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What constitutes verbal abuse in a work environment?

On Behalf of | Nov 26, 2022 | Employee Rights

Whether a company recently hired you or you have been working at the same West Virginia company for years, you can expect your employer to ensure a safe work environment each and every time you report for duty. No one has a right to harass you or impede your ability to do your job. If you are struggling to function in a hostile work environment caused by verbal abuse, you may have grounds to file a complaint.  

What exactly is a hostile work environment by legal definition? The typical definition is harassment that is so severe or pervasive, it impedes a worker’s ability to do his or her job. If you believe that you have suffered verbal abuse in the workplace that has created a hostile work environment, you will want to learn more about how to protect your rights under state and federal employment laws.  

7 issues that constitute verbal abuse in the workplace 

If you and a coworker or manager have a disagreement, and someone shouts at you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that person is verbally abusing you, but it also doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not. The following list includes numerous issues that often constitute verbal abuse, when they are ongoing in the workplace: 

  • Racial, ethnic or gender slurs 
  • Shouting 
  • Name-calling 
  • Verbal intimidation 
  • Insults  
  • Offensive language 
  • Harassing comments 

If a particular person or group of people is exhibiting one or more of these behaviors toward you in a repeated manner, you may consider your workplace a hostile work environment, especially if the behavior is affecting your health in a negative way or impeding your ability to carry out your duties.  

Verbal abuse can cause mental and physical health distress 

Have you been having trouble sleeping at night? It is possible that verbal abuse at work is causing you to lie awake at night. Data shows that hostility in the workplace can cause insomnia and other adverse health conditions, such as depression, chronic stress, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), headaches, high blood pressure and more.  

Your West Virginia employer can’t guarantee that you will always get along well with every coworker or manager you encounter in the workplace. However, your employer is obligated to ensure a safe working environment. If you believe that there has been failure to do so, there are legal steps that you can take to file a grievance. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, verbal abuse may constitute employment discrimination, especially if it is perpetrated in connection to your race, ethnic background, age, sex, religion, a disability or genetic information.