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Are you employed in a hostile working environment?

You may have heard the term “hostile work environment” during your employment training or in a conversation with your supervisor or co-workers. However, the definitions that entail a hostile environment at work may seem vague if they haven’t been properly explained. Will Minnesota law protect you if you’re a victim of such an environment? What exactly defines a hostile working environment?

This type of work climate often goes beyond mild joking around or a co-worker who makes you feel uncomfortable, although those can also certainly apply. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a hostile working environment can include one or more of the following situations:

  • Jokes, insults or mockery of a sexual, racial, religious or otherwise offensive nature.
  • Threats, physical assaults or unwanted touching.
  • Offensive pictures or objects displayed in the workplace.
  • Situations in which tolerating the offensive behavior or environment is a condition of continued employment.

Typically, a hostile work environment can interfere with your work performance or create a situation in which reporting to work makes you feel uncomfortable, intimidated or harassed. The person doing the harassing can be your supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, a non-employee or an agent of your employer. You may not actively be the one being harassed, but you can also be a victim if the behavior negatively affects your job.

Hostile working environments can potentially violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. All Minnesota employees deserve the right to work in an environment that is not hostile or offensive.

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