Hostile Work Environment
Is your boss a bully? Are you singled out for ridicule and humiliating treatment? Are you the subject of hurtful practical jokes about your race or religion? Is your boss pressuring you for sex?
Houston employment lawyers Kalandra Wheeler, Robert J. Wiley, and Julie St. John represent employees who have been the victims of a hostile work environment. The creation of a hostile work environment is illegal under a variety of state and federal laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Texas Labor Code.
A hostile work environment occurs when workplace harassment become so severe or so pervasive that it changes the terms and condition of employment. For a hostile work environment to be illegal, the cause of the hostility must usually be a personal characteristic such as race, sex, national origin, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, military service, pregnancy, retaliation, and so on.
The most classic form of a hostile work environment is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can include both men who harass women as well as women who harass men. Activity creating a hostile work environment based on sex includes:
- Grabbing or unwelcome touching.
- Persistent unwelcome requests for dating.
- Propositions or solicitations of a sexual nature.
- Catcalls or unwelcome comments about physical appearance.
- Excessive teasing and jokes.
- Pornography in the office.
- Forwarded pornographic emails and text messages.
- Elevator eyes or leering.
However, it is not uncommon for a hostile work environment to be created based on characteristics such as race, religion, or disability.
- Comments about “illegal” aliens made to a group of Hispanic cooks.
- Forwarding racist or xenophobic emails.
- Derogatory comments about Muslims or terrorists directed at employees of Arabic descent.
- Hateful comments insulting an employee’s religion.
- Degrading nicknames, taunting, or teasing because of a disability.
Importantly, victims of a hostile work environment must take immediate action when experiencing harassment, ridicule, or bullying. Under federal law a victim must take action in 300 days, while under Texas state law the deadline is 180 days. Often we see potential clients who have come to us long after the harassment began, and it is simply too late to take action. Do not let this happen to you.
Further, hostile work environment cases may require making a complaint to human resources before being able to take legal action. We believe it is best to meet with an attorney before going to human resources. Unfortunately, the result of a hostile work environment claim is often increased retaliation. By becoming involved before you make an internal complaint, we can hopefully prevent retaliation as well as ensure that retaliation comes with consequences for the employer.
Typically, our attorneys begin by meeting with a potential client face-to-face. We will discuss the merits of your claims as well as the best strategy for handling a hostile work environment. If you choose to hire us, we usually begin by contacting your employer and proposing either (1) conditions for eliminating the hostile work environment, or (2) a severance package that will compensate you for your harms and damages.
If you are a victim of a hostile work environment, please contact us without delay.