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What constitutes a "hostile work environment"?

Los Angeles residents likely know intuitively that an employer in California cannot make an employee have a romantic relationship or give favors of a sexual nature as a condition of a job or ability to progress within a company.

The more controversial, and less obvious, aspect of sexual harassment claims, however, involves the obligation an employer in California has to prevent and protect its employees from a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is more often a "sin of omission" rather than commission, as the real issue with a hostile work environment isn't about what a supervisor does, but what inappropriate behavior management allows.

In order to give rise to a claim of sexual harassment, the workplace has to be more than just a place where even good employees tell an off-color joke or otherwise exercise less than good judgment. Rather, the workplace as a whole has to be such a toxic environment that a reasonable person would feel as if he or she could no longer work at the company or, at least, not go about their business as would any other employee.

There is no hard and fast rule as to when isolated cases of bad judgment become a hostile work environment, although wise employers should discipline and correct anything that could be perceived as discriminatory. From a victim's standpoint, the key questions may well be what exactly was said or done and whether the employer acted decisively to deal with the issue. Therefore, a person who had to leave their job because of any pattern of lewd or offensive conduct may want to consider their legal options.

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Law Offices of Allan A. Sigel, P.C.

Law Offices of Allan A. Sigel, P.C.
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