Sexual Harassment:

Hostile Environment Harassment

A hostile work environment describes a workplace that prevents an employee from completing their job tasks in a reasonable manner. In a hostile work environment, a manager, co-worker, vendor or non-employee creates a counterproductive atmosphere due to their offensive or harassing actions. In general, sexual harassment, as well as any discriminatory act or remark may create a hostile work environment.

A single incident will not be considered hostile work environment harassment unless it is extremely outrageous and flagrant misconduct. Courts will look to see whether the conduct is both serious and frequent. In addition, the courts will examine the following factors:

  • The nature of the conduct (verbal, physical or both)
  • Whether the harasser was a co-worker or manager
  • Whether others also participated in the harassing actions
  • Whether the actions were targeted to more than one person

If you have been subjected to a hostile work environment, fill out our free case review form. Our sexual harassment attorneys can evaluate your claim, at no cost to you.

Examples of Sexual Harassment

Under sexual harassment law, hostile work environment harassment refers to a situation where workers experience a pattern of unwanted sexual behavior from another individual in the workplace. In other words, a hostile work environment exists when an employee is subjected to sexual or crude comments , offensive sexual materials, or unwelcome physical contact or advances as a regular part of their workday. Hostile work environment harassment is distinguished from “quid pro quo” harassment, which involves an exchange of sexual favors for job benefits. Some actions that may contribute to the development of a hostile work environment include:

  • Hanging pornographic pictures or posters
  • Making dirty jokes or crude comments
  • Touching others inappropriately
  • Leering or staring in a sexually suggestive manner
  • Sending sexually suggestive e-mails
Hostile Work Environment Claims

To prove a sexual harassment claim, the plaintiff must show that the conduct was hostile or offensive and a reasonable person would have also considered the behavior as such. In a claim alleging hostile work environment harassment, the victim must also establish a pattern of harassing behavior; an isolated incident is not enough to prove that a hostile work environment exists. It is important to note that the individual filing the sexual harassment lawsuit does not necessarily have to be the victim or target of the behavior.

If you are experiencing a hostile environment at work, there are several steps to take to stop the harassment. First, the victim should tell the harasser that the behavior is unwanted and must stop. This can be done verbally or through conduct which shows that the harassment is not welcomed. Informing the harasser that their actions are unwelcome is an important component in a sexual harassment case; the harasser must not believe that their actions are welcomed. Next, the sexual harassment victim should use any complaint systems implemented by the employer. If the harassment continues, the victim should seek a free legal consultation from a sexual harassment attorney.

In most sexual harassment cases, the company will attempt to prove that it took reasonable steps to stop and correct any harassing workplace behavior and that the victim did not use any remedies offered by the employer.

If you have been sexually harassed at work, you are protected under federal law from employer retaliation. In other words, your employer cannot punish, fire or demote you simply because you filed a sexual harassment claim. To learn more about filing a sexual harassment lawsuit, fill out the free case review form on the right.