Hostile Working Environment

Running a small business in New Jersey requires a business owner to constantly educate themselves of the laws and regulations of the state and those jurisdictions where you do business. One of the most valuable assets of any business are the employees. How you treat your employees can certainly impact your company’s productivity and reputation, but the consequences can extend beyond these areas. Under certain circumstances where there is real or perceived discrimination or retaliatory action, an employee can bring a legal claim against your company. Claims like a hostile working environment can not only disrupt your business and harm company morale, but also they are also expensive and time consuming.

This  11th video in the series will discuss the hostile work environment as it relates to employment law. It will discuss how a hostile work environment is created, the type of liability a business owner or manager may have, and how to prevent a hostile work environment from developing in your Newark, New Jersey company.

However, be sure to keep in mind that this video is merely a starting point in your education regarding a hostile work environment. It is not legal advice and it does not establish an attorney-client relationship. However those interested in forming a business in New Jersey are encouraged to discuss their goals and plans with an experienced attorney and accountant. Now, without further delay, let us discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the LLP.

What is a hostile work environment?

A hostile work environment can occur when a person or member of a protected class is subjected to or perceives themselves to be subjected to negative treatment or discrimination that is pervasive and severe. While typically more than one bad act is required to establish a hostile work environment, some acts can be so shocking as to establish a hostile working environment itself. Members of a protected class includes discrimination due to:

  • Age
  • Skin color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Marital status
  • National origin

While simple teasing or one-off remarks are not generally considered to be a hostile work environment, businesses must take steps to prevent the teasing from escalating to severe or pervasive treatment or adverse employment action.

Liability for a Hostile Working Environment

Whether you are aware of a hostile work environment or not, prohibit actions in the workplace can cost your company time, money and its reputation. The level and type of liability is likely to depend on your business or corporate structure and the facts that are present.

If company has no manager but you were not aware of the discriminatory conduct you may be liable under a theory of strict liability for equitable damages. If your company employs a man who was responsible for the discriminatory conduct, the business is likely to be liable for compensatory damages due to your agent’s actions. Finally, if your entire business seems to discriminate again protected classes you may also be liable for punitive damages intended to send a message that conduct of this type is impermissible.

How can a hostile work environment be prevented?

Employee handbook written with help of HR and an employment attorney. The guide should address employees’ conduct and require each employee to agree to the code. Other measures that may reduce the likelihood of a discrimination suits includes seminars and other educational programs for managers and employees.

Working with an experienced attorney can protect your business from liability due to discrimination or a hostile work environment. To discuss your business legal issues with an attorney from The Jayson Law Group LLC call 908-768-3633 or contact us online.

For a transcript of the video, please see below:

Hostile Work Environment Video Transcript

My name is Lauren Schragger-Paeglis I’m of counsel with the firm. Today’s topic is on how to avoid creating a hostile work environment in your business. You may have heard it can cost you some money as well as your business’s reputation if his found to occur. So today’s video is just a education on how hostile work environments created, the type of liability business owner or manager may and how to prevent it from happening in your business

A hostile work environment takes place when a person within the protected class views or is a recipient of alleged discriminatory conduct that is so severe and pervasive, it alters the work environment and creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Now you need more, generally, than one alleged piece of conduct for discriminatory conduct to create a hostile work environment. However if the one act so severe and pervasive that the court view is that is enough to alter it for the employees, you can have a hostile work environment by one act. Now you heard a person in a protect class you may not discriminate against, it’s the same person you may not discriminate against in the hiring process. That includes person age, sex civil union status, marital status, etc. These are listed in our previous video concerning the hiring process and you’re welcome to review it now.

Now let’s say you have been determined to have a hostile work environment. What type of liability would you as a business owner or manager have? Well if it is something that you were not aware of but it’s your business you may be held strictly liable. If you had a manager some in your went who committing discriminatory conduct then you’d have to pay compensatory damage. If the whole business seemed to have a or be whole fitness seem to have discriminatory conduct towards a person or people in a protected class in you could be liable for punitive damages.

Whether you know or not if not a defense. You must be aware of what’s going on in your business at all times. Now, how do tyou prevent a hostile work environment from occurring?

There are several types of activities you may perform to promote compliance. One of these things is a human resources handbook written with HR and an employment attorney. One of these should include a code of conduct that every employee and manager signs. If an employee dopes something beyond the code of conduct, it is clear that the business does not promote that behavior. Another way of preventing it is by having seminars. You gather your managers and employees and teach them how you expect them to act in the workplace.

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