What constitutes a hostile workplace?

Asked 10 months ago - Bakersfield, CA

Several years of employer allowing harassment and mistreatment from other employees.

Attorney answers (5)

  1. Jonathan Aaron Weinman

    Pro

    Contributor Level 17

    5

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Unfortunately, your question is too vague. A hostile work environment depends on several factors in order to be actionable. If you are being harassed or discriminated against based on a protected category (age (over 40), race, religion, gender, disability, etc.) then you may have a claim for a hostile work environment. However, if the conduct you speak of is general bullying, supervisors or co-workers repeatedly yelling and being generally mean, then that would not rise to the level of a hostile work environment under the law.

  2. L. Maxwell Taylor

    Contributor Level 20

    5

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Everyone has heard this term "hostile work environment." It comes out of the law of employment discrimination. It arose out of gender discrimination cases, and refers to a work environment so permeated with catcalls, cheesecake posters, sexually charged horsing around, etc., as to completely alter the conditions of employment depending upon what gender you belong to.

    Similarly, a racially "hostile work environment" refers to a racially charged atmosphere, where the terms and conditions of employment are different depending upon what race you belong to.

    A "hostile work environment" as employment-discrimination law understands that terms refers to a work environment which discriminates against members of protected classifications, creating one set of working conditions for those who do not belong to the class, and a completely different set of working conditions for those who do.

    You may be dealing with a circumstance involving garden variety "workplace bullying." I don't know of a single jurisdiction in the United States in which workplace bullying is legally actionable. The remedy of an at-will employee for an abusive boss is to exercise the right of every at-will employee to fire the boss, i.e., to find other employment in less disagreeable conditions.

    Check out the link below, to the Workplace Bullying Institute. You may find it a helpful site to explore.

    Not legal advice as I don't practice law in California or hold California licensure. It's just my two cents pertaining to some general principles of law. Consult California counsel if you need legal advice. I practice in Vermont ONLY.

  3. David Herman Hirsch

    Contributor Level 20

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Mr. Weinman and Mr. Taylor have layed it out very well. Employees often complain of a hostile workplace, but the conduct complained of isn't unlawful unless its based upon a protected classification (i.e. race, sex, age, etc.). The work environment can be harsh, but it may not necessarily be unlawful conduct...

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  4. Wendy Ha Chau

    Contributor Level 13

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . At this time there is no protection for bullying in the work place, however there are Federal Laws and California Laws that protect certain class of people. It depends on if your situation falls within the protected classes. Federal Law protects the following class of people: race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Whereas California law is broader. It protects the following: Age (40 and over); Ancestry; Color
    ;Religious Creed (including religious dress and grooming practices); Denial of Family and Medical Care Leave; Disability (mental and physical) including HIV and AIDS; Marital Status; Medical Condition (cancer and genetic characteristics); Genetic Information ; National Origin (including langauge use restrictions);Race; Sex (which includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and medical conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding); Gender, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression
    Sexual Orientation.

    I and many other people are trying to lobby for an Anti - Bullying in the work place statute (i.e. laws that protect employees from being bullying at work) on both federal and state levels (city and county level as well). I believe there are laws protecting bullying at schools already in force.

    The issue of bullying/hostile workplace is heavily publicized this year. Goodluck!

    *Disclaimer: This response does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and I. I am not your lawyer... more
  5. Lesly Jeanne Adams

    Pro

    Contributor Level 10

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . When a layman says "hostile work place," s/he is typically referring to an uncivil boss, who is demanding, mean, yells, screams, and uses foul language. When a lawyer says, "hostile work place," s/he means discriminatory conduct against an employee based on that employee's protected class. You may want to consult an employment attorney to determine if you have a potential claim. Good luck to you.

    Lesly J. Adams has been licensed to practice law in California since 2010. The information presented here is... more

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