I Work In a Hostile Work Environment What Can I Do?

December 4, 2018

Having to report to a hostile work environment on a daily basis can be an exhausting situation. Many employees, who are reliant on their jobs, feels helpless as they return to a hostile and stressful environment on a daily basis. Nonetheless, it is important for those employees to know that the law provides many protections for them. An employee’s best way to protect themselves form these situations is to be knowledgeable about these protections.

A common complaint from employees who are subjected to a hostile work environment is that, though they have informed a supervisor about the hostile work environment, their supervisor has done nothing to prevent it from continuing. If this is the situation in the workplace, an employee’s best recourse is to file an administrative charge against the employer through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is an important tool for employees who are subjected to hostile work environments. Furthermore, an attorney who specializes in labor and employment law can be another important tool for employees.

Below are a few steps an employee can and should take to remedy a hostile work environment.

Keep a detailed record of harassing incidents.

An extremely important step for employees who are subjected to a hostile work environment to take is to keep a detailed record of each harassing incident. Whether in a journal or on your computer, employees should start documenting any workplace abuse, bullying, offensive remarks as well as any other incidents in which the employees feel as though they are being harassed.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe and pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. “ (https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/harassment.cfm)

Accordingly, slight annoyances caused by a co-worker or supervisor are not considered illegal. Generally, harassment is present when it is repetitive and pervasive behavior that causes an employee to feel uncomfortable, intimidated or offended. This is a subjective standard. What causes one to feel uncomfortable or offended may not cause another to have those same feelings. If an employee feels that they are having to deal with offensive behavior in the workplace in order to keep their job then they may be a victim of harassment.

Notify both the offensive worker or workers as well as a supervisor or manager.

Notifying both the harasser and your supervisor or manager is another extremely important step.  First, it is important to let the offending party know that you are offended by their behavior and that you want it to stop immediately. Now that the offending employee is on notice, they can not claim that they did not know their behavior was causing a hostile work environment.

Furthermore, notifying a supervisor or manager about the hostile work environment is just as, if not more important. This is so because, without being on notice the supervisor or manager is not obligated to take the steps necessary to prevent the harassment or improve the situation for the employee. Conversely, once the supervisor is informed of the problem, they have a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent it from continuing. If the supervisor or manager fails to take reasonable steps to change the situation, your employer could be liable for allowing a hostile work environment to persist.

Filing a timely charge with the EEOC

The EEOC is a U.S. Government agency that is responsible for making sure federal anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws are being enforced. If your employer is not taking any substantive action to remedy the harassment you are being subjected to and you are considering taking legal action, you must first file an administrative charge with the EEOC.

The EEOC will begin an independent investigation once an employee files an administrative charge through their offices. It is important to note that the EEOC may contact your employer or co-workers. Further, EEOC officers may make site visits to the workplace and conduct witness interviews. Generally, the average EEOC investigation take around 10 months. The length of an EEOC investigations depends on the complexity of the investigation, the size of the employer and the parties’ willingness to be cooperative in the investigation.

If the EEOC determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that the employee is being subjected to harassment and/or discrimination in the workplace, they will provide the complainant with a Right to Sue notice. This will permit the employee to proceed to court with proper representation. An EEOC investigation is necessary step prior to filing any sort employment harassment or discrimination lawsuit, otherwise your case will be immediately thrown out.

Find Representation and File a Lawsuit

Once you have been given a Right to Sue Notice from the EEOC, you can proceed with filing a lawsuit in the proper jurisdiction. At this point, it is recommended that you find an attorney who is experienced with labor law to assist you.

If an employee feels that they are being subjected to any form of harassment or discrimination on the basis of their race, gender, color, religion, sex(including pregnancy), ethnicity, age or disability in the workplace then they should consult with an attorney who is experienced in labor law immediately. The laws governing harassment and discrimination are complex. There are strict regulations governing the process for filing a lawsuit. Furthermore, there are strict time restrictions, known as statute of limitations, as to when a lawsuit can be filed. The experienced attorneys at Shegerian Conniff are ready to hold your employer accountable, fight for your legal rights, and seek justice.  Click here to contact us today or call us at 310-322-7500 for a free consultation.