Hostile Work Environment

Workplace Harassment Attorneys Based in El Segundo

It is illegal for California employers to permit or foster a hostile work environment under federal laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Although FEHA usually applies only to employers with at least five employees, it is illegal for all employers, even those that employ only one employee, to engage in sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment. Title VII and most of the other anti-discrimination federal laws apply to employers that have at least 15 employees. At the Calderone Law Firm, our El Segundo hostile work environment lawyers may be able to help you recover damages if you were a victim of harassment or discrimination on the job, due to your membership in a protected group.

When a Hostile Work Environment Arises

A hostile work environment exists if an employee's work environment is made offensive or hostile because of pervasive harassment due to a protected characteristic, such as their race or sex. Managers, supervisors, customers, clients, and coworkers can all contribute to or create a hostile work environment. You do not need to be threatened with being fired or demoted in order to have a claim.

Instead, under CACI 2521, if you want to hold an employer liable for hostile work environment harassment under FEHA, you will need to show that:

  • You were an employee of the defendant;
  • You experienced unwanted harassing conduct because of your protected status (such as, for example, being a woman, being of a particular race, being age 40 or older, having a disability, having a particular national origin, having a particular color, or belonging to a specific religion);
  • The harassing actions were pervasive or severe;
  • A reasonable person in your situation would have found the work environment to be abusive or hostile;
  • You personally found the work environment to be abusive or hostile;
  • Either a supervisor was involved in the harassing actions, or the defendant knew or should have known about the harassment but failed to take appropriate corrective steps;
  • You were harmed; and
  • The harassing behavior was a substantial factor in causing the harm that you suffered.

Under FEHA, a hostile work environment attorney in the El Segundo area may also be able to hold individual people, such as harassing coworkers, responsible for harassment by showing the same elements and proving that the individual defendants participated in, assisted, or encouraged the harassment.

Sexual harassment is a common form of hostile work environment harassment. Sexual harassment can consist of sexual innuendoes, offensive jokes or pranks, assault, threats, graphic images, unwelcome sexual advances, groping, and touching. However, the problematic behavior does not need to be overtly sexual to be considered harassment. For example, if you are bullied with general remarks about women on a regular basis, and the women in your department are routinely pranked in an offensive way, this could be a hostile work environment, even though you have not been groped or propositioned. The actions need not be motivated by sexual desire. An El Segundo hostile work environment attorney can advise you on whether behavior is likely to rise to the level of a hostile work environment.

Similarly, with racial harassment, if you are African-American and are forced to listen to repeated derogatory remarks about African-American people on a daily basis, this could be a hostile work environment if your employer does not take corrective steps. If you are disabled, your coworkers mock your disability, and your employer knows but does not intervene, this could also be a hostile work environment.

It is crucial that the behavior be unwelcome and either severe or pervasive. A one-off remark or a trivial and isolated incident will not rise to the level of actionable hostile work environment harassment. The court will look at the totality of the circumstances, including how offensive the harassing conduct was, how often it happened, the number of days on which you were subjected to the harassment, and the context of the harassment.

Consult an Experienced Hostile Work Environment Lawyer in El Segundo

If you need to recover damages or obtain other relief for a hostile work environment claim in Southern California, the experienced attorneys at the Calderone Law Firm are ready to provide counsel. We serve people in the Los Angeles region as well as throughout Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange Counties. You can call us at (424) 348-8290 or contact us through our online form for an appointment.