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Are You Working in a Hostile Work Environment?

If you are an Iowa worker who hates your job, it may be because you believe you are working in a hostile work environment. However, does your less than ideal workplace situation really rise to the level of a legally defined hostile work environment, particularly if you feel you are the victim of workplace sexual harassment?

FindLaw explains that workplace harassment based on race, religion, national origin or gender is forbidden by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Nevertheless, not all words, actions and/or events that take place in your workplace qualify as creating a hostile work environment.

Types and extent of the harassment

Offensive words in and of themselves seldom create a hostile work environment. Offensive acts must accompany them. In addition, you must be able to prove that any reasonable person, not just you, would have found the words to be offensive. If, however, you can prove that the offensive words were bad or vulgar enough that they constituted a verbal assault on you and caused you extreme embarrassment and humiliation at work, you may have a valid hostile workplace environment claim even if no acts accompanied the words.

Most state courts, including those in Iowa, answer the question of how much workplace harassment is too much on a case-by-case basis. Factors that help a judge and/or jury decide that you have a valid hostile workplace environment claim include the following:

  • The severity of the harassment
  • The length of time during which it occurred
  • Whether or not it physically threatened you
  • Whether or not it interfered with your work performance

This is general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice.