A Louisville Hostile Work Environment Lawyer Provides Answers
Often times, you may feel hostility from your coworkers and superiors. You may feel uncomfortable, that you have been treated unfairly or that your employer is “out to get you.” But not all situations are considered a hostile work environment; consult with a Louisville hostile work environment lawyer about your specific case.
What Is a Hostile Work Environment?
Hostile work environment is defined as a severe and pervasive offensive conduct in the work place. The conduct could be actions, communications, or behavior.
Being subjected to rude, obnoxious or insulting comments from a supervisor or coworker is not enough to prove a hostile work environment. Rather, certain criteria must be met:
- Discrimination. The negative conduct must be discriminatory in nature. It must target a protected class: race, color, sex, age (40 and over), disability, religion, ancestry, genetic information, sexual origination or pregnancy.
- Severe. The negative conduct must be so severe to disrupt your ability to perform your work or interfere with your career progress (e.g. promotion).
- Pervasive. The negative conduct lasted over a period of time and not limited to an off-color remark or two you found to be offensive.
- Knowledge. The employer knew about the negative conduct but failed to take any or sufficient steps to stop it.
As a Louisville hostile work environment attorney, I have seen a hostile, intimidating or offensive workplace created when a supervisor, manager or coworker makes offensive comments, discriminates, bullies, harasses, or makes unwanted sexual advances.
For example, your boss screams and berates everyone, throws papers, stomps his feet and curses, he is not creating a hostile work environment, just a difficult one. If, however, he screamed and berated only women, then he was discriminatory and created a hostile work environment for women.
Likewise, a hostile workplace is not created if a coworker speaks loudly, leans over your desk when speaking to you, or demonstrates inappropriate, rude, or obnoxious behavior. If, however, a coworker tells you sexually explicit jokes, makes sexually comments, and sends around images of nude people, the coworker is liable for sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment.
What Should I Do?
If you believe you are experiencing a hostile work environment, you should:
- Ask the offending employee to stop their conduct. You may want to solicit help from a manager, supervisor or Human Resources.
- If needed, tell the offending employee that his or her conduct is offensive, discriminatory, inappropriate, etc., and that you will not tolerate the behavior.
- If the negative conduct continues, report it to your manager, supervisor and/or Human Resources.
Employers are obligated to provide a safe, harassment and discriminatory-free workplace. They must take sufficient steps to prevent a hostile work environment, which could include termination of the offensive employee. If the employer fails to perform its legal obligations, only then are you entitled to compensation.
I’m Afraid of Retaliation
Although revenge is a legitimate fear, keep in mind that it is illegal for an employer (and its employees) to retaliate against you for reporting the misconduct or testifying on behalf of someone who reported the misconduct.
Retaliation may take the following forms:
- Continued harassment;
- Removal of privileges and benefits;
- Not receiving privileges and benefits you would have otherwise received;
- Reduction in pay;
- Not receiving a promotion or consideration for promotion even though you meet all requirements;
- Not receiving a raise even though you are qualified for one;
- Transferred; or
- Termination of employment.
How Can The Employer Protect Itself From These Employment Claims?
If you are an employer, you can take the following steps to protect yourself:
Against hostile work environment claims:
You are obligated to provide a hostile-free work environment. To accomplish this, you could:
- Have a written and strict anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy in place. Do not limit the anti-harassment policy to sexual harassment; rather, the policy should be inclusive of all the protected classes;
- Train your managers to recognize and prevent discrimination and harassment along with implementing the anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.
- Educate employees by having mandatory preventative training regarding what constitutes discrimination and harassment and what is not tolerated in the workplace.
- Investigate and remedy the reported misconduct in a timely, professional, confidential and policy-adhering manner.
Against retaliation claims:
You are obligated to prevent or address retaliation claims, even if retaliatory conduct is just a rumor. You could:
- Thoroughly investigate and remedy the employee’s claim;
- Document your investigation, findings, and any disciplinary actions that may have resulted;
- Follow-up with the employee who may be retaliated against for his or her complaint;
- Document the follow-ups you had with the employee to ensure retaliation is not occurring;
- If retaliation is occurring, immediately address the situation and document your disciplinary actions. Continue to follow up with the employee to ensure no further retaliation occurs;
- If you must terminate the complaining employee because of, say, cutbacks or poor performance, document your legal, non-discriminatory reasons for the termination.
Whether you are an employee or small business employer, I am available to answer your hostile work environment needs. With experience representing both employees and employers, I have the ability to:
- Analyze each hostile work environment case from every angle;
- Anticipate the adversary’s strategies and arguments;
- Prepare evidence needed to prove your case, including evidence necessary to disprove or debunk your adversary’s arguments; and,
- Utilize our comprehension of both sides of the case to develop the best strategy to fight for you.
To contact me, a Louisville hostile work environment lawyer, call (502) 561-3455 or complete the form on this website.