Getting Help For Discrimination And Hostility At Workplace
A hostile workplace environment is defined legally as a setup in which persistent harassment is experienced by the workers from either the employer or other co-workers. This harassment is usually subjected on characteristics which are protected by law, such as a person’s race or gender etc. However, it is important to mention that isolated and individual incidents, no matter how offensive or harassing, do not make up a hostile workplace environment.
A single employee might feel abused and harassed by such an occurrence, but the persistence of such incidents is crucial in legally labeling a work environment hostile. In case of isolated occurrences, it is better to rebuke the responsible person yourself and if that cannot be done, an official complaint should be lodged.
Similarly, if there is a person who is generally abusive, they do not make up a hostile workplace environment. Unless the abuse is directed at some person in particular, it is not considered illegal. However, if there is a person who directs specific abusive behaviour towards someone, and if that abuser happens to be a colleague, the abused person has the right to complain to the management. In case the management is not successful in acting up on the complaint, or the harassment does not stop and continues, then the workplace will have to be legally labelled as ‘hostile’.
Coping with Harassment in the Workplace
First of all, analyze every action and comment by the level of hostility. Sometimes some offensive comments just seem offensive because of the difference of perceptions –what seems offensive to you, might just have been a candid joke or comment for the other person, and it may be that they are not even aware of offending you. Therefore, it is always better to let people know if you don’t approve of any action or comment. It will make things clear for both the parties. However, if you genuinely feel threatened and the abuse continues, you should report to the management as soon as possible so action can be taken.
It is also important to note that harassment can be both physical and mental. However candid comments and teasing does not constitute as illegal, and should be solved by talking about it.
Even though most workplaces have clearly defined, severe policies to deal with any on-board harassment, but sometimes the management can fail to help in time. In this case, you can sue the company.
However, it is important to remember that a successful lawsuit is dependent not only on the inadequacy of the management in dealing with the matter, but also upon your reaction to the incident. If you have already responded in an equally hostile manner, the chances of a successful lawsuit are significantly lowered. Therefore, it is important to respond wisely and coolly in such situations –because your behaviour will be examined just as closely as will the behaviour of your employer.
Similarly, if you experience pressure on behalf of the employer to force you to quit the job, try your best to keep the job and not quit. In such a matter, you can get help by complaining about your boss to the higher level authorities. Apart from this, there are many government agencies which help people who suffer from harassment and discrimination at the work environment.
Prerequisites For Filling A Lawsuit
If a worker or an employee is seeking to file a work environment harassment lawsuit, they must be able to establish the following facts in a very solid manner:
- He/she has been the victim of act(s) of continual harassment.
- He/she comes from a protected class.
- The harassment which took place was totally and completely based on the characteristics of that protected class.
- This harassment affected the privileges and other terms and conditions of the employment e.g.: there were threats of dismissal or demotion from the job.
Thus in a nutshell, if a workplace needs to be legally termed hostile, the harassment must be severe and continual. This means it should be objectively as well as subjectively hostile and offensive. To label a workplace hostile, the degree and frequency of hostility would need to be taken into account, however once this is established, you can get legal help from solicitors and file a lawsuit against the person or the company.