John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
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What contributes to a hostile working environment?

When an employer's or coworker's actions and behavior make it impossible to continue working in one's office and thereby alter the expectations of a comfortable workplace, a hostile workplace can said to have been created. But what behavior and language counts towards its legal requirements?

A bad boss, an obnoxious coworker or a failure to qualify for a promotion might all be reasons a Minnesota employee might find their work environment unsupportive or unfriendly. As difficult as it is to continue working in such a workplace, it is not necessary that the behavior amount to a hostile working environment. Firstly, the actions must be discriminatory in nature, as per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For example, if an obnoxious coworker is telling sexually explicit jokes and distributing nude images, this could amount to sexual harassment and create a hostile work environment. The discrimination therefore needs to be against a protected classification, such as age, religion, disability or race.

The questionable behavior must have taken place over some time and become pervasive. It usually does not include a couple of comments made by a colleague. it is always a good idea to speak to someone in Human Resources however, regardless of how many times the comments are made. If the behavior is continued all the time and the matter is not investigated and addressed effectively by the organization, it can contribute to a hostile work environment. The hostile behavior in question must so severe that it disrupts the employee's work and even interferes with the trajectory of the employee's career. Additionally, it can be reasonable to assume that the employer knew of the behavior in question and did nothing to intervene.

There are certain steps an employer who is facing a hostile work environment should be taking, including reporting the offending behavior. Unwanted sexual harassment and disparaging remarks can make a workplace unbearable and no Minnesota resident should have to deal with it on a daily basis. It might help speaking to an experienced attorney to discuss one's legal options.

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John A. Klassen, PA
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