• How Do I Handle a Hostile Work Environment Professionally?

    How Do I Handle a Hostile Work Environment Professionally?

    Posted on August 12, 2017 by Neil Durkin Law Offices

    Arguments and poor attitudes are sure to happen in the workforce. From bad days to demotions and business interactions gone wrong, the workplace often holds much fodder for disagreements and hurt feelings. But when does a bad few days turn into a hostile work environment? Anecdotally, that can be left up to the interpretation of the worker. Legally speaking, there are a few bullet points that must be met to qualify.

    Legal Requirements for a Hostile Work Environment

    In every state, there are some requirements that must be successfully proven to have a legally recognized hostile work environment:

    • The behavior or poor treatment is based on the membership to a protected classification such as religion, race, disability or age.
    • The hostile behavior, actions or communication must be severe enough to significantly impact the daily routine and mental health of the worker. It must be long-term and serious disrupt the worker’s ability to function in their role and at the company in the first form of this behavior. In the second form, it must disrupt or interfere severely with the worker’s ability to progress in their career such as being turned over for a promotion based on their religion.
    • When the problem becomes significant, the company does not investigate the problem properly or fails to properly address the issue in order to make the behavior stop.
    • The behavior must be persistent and over a long period of time. The behavior can’t be a few remarks that were off-color or annoying. Instead, it must be harassing behavior that affects every aspect of working in the company.
    • It is reasonable to assume, or easily proven, that the company knew about the actions or behavior and failed to intervene or fix the problem. As a result, the company will be liable for having created a hostile work environment.

    How to Handle a Hostile Work Environment

    Whether you have decided to try to stay in the company despite the harassment or the harassment has only just begun, it’s important to have tips to guide you through dealing with this form of harassment while you decide on your next move.

    1. Address the issue directly with the offender. While this is easier said than done, there are times when speaking with the person can alleviate the situation. In some cases, they will be unaware they were affecting your work. In others, being confronted is enough to deter the behavior, as they are not getting away with it.
    2. If the behavior continues, let the offender know you will take it to management or HR if they refuse to desist.
    3. Take it to management or HR but make sure there is a record of your visit. While you don’t necessarily have to take minutes like a government meeting, it’s important to have proof that an authority in the company had been informed.
    4. If the behavior continues even still, take it to management and HR again. Perhaps they tried and thought the problem had been solved and will take further action once they are aware it is continuing.
    5. If this doesn’t solve the problem, go to higher management or leave the company. With a record of your attempts to solve the issue, you can seek damages for the hostile work environment.

    Seek Legal Counsel

    In these cases, a company will try to paint you as the problem and attempt to show their solutions. It can get difficult, with the worker vulnerable to becoming the victim once more. Don’t go through it alone. Contact us online today or call us at 856-330-6284 at our Cherry Hill, New Jersey offices. At Durkin Law, our New Jersey discrimination lawyers seek justice for those that need it most.