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Very few people love their jobs every minute of the day. Most everyone sometimes feels frustration or anger at work at some point. But some workplaces are toxic. Some are even hostile. So, how do you know when your workplace has gone beyond allowing rude behavior and become a hostile work environment?

When employees experience a hostile work environment

In the legal sense, employees experience a hostile work environment when harassment or discrimination occurs based on the following:

  • Your race or ethnicity
  • Your gender
  • Your sexual orientation
  • Your religious beliefs
  • Your disability
  • If you are pregnant
  • Your age (if you are over 40)

If you are Muslim, you shouldn’t have to put up with employees constantly harassing you over how many breaks you take to pray or that you wear a hijab. If you are a woman, you shouldn’t have to deal with male co-workers who regularly view online porn that you can see from your desk or male co-workers who tell sexist jokes all the time. If you need crutches or a cane to walk, you shouldn’t have to deal with co-workers who regularly make snide comments about your disability.

For your workplace to be considered legally a hostile work environment, the harassment you experience has to happen consistently, not just in a random incident. You also need to:

  • have your work disrupted by this harassment
  • have this hostile workplace limit your career advancement

What to do when experiencing a hostile work environment

If you feel you are experiencing an unlawful hostile work environment, you first should write down any specific harassment incidents – what was said, who said it, who else witnessed the incident and when and where it occurred. Then you need to inform your company’s human resources personnel or your manager of these incidents. You shouldn’t face any sort of workplace retaliation, including losing your job or a reduction in hours, for reporting harassment, discrimination or a hostile workplace.

If you feel after making a complaint about harassment or a hostile workplace that your company has not addressed your concerns, you should consult an employment law attorney. You have a right to experience a fair workplace, one free unfair or demoralizing harassment.

Sometimes, you have to stand up for yourself and your rights. Pursing a hostile workplace complaint with an attorney’s help may be necessary if you want your workplace harassment to end.