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Hostile Work Environment Lawyers in Los Angeles

Holding Employers Accountable for Their Actions

It is illegal to discriminate or harass a person in the workplace on the basis of gender or sex. California and federal laws prohibit this behavior in private businesses, government agencies, and labor organizations. Each incident of sexual harassment is different, however, there are two main categories into which most cases fall — “quid pro quo” cases and “hostile work environment” cases.

If a supervisor acts in a way that exposes a worker to unwanted sexual behavior, they may have committed “hostile work environment” sexual harassment. Although similar to “quid pro quo” sexual harassment, where a direct supervisor seeks sexual favors in return for something within the supervisor's powers, hostile work environment sexual harassment is slightly distinct.

If you have experienced a hostile work environment and are seeking legal action, call our firm at (818) 990-8300 today. We offer free, no-obligation consultations.

What Constitutes a Hostile Work Environment?

If you have to tolerate unwelcome comments or conduct that is based on your sex, race, or other legally protected characteristics, and it unreasonably interferes with your work performance or it creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment, then you can take legal action against your employer.

It's important to note that anyone in your workplace can create a hostile work environment, including managers, co-workers, contractors, vendors, customers, or guests. Victims of hostile work environment can include anyone affected by the conduct, not just the individual the offensive conduct is directed toward.

Can Sexual Harassment Create a Hostile Work Environment?

Incidents of sexual harassment that can arise to the level of hostile work environment must sufficiently offend, humiliate, or distress the worker in the workplace.

Common examples of sexual harassment that can be considered part of a hostile work environment include:

  • Making offensive remarks about how a person looks, the clothes they wear, or other aspects of their physical appearance
  • Using sexual innuendos or comments
  • Asking intrusive questions about a person's sex life
  • Making sexually suggestive gestures or sounds
  • Telling sexual or lewd jokes to coworkers
  • Hanging sexual or offensive posters in the workplace
  • Directing lewd or sexual gestures towards another person
  • Sending sexually suggestive letters, notes, emails, or images to others in the workplace
  • Displaying pornography or other sexually explicit content in the workplace
  • Deliberately exposing one's private parts

Non-Sexual Hostile Work Environment Claims

The following are examples of hostile environment harassment that are non-sexual in nature:

  • People in the workplace say negative stereotypes about an employee's race, ethnicity, nationality, ancestry, or religion
  • People in the workplace commonly use racial slurs, phrases, and epithets
  • People in the workplace comment on a person's skin color or other characteristics associated with race
  • Making gestures, displaying pictures, or creating drawings that offend a particular racial or ethnic group
  • Making disparaging or derogatory comments about a person's gender or gender identity that are not sexual in nature
  • Making disparaging comments about a person's religious beliefs

How Do I Prove There is a Hostile Work Environment?

There is no universal standard as to what constitutes a hostile environment, and cases with very similar situations have been decided differently. Furthermore, the standard of finding the employer liable is very high.

The plaintiff must show that the employer was actually aware of the behavior or should have been aware of it under reasonable circumstances. It is not enough to show that sexually suggestive behavior occurred. The plaintiff must show that the employer could have taken reasonable steps to stop the behavior.

For example, the employer may not be held liable for such behavior if it occurred outside the workplace. However, if the comments are made by a supervisor to a subordinate outside the workplace and they carry a negative impact over into the workplace, the subordinate may make a claim for harassment, based on a hostile work environment. The critical question in hostile work environment cases is the severity and pervasiveness of unwelcome sexual conduct.

To determine whether the behavior is sufficiently severe or pervasive, the court will look at:

  • The severity of the actions
  • The frequency of the actions
  • The timing or context of the conduct to determine if the behavior is sufficiently severe or pervasive

Moreover, a claim of harassment also requires the following elements:

  • The party making the complaint belongs to a statutorily protected class
  • The party making the complaint has been subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct related to the protected class they belong to
  • The unwelcome conduct is based on the person's membership in the protected class
  • The unwelcome conduct the person endured affected a term or condition of employment, it unreasonably interfered with their work performance, and/or it created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment

What Can I Do if I Work in a Hostile Work Environment?

If you feel you are subject to workplace harassment or discrimination due to a hostile work environment, then you should first consult your employer's sexual harassment and racial discrimination policies. This usually means working through your supervisor or human resources department to take the appropriate actions.

And most importantly, speak with an experienced California employment lawyer who can review your case and evaluate your options free of charge. Proving sexual harassment can be challenging, but with the right legal team, it can be done. Take the first step to protecting yourself and stopping this hurtful and illegal behavior by contacting an experienced sexual harassment attorney near you.

Take advantage of a free initial consultation to discuss your specific case by calling (818) 990-8300 or clicking here to contact us regarding your case.

We Hold Employers Accountable - Get Help Now

You do not have to go through this alone. Contact our Los Angeles law firm for a free case evaluation. We represent our clients on a contingency fee basis, which means that you do not pay any fees unless you win or recover compensation, and you will never have to pay out-of-pocket. California-only. We are unable to help those outside of California. Call (818) 990-8300