Signs of a Hostile Work Environment

Employment Law News | August 1, 2022

Every person has a right to a safe, comfortable work environment that is free from discrimination and hostility. Unfortunately, not all workplaces provide a welcoming space for employees. Harassment, bullying, and belittlement are rampant in New York workplaces, causing significant emotional distress.

A hostile work environment occurs when an employee struggles to perform his or her job due to the actions of other people in the workplace, including sexual misconduct, discrimination, and other inappropriate behavior. If you believe that your workplace is hostile, keep an eye out for the following signs.

#1: Aggressive, Angry Behavior

It is normal for people to feel frustrated and stressed at work. However, some people take it a step too far and unleash aggressive, angry behavior on their colleagues.

Yelling, swearing, physical violence, and other forms of aggression are major signs of a hostile work environment. These behaviors are unprofessional at best and can lead to dangerous consequences at worst.

#2: Unfair, Toxic Competitive Tactics

Competition can be a healthy motivator in the workplace and encourage all employees to perform at their best. However, some companies encourage toxic and unhealthy levels of competition that harm employees’ abilities to do their jobs.

Intense competition can lead to bullying, sabotage, harassment, and other unprofessional conduct. An employer may use tactics to prevent certain employees from progressing in their careers, such as unnecessary discipline or poor performance reviews.

#3: Public Shaming

When providing feedback, good workplace leaders typically follow the adage of “praise in public, criticize in private.” However, some employers publicly shame and belittle the work of their employees in front of other colleagues. These tactics are used to embarrass employees and can make them feel unwelcome and disempowered in their roles.

#4: Discrimination

It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against employees on the basis of protected characteristics, such as race, sex, religion, or disability. Additionally, employers must provide a safe working environment for all employees regardless of their identity.

Unfortunately, discriminatory practices can lead to a hostile work environment. For example, an employer may make racist or sexist remarks in front of employees or treat certain people differently based on their traits.

What to Do If You Are in a Hostile Work Environment

Working in a hostile environment can be emotionally taxing and take a significant toll on your well-being. In these situations, it is important to remember that you have the right to a safe, equal workplace and are afforded several protections under state and federal labor laws. If the hostility rises to the level of illegal discrimination and harassment, you could pursue a claim against your employer.

It is important to gather as much evidence as possible related to the hostility, including correspondence, contemporaneous notes, and journal entries. You can file a formal complaint with your company to ensure that there is a record of the behavior accordingly. While you remain in the environment, treat everyone respectfully and conduct yourself in a professional manner.

If the hostile work environment continues or you are retaliated against for filing a complaint, it is critical to speak with a New York employment attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer can protect your rights and help you hold certain parties accountable. Contact an attorney immediately to discuss your situation and plan your next steps.