Phoenix Hostile Work Environment Lawyers
Sometimes work can be unpleasant, but your office or worksite should not be hostile. Federal and state laws hold liable employers who enable or create hostile work environments for their employees. So, if you are working in a toxic atmosphere and wondering whether you have to tolerate such untenable conditions, the answer might be that you do not. With decades of experience and an impressive track record in the Arizona employment law community, our Phoenix hostile work environment attorneys at Shields Petitti & Zoldan, PLC, can help ensure that your employer does not infringe upon your rights as an employee.
What Is a Hostile Work Environment?
Federal law defines a hostile work environment as an environment in which there is unwanted, offensive conduct that is so extreme or prevalent that a reasonable person would think the environment was abusive, hostile, or intimidating. There are so many ways that a workplace can be an intimidating space, but an employee must be the victim of an unlawful hostile work environment before they can claim damages and other relief under several employment laws at the state and federal levels.
When Does Hostility Become Illegal?
Hostility in a workplace is unlawful when it targets someone’s protected characteristics or protected activities. Protected activities include filing claims for workers’ compensation, engaging in civic duties (e.g., jury duty or military service), reporting or refusing to engage in illegal activity, and asserting other employee rights. And protected characteristics include the following:
- Age (40 or older),
- National origin, and
Your employer can be liable for hostility committed by a coworker, a client or patron, management, or a contractor. However, to hold your employer accountable for the hostile behavior of individuals who are not in management, you must prove that you reasonably tried to address the behavior using your employer’s procedures and that your employer unreasonably failed to correct the behavior.
What Does Unlawful Hostility Look Like?
Hostile conduct comes in many forms. You could be a victim of illegal hostility if one of the following activities happens in your workplace because of someone’s protected characteristics or activities:
- Offensive jokes,
- Stereotyping comments,
- Exclusion of others from work events or opportunities,
- Non-consensual touching,
- Graphic gestures,
- Displays of offensive content,
- Invasions of personal space,
- Comments about appearance,
- Unwanted requests for romantic interaction,
- Sexually explicit conversations, and
- Exposure of intimate body parts.
In many cases, you must prove that there was a pattern of hostile behavior in your workplace before you can file a legal claim. But sometimes, one instance of hostile behavior can be so extreme (e.g., the use of a slur or non-consensual touching) that it is sufficient for maintaining a claim against your employer.
Who Can Initiate a Hostile Work Environment Complaint?
Any employee who experiences the negative effects of a hostile workplace can file a claim to recover remedies for the harm caused. This means that you do not have to be the target of workplace hostility to have the right to file a lawsuit or administrative claim against it. If you have witnessed offensive and discriminatory conduct on the job, you might have a right to take legal action. The best way to determine your eligibility for legal relief under state or federal anti-discrimination laws is to speak to a Phoenix hostile work environment attorney as soon as hostile behavior crops up in your workplace.
What Should I Do If My Workplace is Hostile?
Your first line of defense against an abusive or intimidating workplace is a knowledgeable lawyer. A lawyer can help you take vital steps to maintain your claim, such as:
- Telling the perpetrator of the hostile behavior to stop (so you can establish that their conduct is unwelcome),
- Collecting evidence of the unlawful behavior,
- Filing an internal complaint with your employer (this may be necessary before you can take legal action in some cases),
- Initiating an administrative complaint or lawsuit regarding the behavior, and
- Effectively proving the harm you suffered to maximize your damages.
Shields Petitti & Zoldan can guide you through the entire legal process of recovering what you are owed from a hostile workplace.
When you are the victim of workplace hostility, there are a handful of options you have for recovering legal remedies. You can initiate legal action in the following ways:
- File a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
- File a lawsuit in civil court,
- File a complaint with the Industrial Commission of Arizona,
- File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, or
- File a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General.
The government agency that can enforce your rights in a complaint depends on the type of hostility that occurs in your workplace. Also, you might have to initiate an administrative complaint before you can sue your employer in court. Your attorney can determine the appropriate legal process to use in light of the specific facts of your case.
Shields Petitti & Zoldan Has the Experience and Skill to Help You
Our Phoenix hostile work environment lawyers at Shields Petitti & Zoldan know how to take employers to task for the hostile work environments they foster. We have more than 80 years of combined experience, and we have recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of our clients. If you need a strong advocate, reach out to us online, or call us to schedule an appointment.
What Laws Protect Me from a Hostile Work Environment?
There are several state and federal laws that prohibit hostility in the workplace. These laws include the following:
- Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964,
- Section 41-1463 of Arizona Law,
- The Americans with Disabilities Act,
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act,
- Section 23-1501 of Arizona Law, and
- The Fair Labor Standards Act.
These are not the only laws that can protect you against workplace hostility, so you should speak to one of our attorneys about your options.
Can My Employer Fire Me for Filing a Hostile Work Environment Complaint?
No. An employer cannot fire or punish an employee for filing a reasonable claim against a hostile work environment. If your employer terminates you or takes an adverse employment action against you because you filed a workplace hostility complaint, your employer could be liable for unlawful retaliation in the workplace.
How Long Do I Have to File a Hostile Work Environment Complaint?
You could have anywhere from 45 days to three years to file a complaint against your employer. The window of time you have to initiate legal action depends on the type of hostility you experienced and which government agency oversees claims like yours. This is why you should consult with an attorney immediately after suffering in a hostile work environment.
Our employment lawyers are also able to assist you with the following cases:
- Arbitration and Mediation
- Breach of Fiduciary Duty
- Business Litigation
- Business Contract
- Employee Advocacy
- Employer Counseling
- Employment Litigation
- Medical & Disability Leave
- Sexual Harassment
- Small Business Consulting
- Wage and Hour Violation
- Workplace Discrimination
- Workplace Retaliation
- Wrongful Termination