Hostile Work environment
Is toxic work environment the same as hostile work environment?
The term “hostile work environment” is a legal term of art and is one of the most misused and misunderstood terms we hear from potential clients. (See the above answer to the various forms of harassment for an in-depth explanation of what constitutes a hostile work environment.) If the work environment is toxic because of the factors that would constitute a hostile work environment, then, yes, it can be the same thing. However, generally, the law does not protect against jerks; just because someone yells or uses offensive language at work probably will not be enough to establish a hostile work environment claim. But, like many other things in the law, it depends: if the abusive or toxic language or conduct is based on some other illegal conduct, then it might be evidence of a hostile work environment. For example, a boss who curses or raises their voice does not create a hostile work environment, even if it is very unpleasant. But a boss who curses or raises their voice while making frequent derogatory or offensive comments about women, or gay people, or people of a particular race or religion, very well could be creating a hostile work environment.
Can I quit my job due to hostile work environment?
a. In certain circumstances, when an employee quits because of the employer’s conduct it constitutes what is known as a constructive discharge (as opposed to an actual termination by the employer). To succeed on a constructive discharge claim, the employee must show the employer knowingly or intentionally created or allowed working conditions that were so intolerable that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would be compelled to resign.
b. Factors that tend to show constructive discharge could include harassment if it is pervasive (i.e., continuous, and not corrected by management) or if the harassment is calculated to encourage the employee to resign. Generally, though, isolated incidents, even if severe, do not support a constructive discharge claim.
c. Also, to prevail on a constructive discharge claim, the employee must show they notified someone in a position of authority about the intolerable work conditions – this puts the employer on notice of the bad conduct and gives the employer the opportunity to correct it. Without notice, the employer will not be found to have knowingly allowed the conditions to persist. Always put complaints in writing.
What if my boss is unfair and disrespectful?
Complain to management (which includes human resources) in writing. Note that, while annoying, such behavior is not illegal in and of itself. However, if your boss is being disrespectful towards you or treating you differently than other employees because of a protected characteristic, or the intersection of several protected characteristics (e.g., sex, gender or gender expression, sexual orientation, age, race, disability, etc.), that may give rise to a claim of harassment and/or discrimination.
If you feel you have experienced a hostile work environment, it is wise for you to consult with an experienced employment law attorney to understand your rights and protections.
Call our office for a free consultation (818) 639-8510
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Sansanowicz Law Group
21031 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 701
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Tel: (818) 639-8510
Fax: (818) 639-8511
21031 Ventura Boulevard
Woodland Hills, CA 91364