Showing posts from October, 2013

What Constitutes a Hostile Work Environment

There is probably no more misused term or misunderstood concept in most workforces than "hostile environment".  For a whole generation of workers this term has become synonymous with harsh supervisors or rude co-workers. Legally that is just dead wrong.  Often complaints come in to HR departments using the "hostile environment" term as a hot-button to spur action against the offending supervisor or co-worker. It is the hollow "gotcha" of employee complaints. So here's the problem: there is no law against being an awful boss or a toxic co-worker unless the harassing behavior is based upon some protected class status.   A friend of mine is a great labor lawyer in Nashville who coined "The SOB Defense"  which goes something like this: "Yes, Your Honor, my client is a Son of a young, old, black, white, male, female, Jew, Gentile, and everyone in between." In other words, as long as you are a jerk to everybody then being a j