Discrimination in the workplace is illegal under federal law. In some cases, it is clear your employer is discriminating against you. However, that is not always the case.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), discrimination is grossly underreported.
In fact, the EEOC reports that three out of four employees who experience harassment on the job don’t do anything about it. While several factors contribute to this, one reason why employees don’t report discrimination is that they aren’t able to identify it.
A hostile work environment is when the hostile actions of a fellow employee or manager objectively create an intimidating or threatening work environment. If you believe you are experiencing discrimination at the workplace, reach out to the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC.
Attorney Wersing is a federal hostile work environment attorney with extensive experience handling all types of employment discrimination matters. He has successfully represented countless clients in hostile work environment claims, helping them stop illegal discrimination in the workplace.
What Makes a Hostile Work Environment?
Under federal law, discrimination is illegal when it is based upon an employee’s protected trait. A hostile work environment is a type of harassment, which is included in the definition of discrimination. A hostile work environment claim is based on an employer allowing an intimidating environment to exist for one or more employees.
Notably, it does not need to be a supervisor or a manager who creates a hostile work environment for an employer to be found liable.
Hostile work environment claims can be filed when discrimination is based on any of the following traits:
- Gender identity,
- Genetic information,
- National origin,
- Sex, or
- Sexual orientation.
At its core, a hostile work environment claim addresses the unacceptable situation where an employer allows severe or pervasive discrimination to take place on their watch. This “severe and pervasive” language is key, as minor annoyances or petty insults do not generally rise to the level of a hostile work environment.
Typically, a one-time insult will not create a hostile work environment. However, if it is severe enough, it may. More often, hostile work environment claims are based on ongoing patterns of behavior. More specifically, the conduct must be such that a reasonable person would consider the conduct intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
For example, the following can all contribute to a hostile work environment:
- Offensive jokes;
- Slurs or epithets;
- Ridicule or mockery;
- Physical threats;
- Name calling;
- The use of offensive objects; and
- The posting of offensive material.
If you believe that your employer has allowed a hostile work environment to persist, reach out to a hostile work environment attorney for assistance.
When Is an Employer Liable for Allowing a Hostile Work Environment?
Hostile work environment claims come in two forms. The first type is when a manager, supervisor, or executive is the harassing party. In these situations, an employer is automatically liable if the harassment results in any negative employment outcome such as termination, lost wages, or a missed promotion.
However, even if an employee does not suffer an adverse employment outcome, the employer will still be liable unless they can prove 1.) they tried to stop the harassing conduct, and 2.) the employee “unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.”
The second type of hostile work environment claim involves a fellow employee’s harassing conduct. In these situations, it can be a bit harder to establish employer liability. To do so, you must show that the employer knew about the harassment (or should have known about it) and failed to take “prompt and corrective action.”
For this reason, if you believe that you are being subjected to a hostile work environment, it is imperative that you register your concern with your employer.
Not only will this allow your employer to remedy the situation, but it will also preserve your ability to file a federal hostile work environment claim against them if they fail to take your concerns seriously.
Can an Employer Fire You for Reporting a Hostile Work Environment?
Absolutely not. Employers are strictly prohibited from retaliating against an employee who reports any type of workplace discrimination, including a hostile work environment. The strength of your case is not important.
The mere fact that you raised the claim (even if it later turns out your employer was not liable) protects you from any retaliation. If an employer retaliates against you for bringing a possible hostile work environment to their attention, you should immediately consult with a lawyer for hostile work environment claims.
Contact a Federal Hostile Work Environment Lawyer for Immediate Assistance
No one should live in fear of getting up and going to work. If your supervisors or colleagues are discriminating against you, you need hostile work environment attorneys who are ready to stand up for your rights.
At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, we proudly represent federal employees in all types of employment law disputes, including those involving hostile work environment claims against their federal employing agency.
We have extensive experience bringing cases against all federal agencies across the country, and we are prepared to go up against them to preserve your right to a workplace free of hostility and discrimination.
To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a federal hostile work environment attorney today, give us a call. You can also reach us through our online contact form.