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What constitutes a hostile work environment?

People in California have many different types of personalities. These personality traits usually dictate how the person deals with other people and how they handle certain situations. This is true for managers and supervisors in the workplace as well. As people are aware, different people manage different ways. Some are more aggressive than others as well. Many employees may feel intimidated by intense aggressive bosses and it may affect their work performance.

When people are in this type of workplace situation, they may feel that it is a hostile work environment, but legally that may not be true. Under the law, in order for workplace environment to be hostile, the harassment must be directed at people who are in protected classes. So, the employee must be treated differently because of their sex, religion, race, age, disability and other protected classes.

If the harassment is directed against a person in a protected class, then the worker proceeds to the next step and needs to prove that the harassment was severe or pervasive and affected their work performance. The harassment must also be of a type that a reasonable person would find the behavior intimidating and hostile. So, usually it cannot just be an isolated incident, it must be behavior which continues for a period of time.

In situations like this the worker may end up deciding to quit instead of putting up with the abuse. However, if this is the case, the employee may still have a wrongful termination compliant even though they quit.

There are many people in California who do not like their managers or supervisors and are intimidated by them. This does not automatically create a hostile work environment under the law. However, there are many employees who can prove the elements stated above and may have a legitimate case. These can be very complicated matters though and experienced attorneys may be a useful resource.

Source: United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit, "10.5 Civil Rights - Title VII - Hostile Work Environment - Harassment Because of Protected Characteristics - Elements" accessed on February 8, 2018

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