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A hostile work environment: What it is and is not

When you started your new job, you immediately had concerns. The first day, a coworker commented on your figure. The second day, your boss winked at you, and you thought it was a little unusual. You're attractive, but the point of you being at work isn't to be eye candy. It's starting to make you want to stay home.

Work environments can become hostile, but what exactly is hostile and how bad does it have to get before you have a case? A hostile work environment is one in which the environment at your job has become unpleasant and impossible to work in. For instance, if your boss is sexually harassing you every day you go to work, you may not want to go to work and can report that his actions make your job impossible to perform.

The actions that make it impossible for you to work must be discriminatory for your lawsuit to succeed. For instance, sexual harassment, racism and other negative acts may be discriminatory and qualify. The actions are all identified under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC's) regulations.

Some employees may find their coworkers annoying or persistent in their negative behaviors, but if they are only being rude or obnoxious, that's not necessarily creating a hostile work environment. In those cases, you may want to speak to your boss about altering the coworker's behaviors.

The difference in a hostile situation is that the same coworker could be making sexual jokes, commenting on your race or religion or taking other discriminatory stances that are against the law. If that takes place, you could be able to file a claim.

Source: The Balance, "What Makes a Work Environment Hostile?," Susan M. Heathfield, accessed Nov. 02, 2017

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