Hostile Working Environments

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In the following educational legal video, one of our experienced employment lawyers, Andrew P. Fleming discusses how he handles claims for hostile working environments.

Many people call me and say, “I’m in a hostile work environment.” Yes, they literally do use that expression now because so many people have heard it. It used to be, “I’m being treated unfairly in the workplace,” or, “People are picking on me in the workplace.” Now, it’s amazing how many people call me and say, “I’m in a hostile work environment.” When I meet with people – and I do that often because it can be very helpful to sit down with somebody and spend an hour trying to really understand what happened to them in their workplace. In those scenarios, I learn what really happened.

Standing on its own, a hostile work environment claim is not really a claim. Instead, it has to be tied to or connected with some illegal act. Oftentimes, as an example, I say, “I could tear a TV off the wall, run through my office with it and throw it through the front window, making a terrific crash, scaring all the employees, and that would be hostility – so to speak – standing alone.” Somebody might even be affected to the point where they would have some sort of mental anguish claim. That would be a workers’ comp claim, though, and not a claim of hostile work environment for which you could sue your employer.

If the hostility that’s happening – or the hostile work environment that’s being created – is due to your being a woman (or in some cases – and I have handled these – a man) or because of your race (be it white or black, or some mixture), or because of your religion,  or takes the form of sexual harassment – you may have a claim. Hostile work environment claims are thoroughly debated by lawyers. You’d think that a standalone grabbing of someone’s private area, or whatever, would automatically qualify as a claim of hostile work environment; however, I always say, “It’s a good start, but it’s still not conclusive that you have a hostile work environment based, for instance, on a sexual harassment claim.”

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The experienced employment lawyers at Chiacchia & Fleming, LLP have extensive experience in aggressively representing the rights of employees in all kinds of workplace disputes. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. Let our experience work for you.


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