Hostile Work Environment Attorney in Orange County
California workers are protected from more than just unlawful termination. If your employer is maintaining a work environment that is hostile or abusive, your rights as an employee are being infringed just as much as if you were denied a promotion, refused a job, or fired for illegal reasons. The Orange County employee rights attorneys at Coast Employment Law have successfully represented clients across southern California with claims regarding hostile work environments, through negotiation and mediation where possible and, where necessary, through vigorous representation in court. We provide personal legal advice and services tailored to the specific needs of each client. If your employer is subjecting you to a hostile work environment, contact an Orange County employee rights attorney at Coast Employment Law right away; we can help.
What is a hostile work environment?
California defines “hostile work environment” in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). A hostile work environment consists of inappropriate behavior in the workplace that is either severe, or frequent and pervasive, or both. Workplace bullying can become hostile when it persists or when it is extreme from the get-go. Occasional annoying or mildly offensive comments may not be enough to claim hostile work environment, but if the comments persist, then you may have a claim. In order to reach the level of hostile, the conduct must have created an environment that was truly abusive.
Additionally, the abusive conduct must be motivated by a legally-protected characteristic or class. In California, the protected classes are:
- National Origin
- Age, if the employee is over 40
- Physical disability
- Mental disability
- Medical condition
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity/gender expression
- Marital status
- Military or veteran status
- Genetic information
Bullying based on pure meanness or dislike for a person does not, alone, create a hostile work environment actionable under FEHA. The harassment must have a connection to a protected trait.
Types of unlawful harassment
Behavior that may go overlooked in the outside world is not tolerated in the workplace under California law. Hostile work environments are based on harassment stemming from the protected characteristics noted above. Unlawful harassment can take many forms, including the following:
- Inappropriate jokes, derogatory comments, or innuendo;
- Offensive cartoons targeting race, religion, or another protected class;
- Sexual harassment such as showing inappropriate photos, requesting sexual favors, saying vulgar things;
- Unwanted touching;
- Use of racial slurs or epithets;
- Preventing employees from meeting with customers because of their sexual orientation, race, or some other protected characteristic;
- Regular comments about an employee’s age (e.g., “We clearly need more young people here.”)
- Verbal or implied threats;
- Showing favoritism based on a protected characteristic
Hostile work environments can be created by coworkers, not just supervisors
Anyone in the workplace can create a hostile work environment. While managers and supervisors may have more authority over your job responsibilities and advancement, bullying by coworkers can create just as hostile an environment. But, if coworkers are responsible for the hostile workplace, it may be more difficult to hold your employer liable. You will need to demonstrate that your employer was aware of the harassing conduct and/or did not take appropriate steps to mitigate the problem. When supervisors engage in harassment, employers are strictly liable for the conduct; when other workers commit harassment, the employer is only liable if they are aware of the harassment and/or failed to remedy the conduct. It is important to report harassing conduct to your employer, either to a supervisor or to human resources; how they choose to respond will determine whether the employer can be held liable.
Call Coast Employment Law for Help with California Hostile Work Environment Claims
Our experienced Orange County employee rights attorneys will go the distance for you. With our reputation for persistence and our years of employment law experience, we can guide you through the legal process until we achieve the best outcome possible for your hostile work environment case. If you or anyone you know in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties, or anywhere in California, needs legal help to fight a violation of his or her rights, contact Coast Employment Law today at 714-551-9930, or complete the contact form on this website to schedule a free consultation.