Hostile Work Environment Ohio - Mansell Law Attorneys

What is a Hostile Work Environment in Ohio?

Has your work environment become increasingly hostile or abusive due to the actions of a coworker or supervisor? Our Hostile Work Environment Ohio Attorney laws out this complex law for you.

Has the performance of your job duties been interrupted by unwelcomed harassment? If so, you may have a hostile work environment claim against your employer. Our Columbus, Ohio employment attorneys have successfully represented employees across Ohio that have been subjected to a hostile work environment and can evaluate your case today.

Anyone in the workplace can commit this type of harassment—a manager, coworker, or even a non-employee, such as a contractor, vendor, or guest. The victim can be anyone affected by the harassing conduct, not just the person to whom the harassing conduct is directed. The harassing conduct can (but doesn’t have to be) of a sexual nature. Our sexual harassment practice area page has more information about this type of claim.

To successfully establish a hostile work environment claim in Ohio, you will need to prove each of the following five elements: (1) you are a member of a protected class; (2) you were subjected to unwelcome harassment; (3) the harassment was based on your membership in a protected class; (4) the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms of your employment and create a hostile work environment; and (5) your employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take corrective action. Each of these five elements is broken down and explained below.

What is a “Protected Class?”

While many employees can be subjected to unfair treatment or an unpleasant working environment, this does not always establish a “hostile work environment” as defined under the law. In order to establish a hostile work environment claim, the unfair treatment you are subjected to must be based on your membership in a “protected class.” These protected classes include: race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age (if you’re 40 or older), and disability. If you are being harassed or subjected to unfair treatment based on some other reason not included in this list, such as a personality conflict with a coworker or supervisor, then unfortunately, you cannot establish a hostile work environment claim.

How Do I Prove the Harassment I’m Subjected to is “Unwelcome?”

You must also prove the harassing conduct was “unwelcome.” This element is typically pretty straightforward and can be proven by what you say and how you react to the harassing conduct. For example, verbally telling your harasser to stop what they’re doing or physically distancing yourself from the harasser can constitute evidence that the harassing conduct was unwelcome.

How Can I Connect the Harassing Conduct I’m Subjected to With My Protected Class?

The harassing conduct you are subjected to must also occur because of your membership in a protected class. For example, if you believe you are being harassed due to your race, then evidence of racial slurs used by your harasser can establish that the way you are treated is based on your race. You can also establish this element by showing that employees outside your protected class are not subjected to the same unfair treatment. For example, if an employee is the only African American employed with his company, and he is the only employee subjected to the harassing conduct, then he may be able to establish that the harassing conduct is based on his protected class (in this case, his race).

How Can I Prove the Harassing Conduct I Suffered was Sufficiently Severe or Pervasive to Constitute a Hostile Work Environment?

Whether your work environment meets the legal definition of a hostile work environment is evaluated based on all the surrounding circumstances. You must prove the harassing conduct is both severe and pervasive, and these two terms have two different legal meanings. Whether the harassing conduct you are subjected to is sufficiently “severe” is measured by evaluating what was said or done to you, and objectively measuring the severity of the conduct. The “pervasiveness” of the harassing conduct is measured by evaluating how many times the conduct occurred. Typically, isolated incidents of teasing are not sufficient to meet this standard, but isolated incidents can meet this standard if the words used or conduct are particularly extreme.

How Can I Prove My Employer Knew What Was Happening and Failed to Take Action?

Finally, you must prove that your employer knew or should have known about the harassing conduct you were subjected to and failed to take action against it. You can prove this in a number of different ways, the most common of which being that you reported the harassing conduct to a supervisor. This element can also be established even if you didn’t make a report if the harassing conduct was so obvious to everyone working around you that your employer should have known the harassing conduct was occurring.

What behaviors are considered criteria for a hostile work environment?

Examples of actions that may create sexual hostile environment harassment include:

  • -Leering, i.e., staring in a sexually suggestive manner
  • -Making offensive remarks about looks, clothing, body parts
  • -Touching in a way that may make an employee feel uncomfortable, such as patting, pinching or intentional brushing against another’s body
  • -Telling sexual or lewd jokes, hanging sexual posters, making sexual gestures, etc.
  • -Sending, forwarding or soliciting sexually suggestive letters, notes, emails, or images

Other actions which may result in hostile environment harassment, but are non-sexual in nature, include:

  • -Use of racially derogatory words, phrases, epithets
  • -Demonstrations of a racial or ethnic nature such as a use of gestures, pictures or drawings which -would offend a particular racial or ethnic group
  • -Comments about an individual’s skin color or other racial/ethnic characteristics
  • -Making disparaging remarks about an individual’s gender that are not sexual in nature
  • -Negative comments about an employee’s religious beliefs (or lack of religious beliefs)
  • -Expressing negative stereotypes regarding an employee’s birthplace or ancestry
  • -Negative comments regarding an employee’s age when referring to employees 40 and over
  • -Derogatory or intimidating references to an employee’s mental or physical impairment

For more information on hostile work environment claims, or if you believe you or someone you know has been subjected to a hostile work environment, give our hostile work environment attorneys in Columbus, Ohio a call for free consultation or submit your information online and we will contact you promptly.