What is a Hostile Working Environment? | Denver Employment Attorney

I have clients who come to me all the time or potential clients who have a great misconception about the words ‘Hostile Work Environment’. They think wrongly that what that means is if your boss is a bully or a jerk or it’s a difficult work environment or you disagree with your work assignments, or you feel that you’re being intimidated or treated poorly that there’s this legal claim called “Hostile Work Environment” which there really isn’t.

What you have to show to establish discrimination based on a hostile work environment under federal and state law in Colorado, is that there is some connection some nexus between discrimination and the way you’re being treated that creates this hostility in the workplace. You have to show some nexus between your gender, disability, your race, your religion, your ethnic background, your age, and that the animosity is what’s motivating your employer or your boss or co-employees or whoever is the person who is treating you poorly. That is what the motivation for creating this hostile work environment needs to be in order to really have strength as a case.

It’s a pretty high standard and it can be pretty tough to prove. It can’t be single isolated incidents, it has to be, unless they’re extremely serious, a broader pattern of conduct. You have to be able to show that it’s not just people picking on your or making fun or joking. That it has some relation to your status. That you’re African American or under Colorado law that you’re gay or that you’re Jewish or some category of that gives you protection under federal or state law.

It’s a common misconception that just because you work in an unpleasant environment and you work with an unreasonable boss and unreasonable coworkers that that’s a hostile work environment that’s some sort of legal claim. That’s simply not the case. It’s really important if you do think that you’re being discriminated against at work or that things are going on that creates some hostility within the employment world that you talk to a good lawyer. They can help you sift through those facts and sift through what’s going on to give you a better assessment of whether you really do have a claim or not.

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