Hostile Work Environment / Harassment
Harassment can have devastating consequences on an individual’s personal and professional life. Harassment is unwelcome conduct based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.
EXAMPLES OF HARASSMENT
Examples of harassing conduct include, but are not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, physical assaults or threats, offensive pictures or objects, requests for sexual favors, intimidation, and interference with work performance.
It is important to understand that petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless very serious) in the workplace do not rise to the level of illegality. To constitute unlawful harassment, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.
All too often, workplace harassment victims suffer silently. A recent study found that approximately 70% of sexual harassment victims never reported their incidents. There are a number of reasons why victims fail to report harassment or a hostile work environment, including fear of retaliation, fear of judgment by co-workers, concerns about an ineffective human resources department, and embarrassment about what happened. While these reasons are understandable, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for reporting claims of harassment or to allow co-workers to retaliate against you.
LEGAL STANDARD FOR HARASSMENT
Generally, to succeed on a claim for a hostile work environment, an employee must show that:
(1) she belongs to a protected group;
(2) she has been subject to unwelcome harassment;
(3) the harassment was based on a protected characteristic;
(4) the harassment was severe or pervasive; and
(5) the employer is directly or vicariously responsible for the hostile work environment.