Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts
Most working conditions tend to be dynamic, and most people expect changes to be a normal aspect of any workplace. However, there are situations when the workplace environment doesn’t just change; it becomes intimidating, hostile, or offensive. If your superiors or co-workers are using demeaning or offensive remarks about your race, age, gender or sexual orientation, you are likely in a hostile work environment.
If you are noticing sexual or discriminatory favoritism in the allocation of hours and tasks, this is also a form of the hostile work environment. Alternatively, if there are unpleasant photos or images all over the workplace depicting people who share racial, gender, disability or ethnic characteristics with you, employers can be held legally responsible for failing to prevent hostile workplace conditions. If the employer bars you from speaking out about a concern or issue at work, this can create a hostile work environment against you, especially if the hostility begins after you complain.
If you or someone you know is in a hostile work environment, you should talk to an attorney who understands the intricacies of discrimination in hostile workplaces. The team of attorneys in the law offices of Andrew Shubin can help you navigate through this complicated situation without hurting your career prospects. To schedule a consultation, call us at (814) 826-3586.
Types of Hostile Work Environments
A hostile work environment can occur in multiple ways. One of the most common ways involves actions compelling an employee to quit after the same employee files an employment-related complaint with superiors or with a regulatory or supervisory agency. Another way is when the employer does nothing to stop a hostile or abusive working condition. A hostile work environment doesn’t have to be based on a type of hostile behavior, but can include:
- An ethnically hostile environment where employees encounter hostility due to their ethnic origin, such as being told that they cannot speak their native language at work without a reasonable justification.
- A racially hostile environment can take on many facets. There could be openly insensitive jokes, or the employee’s race could become a subject of inappropriate conduct.
- Sexual harassment includes the use of sexual language or suggestive photos displayed in the workplace. The conduct at issue is not just words of sexual connotation but include actions that create an oppressive and intolerable environment.
- Age-based workplace hostility, where age becomes a focus of intimidating and condescending behavior.
- Disability-focused intimidation where an employee’s disability status becomes the focus of coercive or frightening behavior.
Administrative Proceedings Against Hostile Work Environments in Pennsylvania
A hostile work environment is considered a type of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951-963, prohibits hostile work environments at the state level. Both federal and state laws require employees to file administrative proceedings with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and exhaust the remedies provided under these agencies before filing a lawsuit in civil court. The EEOC claims can run concurrently with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) complaints. Therefore, you don’t have to file separate claims with each agency.
The agencies will investigate and inform you of their decision in writing. If you receive a “right to sue” letter, it means your claim was determined to be well-founded, and you have a right to proceed to file a lawsuit in federal or state court. An attorney can explain this to you at greater length and help you determine which avenue best fits your circumstances—the state or federal agency, or both.
Deadlines for Penn State College Hostile Work Claims
The initial discrimination claims must be filed at the EEOC or the PHRC within 180 days from the date of the discrimination. If there is no response to your claim after a reasonable investigation period, you should ask the PHRC or the EEOC for a “right to sue” letter so you can file the complaint in state or federal court. If you never received a letter and your claim has remained open for over one year, you should discuss with your attorney whether the next step should be to proceed to file a lawsuit in court.
Even if you didn’t have an attorney yet when you filed a claim with the PHRC or EEOC, once you receive your right to sue letter, an attorney should draft the complaint. There are different deadlines depending on where you decide to file the lawsuit. You only have 90 days to file a complaint in federal court after you receive the right to sue letter from the EEOC. However, you have two years to file a complaint in Pennsylvania state court if you receive a right to sue letter from the PHRC.
Identifying a Hostile Work Environment
The legal analysis of a hostile work environment seems complicated because the hostile environment framework has a high threshold. The proof must show a severe or pervasive pattern of hostility in the work environment, rather than a single act of retaliation. Also, a civil lawsuit for a hostile environment must establish that the conduct was:
- Severe or pervasive
- Based on a prohibited basis related to race, age, gender, sexual orientation, ADA status, and other constitutionally protected factors
An attorney can explain the four elements above in greater detail as they pertain to your circumstances.
Solid Penn State Legal Representation Against Hostile Workplace Environments
Anyone who is experiencing a hostile work environment should take a step forward to put an end to this oppressive behavior. As your emotional scars intensify, the impact of the hostile workplace can affect many aspects of your life. Attorney Andrew Shubin understands how difficult life can be when you are withstanding hostility daily. The team of attorneys working at the law offices of Andrew Shubin will fight against unconstitutional discrimination in any hostile workplace. Call us at (814) 826-3586 to schedule a consultation.