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Legal Responsibility for a Hostile Work Environment

Every person has experienced a time when they didn’t want to go to work.  Sometimes those feelings are even stronger and people hate their jobs.  This can be due to a variety of factors but there is one in particular that employers should avoid, which is a hostile work environment.  So what constitutes a hostile work environment?

A hostile work environment is when an employee experiences harassment or discrimination to a point that makes them subsequently afraid or stressed about going to work.  The harassment is not considered to be occasional off-hand remarks, simple teasing, or other similar actions.  Rather, to be considered a hostile work environment, there must be evidence of objectively offensive conduct on a semi-regular basis.  Prime examples of such behavior include physical threats, lewd jokes, and inappropriate touching, but can also include comments that concern age, gender, race, physical ability, or mental competence.  This harassment may come from anyone at work, such as the employer, managers, co-workers and even clients.  But when is the employer liable for the experience of a hostile work environment?

It can be the case that the company is liable for the actions of employees that create hostile work environments through their actions, or rather inaction.  This is generally the case if the company either knew of the harassment, could have known of the harassment, or failed to take immediate action to stop the harassment.  There are certainly actions that can be taken to distance a company from being financially liable for any hostile work environment.  Having a policy in place which outlines the sexual harassment policy for the company is a good first step.  This policy can also include procedures that need to be taken if any employee knows about discrimination or harassment of any kind, which can also effectively distance the company from any civil suit.

The best way to protect your business from being sued for a hostile work environment is to work swiftly and efficiently to make sure any harassment or discrimination stops.  That might not always be the case.  If you have been subpoenaed for information regarding a civil suit or fear that one will be filed soon, you should reach out for legal assistance.  Contact an experienced employment lawyer in Schaumburg  today who will invest their efforts into protecting your company.

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