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Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Hostile Workplace Environments In California

It’s important to understand your rights and legal options if you’ve endured harassment, discrimination and other problems on the job. On this page, we’ve provided answers to commonly asked questions about hostile workplace environments. If you have additional questions after reading, please contact Makarem & Associates to receive case-specific answers and advice during a free initial consultation.

What defines a hostile work environment in California?

A hostile work environment in California is one where harassment, discrimination, bullying and other inappropriate behaviors exist and are severe or pervasive enough to cause an employee significant mental distress, make them fear for their safety or suffer other adverse effects.

How do I know if what I’m experiencing is illegal workplace harassment?

If the behavior is unwelcome, discriminatory in nature, and severe enough that a reasonable person would find it hostile or abusive, it may be considered illegal harassment. This includes offensive jokes, slurs, epithets, physical assaults, threats, intimidation, ridicule, mockery, insults, put-downs, and offensive objects or pictures.

Can a single incident be considered a hostile work environment?

Typically, a hostile work environment is based on a pattern of behavior. A single incident could perhaps be considered grounds for a claim, but it would need to be extremely severe to be considered a hostile work environment. This might be something like a physical or sexual assault or a threat of violence.

Less severe incidents, like an inappropriate remark, may not constitute a hostile environment on their own but can contribute to one if they occur repeatedly.

If I had to quit my job, does that bar me from bringing a hostile work environment claim?

Depending on the facts of the case, you could likely still bring a claim. If you reported discriminatory and harassing behavior and nothing changed, your decision to quit wouldn’t be considered voluntary. You were essentially forced out. This is what’s known as “constructive termination” or “constructive discharge,” and it is legally actionable.

Who can be liable in a hostile work environment lawsuit?

A hostile work environment can be created by anyone in the workplace, including supervisors, coworkers, or even nonemployees like clients or vendors. The key factor is the nature of the behavior and its effect on you, not necessarily the position of the person responsible.

Regardless of who committed the behavior, your employer is responsible for responding to concerns and stopping it. Employers can face legal consequences if they allow hostile work environments to persist, especially after being made aware of the situation. They might be required to compensate the affected employee for damages such as emotional distress, lost wages, and other expenses.

Are there any state-specific laws in California that protect against hostile work environments?

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) offers protections against harassment and discrimination in the workplace, which are broader than federal laws. FEHA applies to employers with five or more employees and covers contractors and unpaid interns as well.

Discuss Your Concerns With Our Knowledgeable And Caring Attorneys

Based in Los Angeles, Makarem & Associates serves clients throughout the surrounding areas of Southern California. To take advantage of a free initial consultation, call us at 800-610-9646 or contact the firm online.