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What are some signs of a hostile work environment?

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Federal labor laws prohibit offensive workplace conduct related to age, race, gender, disability, nationality or sexual orientation. Discrimination may show as repeated jokes, distasteful comments or lewd photographs that you find insulting. When you begin to feel uncomfortable or harmed, you may have come across a warning sign that your workplace has become hostile.

A dedicated California firefighter, for example, quit working for the fire department after offensive racial comments caused him to experience bouts of anxiety. As noted by an ABC 10 News report, he developed health problems related to the stress of repeatedly hearing offensive comments about people of color.

When may I report offensive behavior?

If a supervisor, manager or coworker makes statements that cause you to feel uncomfortable, you may file a report with your company’s human resource department. Your employer may require you to fill out a document describing the incident. This may prevent the harassing behavior from reoccurring.

When offensive actions continue after reporting them, your coworkers may have created a hostile work environment. This can make it difficult for you to perform your job responsibilities. You may also have become a target of retaliation if a demotion or tougher job assignment follows your report.

When may I file a legal action for damages?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website makes note of the ways discrimination may violate the law. If you experience retaliation, or if your boss or coworkers force you to accept their harassment to keep your job, you may file a legal action.

A wrongful termination may reflect a retaliation for a harassment report. This could represent a violation of both federal and California employment laws. Individuals affected by a hostile work environment or retaliation may seek damages, which may include lost wages.