Is your workplace a hostile work environment?

Frank S. Clowney III

You work hard to provide for your family and advance your career. However, in a hostile work environment, every day takes its toll on your emotional state. You may be cut off from advancement opportunities or endure jokes that make it clear that you do not fit in with the other employees. It is important to recognize these hostile environments and take action to right the wrongs you experience.

What is a hostile work environment?

Generally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognizes two different types of illegal harassment. The first occurs when employment depends on enduring harassment or other offensive conduct, often called quid pro quo harassment.

The second occurs when misconduct against employees based on a protected class like age, race or disability is so common in the workplace that it creates an intimidating, offensive or abusive work environment. These workplace issues are distressingly common, and nearly 20% of workers surveyed in 2017 stated that they experienced a hostile environment on the job.

What can contribute to a hostile work environment?

Many different pervasive issues can contribute to a hostile work environment. Conditions that can make a workplace hostile include:

  • Offensive language, including the use of racist terms
  • Inappropriate jokes based on sex, gender, race, age and other classes
  • Bullying and threats
  • Unwanted sexual advances or physical contact
  • Environmental issues like displaying inappropriate images
  • Sending offensive messages to coworkers

You deserve a safe and supportive work environment, and you have the right to take action if you have suffered due to hostility in the workplace.