Employees often encounter a rude or demeaning boss, an irritating coworker, or an unpleasant working environment. When does bad behavior cross the line and create a hostile work environment?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJ LAD) clearly define the criteria for when communication and actions become so disruptive and/or discriminatory in nature that they rise to the level of a hostile work environment.
For a workplace to be considered a hostile environment under the law, certain criteria must be met:
- The behavior or communication of a manager, supervisor, or colleague is so severe or pervasive that the terms, conditions, and reasonable expectations of the work environment were altered, and
- The offensive or abusive behavior is discriminatory in nature, as defined by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and/or the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Discrimination
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination prohibits employers, managers, and coworkers from discriminating against employees based on:
- National origin
Discrimination that violates the law can take many forms that impact fair, merit-based hiring and firing, compensation, and promotions and pay.
Determination of a Hostile Work Environment
Determining if harassment equates to a hostile work environment is a complex task, not only for managers and human resource officers, but also for the courts. When considering allegations of a hostile work environment, the courts may consider the totality of circumstances. They assess how frequent the offensive behavior is, and how severely it impacts the victim’s work. They examine if the conduct interferes with an employee’s performance of their job, whether the matter is verbal or physical.
For example, racial or ethnic slurs, jokes, and derogatory social media posts can lead to a finding of a hostile work environment. Taunting, insults, or negative comments about a person’s age, disability, sexual preference, or religion can create a workplace that is hostile and intimidating. Harassment of a sexual nature, especially one that devolves into physical touching or abuse, most likely constitutes a hostile work environment.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) protects workers from humiliation, intimidation, and threats based on age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, pregnancy status, disability, or national origin. If you have been treated differently at work or are exposed to a hostile work environment based on any of these categories, you may have a legitimate employment discrimination lawsuit.
Because it is often difficult to determine if workplace issues rise to the level of a hostile work environment, you should discuss your situation with an experienced Atlantic County employment lawyer to take the next best step and learn all of the legal options available to you. Your employment lawyer also works to protect you from retaliation after exposing employment discrimination.
Atlantic County Employment Lawyers at Levine Staller Assist Employees in Hostile Work Environments
Since 1978, Atlantic County employment lawyers at Levine, Staller, Sklar, Chan & Brown, P.A. have worked tirelessly to protect employees and employers in all types of employment law matters. We also assist employers in preventing and resolving hostile work environment claims with effective human resources policies, procedures, and training.
To schedule a free initial consultation, call 609-348-1300 or contact us online. Our office is located in Atlantic City and our team of attorneys proudly serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey, including Atlantic County, Cape May County, and Ocean County.