Hostile Work Environment

California workers have a right to be free from harassing behaviors that create a hostile work environment. However, sometimes people use the term “hostile work environment” to describe a boss who is a bully, obnoxious coworkers, or a toxic office culture. It is true that these issues can make an environment hostile, but they do not necessarily meet the legal definition of a hostile work environment.

A hostile work environment is a form of unlawful harassment. It is the deprivation of the right to work in an environment free from discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult, whether directed at the victim or within his or her observable environment. To be an actionable hostile work environment rather than merely a toxic office culture, the abusive conduct must be discriminatory in nature, implicating a protected category such as the employee’s race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or age. The hostile work environment must also be so severe or pervasive that it interferes with an employee’s ability to perform his or her work and changes the terms and conditions of employment.

To prove hostile work environment in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), an employee must show that: 1) he or she personally witnessed harassing conduct that took place in his/her immediate work environment; 2) the harassing conduct was severe or pervasive; 3) a reasonable person in the employee’s circumstances would have considered the work environment to be hostile or abusive; and 4) the employee considered the work environment to be hostile or abusive towards people belonging to protected classification. (Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) No. 2521B.)

Los Angeles hostile work environment attorney Afshin Mozaffari has a comprehensive understanding of California employment law and can help you understand what constitutes hostile work environment. Here are some examples of actionable hostile work environment:

  • Sexual favoritism – even when you have not been sexually propositioned personally, favoritism based upon sexual affairs can create an atmosphere that is demeaning towards women or men due to the message that women or men are viewed as “sexual playthings”
  • Demeaning treatment, such as mocking, teasing, ridiculing or threatening, towards someone because of that person’s protected characteristic, such as race, gender, disability, age, accent, or religion
  • Racially charged language, including racist slurs or other insensitive language
  • Discussing sex acts, sharing sexual photos, inappropriate sexual touching and gestures, invading personal space in a sexual way
  • Unfairness in the workplace where certain categories of employees receive preferential or unfavorable treatment

This area of the law is nuanced and complex. It is not always easy to determine whether a hostile work environment is actionable, which is why speaking to a knowledgeable employment attorney is important. If you have experienced harassment or been a witness to it, you should speak with an experienced and skilled attorney who can help you navigate your rights and get you the justice you deserve. Los Angeles hostile work environment lawyer Afshin Mozaffari is here to help. Contact Mozaffari Law at 323.696.0702 or for a confidential consultation.