Hostile Work Environment Defined

My schtick, my thing, the thing that gets me going is when I hear a complaint that an employee is being subjected to a hostile work environment. Let me start by saying that if any of our employees are being subjected to a hostile work environment, I am right there with our EEO Manager and others to ensure that we put a stop to it immediately.

My schtick is not at all with the employee or with the concern addressed. It is the way the term "hostile work environment" is so loosely used because a hostile work environment is anything but loose or gray.  It is specific and prescribed. It is simply, flat out, no two ways about it, unacceptable. A crabby  co-worker does not a hostile work environment make. Rudeness can fall in harassment in the workplace based on gender, race or any of the Title VII basis but it is not a hostile work environment.

How does the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determine if hostile work environment exists? A hostile environment harassment is usually found where a general pattern of workplace behavior exists that is sexually-oriented and severe or pervasive. It usually involves actions of co-workers that interfere with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Key words are severe or pervasive and sexually oriented and fortunately, I do not see much of this at all in the workplace.

If an employee feels that they are not being treated respectfully or equitably, there are people they can, and definitely should bring their concerns to: their supervisor, the union, HR or the facility EEO Manager. No matter how they define it, if they bring it, we will listen. And then, we will do everything we can to remedy the concerns. How we do so varies based on the situation and the individual's desires and may include simply listening, facilitating a meeting, coordinating alternate dispute resolution or conducting an informal investigation. 

We are here to help and cannot do so if we are not aware of the concerns. So, schtick aside, what you call it is not important. What is important is that you tell us so we can do something about it.