Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Three things to know about hostile work environments

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2020 | Firm News

Everyone has moments at work that are uncomfortable, awkward, or even disruptive. Many of the disturbances that Oregon residents experience in their places of employment are created by the individuals with whom they share workspaces or their supervisors. While many of these uneasy instances may be transient or one-time occurrences, others may be patterns of wrongful and sometimes abusive behavior directed at particular individuals.

When a workplace is plagued by threats, deliberate blocks to communication, or intentional changes to work expectations or hours that are intended to harm an employee, that workplace may be considered hostile. Hostile work environments are unfortunately common and are often based off of the discriminatory beliefs of the aggressors. When harassment takes the form of work-based abuse and threats, it creates a work environment that is intolerable for the victim.

State and federal laws protect victims from workplace harassment, and victims may have claims for relief based on hostile work environments if they can prove certain legal elements. Below are three important facts that victims of harassment and workplace abuse should know to better educate themselves on their employment law rights.

1. Hostile work environments are created by different categories of workers

It is the untrue assumption that workplace harassment and hostile workplace environments are only created by bosses and those with supervisory power over victims. To the contrary, workplace abuse and hostility can be perpetrated by anyone within a workplace. While a supervisor may inflict harassment and harm upon their employee, co-workers can also subject each other to inflammatory and discriminatory conduct. Even independent contractors or non-permeant workers may be the cause of workplace harassment and hostile work environments.

2. A wide range of conduct can create a hostile work environment

Extreme examples of discrimination and harassment often make the news when stories about hostile work environments emerge. While it is an unfortunate truth that some victims are subjected to physical and mental abuse at the hands of their tormentors, others suffer from less overt forms of harm. The presence of offensive signage or posters, offensive anecdotes, and even statements of ridicule may demonstrate a work environment that is offensive or hostile to a reasonable person.

3. Hostile work environments do not have to be reported to employers

Particularly when an abused worker is suffering due to the actions of their supervisor, it does not make sense for them to have to report their suffering to their boss or human resources department. Doing so may create a more damaging situation for them and may lead to increased instances of harm taken against them. When a worker is concerned about the hostility and harassment that they face while on the job, they can contact an employment law attorney for guidance and support.

Hostile work environments are damaging to men and women who want to work so that they can support themselves and their families. Legal options exist for those who wish to stop the cycles of abuse in their jobs and to protect their right to work without abuse or harm.