What Is a Hostile Work Environment?

Some co-workers can be unfriendly, making your workdays unpleasant. While it might be hard to deal with, an employee who gets on your nerves is not necessarily breaking any laws. If the harassing behavior creates a hostile work environment though, you may have legal recourse.

A hostile work environment is when offensive or unwelcome workplace behavior makes at least one employee feel intimidated, frightened, or uncomfortable. As far as making a legal claim in New Jersey, the behavior has to be discriminatory or be in retaliation due to the target engaging in whistleblowing or something similar. This is in accordance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law protects employees who have been discriminated against based on protected categories, like race, religion, age, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation, and national origin. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) also makes this kind of behavior illegal.

How Can I Prove That My Workplace Is a Hostile Work Environment?

Both of those important laws protect employees, but they do not prohibit a few rude comments, simple teasing, or isolated incidents unless those incidents are very serious. The behavior has to be based on discrimination or retaliation and be offensive enough to change the targeted employee’s conditions of employment.

To prove that you are being negatively impacted by a hostile work environment  as per the NJLAD, you (and your lawyer) will need to show that:

  • The unwelcome behavior would have not happened “but for” your protected characteristic or activity.
  • That conduct was severe or pervasive.
  • That conduct was so severe and pervasive that a responsible person in your same protected class would agree that the employment conditions had been altered.
  • Those altered conditions made the work environment abusive or hostile.

Characteristics of Hostile Work Environments

Workplace harassment takes many forms and does not have to be sexual in nature. In a legal sense, these environments are characterized by unwelcome conduct that appears as discriminatory harassment against other employees. To make these kinds of claims, it must be shown that the conduct:

  • Created an offensive or intimidating work environment.
  • Caused you to suffer in respect to a term, condition, or privilege of employment.
  • Interfered with your work performance.

If this sounds like what you have been dealing with, you might work in a hostile environment. Speaking up can be difficult in these situations, but you might want to try, as it could solve the problem. It is also important to record all of the harassment in writing and to include dates, times, and locations.

Read your employee manual to see what the process is for handling workplace harassment, and follow the instructions carefully. You may have to meet with your company’s HR representative, and they should be willing to take the appropriate actions. If the harassment continues, the best course of action might be to contact an experienced employment lawyer.

South Jersey Employment Lawyer at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Can Help if You Are Working in a Hostile Environment

No one should dread going to the office because of a hostile work environment, and you do not have to put up with that kind of conduct. For legal help, reach out to our skilled South Jersey employment lawyer at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC. Call us at 856-235-7075 or complete our online form to schedule a free consultation. Located in Atlantic City and Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Burlington County, and Camden County.