Hostile work environment claims typically stem from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Typically, these cases require a proof that the hostile conduct was motivated by an individual's gender, race, or other protected class. Sexual harassment claims are a commonly recognized hostile work environment claim. However, claims that a supervisor or a boss is a "jerk" or rude, alone, without being motivated by gender, race, or other protected class, are not sufficient to support a claim for hostile work environment. Similarly, a boss may be a jerk to all employees, not just to one particular class of individuals. Although this is a poor way for an employer to conduct business and cultivate a productive work force, it is unlikely to rise to the level of hostile work environment.
For an employment litigation consultation, contact the Virginia employment lawyers at McClanahan Powers by e-mail or phone at 703-520-1326. All calls and e-mails are returned within 24 business hours.
Elements of a Hostile Work Environment Claim
Traditional hostile work environment claims require showing several elements, which include, 1) there was unwelcome harassment; 2) the harassment was based on sex, race, color, national origin, or religion; 3) the harassment was severe and pervasive that it altered the conditions of employment and created an abusive atmosphere; and 4) there is some basis for imposing liability on the employer. Each of these elements has been the subject of significant litigation and has been specifically defined and articulated by courts in various jurisdictions. A knowledgeable and experienced employment lawyer will be able to identify the facts of your case and apply them to the expansive case law. These types of cases are very fact specific and can be approached in a variety of ways. For example, a common problem faced by some individuals who may have a hostile work environment claims is the third element, harassment that was "severe and pervasive". This element requires the activity to have occurred repeatedly and to a threshold level of severity. For example, an employee who was propositioned for a sexual act to keep their employment, refused, and then was terminated, may not fall within the traditional hostile work environment claim. However, a knowledgeable employment attorney will know to utilize the 'quid pro quo' sexual harassment claim in this type of situation, which notably does not require the third element that the harassment be severe and pervasive.
In addition, there may be other claims available even if the specific facts of the case do not fit squarely into the elements of hostile work environment. There may be liability exposure with regards to battery, defamation, wrongful termination in violation of Title VII, or retaliation, amongst many other possibilities. It is important for both employers and employees to understand the legal landscape, so that they can best protect and enforce their legal rights.
Labor and Employment Litigation Consultation
To arrange an employment litigation consultation, please call the Virginia employment attorneys of McClanahan Powers at 703-520-1326. Or, to send an e-mail, please complete and submit the online form on this website. Flexible appointment times and payment options are available.