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Hostile Work Environment

Washington D.C. Lawyers for Employment Lawsuits

Harassment is a type of employment discrimination that violates federal laws. In order to recover damages under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we may need to prove you were subject to a hostile work environment. This is one in which the actions of your coworkers or supervisors generates a discriminatory environment that a reasonable person would find so intimidating or abusive it affects your ability to do your job. If you are concerned about a hostile work environment, you should talk to experienced employment law attorney Matthew T. Famiglietti about your situation.

Hostile Work Environment

Harassment is unwelcome workplace conduct that is based on a protected characteristic. Different federal laws protect characteristics of workers; protected characteristics under Title VII, for instance, include religion, color, race, national origin, and sex. Disability is a protected characteristic under the ADA. Our lawyer may be able to pursue legal action against your Washington D.C. employer when we can show either of the following: (1) the workplace harassment is severe or pervasive enough to create a workplace that a reasonable person would find hostile or (2) enduring the offensive behavior becomes a condition of your continued employment.  

Generally, trivial or petty slights and isolated incidents in the workplace are not actionable. Rather, the hostile work environment is generated where reasonable people would find the environment hostile, intimidating or offensive. Offensive actions could include slurs, jokes, derogatory remarks, physical assaults, insults, offensive graphics or objects and other acts that interfere with your ability to do your job.

A hostile work environment can be created by your direct supervisor, your supervisor in a different area, your coworker or a nonemployee such as a client. Illegal harassment can happen even when there’s no economic harm inflicted upon you. In other words, if you repeatedly need to deal with a coworker’s racial slurs, you may have a claim for hostile work environment even if you weren’t fired because of them. Similarly, if your coworkers repeatedly make derogatory remarks about women and touch you inappropriately because you are a woman, you may have a claim for sexual harassment.

Your Employer’s Liability for a Hostile Work Environment

When you’re faced with a hostile work environment, you should let the harasser know directly the behavior is not welcome and needs to stop. However, you should also provide notice to your employer.

Your Washington D.C. employer should create a workplace in which you’re free to raise your concerns about a hostile work environment assured the employer will adequately respond to them. To prevent escalation of harassment, you should report it to management early on; it’s wise to provide this notice in writing so that if it isn’t adequately addressed, there is a record your employer was put on notice.

Employers are automatically liable for harassment when a supervisor’s harassment results in an adverse employment action such as firing or failure to promote. Supervisors in the workplace are those with the power to take concrete employment actions against you. Whether an employer was negligent may depend on the nature and extent of authority a harasser wields.

When your supervisor’s harassment produces a hostile work environment, the employer can avoid liability when it can show: (1) it reasonably tried to stop and promptly correct the harassing conduct and you unreasonably failed to take advantage of any corrective or preventive opportunities the employer provided.

Proving your employer is liable for hostile work environment generated by non-supervisors can be even trickier under federal law. Employers can be held accountable for a non-supervisor’s harassment or another nonemployee such as a customer, only when it knew or should have known about the harassment yet failed to respond promptly to correct the situation. Your employer may be culpable if it didn’t monitor the workplace, didn’t respond to your complaints of hostile work environment, didn’t administer a system for registering complaints or effectively discouraged complaints from being filed.

Consult a Seasoned Attorney About a Hostile Work Environment

Many are uncertain about whether what they’ve experienced is a hostile work environment or not. Hostile work environment harassment could include telling offensive jokes about people with protected characteristics, displaying racist pictures, using slurs, sabotaging an employee’s work or career, unwanted touching, discussing sex acts, or telling offensive jokes. If you believe you may have been subject to behavior directed at you because of a protected characteristic, which goes beyond the petty or trivial, you should talk to our experienced Washington D.C. employment law attorney Matthew T. Famiglietti. Mr. Famiglietti represents workers in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. Complete our online form or call the Law Office of Matthew T. Famiglietti at (202) 669-5880.

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