Workplace harassment still runs rampant throughout the state of Missouri. Individuals employed by the Missouri Department of Corrections recently received awards of $4 million for suffering from harassment or fear or retaliation while working for the organization.
The term “hostile work environment” may seem like an open-ended concept. What constitutes a hostile work environment, and how do people know when they are in one? Essentially, it involves a workplace where a worker experienced discrimination based on his or her age, race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation or another protected factor. It is vital to understand the signs of a hostile work environment and how to prove such an environment in court.
What behavior creates a hostile work environment?
For a hostile work environment to form, there has to be a consistent pattern of discrimination and abuse. There are several examples of the type of behavior that would create such an environment:
- Unwanted or inappropriate sexual overtures
- Aggressive physical conduct or inappropriate touching
- Showcasing racially insensitive or sexually suggestive pictures
- Insensitive or offensive jokes directed toward a person’s race, gender, disability or age
- Excessively chronic discussion of sexual activities at work
A single, isolated incident will typically not be enough to prove a hostile work environment. However, there is other evidence victims could accumulate to prove a case in court.
How do you prove this in court?
After undergoing this harassment, the person should keep a record of it. Keeping any evidence from the harassment will help immensely in court. Additionally, the person should file a complaint with the company’s HR department. To prove a hostile work environment, you generally need to file complaints over a significant amount of time with HR with nothing occurring to stop the behavior. With a record of complaints as well as your personal journal detailing the abuse, you can build a strong case in court to prove how much you suffered while working.