Perhaps, one of the reasons it takes such a toll is due to the feeling of helplessness to change the situation.
In this article we’ll discuss some tips and resources available to help you deal with a hostile work place and take control of a difficult situation.
Hostile work environment is any situation that makes a person feel constantly uncomfortable at their place of employment.
With potential consequences to both your physical and mental health – it is important to fight against hostile work environments. Even if it means using the legal system.
However, in order for an employee to utilize the legal system, there must be proof of inappropriate conduct.
Situations that are considered a hostile workplace have been defined by various Federal Laws. This includes the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These laws describe inappropriate conduct in which a person is harassed or discriminated against due to:
- national origin
Furthermore, the hostile environment must be pervasive and severe. And to a level that deviates from the terms and conditions of a person’s employment.
It must create an environment that is abusive and not conducive for an employee to operate in, thereby affecting the quality of their work.
The test is generally would a reasonable person find the environment to be hostile or abusive?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) agency is responsible for investigating claims of this nature.
One important distinction to bear in mind is that the law is not meant to protect against simple teasing, brusque comments or isolated situations that are not serious.
In other words, if a boss is yelling at everyone (in an offensive manner) it may create a hostile space.
But this may not become problematic in the eyes of the law unless a particular person is singled out on one of the previously mentioned grounds.
Definition: What is a Hostile Work Environment?
Many employees believe that a lousy boss, a rude co-worker, or an unpleasant workplace constitutes as a hostile work environment. Others might believe it’s a lack of privileges, perks, and benefits.
However, in order for a workplace to be hostile, specific legal criteria must be met.
The definition of a hostile work environment is created when an employee feels uncomfortable or fearful in his or her work-space. And this fear or discomfort is due an employer or coworker whose actions or behavior make doing their job impossible.
This includes; offensive behavior, intimidation or verbal or physical abuse.
The actions, communication, and behavior must be discriminatory in nature.
Workplace Bullying ≠ Hostile Work Environment
Workplace bullying DOES NOT constitute a hostile work environment.
Unfortunately for anyone being targeted by a workplace bully, the law in most parts of the U.S. says that behavior is perfectly legal.
As discussed above, the term “hostile work environment” only applies if the behavior is harassment or discrimination. And it’s the EEOC, the federal agency that regulates employers on this issue, that has set the boundaries. According to the EEOC, harassment or discrimination is only happening if it’s “based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”
But here’s a few glimmers of hope.
First, your city may have it’s own laws prohibiting workplace bullying, so do a little research on that.
Second, it is quite possible that bullying could be considered workplace violence.
According to OSHA, the federal agency that regulates employers on this issue, it defines violence as ranging “from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide.”
Of course, realizing you are the target of violence at work is not good news. But using this knowledge may help make your case to HR and get their attention if you use explain the issue in these terms.