An Employee Guide to Understanding & Handling a Hostile Work Environment
You have a right to work in a safe, healthy environment. However, the unfortunate reality is that many employees are subjected to abusive, illegal behavior in the workplace. Do you know what is considered a hostile work environment?
It is important to understand what a hostile work environment is so you can know how to handle the situation and make sure your rights as an employee are protected.
Hostile Work Environment: What Is It?
A hostile work environment is a term that describes a workplace where an employee is subject to bullying, offensive comments, discrimination, or sexual harassment that makes the worker fearful and/or intimidated to be at work because of that unwanted behavior. Workplace harassment and workplace discrimination, unfortunately, occur across industries — from hospitality and retail to information technology and healthcare, and should never be tolerated. Florida employees have the right to a safe, healthy work environment.
Is a Hostile Work Environment Illegal?
Many actions that constitute a hostile work environment are illegal. However, not all behaviors that occur in the workplace that are hostile or seemingly aggressive are considered to be against the law. To be able to rise to a legal claim against an employer, the behaviors and hostility that occur, such as harassment and discrimination, would need to be based on a protected class or activity under the law.
Laws That Provide Protection for Employees
The federal government and the state have enacted laws that protect employees from a hostile work environment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) administers federal laws that protect employees from harassment and discrimination, including:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Florida Civil Rights Act also protects Florida employees. When these laws are violated, the employee should contact a hostile work environment lawyer to determine their best legal course of action moving forward. One or more of these laws could support a hostile work environment claim. It depends on the particulars of your situation.
Examples of a Hostile Work Environment
A hostile work environment can be created by a supervisor or manager as well as a co-worker, a client or customer, a vendor, or a contractor.
Some examples include:
- Name-calling, such as racial epithets or other offensive language
- Unwanted touching /sexual advances
- Verbal or physical threats
- Ridiculing or bullying
- Displaying offensive photographs or sending offensive emails or texts
Unlawful workplace harassment and workplace discrimination that create a hostile work environment may be due to:
- Sex, Gender, Race, or Age
- Religious Affiliation
- Sexual Harassment
- Workers’ Compensation Claim Filing
If you have been dealing with a hostile work environment, know that you do not deserve it and that you have legal rights that protect you from this illegal behavior. It’s not only about your rights — it’s about your wellbeing, your career, and your future.
Do I Need a Hostile Work Environment Lawyer?
If you have been the target of harassment and/or discrimination due to your sex, age, race, religion, disability, or other protected classes/situations, a hostile work environment lawyer will fight hard for your rights to a safe, healthy work environment. They also work diligently to hold companies who allow this to happen accountable for their actions. Depending on the situation, you may be able to sue your employer.
When you file a suit claiming a hostile work environment, and establish liability on the part of the employer, the resolution to your case can include:
- Reinstatement to your job if you have been fired
- Back pay related to termination, demotion, being passed over for promotion or other retaliation
- Other monetary damages related to the hostile work environment or retaliation
A hostile work environment lawyer acts as your legal advocate every step of the way. At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., we understand how difficult it is to have to deal with harassment or discrimination and want you to know that you shouldn’t have to go through this alone. We can help.
If you are not sure if you have a case, it is important to consult with an attorney. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the details of your situation.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
Your hostile work environment lawyer will work closely with you each step of the way. From legal documents and filings with the EEOC to standing up to harassers, our attorneys have the experience and skill to tackle high-powered employers and handle the complexities of the legal processes.
An important action you can personally take is to gather all documentation you may have that would be relevant to your case, such as:
- offensive or abusive emails,
- threatening texts and voicemails, and
- notes from the harasser that contains inappropriate language
Do you have personal documentation related to what happened? If you don’t feel like you have very much, you should still consult with an attorney – you may still have a legitimate case.
If you are currently being harassed or discriminated against at work, know that you have legal rights. You also have the right to make a complaint to your human resources department. Document any behavior that you believe may be illegal with details of what happened, including when, where, and if there were any witnesses. This type of documentation can be very helpful in proving your case.
Get Legal Representation
If you are dealing with a hostile work environment in Florida, contact us today to set up a free, confidential consultation. We are dedicated to helping Florida employees and are here for you to secure justice on your behalf. With extensive skill sets and experience in negotiations, filing processes, and litigation, we help employees make great decisions that impact their personal lives, careers, and financial security. It’s time to take action today.
For your convenience, we have offices in Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach, and Jacksonville.