Definition of intimidating work environment
In other words, when an employee alleges they’ve been subjected to a hostile work environment, it must be related to — and a direct result of — a group that is protected by a state or federal statute.One’s civil rights (and individual employment) must be threatened as part of the offensive conduct.Before discussing the number one sign of a hostile work environment, it helps to discuss conduct that does not constitute a hostile work environment. In fact, a common defense for employers in employment discrimination cases, particularly those involving managers or supervisors, is that the alleged bad actor did not engage in discrimination, but was simply a “stickler” or a “loose cannon” known for giving everyone a hard time.Cursing, casual joking, rudeness, petty slights, nitpicking, bossiness and unpleasant behavior, on its own, are not enough to bring a hostile work environment claim. An employer who routinely blows their lid, creates a threatening and intimidating work environment, and generally treats their employees poorly will be protected under the law if their conduct is deemed unrelated to a protected class.Further, asserting your rights requires courage and the ability to navigate the legal system.
In some states, sexual orientation is also a protect class.Bad actors may threaten discrimination victims, warning them not to report their conduct. The conduct they’ve endured may be so rampant throughout the workplace, they may worry just how far the harassment will extend and will feel they have nowhere to turn.They may threaten an employee’s bonuses, income or job security. In some circumstances, particularly where the workplace is a municipality, government or law enforcement agency, an employee may truly feel they have no options since they’ve seen the dark side of unbridled authority and know firsthand that the checks and balances intended to stop unlawful behavior sometimes fail.For conduct and/or speech to rise to the level of a hostile work environment in these cases, the conduct must be intentional, severe or pervasive, and directly interfere with the employee’s ability to perform his or her job.For workplace conduct to be deemed severe or pervasive, a court or investigating agency will utilize a “reasonable person” standard, asking whether a reasonable person would consider the alleged conduct to be intimidating, hostile or abusive.
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Exactly what constitutes a stray remark warrants its own discussion, but the typical analysis reviews who made the remark — a decision maker or not; the nexus between the remark and the employment decision at issue; the ambiguity of the remark or whether it could reasonably be deemed discriminatory; and the temporal proximity between the remark and the adverse employment decision.