Photo Credit: Neil Moralee
Mark Briggs, Phoenix attorney at Briggs Law Group knows all about employee rights when dealing with small businesses. A hostile work environment is defined under federal law in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a place of employment where employees fear going to work due to specific types of harassment. The majority of hostile work environment lawsuits usually fall under one of two categories.
- Supervisors, managers, or business owners who frequently belittle, insult or otherwise harass employees on the basis of race, national origin, skin color, age, religion, disability, gender identity of skin color, race, national origin, age, disability, religion or gender identity may be guilty of fostering a hostile work environment.
- Another type of harassment that can be construed as a hostile work environment is when management attempts to force an employee to resign in retaliation for a specific action taken by that employee. For instance, if an employee documented certain safety violations and reported or threatened to report them to the appropriate regulatory agency and was pressured to quit as a result, the employer is probably guilty of creating a hostile work environment.
Where to start on finding a solution:
- The first thing that you should do if you feel that your right to work in a discrimination-free environment has been violated is to consult your employee handbook on company policy concerning how to proceed with an appropriate complaint. Try to follow that procedure if at all possible, but you might need to go a different route if your manager is the person you are supposed to report the situation to, but is also the person who is harassing you. If there are no complaint processes in place, you should report the problem to your first supervisor or manager in the chain of command who is not involved in the harassing activity.
- Keep in mind that you must be able to show a pattern of hostility, as isolated incidents generally are not enough to be considered a hostile work environment.
- Be sure to document each instance of harassment including the date, approximate time of day that it took place, and any possible witnesses.
- Consulting with a skilled attorney who is knowledgeable concerning employment law may be a wise move at this point.
- Your next step will be to file a lawsuit or a formal complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or an equivalent agency in your state. Because filing this type of complaint can be complicated, it’s best to have an attorney to help you navigate complex legal waters. An attorney who believes that you have a strong argument with compelling evidence that you were indeed the victim of workplace harassment will often take your case on a contingency basis.