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How to identify a hostile work environment

| Jun 5, 2021 | Discrimination

Discrimination can come in many forms. Sometimes it involves a company choosing not to hire, promote or properly compensate employees with certain protected characteristics. Other times, discrimination looks like a company ignoring a hostile work environment that affects employees of a specific gender, sexual orientation, religion or age.

Every workplace has its own unique culture, and cultural differences from company to company can be what entices people to work at certain businesses. However, some businesses encourage or turn a blind eye to hostile company cultures that shut out people from certain backgrounds or with particular characteristics. What results is a hostile work environment that makes it impossible for some people to succeed at the company.

How do you know if your unpleasant workplace is really a hostile work environment?

The behavior or issues must relate to a protected characteristic

Simply being abrasive, annoying or rude isn’t discriminatory. Coworkers who irritate you through inconsiderate attitudes may make your work less pleasant, but they don’t necessarily cause a hostile work environment.

A hostile work environment typically stems from behavior related to a protected characteristic like your sex, age, race or medical condition. People making jokes about you, sending emails that derogatorily reference your protected characteristic or openly being aggressive, unfriendly or spiteful because of your race, religion or age could constitute a hostile work environment.

Managers or other workers must make it very difficult for you to do your job, or their behavior must alter what your job requires of you. Additionally, these bad attitudes typically must stem from a protected characteristic or their attitude about it.

In order to stand up to discrimination and a hostile work environment, you may have to prove your experience either to government regulatory agencies or the courts. Writing down details of each incident as it occurs, forwarding inappropriate emails to a personal account and keeping other records of your daily work experience can help you demonstrate how your manager or coworkers have turned your workplace into a hostile environment.

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