The Hostile Work Environment Law protects employees from an employers mistreatment under certain circumstances. Co-workers can also commit a violation under this law if they commit offenses that target ones sex or gender, pregnancy, religion, disability, and origin. The law is primarily based on the laws of discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation, and also contract law.
This law remains in parallel to the major federal laws and state laws which also protect an individuals rights. The hostile workplace environment law finds basis on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Another law which may be the basis for the hostile work environment law is the Race Discrimination and the 42 USC Section 1981. The said law prohibits race discrimination especially in contract and employment.
One can only categorize a certain situation as workplace harassment when comments are targeted at legally protected areas and would thereby create intimidation, hostility, and disturbance in the working environment. It is not simply an offense that may be committed by the manager or employer but by anyone in the workplace that may include a vendor, guest, and even non-employees. The victim of such is not just the person to whom the offense was directed but even to other people around the area who may have been affected by the conduct.
The law also discusses offensive conduct that involves sexual harassment in the form of crude sexual jokes, touching, and other gender-related comments. If such comments target the earlier mentioned protected areas like race, sex, gender, culture, and others, then the offense could definitely qualify as one under the discriminatory hostile environment area and the person responsible could be held liable in court.
This law defines retaliation hostile environment as the bad conduct shown by an employer whose actions might not contain comments targeted on the traditional protected categories but might entail a simple show of rudeness and disrespect which can also fall under the retaliation hostile work environment category. Employees should also consider the possibility of a constructive discharge hostile environment which may be shown by the employer to make the employee quit. The employee needs to be aware of his legal rights so as not to fall for the trap of constructive discharge.
The law also clarifies the major role of the manager or the employer who may not be directly involved in any kind of situation that causes a hostile work environment, but is believed to have not done anything to stop the problem. In this case, he can actually be held liable in court. There have been quite a number of cases where a manager was made codefendant with the company for not being sensitive to, or taking the appropriate action to address a known hostile environment situation.
This law should push managers and employers to seriously draft and follow policies to prevent the onset of any type of harassment in the workplace. The workplace ought to be an environment that protects the dignity of employees. The policy, which must made clear to both employer and employees, would include the definition of harassment, what constitutes it, and other information relevant to the topic.
Some examples that may not be sexual but could fall under the offense of a hostile work environment are the following: making negative comments about another employees religious beliefs, making stereotypes of another employees ancestry, or the act of insulting an employees age especially those who are 40 years and above.