To qualify as a hostile environment, harassment must be pervasive, constant or so severe that a reasonable person would consider the work environment intimidating or abusive.
Harassment might be caused by a supervisor, a co-worker or even a customer, and the person who makes a hostile work environment claim can be anyone affected by the harassing behaviors, even if she is not the target of the discrimination.
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If a supervisor creates a hostile work environment, the company must show that it took reasonable efforts to correct the situation and that the affected employee failed to take advantage of the company's efforts to disclaim liability.
Companies are liable for a hostile work environment created by other employees and nonemployees it controls, such as independent contractors, if they knew about or should have known about the harassment and failed to act to prevent or correct it.
There is no list of criteria you can use to determine whether an environment is hostile.
It's illegal to harass employees at work because of a trait that's protected by employment discrimination laws, such as race, gender, color, religion, national origin, age or disability status.
When that harassment is so severe that a reasonable person would consider the environment hostile and abusive, it might qualify as a hostile work environment. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigates each claim and makes a decision based on the specific facts and circumstances of each complaint.
However, there is no checklist you can use to make a determination. These laws also prohibit discrimination against an employee who files a discrimination complaint, participates in a discrimination investigation or opposes discriminatory practices.Many states have enacted laws that extend discrimination protection to other characteristics, such as sexual orientation.Harassment is a kind of discrimination that's caused by individual behavior.It can take many forms, including sexually explicit language; insults, slurs and name calling; jokes, mockery and ridicule; lewd gestures, threats and intimidation; and offensive pictures, cartoons, objects or materials. The law only prohibits harassment that's directed at an employee for a reason that the law protects, such as the victim's race, age or gender.For example, workplace bullying because a supervisor doesn't like you might be perfectly legal, regardless of the kind of environment it creates.While a single off-color joke or isolated comment might cause an awkward or uncomfortable moment, it usually isn't enough to establish a hostile work environment on its own.