When is a hostile work environment illegal under the Fair Employment and Housing Act?
A hostile work environment is illegal under the Fair Employment and Housing Act when an employer engages in harassment towards an employee based on the employee’s sex, race, gender, or age. In order to create a hostile work environment, that employer’s actions and behaviors have to be severe or pervasive. In order for an employer’s behavior to be considered “severe or pervasive,” the employee must provide information regarding the nature of the conduct, frequency, number of days, and context.
As previously mentioned, an employer can create a hostile work environment based on the employee’s sex or gender. In order to claim that an employer has created a hostile work environment based on sex/gender and/or sexual harassment, the employee has to prove four conditions. The first condition is that the employee has to prove that the harassment is merely based on the sex or the gender of the employee. Such harassment could include but is not limited to, sexual touching, sexual grabbing, sexual remarks, sexual jokes, sexual drawings, and requests for sexual favors. The second condition is that the employee must prove that the employer has been engaging in unwelcome sexual advances towards the employee. It is essential for the employer’s behavior or conduct to be unwelcome. The third condition is that the claim must pass the reasonable person standard. The reasonable person standard means that the employer’s behavior or conduct must be offensive to a reasonable person. The fourth condition that must be satisfied is that the hostile work environment has to be severe or pervasive/
Another way an employer could create a hostile work environment is by harassing an employee based on the employee’s race. For example, the employer could make derogatory comments regarding his or her employee’s race that are so severe and constant that the employer has made the working environment hostile, intimidating, or offensive. Another way an employer could create a hostile work environment is by harassing an employee because of the employee’s age. For instance, let’s say there is a sixty-year-old employee who has been working for the company for over twenty years and has been performing his essential job duties spectacularly. However, the sixty-year-old employee has been constantly harassed by his employer because his employer consistently makes derogatory remarks, such as by calling this sixty-year-old employer an “old goat who will die soon who is good for nothing” and “he will soon die, I can’t wait.” In this case, the sixty-year-old employee could claim that his working environment is too hostile and severe for him to work and could file a claim with the court. In fact, this employee could even receive compensation for emotional damages that his employer may have imposed upon him, such as anxiety and/or depression. This employee would have a very strong case against his employer.