As an employer, you have an obligation to your employees to create a safe, supportive working environment. Unfortunately, some employers are unfamiliar with the risks and hazards of a hostile work environment, leaving them at risk of lawsuits from their staff. Familiarize yourself with some of the most common hostile work environment complaints so that you can proactively protect your staff and reduce your risk of lawsuits.
Discriminatory behavior in the workplace can take many different forms, some of which employers may overlook. Recognizing the more subtle types of discrimination in the workplace can empower employers to reduce that exposure and teach equality across the management team. For example, treating any employee differently because of their gender, age or sexual orientation is discriminatory. This can take forms as subtle as always asking female staff members to handle cleaning tasks or always tasking male employees with moving heavy items.
If an employee speaks up about what they feel is unfair treatment, this complaint must be taken seriously and investigated. Punishing that employee, no matter how indirectly, creates a hostile workplace. This includes actions such as penalizing them with undesirable shifts, bullying behaviors, isolation, and targeted verbal abuse.
A workplace where the younger, trendier staff members get better opportunities and receive more praise and recognition can create a hostile environment for older employees who may feel overlooked and slighted. This is particularly true when the workplace environment includes indirect references to ageist stereotypes and offensive off-color humor about age-related issues. Make sure your management staff understands the importance of equality across all age groups for equal treatment.
Any work environment that is casual enough for inappropriate jokes, sexual references, conversations about relationships, and anecdotes about dating is a work environment that an employee could perceive as hostile. Sexual harassment laws do not require that statements be made directly to the complaining employee, but only that they make the employee uncomfortable. Educate your entire staff on the importance of appropriate workplace conversations to reduce the risk of these complaints.
The more proactive you are about reducing your hostile workplace risks, the better it is for your company. An employer defense attorney can help you navigate any potential claims and can also provide insight into proactive measures you may have overlooked. Having an attorney you can reach out to might help you protect your business in the long run.
Contact an employer defense attorney today to learn more.