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Are you in a hostile work environment?

There are many employees who dread going into work every day. Some people don't like their jobs; some people don't like their bosses or co-workers. But there are other people who have anxiety about going to work because they are victims of a hostile work environment.

The people in this last group should remember that they have legal rights as employees that must be observed. If these rights are being violated, there may be options for taking legal action. However, it can be difficult to know whether workplace conditions legally qualify as being hostile.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines a hostile work environment as being one that makes a worker feel intimated, scared or abused because of harassment or discrimination.

It can be fairly easy for people to believe that they are in a hostile work environment. They may feel harassed or targeted by employers or co-workers; they may be subjected to offensive language or materials; they can even feel they are being dissuaded from speaking up about a negative environment.

However, proving that these situations exist to an extent that warrants a legal claim is much more difficult. It will be necessary to establish that a reasonable person in the same situation would feel similarly threatened or in danger. It can also be important to confirm that negative behaviors were consistent or repetitive, not just an isolated incident.

If these aspects can be proven, there may be grounds to pursue a lawsuit against an employer, especially if the employer also failed to respond adequately to complaints about unlawful behavior. 

Not all difficult or unpleasant work environments are considered hostile in the eyes of the law. However, when harassment on the job does in fact create a hostile work environment, it can be crucial for victims to defend themselves and protect their rights. Speaking with an attorney can be a critical step in assessing a claim and understanding what legal options may be appropriate.

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