In order to create and maintain a healthy work environment, it is important for employers and employees to be aware of what constitutes a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is generally defined as a workplace where the conduct of one or more individuals creates an intimidating, offensive, or threatening atmosphere. This can include behavior such as harassment, bullying, or discrimination. If you feel that you are working in a hostile environment, it is important to speak up so that the situation can be addressed.
What is Workplace Harassment?
Workplace harassment is a form of discrimination that targets people because of their protected class memberships based upon race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, disability, and/or prior EEO or whistleblower complaint or opposition activity that is severe and pervasive enough to alter a term or condition of employment or creates a hostile work environment. It can be verbal, physical, or both, and is any type of unwelcome conduct that unreasonably interferes with someone's work performance or access to opportunities.
This type of behavior not only impacts the well-being of individual employees but also affects the culture of the entire federal agency. Workplace harassment can contribute to a hostile work environment, ultimately harming federal employees.
How Can I Prove A Hostile Work Environment?
In order to prove that a hostile work environment exists, an employee must be able to demonstrate two main elements.
The first is that the conduct in question was unwelcome and offensive through verbal or physical actions.
The second element is that these actions were based on their protected class, such as race, gender, national origin, religion, age, or disability.
The employee must also be able to show that the conduct was severe or pervasive enough to alter a term or condition of employment, such as interfering with their work performance, or create a hostile work environment.
How Can I Start My Hostile Federal Workplace Case?
Ultimately, if you feel that you are working in a hostile work environment, it is important to speak up. Taking action can help protect yourself and your coworkers from further discrimination or harassment. You should immediately contact an EEO counselor in your agency’s EEO office to initiate EEO counseling in an informal EEO complaint.
If you believe that you are a victim of hostile work environment harassment, the first step is to document the evidence. Keep all emails, text messages, and other forms of communication with coworkers or your employer related to the incident. You should also keep detailed notes about any conversations or incidents that occur in the workplace.
Retain An Experienced Federal Employment Attorney
The next step is to seek the help of an experienced federal employment attorney. An attorney can review your case and advise you on the best course of action to take. An experienced attorney will be able to provide guidance throughout the process and assist in obtaining evidence that may be necessary for a successful case.
Make An EEO Claim
Once you have gathered evidence, you should report the hostile work environment harassment to your supervisor and an EEO counselor in your agency’s EEO office. The EEO counselor will review your claim and provide you notice of your rights and responsibilities in the EEO complaint process. Ultimately, federal agency employers have an affirmative legal duty to promptly stop and correct any hostile work environment harassment in the workplace.
Also, it is important to remember that it is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who make EEO complaints. Therefore, it is important to keep all records of the process and seek an attorney's help if you believe that you are facing discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.
Take Legal Action
If your agency does not address the hostile work environment after filing an informal EEO complaint, you can file a formal EEO complaint with your agency’s EEO office. An experienced federal employment attorney can guide you through the process of filing a formal EEO complaint and represent you during the agency’s EEO investigation. If you successfully win or settle your EEO complaint, your claim may result in equitable relief, including stopping the discrimination and harassment, the reversal of any resulting concrete adverse personnel actions that are part of the harassment, corrected records, awards of backpay, benefits, interest, compensatory, and an award of attorneys fees.
Protecting Your Rights & Federal Career
It is important to remember that hostile work environment harassment is illegal and should not be tolerated. If you believe that you are working in a harassing and hostile environment, it is important to promptly take action and speak up. Filing an informal EEO complaint within 45 calendar days from the events or personnel actions at issue is critical to securing the relief you need from further discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.
At The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC, our top-rated, award-winning federal employment attorneys are dedicated to providing our federal employee clients with the best possible representation. With our attorneys fighting on your behalf, we can help you seek to obtain a favorable outcome for your federal employment case.
Call our firm at (202) 350-3881 to request a phone consultation with a member of our team. We are waiting for your call!