What is considered a hostile work environment in California?
It goes by many names, but the conditions and impact are the same: a workplace is so stressful that it begins to impact employees’ physical and mental health, instills fear, and causes decreased job satisfaction.
Many people have challenging jobs, and many more probably feel as if too much pressure is placed upon them to complete too many tasks in too little time. Yet, that is normal.
What is not normal is feeling physical dread before heading into the office, fearing that you will be let go if you do not complete a project within an impossible timeframe, or going home and trying to tamper your anxiety with drugs or alcohol.
If your job makes you feel fearful and depressed, or if it is taking a toll on your physical health, you may be dealing with a hostile work environment. If that is the case, you may be able to sue your employer.
A Los Angeles hostile workplace attorney can review the facts of your situation and, if you have a case, begin to gather evidence and build a case.
Requirements for a Hostile Work Environment
Unfortunately, even if your job is taking an emotional toll on you, you may not have a hostile work environment case. In order to sue for a hostile work environment, your situation must meet the following criteria:
- Actions or behavior that discriminate against a protected classification, such as religion, sex, age, race, or disability;
- These actions must be pervasive, meaning that they happen on a consistent basis;
- The problem is significant, is not investigated (despite the reports you make to human resources), and is not addressed by the organization;
- The hostile actions must disrupt your work or your career progress, and not just be “annoying”; and
- That the employer knew about the actions or behaviors (or should have known about them) and did not sufficiently intervene.
To tie in workplace stress with a hostile work environment, an example of a hostile work environment might occur when a supervisor repeatedly asks a new mother to stay late to meet impossible deadlines and threatens that if she does not, she will be replaced.
Another example might be when a male employee is constantly picked on by his female co-workers, touched inappropriately, and made to deal with lewd comments. When he reports the incident, his supervisor brushes him off, claiming that he is just “being sensitive.”
Understanding Stress in the Workplace
Workplace stress is stress that results in a damaging physical or emotional response that stems from the conflict in the workplace. More specifically, that conflict appears when a worker sees an increase in demands but has little control over how or when those demands are met.
While workplace stress can result from a single, isolated incident, it is more often the result of a series of stress events. Some common examples of workplace stress include:
- When an employee fears for his or her position within the company because he or she is unable to meet impossible deadlines;
- When an employer demands employees to work overtime because of staff cutbacks;
- When an employee feels pressure to meet rising expectations without any increase in incentives to do so;
- When an employee does not feel safe, physically or emotionally, while working;
- When relationships are strained between co-workers and/or supervisors; and
- When one employee or a group of employees suffer from workplace bullying or harassment.
Each of these factors can contribute to a stressful and even hostile work environment, and they can take a toll on employees. Some effects of workplace stress are lack of motivation, physical illness, absenteeism, depression, alcoholism, or even death (if stress is felt over a long-term).
Suing for a Hostile Work Environment
If you believe that your work environment is a hostile one, reach out to a Los Angeles workplace rights attorney to discuss your case and determine your legal options. If your case meets the legal criteria for a hostile work environment, suing may be the best option.
Under both California and federal employment laws, workers are protected from harassment, undue stress, unsafe working environments, and negligence. These laws make it easy (or at least, possible), for workers to sue for unlawful harassment and discrimination.
However, these laws also protect employers from frivolous claims that stem from overworked employees who are dissatisfied with otherwise ordinary workplace incidents, such as a demanding supervisor, long hours, or difficult co-workers.
Though bullying in the workplace is illegal, if your claim stems from acts of bullying, you would need to attempt to combat the issue internally by reporting the incident or incidences to HR.
Your company should have a policy that dictates what should be done about employees who create a hostile work environment or who pick on others because of age, race, disability, religion, gender, or national origin.
If your company does not have a policy in place, it could be liable for the negative employee’s actions. If it does have a policy in place but chooses not to investigate the claims, it can also be held liable for the adverse actions and behaviors of the employee.
Bringing a Hostile Workplace Suit to Court in California
Hostile work environments are not conducive to employee productivity, health, or emotional well-being. For this reason, there are laws in place to protect California employees from stress work environments and that allow them to pursue legal action against a neglectful employer.
If your work environment is a hostile one, or if your employer’s actions have caused undue stress and physical illness, you may be able to file a claim for a hostile work environment. However, because of how difficult these types of cases can be to prove, you should not attempt to fight the battle on your own.
Instead, reach out to the Los Angeles hostile workplace attorneys at Workplace Rights Law Group. Our consultations are free and confidential. Call now to schedule your case evaluation.