What Constitutes A Hostile Work Environment

Legal Definitions And The Potential Consequences Of Background Checks


Most of us have, at some point in our lives, found ourselves in a situation that felt hostile to us. Perhaps we felt unwanted, unwelcomed, or even bullied. However, what feels hostile and what meets the legal definition of hostile can be two very different things.

Ideally, our work environment should be comfortable and welcoming. However, that is not always the case. As an employer, it is your responsibility to understand what constitutes a hostile work environment - especially as defined by hostile work environment laws—and foster a work environment which avoids such hostility. As an employee, it is your responsibility to understand your rights and support the creation of healthy workplace.

Many things can make the work environment feel hostile. You might have a bad boss, rude co-workers, or find yourself looked over for promotions and other opportunities. However, in order to meet the legal definition of a hostile work environment, there are certain criteria that must be met.

  • Harassment is taking place
  • The harassment has continued over a period of time
  • This harassment makes it excessively difficult or impossible to complete your job
  • OR the harassment is based on you falling under one or more protected statuses
    • Sex/gender/pregnancy
    • Disability
    • Age
    • Race
    • Ethnicity
    • Sexuality
    • Religion

Additionally, for action to be taken against the employer, they must have been made aware of the harassment and chose not to act or they must be the instigator of the harassment.

Background checks, including those for employee driving records, have the potential to create a hostile work environment in both legal and colloquial terms. When a background check is conducted, a variety of information can be revealed depending on the type of check conducted, including medical history, political affiliations, and religious beliefs. You could be hired despite your employer finding something in your history they do not like and then find yourself harassed for these things. If your employer decides to run a new or more extensive background check after hiring, something new could be revealed which leads to harassment. It is important that employers maintain impartiality when it comes to sensitive items revealed on background checks and that they keep this information confidential.

While an employer might not be legally responsible for harassment which does not meet the legal definition of a hostile work environment, they should still strive to foster the healthiest work environment possible. This can be done by developing a sense of openness and security in your relationship with your employees, creating a collaborative work environment, and relying more on a results oriented work environment than one fueled by competition.

Take the time to learn more about the potential legal ramifications of harassment specifically related to background checks today by going to www.4safedrivers.com. Their expert staff can help you.

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