As the owner of a large company in California, you might not know every employee by name. This is not unusual for business owners who employ more than 500 workers. Like all employers, you have an obligation to maintain safety in the workplace. A hostile work environment has no place in any sized company. However, not every complaint has merit, which is why it’s imperative for you to clearly understand what constitutes hostility in the workplace and what doesn’t.
No employer wants to minimize an employee’s suffering due to hostility in the workplace. Unfortunately, many workers in the past have filed complaints regarding issues that do not meet the legal definition for a hostile work environment. For example, if an employee files a hostility complaint, accusing you of not paying enough, it doesn’t necessarily meet the criteria for hostility in the workplace.
Discrimination may create a hostile work environment
Using the example about not paying enough, mentioned in the previous section, if you were deliberately underpaying a particular employee due to discrimination, it might constitute hostility in the workplace. If you discriminate against or harass a worker because of age, gender, race, ethnicity, disability or some other protected classification, that worker may have grounds to file a hostile work environment complaint.
Is your management team purposely overlooking hostile treatment of a worker
As a large business owner and employer, you are responsible for making sure your executive team and managers fulfill their duties in accordance with California labor laws and the accepted standards of protocol in your company. If management is allowing hostile treatment of a worker, the employee in question may decide to file a legal complaint against your business. Managers must curtail hostile treatment in the workplace when they are aware of it.
Hostile treatment is pervasive and long-lasting
If an employee is angry because you don’t provide coffee in the break room, it doesn’t mean there is a hostile work environment in your company. Even if a worker or manager argues with another worker, the incident does not necessarily produce grounds for filing a hostility complaint. For the court to agree that treatment is hostile, it must be both pervasive and long-lasting.
Pervasive behavior occurs when one or more people impede a worker’s ability to do his or her job and possibly affect other aspects of the worker’s life as well. A one-time incident isn’t necessarily going to be enough evidence to prove a hostile work environment claim. The behavior in question must have been ongoing for an extended period. Protect your company by staying updated on discrimination laws and having a plan of action in place if you must appear in court in a hostile work environment case.