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Three Myths About Hostile Work Environments

June 4, 2021
By Haeggquist & Eck

You probably have heard of a hostile work environment before. You may have been exposed to this term through the media or a friend or family member who was being discriminated against at work.

Unless you’ve dealt with a hostile work environment before, you may have also inadvertently learned a few myths about what one is and what it means to work in one. In this blog, we’ll address four of the most stubborn myths about this topic and why they’re incorrect.

Common Myths about Hostile Work Environments

Myth 1. A Hostile Work Is One Where Tempers Flare

Lots of people think that “hostile work environment” is a self-evident term, but it isn’t. Contrary to what many believe, there is more going on than a boss having a tantrum, threatening to fire people on a whim, or other kinds of bullying behavior.

This kind of conduct can certainly feel hostile, but it doesn’t legally cross the line until it discriminates against a protected class. In other words, if harassment of any kind targets people with certain legally protected characteristics (skin color, age, disability status, sex, etc.) then it violates the law and creates a hostile work environment.

Also, the harassment doesn’t have to be as over-the-top as outbursts or threats. Much more subtle behavior such as offensive side-comments can also lead to a hostile work environment.

Myth 2. Hostile Work Environment Claims Only Apply to Certain Types of Discrimination

Any form of discrimination can give rise to a hostile work environment claim. California and the federal government recognize a number of protected characteristics, including include age, race, sex, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, and several others. Should someone experience harassment or other adverse behavior based on one of these characteristics, they may have a valid hostile work environment claim.

Myth 3. A Single Incident Isn’t Enough to Argue the Existence of a Hostile Work Environment

People may feel powerless to fight back if they experienced discrimination or harassment as an isolated incident. If the incident was severe or pervasive, however, it can indicate the presence of a hostile work environment. This is especially true if the employer failed to take any meaningful action to change the conditions that led to the incident or to prevent it from occurring again.

“Severe or pervasive” might sound like a high bar to meet, but it may be much lower than you’d think. The best way to assess whether you have a viable claim is to consult with an employment law attorney, like one of ours at Haeggquist & Eck, LLP.

Schedule Your Free Consultation with Us Today

If you believe you were subjected to discriminatory harassment at work, Haeggquist & Eck, LLP can help you evaluate your claim. When you take advantage of our free consultation, you can tell us about your situation in a fully confidential environment. An experienced attorney can then tell you more about how our firm can help you take advantage of legal options that may be available to you.

In many cases involving a hostile work environment, those who experienced discrimination can fight for monetary damages that address the impact of the behavior they endured at work.

For more information about our services, schedule your free consultation with Haeggquist & Eck, LLP by requesting it online or by calling (619) 342-8000 today.

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