Hostile Work Environments: What You Should Know

Since the beginning of 2020, the job market has been in a period of extreme fluctuation. Unemployment rates have reached an all-time high while morale and employee retention plummeted to new lows. California in particular, has a higher unemployment rate than the national average that has only just begun to decline. This tumultuous period has led to an increase in hostile work environments across multiple industries.

So, what does the future hold for employees and businesses as California’s unemployment rate equalizes and what factors contribute to a hostile work environment? Keep reading to find out.

CA Employment

California is behind the national unemployment rate, and as a result, has left countless workers behind. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Californians have gone through rising unemployment, inflation, and an employee benefits scam that affected millions and resulted in billions of dollars being stolen.

In the early part of 2021, an overhaul of the unemployment benefits system resulted in a backlog of benefits that was hampered by a fraudulent scam. The Employment Development Department’s issues have left millions without financial support and a lifeline until they can find employment.

On the other hand, workers have become empowered in the past three years to bargain and appeal for better working conditions. The trend toward quitting for a better work environment has been dubbed “The Great Resignation.”

Both the unemployment rate and Great Resignation are equalizing as the service and leisure sectors regain traction among workers at pre pandemic levels. Restaurants, hotels, and other service-based industries are stabilizing. However, this comes with difficulties including changes to the work environment.

What Is a Hostile Work Environment?

If you are working in an environment that is hostile or being subjected to harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, it can be difficult to get yourself out of the situation when there are few other work opportunities available … you cannot afford to just quit.

In California’s case, declining unemployment rates mean more jobs available (employers are hiring). Additionally, increased demand for workers means that employees may have more options and opportunities than they have been recently to leave a toxic work environment. This also means that workers filling vacant positions could potentially be walking into a toxic situation.

A hostile work environment can be the byproduct of negligent bosses or meanspirited coworkers, but it’s important to understand that regardless of who may be at fault for creating a toxic situation, it can be almost impossible to leave and taking action may seem impossible.

In general, a toxic or hostile work environment includes:

  • Unwelcome conduct, harassment, or discriminatory behavior based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, pregnancy, or disability
  • Conduct is severe enough that the environment becomes abusive and intolerable
  • Harassment is prolonged and frequent

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is in charge of establishing and ensuring safe working conditions and says that when harassment begins to hinder work performance, morale, and is not handled appropriately, then legal action is warranted.

Making a Hostile Work Environment Claim

To file a hostile work environment claim, you must be prepared to prove that the behavior was unwelcome, harassment occurred many times, or the actions were committed against a person in a protected class. These cases are difficult to prove on your own, and you may feel powerless against your aggressors.

If you are in a toxic situation at work and ready to seriously think about leaving, talk to an employee rights lawyer. We can confidentially help you make the right decision for you and preserve your employee rights if you decide to take legal action against your past employer after you leave.

You have the right to work in a productive and fulfilling work environment and that right is protected by the law. Contact Harris Grombchevsky LLP today and hold the bad actors responsible.
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