Workplace harassment is a common problem for both men and women in California and across the United States. Many people do not know the signs of a hostile workplace and what qualifies as harassment.
This blog post outlines some of the common indicators of a hostile work environment that you should look for at your job. Workers have options if they experience harassment and they can take steps to protect themselves in a hostile workplace.
Ways you can recognize a hostile workplace
Many actions can qualify as workplace harassment, including threatening a coworker and unnecessary touching. According to a report by the RAND Corporation and ULCA, nearly one in five employees say they work in a taxing or threatening social environment. If you believe that you experienced workplace harassment, talking to a knowledgeable employment law attorney is the best way to understand your rights.
Here are five warning signs that you work in a hostile environment:
- Limited human resources (HR) department: At startups and new businesses, the HR staff may be small or even a single person. A limited HR department may have difficulties training staff and responding to harassment claims. This lack of resources can also cause poorly written employee handbooks, which are important for creating a positive company culture.
- Employees and/or managers feel comfortable telling disparaging jokes: While nobody in the office wants to be a buzzkill, jokes have their limits. Be on the lookout if employees feel free to say derogatory comments about a coworker or a group of people. Even if someone hides discriminatory language in a joke, his or her words can still qualify as harassment.
- Employers fire employees for reporting harassment: Most employees hired in California are at will, which means that employers can fire them for many reasons or for no reason at all. Even with this at will status, employers cannot legally terminate workers for reporting harassment. Employers who fire staff that report harassment may embolden future harassers.
- Employees do not get to take their breaks: California law mandates that people who work on an hourly basis must receive short breaks and a lunch break if they work at least five hours in a day. Some managers may try to push employees to work through their lunches or refuse to pay them for short breaks. Workers have rights and employers cannot punish or harass a person for taking their mandated breaks.
- Managers ask employees to lie: A manager may ask an employee to lie to a customer, vendor or some other party. Not only is this an unethical, it can have legal consequences. A worker may have a retaliation claim if their employer fires them for refusing to lie or break the law.
What you can do if you work in a hostile environment
If your job has signs of a hostile workplace, you may want to take some preliminary steps to protect yourself. Employees who experience harassment should document the incident with a manager and the human resources department. They should also keep a personal record of workplace harassment so that they have a timeline for a retaliation or harassment claim.
Working in a hostile environment can feel overwhelming. Do you know any other common warning signs of a hostile work environment?