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Is discrimination or harassment making a bad job worse?

If you hate your job, you are not alone. Many in California and elsewhere have jobs that are exhausting and tedious, providing no joy and barely enough pay to cover the bills. On top of that, you may have co-workers or supervisors who are unbearable to be around for one reason or another. Getting yourself out of bed every day to face work isn't always easy.

You may even consider your work environment hostile. If you have one coworker who insists on keeping the thermostat at 60 degrees, another who has loud, personal phone conversations on the clock or a boss who is hypercritical of your work, you may feel the temptation to label the situation a hostile work environment. However, a "hostile work environment" is a legal term with a specific definition.

How far is too far?

An important distinction exists between a hostile work environment and one that is merely unpleasant. While you may be able to name a dozen reasons why your job and its employees are difficult to handle day after day, a hostile work environment involves actions or conditions that result from illegal discrimination.

Some behaviors that may constitute a hostile work environment include the following examples and others:

  • Telling sexually explicit jokes or displaying vulgar images on a regular basis
  • Objectifying you
  • Commenting lewdly about your body or appearance
  • Making persistent advances
  • Ridiculing or harassing you because of your membership in a protected class, such as religion, age, race or gender
  • Passing you over for promotions, raises or other opportunities because of your membership in a protected class

One instance of any of the above actions may not equal a hostile work environment. Generally, the law requires such behavior to be ongoing or a pervasive part of the culture of your workplace. It must also be severe enough to disrupt your ability to perform your duties or hinder your opportunities to advance in your career.

If you have brought such behaviors to the attention of your employer who dismissed or ignored your complaints without taking corrective action, you may indeed be working in a hostile environment. Carefully logging such events is your first step to ascertaining if the actions are pervasive.

If you are the victim of a hostile working environment, you may be entitled to claim compensation for the wrongs you have suffered. Seek the advice of an attorney at your earliest convenience.

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