You might be getting ready to start a new job in West Virginia or have been working at the same place for years. Either way, every time you go to work, you can expect that your employer has fulfilled his or her obligations to maintain safety for you and your colleagues. You might not get along well with every coworker — personalities sometimes clash. However, no coworker, manager or customer may create a hostile work environment that could potentially cause you to suffer illness or injury.
If someone says something you don’t like or that offends you, it does not necessarily mean there is a hostile environment that is impeding your ability to do your job. Then again, if there is a pattern of such behavior from a particular individual or group of people, you might indeed have grounds for filing a complaint. It is important that you understand the legal definition of a hostile work environment, especially if you believe you are victim to one.
Is someone’s unwelcomed conduct making you uncomfortable at work?
Hostility in the workplace is typically any unwelcomed behavior that causes you discomfort, fear or intimidation. A hostile work environment also suggests repeated occasions of unwelcomed conduct, not just a single incident. This means that, even if someone treats you wrong at work, it is not necessarily an illegal act of hostility in the workplace, unless the behavior continues to occur.
Unwelcomed conduct includes but is not limited to harassment, discrimination, bullying and violence. If such conduct is happening repeatedly, it constitutes a hostile work environment. If it only happens once, such as someone making a vulgar comment to you, the incident may not meet the legal criteria for hostility in a work environment.
Exceptions where a single act constitutes hostility
Regarding issues such as bullying, the nature of the act implies that it is something occurring on an ongoing basis. However, certain conduct, such as physical assault on the job, immediately creates a hostile work environment, even if it only happens once.
A hostile work environment can cause anxiety and other physical illness
In addition to severe emotional trauma and anxiety, falling victim to hostility in the workplace can have repercussions on your physical health, as well. Some situations may be so severe that you feel sick every time you think of going to work. You might even become nauseous or experience adverse digestive issues and other symptoms.
You can be proactive in resolving a hostile work environment problem. There are people who can advocate on your behalf to address such matters in a formal way through the legal process.