Unsafe Working Environment
Paul Marcus, Private Investigator
6 September 2017
In a different article, I discussed how hiring the wrong person can lead to a negligent hiring lawsuit if the employee harms a customer.
If the employee harms someone within your company, however, this can lead to another type of lawsuit, normally known as a hostile environment lawsuit or something similar.
In order for an employee to file a hostile environment lawsuit and have it actually go through, they must prove that they told their employer about the problem but the employer didn’t do anything (or enough) about it.
As an employer, it’s important that, if such a complaint is brought to you, you know how to decide whether or not the complaint is legitimate. If it is, you’ll be able to conduct an investigation and take the appropriate action to ward off a lawsuit.
Behavior qualifies as creating a hostile environment according to law if it fits all of these criteria:
It Must Be Discriminatory
Discriminatory behavior is monitored by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discriminatory behavior is any behavior that discriminates a protected class, whether that’s religion, disability, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.
This is the category under which sexual harassment falls.
It Must Be All Around The Employee And Continue Over Time
In other words, one or two off-color jokes don’t count, though such jokes may still be something you want to put a stop to. In order for the behavior to be the foundation for a lawsuit, it must have continued over a significant period of time. The victim must have gone to the perpetrator, preferably with other witnesses, and asked him or her to stop the behavior, but with no positive result.
The Company Hasn’t Done Anything (Or Enough) To Stop It
It must be reasonable to assume that the employer knew about the behavior but did not conduct a sufficient investigation or do anything about the perpetrator.
Most companies consider behavior of this type to be reasonable grounds for firing. I’d suggest you move in that direction if you discover that one of your employees has been creating a hostile working environment. If you do nothing, you will liable for the damages.
It Must Interfere With Day-To-Day Work Or With Career Progress
The behavior must be significant enough to disrupt the victim’s ability to complete their work on nearly a daily basis. This same thing holds true if it keeps the victim from progressing in their career—if it keeps them from getting a promotion, for example.
This is the kind of situation you never want to deal with in your business, and yet they happen every day. The easiest way to guard against things like this is to make sure you never hire the kind of employees who would create hostile working environments. This requires screening a cut above the rest. At Marcus Background Investigations, we’ve got you covered.