What is a Hostile Work Environment in California?

Workplace harassment can take many forms, and one of the most common methods of harassment is to create a hostile work environment. Every employee in California deserves to feel safe and work in an appropriate environment. Have you or someone you know been subjected to harassment at work? If so, you may have a claim for a hostile work environment against your employer. To learn more, call or contact an experienced California employment law attorney in your area today.

Qualities of a Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment is one where inappropriate behavior is so severe or pervasive that it rises to the level of an abusive environment for employees. This behavior can be directed at one worker or at a group of employees that share an actual or perceived characteristic. Harassment in a hostile work environment can be gender-based or sexual, but it also includes nonsexual harassment based on a protected characteristic like race, ethnicity, religion, disability, medical condition, age, military status, ancestry, and more.

In order to qualify as severe or pervasive workplace harassment, the conduct cannot be isolated, occasional, trivial, or sporadic. The only exception to this is if the incident of harassment is so substantial that the single act alone rises to the level of severe workplace harassment. A hostile work environment must involve either repeated instances of harassment or involve a threat to an employee or employees’ safety.

Who is Liable for a Hostile Work Environment?

In California, anyone in the workplace can create a hostile work environment, but the perpetrator determines who can be held liable and the standard to which they are held. Supervisors, coworkers, subordinates, independent contractors, clients, and customers can all create a hostile work environment for employees. If a hostile work environment is created by a supervisor, the employer can be held strictly liable for their actions under the Fair Employment and Housing Act in California. However, if the hostile work environment is created by someone in the workplace other than the supervisor, the employer can only be held liable if it can be shown that the employer was negligent in their handling of the situation. This is typically determined based on how the employer responds when an employee being harassed reports the behavior.

Other Types of Workplace Harassment

In addition to creating a hostile work environment, California also recognizes quid pro quo sexual harassment as a form of actionable workplace harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment can only occur between a supervisor and a subordinate and happens when a supervisor attempts to trade benefits like a promotion, raise, better work schedules, or good performance reviews for sexual favors. If you have been subject to a hostile work environment or quid pro quo sexual harassment it is critical that you speak with an employment attorney right away.

Talk to an Employment Attorney

As a California employee, you deserve to work in a place where you feel comfortable and safe. To learn more about your legal options speak with an experienced California employment law attorney today.