Hostile Work Environments

What constitutes a “Hostile Work Environment”?

It's quite clear that displaying porn or tasteless material falls in this category. It's quite clear that sexual harassment falls into this category. It's less clear when it applies to other areas.

If your boss refuses to speak to you, does that qualify? This may seem silly and immature, but I have known this to happen to multiple people. You do – or don't do something, the boss gets ticked, and he simply no longer speaks to you. I've seen it going as far as the boss actually emailing instructions to other employees to pass along to you.

If your boss berates you for the demonstration of your morals, does that qualify? Depending on the culture of your organization, lying – or simply telling partial truths – may be the way things operate. If you are ordered to lie and you refuse, does that add you to the “hit list”?

If you decide not to attend a bar/strip club/etc due to moral or religious issues, what happens?

If your boss changes your timesheet and the projects you are billing without notification, does that qualify?

If your boss tells you on a weekly basis that your job will be outsourced, does that qualify?

After being in contact with someone experiencing this, I decided to look into the situation myself. I laid out each of these points (along with others not mentioned here) and asked an attorney for an opinion of the situation.

The answer was simply “That sounds like a Hostile Work Environment.”

Readers, if you are experiencing these or similar things, something must be done about it. The easiest solution is to simply seek a new job, but this doesn't fix the situation. It simply removes you from it, but the problem is still there. Suing may do something, but it's almost certainly more trouble than it's worth.

You must speak with the Human Resources Department or others up the chain. It must be addressed and on the record. For no other reason, if it happens again, it will create accountability and responsibility throughout the organization for this activity. There is a reason that when someone is accused of a crime, the first thing law enforcement does is look up their record. Having a history of a certain behavior is a powerful influencer.

If you can substantiate your claims, even better.