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Hostile Working Environment
Working Conditions

One of Issues' readers posed the following scenario:

I work for a company that has retail locations throughout the world. There are approximately six locations locally. Some of the employees work in various positions. One of the female employees is rude and obnoxious to say the least. She has a habit of partially "exposing" herself to show off tattoos, and grabbing the male employees' butts. She also has a habit of filing sexual harassment charges against the male employees who "resist" her approaches.

The reader explained the policy taken by the business: which is to thoroughly investigate the accusations and when the accusations cannot be confirmed (or rather as our reader states: when the eyewitnesses provide a story different than the accuser) the company simply separates the accuser from the accused.

In my opinion, the company is following up on the accusations appropriately. Everything the reader stated in the email indicates that this company has followed every rule to evaluate and eliminate further consequences. II do not believe that this company could be held legally responsible if the accuser drew any lawsuits, however, it does appear that the female in this situation is creating a Hostile Work Environment.

According to the laws there are two forms of “harassment”:

1. Quid pro quo harassment (where a supervisor threatens to fire or not promote an employee if he or she doesn’t have sex with the supervisor) which literally means "this for that," "what for what," or "something for something."

2.“Hostile work environment” harassment, (speech or conduct that is “severe or pervasive” enough to create a “hostile or abusive work environment”)

While quid pro quo harassment is more typical of the sexual harassment scenario. It is also as constitutionally unprotected as any other form of threat or extortion. Hostile or abusive work environment, according to the law, is generally based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, or, in some jurisdictions, sexual orientation, political affiliation, citizenship status, marital status, or personal appearance. It has more recently been expanded to include other forms of work environment harassment for instance offensive physical touching or vandalism and discriminatory job assignments (Such as the Case of Charlie from New York which would generally be viewed as “harassment.”)

The "Hostile Environment" occurs when the conduct has the effect of unreasonably interfering with a person's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Furthermore, this conduct can be that of a supervisor, coworker, or agency contractor.

Originally, the essential element of such activity had to have been sexual in nature and the harassed person had to consider this activity unwelcome. Isolated incidents may be unwelcome but may not rise to the level of a "hostile environment," because they are not severe or pervasive. This means while incidents of flirting or telling tasteless jokes may not constitute sexual harassment when the conduct occurs repeatedly, and over a period of time, it becomes considered severe and pervasive. (Such as the actions of the aforementioned female).

One final note on a "hostile work environment" case, there need not be direct economic harm, in fact the threat of a concrete action may be sufficient as long as there is ample evidence regarding both malice and frequency of this unwelcome conduct.

In layman's terms: the company you are employed by may become responsible for the actions of the female who continuously files sexual harrassment claims against male employees, as long as a pattern of frequent malice has been determined to exist.

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FAA Office of Civil Rights
opinion on hostile work environment

EXAMPLES OF "HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT HARASSMENT"
From employment-law.freeadvice,com

STATUS-BLIND HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION

Employer Liability: Hostile Work Environment Harassment

Hostile Work Environment Harassment
From ABC.com

Workplace harassment hurts everyone on the job
From:The American Psychological Association

HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT
From emplymentlawcentral.com

Hostile Work Environment Harrassment Covered under Worker's Compensation

 

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Employment Section:

  1. Employment & Business Section:

    1. Fired for Having a Heart Attack - The Employment At-Will Doctrine

    2. Is At-Will Out-The-Door in NY?

    3. Workplace Violence & Employment At-Will
    4. Non-Compete Agreements

    5. Wrongful Termination

    6. State-By-State Laws: At-Will Employment

    7. Hostile Work Environments

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    9. State-By-State Resources: Department of Motor Vehicles

    10. Investigate That Business

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Page Last Updated: 6/20/2002
C 2002 L Munro