While unlawful harassment may be based on any of the protected classes, sexual harassment is generally the most common type at issue in hostile work environments. Sexual harassment may involve offensive comments, gestures, pictures, jokes, or other materials regarding a person’s gender. While it often is sexual in nature, any comments or content that is discriminatory regarding a person’s gender or sexual orientation may constitute sexual harassment.
Not every offensive comment will rise to the level of harassment in the workplace. Instead, in most cases, the harassing behavior must create what an objective and reasonable employee would consider to be a hostile work environment. In determining whether a hostile work environment existed, a court will examine the specific circumstances of what occurred, so a hostile work environment will be identified on a case-by-case basis.
Generally speaking, there are two ways that conduct create a hostile work environment, including:
- The conduct is repeated and pervasive enough; or
- A one-time action is offensive enough in itself to be hostile.
An experienced employment attorney can review what happened and advise you whether you may have a viable legal claim. If you do, you can seek compensation for any income you lost due to the harassment, as well as damages for emotional distress and other related losses.