hostile work environment

December 23, 2020

As per a study, one in five people in the United States has experienced a hostile work environment once in their lifetime. So what do you mean by a hostile work environment? Some people say that having a bad or rude boss means a hostile work environment.

Whereas some belief having a rude coworker or failure to qualify for a promotion due to discrimination or not receiving the deserving perks, privileges, benefits, and recognition can lead to a hostile workplace.

Yes, all of the above-mentioned issues do contribute to creating an environment that is not friendly or supportive of the employees. Such an unfriendly or hostile environment can have a negative impact on the performance of an employee.

Therefore it is important to understand the signs of a hostile work environment, so one could act on them as soon as possible and find a cure for the same. The signs will help understand how the hostility can be avoided altogether in the future before the employees become irreversibly unproductive or decide to take legal action.

What is a hostile work environment?

There are two types of discrimination that can happen in the workplace. The first happens when the employer takes an unfavorable employment action like suspension, firing, demotion, etc. because of the employee’s sex, race, age, or any other protected characteristic.

The second type of discrimination is having a hostile work environment. This happens when an employer subjects an employee to harassment and bullying because of his/her protected characteristic.  In simple words a hostile work environment means harassment.

What are the criteria to prove a hostile work environment?

A hostile work environment is not always illegal.  To legally prove that your company or organization has a hostile work environment, the employee needs to prove:

  • that they are a member of a protected class;
  • they were subjected to harassment because of their protected class; and
  • the hostile environment harassment affected a condition of employment or resulted in unreasonably interfering with their work environment.

The hostile work environment harassment is based on a protected characteristic, as per the federal law .some of the protected characteristics to determine harassment or discrimination is:

  • Age
  • Color
  • Disability
  • Genetic information
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex

An employee can file a workplace harassment claim against their employer if any form of discrimination or negative conduct is motivated by the employee’s protected characteristics as defined under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

An employee may be a victim of hostile work environment bullying or harassment due to offensive, oppressive or intimidating behavior of a manager or colleagues. So how does one know if their work environment is hostile? What behaviors are considered criteria for a hostile work environment?

Below mentioned are some signs of a Hostile Work Environment:

1.) An employer or manager or any coworker demonstrates verbal anger or aggression towards you or other employees. This could include screaming or shouting either in public or behind closed doors.

2.) An employer or manager or any coworker exhibits non-verbal anger or aggression like banging items on your or your colleague’s desk in a forceful manner.

3.) You or your colleagues have been a victim of verbal and/or nonverbal sexual harassment. For example, experiencing improper touching, receiving relentless requests for dates, receiving mass emails containing sexual matter.

4.) You see signs of workplace discrimination against you or your colleagues based on a protected characteristic like gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.  For example, not getting a deserving promotion simply because you or your colleague is a female and the person who is promoted is a male.

5.)  Being belittled or shamed in front of others by your employer or manager or colleague because of your ideas, personal circumstances, or opinions. This kind of behavior may make you feel useless, undervalued, and humiliated.

6.) Being threatened by the manager or superior with uncalled-for punishment, termination, physical, or psychological abuse.

7.) Your employer or colleagues use offensive language or use racial slurs while communicating with you or your co-workers.

8.) Your employer or manager supports unhealthy competition between team members, resulting in low confidence and self-esteem and constant office drama.

9.) Your manager uses unmerited and unfair tactics that prevent the growth of you or your colleagues in the company.

10.) Everyone in the company looks and feels miserable every day, and the toxicity creates a hostile work environment making it difficult to perform and be productive in your role. If you notice a high turnover rate in the company, this could be one of the signs of a hostile work environment.

What to do if you are a victim of a hostile work environment? Can I sue my employee for creating a hostile workplace?

  • If you are a victim of a hostile work environment, the first step you should take is to report to your HR or company in writing, either by email or by submitting a hard copy complaint letter. A written complaint is very important for a hostile work environment harassment
  • In case you are being harassed by a manager or colleague, the written complaint is proof that the superiors or concerned authorities are aware of the situation.
  • Each company has different policies and regulations on reporting hostile environment harassment. Review your company’s policies and follow the steps mentioned for filing a report on harassment or bullying.
  • Do not quit your job until it is absolutely necessary. Not reporting to the company and quitting the job will make it difficult to handle the case in the future, as the company could say they were unaware of any harassment or bullying happening.


If you or your family member has been a victim of hostile work environment harassment and do not know how to report the harassment and handle the case, contact our team of professional lawyers at Khashan Law. We can assist you with the filing of a complaint with your employer and also representing you in court if the case goes to court. Contact us today at (951) 461-2387.