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When does a bad job cross the line to a hostile environment?

You are not alone if you have days when the last thing you want to do is go to work. Maybe your boss has been on a tirade lately, or the new person they hired to work with you is an intolerable complainer. Perhaps you are years overdue for a raise, and you can't afford to take a vacation on your salary.

While any of these and more can create a difficult work environment, think carefully before describing your New Jersey workplace as hostile. The term "hostile work environment" has legal factors that may not exist in your job. On the other hand, it is important to recognize the elements that can create a work environment that is hostile.

What's going on?

The defining factor of a hostile work environment is discrimination. If the prevailing atmosphere in your workplace is one of unfair treatment or harassment, you may be in a hostile environment. Many employees assume that lewd talk, explicit or racist jokes, or inappropriate emails are a normal part of life on the job, but this is not true. You should not have to spend your day tolerating mistreatment, offensive conversations or unwelcome advances. Some examples of behaviors in a hostile workplace include:

  • A manager who makes remarks about your religion, sex or other protected class, even as a joke
  • An employer who mocks you for being old or who allows others to joke about your age
  • A boss who allows or encourages employees to make demeaning remarks about your disability
  • A boss who passes you over for promotion because of your sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Any discriminatory actions or behaviors that create a situation in which you are unable to do your job in the comfortable and safe environment you expected when you were hired

It is possible that your employer is not aware of the situation and that, if aware, he or she would take steps to eliminate the hostile behaviors. For this reason, you may consider having a frank discussion to apprise your boss of what is going on. Your attorney can assist you in finding the most appropriate way to present this information to your employer.

On the other hand, if your boss is part of the problem, you may have to take another route to resolve the issue. You do not have to handle this challenge alone. Reaching out for legal advice is a wise move to ensure you are taking the most effective steps to protect you rights in the workplace.

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