How Does the EEOC Identify a Hostile Work Environment?

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Suppose an employee goes to work and experiences a hostile work environment. In that case, they are not stuck working at that job with no recourse for being treated badly, differently, or unfairly in the workplace. If you have been the target of a hostile work environment, you can make a claim to the EEOC and have the responsible parties put on notice to investigate the situation to allow you to work in a better work environment.

EEOC hostile work environment

What Is the EEOC?

The EEOC is actually the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is responsible for creating and enforcing federal laws deeming it illegal to actively discriminate against an employee based on ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. This means that any employee working at a business, company, or organization in the United States has the right to work without being harassed, ridiculed, or picked on in an offensive way in the workplace.

Why Won’t They Leave Me Alone at Work?

Most people go to work to do their job to the best of their ability to be paid for an honest day’s work.  No one goes to work to deal with someone making rude, offensive, or off-color remarks aimed at taking the person off guard, stressing the individual out, or overtly threatening the person in the workplace. When an employee is the target of harassment for any reason, it creates a highly stressful work environment on the job. This stress can even lead to physical pains, physiological illnesses, and over time, can even be responsible for an employee developing the symptoms of chronic disease!

EEOC Hostile Work Environment Claims

If an employee feels that the workplace is a hostile environment, then that employee needs to bring these concerns to the human resources or supervisor/manager at the job. There is a definite test that needs to be met to determine if there is a bona fide hostile workplace environment (which is illegal), or whether it is a difficult and annoying workplace environment (which is unpleasant, but not illegal). When an employee feels threatened by events or people in a work environment, the first step is to start writing down what is happening to document everything that occurs in the office as directed to this staff member.

What Is Offensive Conduct in the Workplace?

If an employee goes to work every day and observes offensive conduct being performed by other employees, it leaves poor morale in the workplace for all employees who witness this behavior. The harassment can be from the top-down, from a manager to an employee, or from an employee to another same level or lower-level employee. It can even come in the form of an employee or a group of employees who are harassing a manager or upper-level supervisor.

The Human Resources or Home Office Needs to Manage Harassment Issues Quickly

Harassment in any form in the workplace is “not okay,” and any time that this does occur, it needs to be stopped immediately. This type of workplace behavior needs to always be reported to an upper-level manager and to the human resources department of a business, organization, or company. Today, some companies do not have a human resources person on staff, where those duties are handled at an out-of-state home office, or a remote location office for the business. In that case, the employee who feels threatened can call the home office to speak to someone about the offensive behavior that the individual is being confronted with on the job on a daily basis.

Forms of Offensive Conduct in the Workplace

Offensive conduct in the workplace from the employers or an employee to the targeted employee can come in the form of:

  • Harassment
  • Offensive jokes
  • Slurs
  • Epithets and name-calling
  • Physical assaults or threats
  • Intimidation
  • Ridicule or mimicking
  • Insults or put-downs
  • Offensive objects, pictures, digital media
  • Interference with work performance

Who Is the Victim of EEOC Hostile Work Environment?

The victim of harassment in an EEOC hostile work environment can be an employee who is targeted by these comments, or anyone else indirectly affected by the hostile comments of others heard in the workplace. For example, if the harassment is directed to an employee, but it is heard by another employee too (or instead), the second employee may also have a claim that she is working in a hostile work environment.

Who Is Responsible at the Workplace for Stopping Harassment?

If an employee is being harassed at the workplace by a manager, team leader, or supervisor, the company and the employer are still responsible for that manager’s actions. The employer should stop any harassment that is taking place at the employer’s place of business, and no employee has to “just take it” when being treated unfairly on the job. Once it is determined that a manager is taking advantage of an employee, the employer can terminate the manager from the position, put the manager on disciplinary action or put the person on leave pending an investigation, with or without pay.

In the case that the employer knew of the harassment to an employee, reasonably tried to prevent it, and quickly corrected the manager’s offensive behavior, the employer may or may not be responsible for a charge of harassment by an employee. If the employer ignored the harassment actions by a manager or supervisor to an employee, then the employer may be at fault for the actions of the manager harassing an employee on the job.

Filing a Claim with the EEOC

The EEOC will investigate claims of a hostile environment at the workplace of the employer. The EEOC will review:

  • The strength of the evidence claiming harassment
  • Issues presented in the case
  • The impact of a lawsuit on the merits

If possible, the EEOC also helps to prevent discrimination and hostility in the workplace with education, outreach programs, and other employer training programs for the employees. These efforts usually help to prevent issues in the workplace regarding EEOC claims by workers. A case can be filed with the EEOC in a field office located in all states across the country, for relief from any EEOC issues that may occur on the job.

As you can see, there are many nuances in the rules related to harassment and hostile work environments in the workplace. If you feel that you are being unfairly targeted by harassment in the workplace, which is creating a hostile work environment, call us to discuss your case right now. We are ready to work with you to determine the merits of your case.  Our injury and accident attorneys are here for you at CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm whenever you have questions regarding whether the situation where you work is considered a hostile environment or not. We can go over the details of a claim for harassment, and work with you every step of the way. Call today, we are on your side!

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