Hostile Workplace – Discrimination, Retaliation and Wrongful Termination

Every employee deserves to work in a safe and supportive environment. Unfortunately, some working Americans may encounter abusive and potentially dangerous situations at work. 

What is a hostile Workplace?

A hostile work environment is a situation in which an employee is subjected to unwelcome and inappropriate behavior from a supervisor, manager, or coworker. This behavior can be verbal, physical, or visual and can include harassment, intimidation, discrimination, or any other conduct that creates a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment. 

A hostile work environment can affect an employee’s productivity, mental health, and overall well-being. Employers need to take appropriate measures to prevent and address any instances of a hostile work environment to ensure a safe and respectful workplace for all employees.

Common forms of hostility at work include:

Workplace Discrimination

Various federal and state laws prohibit employers from indulging in any kind of discrimination against employees or job applicants based on their age, race, sex, orientation, disability, or national origin. Despite those laws and regulations, some employers continue to discriminate, which leads to an unfair or hostile work environment. 

Both federal and state laws regulate workplace discrimination so that it can vary from state to state. Federal laws, regulated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunision (EEOC), protect against most workplace discrimination. Federal law prohibits employers from making professional decisions based on:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Genetic information
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation)

Laws also dictate that it is illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Workplace Retaliation

Workplace retaliation can make an employee’s work environment hostile and negative like discrimination. When retaliation occurs, an employer tries to punish an employee for participating in activities permitted by law but discouraged by that employer.

Retaliation may come in many forms, from outright firing to demotions, being denied a promotion or a pay raise, or being reassigned to a less desirable job or shift. Some retaliation is subtle, but it can be illegal if it negatively affects an employee and deters him from acting.

There are federal and state laws in place that protect employees from illegal retaliation in the workplace. This is true even if the action the employee was targeted for is unfounded, if the claim or action was made in good faith. Whistleblower laws also protect employees in certain cases whistleblower laws.

Wrongful Termination

Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired for an illegal reason, such as illegal discrimination or a breach of contract. Federal employment law provides that an employee cannot be fired based on race, gender, ethnic background, religion, or disability.

An employee may also have a wrongful termination case if he or she was fired for lodging a legal complaint against the employer or making whistleblower allegations exposing the employer’s wrongdoing. Both of these examples are forms of retaliation, and both are illegal.

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