cases)

What Are Some Legal Consequences of Hostile Workplace Violations?

Hostile workplace violations can result in consequences such as:

  • Damages for losses caused to the employee
  • Reprimanding or firing of the harassing employee or worker
  • Mandatory changes in company policies
  • Civil fines

In some cases, criminal charges may result, especially if the conduct involved physical altercations or contact. This may require a separate legal proceeding.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with a Hostile Workplace Claim?

You may need to hire an employment lawyer if you need help filing a claim for hostile workplace violations. In some cases, these cases need to be processed through a government agency such as the EEOC. Other cases can be filed directly through the courts. Regardless of the process, you may need a lawyer to help with the filing and to represent you during hearings. Your attorney can provide you with advice and guidance for your claim.