Both harassment and discrimination are prohibited under FEHA. A one-time inappropriate joke in the workplace usually does not create a hostile work environment (although there are exceptions). Instead, a hostile work environment is generally considered to involve conduct which is so severe or pervasive as to alter the condition of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment. The issue is whether the conduct involved creates an environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive.
Harassment or bullying in any form which creates a hostile work environment, and which alters the conditions of employment, is unlawful.
Many individuals spend more waking hours at their place of employment than they do with their families. Employees are entitled to work in an environment where they feel safe, are treated with respect, and where they are able to focus on their job duties without fear of ridicule, threats, intimidation, or embarrassment.
Employers face an ever-increasing list of challenges to create jobs, make a profit, keep their workplaces safe, and comply with state and federal laws. While it is important to foster a work environment where employees are safe and comfortable, it is sometimes difficult for employers to identify a supervisor or employee who may be subjecting others to an unpleasant work environment. Any individual within a company or business can create a hostile work environment at any time, and as an employer it is important to identify these individuals and take immediate action to avoid potential litigation. Employers are required to conduct prompt and thorough investigations of claims of hostile work environment and take swift remedial action.
If you have received a complaint of hostile work environment, you need an experienced workplace investigator to make sure that your business is protected from a potentially devastating lawsuit. If your business has already been served with a charge of discrimination (from the DFEH or EEOC), or a lawsuit, you must act quickly to preserve your company’s rights. Whether you need assistance in resolving a meritorious claim, or you believe the claim is unfounded and want to aggressively fight it, Winet Patrick Gayer Creighton & Hanes can help. Contact us today.