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What Is A Hostile Work Environment?

Practitioners of sexual harassment make life miserable for their victims, turning workdays into nightmares. One of the most common forms of sexual harassment is a hostile work environment, a toxic atmosphere that inflicts untold pain and humiliation on people who are just trying to work and earn a living.

In the context of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment includes elements such as:

  • Unwanted touching and sexual advances
  • Crude jokes and comments
  • Sexually explicit pictures and other media

In a sexual harassment case, a single incident may not constitute a hostile work environment. However, if the environment persists over time, detrimentally affects the employee, and is known about or should be known about by management, the employee likely has cause for legal action. You should not have to quit your job or spend your day trying to avoid sexual misconduct. That is not fair and the law gives you the right to be free from that.

If you have been subjected to a hostile work environment, you don’t have to fight this legal battle alone. Attorney Amy Crossan and the experienced legal team at Bouchillon Crossan & Colburn, L.C., are here to help you understand your rights and options. Asserting your legal rights can be a first step in helping you to heal from the effects of sexual misconduct. We are tireless advocates for victims of sexual harassment and other unlawful employer practices in Huntington and throughout West Virginia.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hostile Work Environment In West Virginia

We know you have questions about hostile work environments. The answers to these commonly asked questions can guide your next steps.

Is my boss’s behavior simply rude, or could it be creating or promoting a hostile work environment?

Distinguishing between rudeness and a hostile work environment can be tricky, but it all comes down to the details. A hostile work environment involves unwelcome behavior – which can include rudeness – based on protected characteristics (race, gender, religion, etc.). It must be pervasive enough to create an offensive, intimidating or hostile environment.

Can victims sue an employer for permitting a hostile work environment?

You may have the right to sue under the West Virginia Human Rights Act or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. To succeed with your case, you must demonstrate:

  • You consistently faced unwelcome workplace conduct based on a protected characteristic.
  • The behavior was severe or excessive enough to create a hostile environment.
  • The conduct harmed you (missed promotions, emotional distress, etc.)
  • Your employer knew or should have known about the problem and failed to act.

What qualifies as employer and authority figure aggression in the workplace?

It depends on the specific situation, but anything that causes pervasive fear or discomfort may qualify. Here are a few examples:

  • Verbal abuse like shouting, threatening or intimidating
  • Physical aggression, such as stalking or even assault
  • Unwanted sexual advances or propositions
  • Unfair treatment like promotion denials or unwarranted pay cuts

Remember, the conduct must be related to a protected characteristic, as mentioned above.

Some coworkers have already complained about management, but nothing seems to change. What can I do?

If you have experienced concerning behavior at work and feel your employer has not addressed your concerns, you have options. First, file a formal complaint with the human resources department to lay the groundwork for a possible lawsuit.

Next, contact a West Virginia employment lawyer who can educate you further about your rights and legal options.

We Are Here To Help

Contact an experienced employment lawyer at Bouchillon Crossan & Colburn, L.C., to discuss your workplace harassment claim. The consultation is free and confidential. You can contact our law offices online or by telephone at 304-521-4636.