Hostile Work Environment in Columbus
The term “hostile work environment” is most often used to describe situations where sexual harassment has become so pervasive that it has created an environment that is so intimidating or offensive to the employee as to be untenable. However, this is not the only type of behavior that can create a hostile work environment. For instance, repeated and inappropriate racial jokes or slurs can create an equally offensive or intimidating environment for an employee.
Being forced to work in a hostile environment can take a significant physical and emotional toll on employees. Fortunately, these individuals can hold the perpetrator responsible by filing a harassment claim. If you have questions about what is required to file a claim against an employer or a fellow employee, you should speak to an Ohio workplace harassment attorney who can explain your options.
What Qualifies as Harassment?
Before a person can collect damages for hostile workplace harassment, he or she will need to demonstrate that:
- The actions discriminated against a protected characteristic, such as race, sex, religion, disability, or national origin;
- The behavior was pervasive and lasted over a period of time;
- The behavior was reported to management, but not addressed; and
- The hostile actions were severe and seriously disrupted the employee’s work product or interfered with his or her career progress.
A number of offensive actions can justify a claim of hostile work environment harassment. For instance, repeatedly using racially derogatory words could qualify as harassment if the behavior was so pervasive that it unreasonably interfered with the employee’s work product or career progress by creating a hostile work environment. Other examples of hostile and harassing behavior include:
- Making derogatory comments about a person’s racial or ethnic characteristics;
- Making negative comments about an employee’s religious beliefs;
- Using gestures or images intended to offend a particular ethnic group;
- Making disparaging remarks about an employee’s gender;
- Sending sexually explicit emails;
- Telling lewd jokes and making sexual gestures;
- Expressing negative opinions and stereotypes about someone’s ancestry; and
- Making intimidating references to an individual’s disability.
When determining whether this type of conduct has reached a level of severity that would create a hostile work environment, courts look at a variety of factors, including:
- Whether the conduct was physically threatening or a one-time offensive statement;
- The severity of the conduct;
- Whether the perpetrator held a supervisory position within the company;
- Whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with the employee’s work performance;
- The frequency with which the harassment was repeated;
- Whether the behavior was subjectively abusive to the target; and
- The effect of the behavior on the employee’s psychological health.
If, after applying these factors, a court finds that an employee was the victim of harassment, the perpetrator, whether it was a co-worker, supervisor, vendor, or client can be required to provide compensation. Even employers who did not commit the harassment themselves can be held liable if they knew or should have known that the conduct was occurring, but did not take steps to stop it.
Contact a Member of our Dedicated Legal Team Today
To speak with a workplace harassment attorney about your own sexual harassment concerns, please contact Marshall & Forman, LLC by calling (614) 463-9790 or by completing one of our brief contact forms.