I believe I am working in a hostile work environment. Is that illegal and can I sue my employer?

Unfortunately, your concerns are not uncommon. Although it would be wonderful if every workplace had employees who were supportive of each other and employers who were concerned about their employees’ best interests, that is not reality. Many employees work in terrible environments, and may feel that they are not able to leave because of a financial situation.

Whether or not you can sue your employer depends on the circumstances. If your coworkers and supervisors are simply nasty people, that is not illegal. However, if you are being harassed in the workplace based on your race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, national origin, or another similar reason, that conduct is a violation of state and federal law. Under federal law, this conduct is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In California, the conduct violates the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

In order for the conduct to be considered harassment, several elements must be met. First, the victim of the harassment must be a member of a protected class. The victim must have been subjected to unwelcome physical or verbal conduct as a result of being in the protected class. Also, the behavior must have been severe enough to create a hostile work environment. By law, anyone in an office can behave in a way to make the office a hostile work environment – it does not have to be a supervisor. Some examples of conduct that could create a hostile work environment include using racial slurs, telling crude sexual jokes, mocking a person’s religion, and similar acts. If the behavior is simple teasing, and does not occur regularly, it may not be illegal.

If you believe that you work in a hostile work environment, you should speak to an employment attorney. Call me, Conal Doyle, Los Angeles employment attorney, at 310-385-0567. My team may be able to help. Call today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation.