The Basics of a Hostile Work Environment in California

What Is a Hostile Work Environment in California?

Photo of a Hostile Work Environment Claim

Workplace harassment and bullying can turn a workplace into a hostile environment where you do not feel welcome and constantly fear for your job or safety. Racial slurs, unwelcome sexual advances and other inappropriate behavior can create the conditions to be considered a hostile work environment under the right circumstances.

To be considered a hostile work environment, the inappropriate behavior must be pervasive or severe based on a protected trait (such as gender, race, national origin, disability, etc.). A hostile work environment may keep you from being able to perform your job duties and can even make you fear for your safety.

Sporadic or occasional comments may not count as a hostile work environment. However, you can ask our Los Angeles employment law attorneys about your rights, and whether your circumstances fit within the legal definition of a hostile work environment.

What Situations Create a Hostile Work Environment in California?

There are certain situations that may lead to a hostile workplace environment claim in California:

  1. Sexual harassment. This may include consistent staring, touching, and unwelcome sexual comments or advances. Even repeated comments about how you look may contribute to an abusive work environment. In California, there are two types of sexual harassment recognized by state law – hostile work environment and quid pro quo.
  2. Discriminatory harassment. With this type of harassment, you may be targeted with abusive comments or actions due to your race, religion, disability, national origin or age.
  3. Workplace bullying. Supervisors, co-workers, clients or independent contractors may target you with physical or emotional abuse directed at your protected traits that makes you feel unwelcome or unsafe.

Anyone in the workplace, including employees who are not supervisors, may contribute to a hostile work environment. It is a common misconception that a hostile work environment can only be created by a supervisor. This is not the case. Your fellow co-workers, independent contractors and your employer’s clients can also create an abusive work environment.

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) offers legal protections for workers who are experiencing severe or pervasive abuse in the workplace. In addition, multiple federal and state laws protect employees who belong to a protected class. Workers over the age of 40 and people with disabilities are examples of a protected class under state and federal law. We have more information about this topic on our website and you can always call us if you have questions.

However, the rules for liability differ when a supervisor is responsible for the hostile work environment. Claims involving supervisors are easier to pursue. Under state law, employers are strictly liable if the supervisor is the perpetrator, meaning negligence is not a factor.

Do I Need an Employment Law Attorney for a Hostile Work Environment?

We always recommend that you immediately follow your employer’s internal procedures to report any harassing, discriminatory or retaliatory conduct in the workplace.  If management fails to remedy an abusive work environment or retaliates when you report the harassment, then you should contact our employment lawyer to assist you with your claim.

In some cases, you may be able to file a claim, complaint or lawsuit against your employer if you are being consistently targeted with severe or pervasive harassment. You should gather any available evidence and reach out to an attorney before you even begin the claims process. By speaking with an attorney first, he or she can help you organize and obtain the necessary evidence, which gives your potential claim the best chance of succeeding.

What Are Damages from a Hostile Work Environment Claim?

You may be able to receive monetary compensation from a workplace harassment lawsuit. The types of damages that you can recover include damages for emotional or psychological distress and lost wages.  You also are entitled to recover the costs of your lawsuit, including the reasonable value of the attorneys’ fees. Finally, under some circumstances, you can also collect punitive damages which are intended to punish the employer.

About Our Los Angeles Employment Law Firm

We have a helpful FAQ section on our website that may be able to answer common questions about discrimination, retaliation and harassment. You can read this section to learn more about your rights under California and federal laws.

Yadegar, Minoofar & Soleymani LLP is a Los Angeles employment law firm with experience helping victims of workplace retaliation, discrimination and harassment. If you have questions about your workplace and potential legal options for resolving a hostile work environment, then we encourage you to call us for a consultation. You can reach us by dialing (310)499-0140 or by using our online case review form.

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