Hostile Work Environment
In Massachusetts, all workers have a right to pursue their livelihood in a reasonably peaceful and tolerant environment, and all employers are responsible for creating such a work environment. When a worker encounters certain forms and degrees of harassment in his or her workplace, the worker can bring a lawsuit against his or her employer for a hostile work environment.
A hostile work environment exists when there is such severe and pervasive harassment against the worker that it interferes with the worker’s ability to perform his or her job. The worker must feel intimidated, offended, or fearful of going to work because of the harassing conduct to such an extent that it interferes with the employee’s job performance. Usually a hostile work environment claim is brought in the context of sexual harassment in the workplace, however it can apply to any conduct that impairs an employee’s ability to perform his or her job that is based on the worker’s sex, race, religion, national origin, or age. The employer is responsible for the work environment, and is liable for a hostile work environment even if the he or she does not participate directly in any questionable conduct.
Whether a work environment reaches the level of “hostile” so as to violate the law is a question determined on a case-by-case basis considering all of the facts specific to the case. The plaintiff must establish two things to succeed on a hostile work environment claim. First, the plaintiff was prove that the conduct was objectively hostile, meaning that a reasonable person working under the plaintiff’s conditions would feel harassed or intimidated to such an extent as to affect job performance. A judge or jury can take into consideration a number of factors including the severity, frequency, and duration of the conduct, whether the conduct was physically intimidating, the context of the conduct, whether the conduct was patently offensive, and management’s response or remedial measures upon learning of the conduct.
Second, the plaintiff must prove that the conduct was subjectively hostile, meaning that he or she subjectively felt harassed or intimidated and his or her job performance was in fact affected by the hostile environment.
If you believe you have been subjected to a hostile work environment, you should immediately report the harassing conduct to your employer and keep a detailed record of all harassing conduct you experience. You should also contact a lawyer to discuss your legal options. Employers cannot retaliate against an employee for reporting a hostile work environment or for filing a claim against the employer.
Call the law offices of Altman & Altman today for a free and confidential case consultation. You will meet one-on-one with an expert attorney who will discuss the specifics of your case and explain your legal rights and options. We will investigate your case thoroughly and decide the best way to pursue your claim. Our expert and experienced attorneys will be by your side at every step of the process and we will get you the damages you deserve.