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Hostile Work Environments

Unlawful harassment in the workplace is a form of discrimination that violates both California and federal law. If you have been of the victim of repeated harassment because of your race, gender, religion or other legally protected classification, you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer and others. As an employee, you have the right to work in an environment that is safe and free of harassment. If the harassment of a co-worker or supervisor is interfering with your ability to do your job, then a hostile work environment exists and you can hold your employer accountable. Contact the Law Office of Arias, Ozzello & Gignac and our experienced employment law attorneys will evaluate your case and help you recover the compensation you deserve.

What is a Hostile Work Environment?

A hostile work environment exists when an employee is repeatedly harassed by one or more co-workers or supervisors in the workplace. Harassment can also come from someone who is not an employee, such as a contractor, vendor, or a guest. Most cases involve sexual harassment, however a hostile work environment can also be created when the harassment is based on race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, disability, or any other class protected by discrimination laws. Common types of harassment can include any of the following:

  • discriminatory actions or remarks concerning the employee’s race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability (physical or mental)
  • sexual harassment
  • harassment from a supervisor in retaliation for a certain action of the employee, such as the employee reporting unsafe or illegal employer conduct under California whistleblower laws
  • harassment or hostility that threatens the employee’s physical safety

Establishing a Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment can only be established when the harassing behavior is sufficiently “severe or pervasive” to affect the targeted employee’s work performance. Whether the conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive is determined from all the circumstances. The employee must show that that the harassing conduct would have interfered with a reasonable employee’s work performance and would have seriously affected his or her psychological well-being. Actions or comments that are occasional, isolated, or trivial do not constitute a hostile work environment. In addition, ordinary differences between people, rudeness, or other ordinary offensive behavior are usually insufficient to create a hostile work environment. 

Examples of Harassing Conduct 

Usually, a single incident of harassing behavior does not constitute a hostile working environment. However if the harassing conduct is ongoing and severe enough to make working conditions intolerable, then a legal claim can be established. Repeated conduct that can make a hostile work environment may include any of the following examples:

  • sexual or lewd jokes
  • display of pornographic pictures or images
  • sending or forwarding offensive or sexual e-mails or notes
  • making improper sexual gestures or staring at someone in a sexually suggestive manner
  • touching an employee in a way that is inappropriate or uncomfortable to the employee
  • offensive comments about a person’s looks or body
  • racially derogatory comments
  • disparaging remarks about a person’s religion, age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.
  • derogatory remarks about an employee’s physical or mental disabilities

California Hostile Work Environment Attorney

If you have been repeatedly harassed in the workplace because of your gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, or sexual orientation, and the harassment is interfering with your ability to do your job, or you felt like you had to quit because of ongoing harassment, you may have a claim for a hostile work environment. At the Law Offices of Arias, Ozzello & Gignac, our experienced employment law attorneys will aggressively defend your right to a secure and safe workplace free of discrimination and harassment. Call us today for a free case evaluation.

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