Anti-discrimination laws protect employees from discrimination due to their protected class. Obviously, this means an employee can take legal action if he is fired or not promoted because of race or religion, or if a supervisor engages in quid pro quo sexual harassment and tries to trade workplace benefits for sexual acts. These types of discrimination and wrongful behavior can clearly give rise to a legal claim.
There are other types of discrimination, however, which may be more subtle and more difficult to prove but which can be just as damaging– or even more damaging– than discrimination on the part of managers. For example, when a hostile work environment is created on the basis of an employee’s protected status, this can make going to work every day into a stressful and unpleasant experience.
Tips for a Successful Hostile Work Environment Claim
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and other federal civil rights laws have been extended to apply and provide protection in situations where an employee is forced to endure a hostile work environment due to race, religion, gender, color, national origin, disability, age discrimination, or other protected status. Hostile work environment claims, however, can sometimes be difficult for employees to prove. Contacting an employment law attorney is advisable if you believe you have been the victim of a hostile work environment, so you can get appropriate legal advice on what steps to take.
Huffington Post also provides some tips for employees facing difficulties in the workplace. As the Huffington Post points out, only one state in the U.S. has an explicit law against workplace bullying (the state is Tennessee). In other states, employees need to make sure they make reports of hostile work environment claims in a strategic manner so it is clear their complaint is related to their protected status and not just to bullying behavior at work.
For example, discrimination because a bully does not like someone is not illegal. When reporting discrimination, employees need to determine if it is specifically targeted at a protected class. If so, then the complaint should specify that the hostile work environment relates to that protected status. The complaint should name the protected class being subject to the unfair treatment, and provide as many concrete examples as possible of people within that protected class are being singled out.
If workplace bullies aren’t targeting you or your co-workers because of protected status, then you may have more limited legal protections for reporting the unlawful behavior and forcing employers to take action. You could potentially face retaliation for reporting bullying under these circumstances. However, if you and your coworkers collaborate together to try to improve conditions in your workplace, then you may be protected under the National Labor Relations Act. When bullying is occurring, joining together with your coworkers to make a joint complaint can thus provide you with more legal protection from retaliation than you would have if you simply acted on your own to report the unpleasant behavior.
By knowing what your rights are, you can make a complaint in writing that your employer will need to act on. If your employer doesn’t take action, you could have a legal case to obtain damages.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
McDonald’s Faces Suit for Rampant Racial and Sexual Discrimination, Jan. 26, 2015, Orange County Discrimination Lawyer Blog