It is not unusual for people to work at a job they don’t enjoy with people they don’t like. However, there is a line between disliking where you work and being subjected to illegal work conditions like a hostile work environment.
Unfortunately, this line can be blurry, making it difficult to know if and when your rights as an employee are under fire.
Signs of a hostile work environment
If you are uncomfortable at work because of intolerable, offensive harassment, you could be in a hostile work environment.
More specifically, some examples of what this type of harassment looks like include:
- Regular use of slurs and offensive comments
- Pervasive use or display of sexually explicit images and language
- An employer making insulting remarks about a person’s appearance or disability
- Ongoing acceptability of offensive jokes
- Repeated unwanted touching by managers, co-workers or clients
- A supervisor offering a raise or other benefit in exchange for sexual favors
When these types of incidences are widespread and occur frequently, they can create a hostile work environment if they would make a reasonable individual feel uncomfortable, threatened or abused.
Protecting yourself and your rights
If you suspect you are working in a hostile environment, there are some critical steps to take to stop it and protect yourself.
Be sure to document the offensive or harmful incidents. Making notes, taking photos, and saving emails or voicemails can help you preserve evidence of the misconduct.
You can also file an internal complaint with your supervisor or human resources. If you are fearful that making a report will get you in trouble, keep copies of your performance reviews or other documentation of your job performance. These can help dispel claims by your employer that any adverse events occurring after you complain are due to poor performance.
If the harassment continues or worsens, or your employer retaliates against you, your next option could be to file a legal claim. Hostile work environments violate employee rights, and employers who contribute to or fail to stop them can be liable for any damages victims suffer.
No one should have to work somewhere they feel uncomfortable or threatened. Unfortunately, it happens to people all across New York, so it’s important for employees to understand what a hostile work environment looks like and how you can stop it and protect yourself.