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What is a hostile work environment?

When your work environment becomes unbearable and you face discrimination or harassment, you have every right to file a complaint. What you are dealing with is, under federal and California state law, considered a hostile work environment - but what exactly does this mean? How does your work environment classify as hostile?

The EEOC outlines conditions that define a hostile working environment. This involves either pervasive and/or severe conduct and actions that make your work environment feel hostile, intimidating or abusive. For example, if your manager assigns you a derogatory nickname based on race, gender, gender identity, sexuality, religion, or other personal factor and continues to use that nickname on a daily basis, you are in a hostile work environment created by pervasive conduct.

For an example of severe conduct that creates a hostile work environment, if a direct superior attempts to sexually coerce, harass or assault you even once it may make your work environment feel hostile and intimidating out of fear of the event happening again, fear of rumors spreading or fear of attempts to harass you into silence regarding the incident. Both of these occasions would warrant a report and potential investigation by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

In general the idea is that, regardless of the surrounding conditions, a hostile work environment is one in which you do not feel safe. Employees have the right to a safe and respectful work environment.

This blog post is an informational reference only, and does not qualify as a valid substitute for legal advice.

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