Within the past years we have seen a surge in awareness concerning workplace harassment and discrimination, but many workers still grapple with identifying and combating a hostile work environment.
Under Texas laws, a hostile work environment occurs when an individual or group of individuals’ actions or behavior creates an intimidating, offensive, or abusive atmosphere for another worker. Such actions could stem from the victim’s race, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other protected characteristic.
Instances of hostile work environment may include derogatory remarks or slurs, unwanted physical contact, unsolicited advances, offensive gesticulations or jokes, or any other forms of harassment or discrimination. It’s worth noting that a single event might not suffice in establishing a hostile work environment, but recurrent incidents or a pervasive pattern of conduct could contribute to a hostile work environment.
In Rogers v. City of Houston, the plaintiff, a police officer, alleged that she was subjected to a hostile work environment due to her gender. She presented evidence that she was subjected to severe and pervasive harassment, including sexual comments and touching, offensive jokes and cartoons, and being subjected to more difficult and dangerous assignments compared to her male counterparts. The court held that the plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence to show that she was subjected to severe and pervasive harassment that altered the terms and conditions of her employment. The court further held that the City of Houston was liable for the hostile work environment as it failed to take prompt and appropriate remedial action in response to the plaintiff’s complaints.
If you believe that you’re working in a hostile work environment in Houston, Texas, you have several options to address the situation. Firstly, you can report the behavior to your supervisor, the HR representative, or any designated person within your organization. It’s essential to document any occurrences of harassment or discrimination and maintain a record of the time, date, and parties involved.
Should your employer fail to address the issue, you may file a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These agencies will investigate the complaint and could provide remedies, including back pay, reinstatement, or compensation for damages.
It’s imperative to know that you’re protected against retaliation for reporting harassment or discrimination in the workplace. Retaliation could manifest in the form of demotion, termination, or any adverse employment action. If you experience any retaliation for reporting a hostile work environment, you can file a separate complaint with TWC or EEOC.
Apart from legal remedies, you can take some personal steps to address a hostile work environment. This includes talking to the person(s) involved and asking them to stop the behavior. If this doesn’t work, you can seek support from your supervisor, HR representative, or any trusted person within your organization.
Additionally, you can leverage external resources such as counseling services, employee assistance programs, or legal representation. These resources provide expert guidance on how to handle a hostile work environment and can help you file a complaint or take legal action.
Employers have a responsibility to prevent and address hostile work environments in Houston, Texas. This could entail providing training to employees and supervisors on harassment and discrimination, creating policies and procedures for reporting and addressing complaints, and fostering a culture of respect and inclusivity in the workplace.
Employers who neglect to address a hostile work environment could face legal consequences such as fines or sanctions and may be liable for damages. It’s in the best interest of employers to take swift and resolute action to tackle any harassment or discrimination complaints and create a safe and respectful workplace for all employees.
A hostile work environment can have severe repercussions for employees. You should take the necessary steps to report any incidents of harassment or discrimination and seek support from legal or external resources. Employers must take proactive steps to create a safe and respectful workplace for all employees and prevent hostile work environments. By working together, we can foster a culture of respect and inclusivity in the workplace and ensure that all employees are treated with dignity and respect. If you or anyone else you know have questions regarding a hostile work environment or steps to take in response to it please call me, Shaleigha Shepard, at Wiley Wheeler P.C.