Whenever people hear the phrase “hostile work environment,” many of them immediately imagine a boss yelling at his employees, throwing keyboards at the wall, and threatening workers to fire them.
And while it is true that all of these examples can meet the legal definition of “a hostile work environment,” in the context of employment law, the definition is much more comprehensive and complex.
Our Los Angeles hostile work environment attorney at Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers is going to explain which situations in the workplace meet the legal threshold of “a hostile work environment.” So how do you know that you are being subjected to a hostile work environment in California? Let’s jump right into it.
Legal elements of a hostile work environment claim in California
In California, you can sue your employer for a “hostile work environment” if you can prove several elements of your claim. The primary element of every such claim is that you are being subjected to bad conduct because of a specific characteristic that is protected by federal and state law.
Our experienced hostile work environment attorney in Los Angeles explains which characteristics are protected by federal law:
- Skin color
- National origin
- Gender, including pregnancy
- Citizenship status
Depending on where you reside, the following characteristic may be protected by state law:
- Genetic information
- Medical condition
- Marital status
- Veteran status
- And many more
Severity and pervasiveness of bad conduct
But proving that you have been a victim of bad conduct at work is not enough to recover compensation by filing a hostile work environment claim in California. Another vital element of your claim will be demonstrating evidence that the bad conduct was so severe, frequent or persistent that it had an adverse effect on the terms and conditions of your employment or made it impossible to perform your duties.
Our Los Angeles hostile work environment lawyer warns that isolated incidents or minor incidents usually do not count as those that negatively affect the terms and conditions of the worker’s employment. For example, an employee may be required to show evidence that bad conduct interfered with his or her career prospects, caused a decline in performance or productivity, or resulted in the worker’s failure to get a promotion.
More often than not, the more severe and pervasive bad conduct is against an employee, the more likely that employee is to successfully prove his or her hostile work environment claim against the employer.
Employer’s liability in creating a hostile work environment
In California, you do not necessarily need to prove that your employer created a hostile work environment, as it can be sufficient to prove that your boss allowed or failed to prevent a hostile work environment.
Let’s imagine the following scenario. An office worker has been sexually harassed by her co-worker in the workplace, but despite her multiple complaints to the human resources department and directly to her employer, no reasonably expected measures have been taken by her employer to prevent this behavior or punish the harasser.
In California, an employer can avoid liability in a hostile work environment created by one of its employees only if he or she can prove that he/she had no knowledge of the bad conduct or other cause of a hostile work environment or that it has taken reasonable steps to stop bad conduct.
If you have a reasonable belief that you are being subjected to a hostile work environment at work, do not hesitate to speak to our attorneys at Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers. Get a free consultation by calling our offices at 310-527-6994.