A hostile work environment develops when a co-worker or manager acts, behaves or communicates in a discriminatory manner, to the point where doing your job effectively becomes impossible.
Types of discrimination
The unfortunate reality is that, even in today’s day and age, people are still discriminated against, and the discrimination can be based on many different things. You may be targeted for harassment or discrimination based on your age, color, gender, religion or sexual orientation. You may also face discrimination for being pregnant or for having a disability.
The key to proving a hostile work environment lies in showing the discrimination is based on one of these characteristics. For example, if your boss yells at you for doing a poor job on a project, that likely does not qualify as a hostile work environment.
However, if your boss then goes on to say that your poor work performance is due to your old age or the color of your skin, that is discriminatory and creates a hostile work environment.
An incident like this should be reported to human resources or their equivalent. If nothing is done, and the behavior continues to occur over time and appears to be targeted toward you specifically, you may have a valid hostile work environment claim. The behavior must be severe, and it must be shown that no proper action was taken after you reported the incident.
Our careers are important to us. For many, it is where our passion lies, and dealing with a hostile work environment can significantly hinder career progress, or even cut a promising career short. If you feel you are experiencing discrimination at work on an ongoing basis, it may help to speak with someone about the possibility of a hostile work environment claim.