Managing a Hostile Work Environment

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One of the toughest scenarios in the workplace is living with an abusive or hostile work environment. In many cases, the hostility, abuses, and harassment culminate in termination or some other adverse employment action. What happens if it does not? Say your employer is content to harass and mistreat you but not terminate you: What are your options?  With decades of experience handling employment disputes and fighting for workers’ rights, the attorneys of Five Points Law Group want you to be informed of your rights. Here is what ongoing harassment in a hostile work environment means for you.

If the Employer Fires You

Let us start with the obvious question: What if the employer terminates your employment after mistreating you or harassing you? If you received negative or adverse treatment because of some identifying characteristic, such as race, age, religion, color, ethnicity, nation of origin, gender, sexual orientation or identity, or disability status, then you have a right to bring your grievance before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in order to seek compensation for your lost earnings and other damages caused as a result of the discriminatory conduct of your employer.

Defining a Hostile Work Environment

 A hostile work environment is loosely defined as a situation in which coworkers, supervisors, or others in your workplace behave in such a way that it makes it difficult for you to continue doing your job. The key is that the behavior is based on gender, sex, religion, race, or any one or more of the other protected classes under federal law.

A good example is a female employee working in a male-dominated job, where all the coworkers make vulgar and demeaning comments about women. The comments are often veiled insinuations or perhaps even a bit threatening, and it is clear from context that the comments are being directed at the female employee in order to make her feel uncomfortable or even to get her to quit. This is considered a form of sexual harassment or discrimination based on sex.

Constructive Discharge

 It is not always necessary for an employer to fire you in order for you to have a right to bring a claim. There is a concept known as “constructive discharge.” This occurs when a work environment becomes so toxic that it essentially makes it unreasonably difficult for the employee to carry on his or her daily job functions. The EEOC specifically defines a constructive discharge as “forcing an employee to resign by making the work environment so intolerable a reasonable person would not be able to stay.”

Proving Constructive Discharge

 It can be difficult to prove constructive discharge, but remember the key is proving what a reasonable person in your situation would do. This is where an experienced discrimination lawyer can help. At Five Points Law Group, we have decades of experience helping workers prove these cases to get compensation. You worked hard for your career, and you put in long hours for your employer. You should not be forced to resign and lose everything you worked for simply because someone has a problem with your sex, age, race, sexual orientation or identity, or any other personal attribute or characteristic that is protected by law.  If you believe you have suffered a constructive discharge, call us today to schedule a free consultation.

Separating Prejudice From Precaution in the Hiring Process

 You have just interviewed for the job of your dreams, or maybe you have already gotten an offer. You are excited. This is what you went to school for and devoted years of your life to achieve. Now the employer is asking for strange and uncomfortable information, however. Maybe they want a background check that seems unusually specific regarding your religion or “lifestyle.”  Perhaps they are asking for information about your personal life, your family, or even your personal habits. How do you know if this is acceptable or unlawful? What is just a well-intentioned precaution, and what is a clear sign of prejudice and unlawful employment practices?

The differences can be subtle, but at Five Points Law Group, we have decades of experience sorting out pretexts for discrimination and hidden employment agendas. Here are some of the ways you can differentiate between prejudice and precaution.

Interview Questions by an Employer

 We can probably all agree that employers have a right to know whom they are hiring. Employers need to know certain basic things about the people they will entrust with their products, their customers, and their reputation. There is a fine line between getting to know about employees and delving into unrelated personal backgrounds.

Here are some examples of acceptable questions your employer can ask during an interview:

  • Employment history
  • Education and training
  • Certifications or licenses
  • Financial history and stability
  • Medical history (with some narrow limitations)
  • Social media use

Here are some examples of unacceptable questions your employer should not ask during an interview:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Ethnic background
  • Genetic information
  • Gender / sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Disabilities
  • Nation of origin

Background Checks by an Employer

Employers often use post-offer background checks to screen out employees with criminal records or other disqualifying issues. Many of these items cannot be screened in an interview, but must be done after a job offer. Almost all federal jobs require a suitability investigation, which sometimes will turn up problems that can lead to later termination. An employer is allowed to use this information to make determinations, but they must have your consent and must disclose the grounds for any adverse action taken because of the information obtained.

Here are some examples of acceptable uses of background checks:

  • Screening for criminal convictions
  • Screening for financial stability
  • Credit Reporting

Here are some examples of unacceptable uses of background checks:

  • Screening out employees of a specific ethnic or racial background
  • Looking for evidence of age as a reason for termination
  • Looking for genetic or gender information
  • Improperly targeting minorities and certain ethnic groups

Improper Use of Criminal Records

 Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) makes it pretty clear that arrest records alone cannot be a ground for adverse employment actions, convictions usually can be used. The key is whether the background checks are designed for a legitimate purpose (e.g. screening out criminals) or to target specific minorities (e.g. screening out Hispanics, etc…). While it can be difficult to tell at first, an experienced employment discrimination attorney can usually help you to figure out whether your termination or adverse employment action was based on permissible grounds or not.

Contact an Experienced Employment Discrimination Lawyer

 If you feel that you have been discriminated against, or an employer has revoked an employment offer based on your race, religion, sex, age, or other protected status, give Five Points Law Group a call today. Consultations are free, and we can often help you figure out your options early on. Get peace of mind and fight for what you have earned. Call or visit us online today.

Allen Arnold
Allen Arnold
Allen has practiced in the field of employment litigation, almost exclusively representing employees, for his entire career.

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