Most of us spend a good chunk of our waking hours at work. Therefore, our life can become highly unpleasant if someone in our workplace is regularly unkind or even a bully to us. At what point does that behavior cross over into harassment, and when does a situation become a “hostile work environment” that may require legal action to remedy?
Under the law, a hostile work environment occurs when an employee is harassed or intimidated because of a characteristic that places him or her in a legally protected class. Under Arizona law, as well as federal law, employers can’t discriminate against people because of their race, religion, age, sex, color, national origin or disability. In Phoenix and Tucson, sexual orientation, marital status and gender identity or expression are also protected classes.
Harassment can include a range of offensive behaviors, including derogatory comments or slurs. Sexual harassment, besides inappropriate touching, demands or requests, can include subjecting someone to offensive images, lewd jokes or sexual gestures.
The harasser may be a person’s manager. However, he or she can also be a co-worker or even a nonemployee who’s in the workplace, such as a vendor or contractor.
A hostile work environment isn’t good for either the employer or the employee. It can drastically impact employee productivity. More importantly, it can make employees feel unsafe and be detrimental to their emotional well-being.
If you are the victim of harassment and have not been able to resolve the problem through the channels provided in your company, or if those channels don’t exist, you may need to determine what your legal options are.
Our attorneys know how demoralizing it is to be the victim of harassment, discrimination and/or a hostile work environment. Our website has extensive information on the types of workplace-related cases we handle for Arizona employees.