The Requirements for Proving a Hostile Work Environment

California and federal employment discrimination includes more than just refusing to hire someone or firing someone based on an identity characteristic – such as the color of their skin, their gender, the country they came from or whether they have a disability.

Often employers will make the work conditions so impossible to do your job that you feel like you should quit. If an employer creates a “hostile work environment,” you may have a strong case for bringing a claim for employee discrimination.

Not every employer or work comment or conduct creates a hostile work environment. An occasional comment is probably not enough to bring a claim. If the comments don’t relate to your identity or a class of employee covered by state or federal laws, you likely don’t have a case.

The key elements of hostile work environment case are:

  • The conduct or actions must discriminate against a group that is protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, other federal laws, or California employment discrimination laws.
  • The conduct must generally be pervasive or severe – occur repeatedly over a length of time. One incident may be severe enough to constitute a hostile environment (such as a physical sexual assault or use of the “N” word).
  • The conduct can be by the employer, a supervisor, coworkers, or even outside contractors as long as it is brought to the attention of the employer.
  • The problem is not investigated by the employer or a supervisor after it is brought to their attention
  • The hostile conduct must affect your ability to do your job or your ability to advance within the company.
  • You are not given the tools to do your job including the ability to take courses that are given to other employees

How to respond to a hostile work situation

You should ask anyone committing bad conduct (or their supervisor) to stop. Bad conduct can include verbal statements to you, posts to social media or the Internet, saying negative things about you to others, not helping you do your job, and many other wrongs. Your California employment discrimination attorney can explain what conduct is hostile.

Since many employees find it hard to tell the offending person(s) to stop, you should get help from a non-offending manager or the Human Resources department.

You should review with your California employment lawyer the proper way to preserve communications and misconduct – such as keeping a journal – to make sure you have the evidence you need for court and are complying with the laws yourself.

An experienced California employment discrimination attorney at Stephen F. Danz and Associates will help you understand your rights and your remedies. To speak with a strong advocate, please phone us at (877)-789-9707. We see clients throughout California and have a strong track record of success.