Most people understand that there is a difference between things that are unfair and things that are illegal. People say stupid things at work all the time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the law was broken. So, what kind of behavior is unlawful? What exactly is a hostile work environment?
In California, an unlawful hostile work environment is a workplace where unwelcome comments or conduct are made to the employee because the employee has a protected characteristic. The comments or conduct must be so severe or pervasive that it alters the working conditions and creates an abusive work environment. Additionally, the conduct must unreasonably interfere with the employee’s job performance or create an intimidating or offensive work environment. Finally, a reasonable person in the victim’s shoes would also consider the work environment to be hostile or abusive.