Federal law protects Texas workers from having to endure a hostile work environment. Antidiscrimination laws make it clear that taunts, insults and name-calling based on things like sex, race, religion and national origin can make it difficult for employees to function in the workplace. As a result, a worker can take action against an employer for encouraging or even just permitting these conditions.
One question that some employers and workers may have is how a hostile work environment can be defined. For example, does there have to be a long-standing pattern of harassment, or can an employee take action after one particularly egregious incident?
A recent court filing addressed this issue. Two African-American workers filed a complaint regarding an incident of abusive, racially charged language that was used in their workplace. After filing a complaint with their supervisor, the two workers were fired without explanation.
A lower court chose to dismiss the harassment claims due to the fact that the incident happened only once and was not pervasive. However, a higher court ruled in favor of the fired workers on the grounds that the incident in question was serious enough to create a hostile workplace.
The consequences of this ruling may have a significant effect on workplace culture. Employers may be held liable for even one-time situations that may be deeply offensive, threatening or traumatizing to employees.
Workers that believe that they have been victims of workplace discrimination may benefit from speaking with an experienced employment law attorney. A lawyer may be able to review his or her client's case and make recommendations regarding possible strategies, including reporting the incident or incidents to government agencies or seeking compensation via litigation.