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Understanding Hostile Work Environments

 Posted on February 20, 2024 in Business Law

CT employment lawyerThe more employees you have, the more likely it is you will be threatened with a hostile work environment claim. Many employees do not understand what this claim actually means. A hostile work environment is not one in which your employee simply feels that other employees have been rude or unpleasant to work with. To sustain a legal claim for a hostile work environment, your employee would need to prove that they have been deliberately mistreated or discriminated against based on their membership in a protected class. It is somewhat rare for this type of claim to succeed. However, if you have received legal threats of any kind from an employee, it is important to immediately contact a Metro New York Area employment law attorney for advice on how to proceed.

The Legal Meaning of “Hostile Work Environment” 

Many employees will be quick to claim a hostile work environment if they are not getting along with their coworkers or generally feel like they have been treated unfairly due to a personality clash. However, this is far from the proper legal meaning of “hostile work environment.” To prove this claim, your employee would have to prove that they have been unlawfully discriminated against or harassed because they are a member of a constitutionally protected class.

While an employee who is called racial or gender-based slurs at work on a regular basis would likely be able to prove this claim, an employee whose coworkers have merely gossiped about their conduct outside of work or complained about their poor job performance almost certainly would not.

Protecting Against a Hostile Work Environment Claim

There are several steps an employer can take to prevent a claim of this nature. Many larger employers choose to offer sensitivity training to help workers identify and avoid expressions of unconscious bias. Take steps to make sure your employees are aware that no form of discrimination - intentional or otherwise - will be tolerated. This is especially important in a diverse workplace.

If you notice any employee engaging in inappropriate behavior in regard to another employee’s gender, race, religion, national origin, or other protected characteristics, take swift action. Encourage employees who have experienced any such discrimination to report it to Human Resources immediately so that the concern can be dealt with expediently.

Contact a Greenwich, CT, Employment Law Attorney

Ivey, Barnum & O'Mara, LLC is experienced in helping employers protect their business against wrongful claims of hostile work environment. Our practiced Metro New York Area employment law lawyers can help with both defenses against an active claim and preventing such a claim from ever occurring. Contact us at 203-661-6000 to begin with a complimentary initial consultation.

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