Ways You Can Prove a Hostile Work Environment

Harassment and discrimination in the workplace are still prevalent despite all the recent attention given to these issues in the media. If harassment creates a hostile work environment for you, you could have a case but you will need to prove it and this can be challenging. 

Prove that you are a victim of discrimination

If you’re a victim of discrimination, you are protected under federal and state anti-discrimination laws. Annoyances and petty slights don’t count – if coworkers mock your haircut or clothing that doesn’t qualify for protection under the law. The offensive conduct must violate anti-discrimination law and has to be severe enough that any reasonable person would find the workplace climate hostile. 

If you’re the victim of a hostile work environment, you should consider contacting an attorney to find out whether you have a legitimate claim. USAttorneys.com has sexual harassment attorneys with years of experience in dealing with such cases. 

Prove that harassment is pervasive and ongoing 

Isolated incidents of sexual harassment and gender discrimination don’t meet the definition of a hostile work environment. A single incident that’s severe enough, such as a sexual assault, may qualify. To meet the conditions of a hostile work environment, the harassment has to be pervasive and ongoing, affecting your ability to do your job. 

Gather evidence

You can’t prove your claim without evidence. You will need to preserve any emails or calls using threatening language. Keeping records of any efforts you made to report the harassment to a supervisor or the human resources department proves that your employer was made aware of the situation long before you decided to file a lawsuit. 

If the case goes to court, a jury will need to see that the harassment was not a once-off incident so keeping a log of all incidents will be useful. You will need to keep the contact details of any witnesses of ongoing harassment as they may have to testify in court. 

Demonstrate the impact 

If you can prove offensive conduct and show what impact it had on you, this will strengthen your case. For example, your performance reviews may reflect how your work was negatively impacted by the harassment if the decline began at the same time as it started. Your medical records may also demonstrate the effect of the stress caused by the harassment on your physical and mental well-being. 

Decide where to report

Employers must have 15 or more employees for federal anti-discrimination laws to apply in the U.S. If your employer falls under federal law, you can report to the federal Equity Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You generally have 180 days to file your charge. 

If your employer isn’t covered by federal law, many states also have anti-discrimination laws and you can report to a state agency. If an employer is covered by federal and state laws, you can decide where to file. Some state laws are more protective than federal laws. 

File a lawsuit

Your case is heard in federal court if you file under federal discrimination laws and in a state court if you’re filing under state laws. If the court finds that the severity of the circumstances is questionable, your case could be dismissed. It wants to see a history of severe, offensive, or abusive behavior. The only exception is in a case of physical assault, which doesn’t require a document history to qualify. 

If your lawsuit is successful, you could recover monetary damages for the treatment you suffered. Many attorneys will represent clients on a “contingency” fee basis whereby they are paid a percentage of your award amount only if you win the case.

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