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What defines a hostile work environment?

While you may hate your job, and dislike some of the people that you work with, that doesn't necessarily equate to a "hostile work environment." In fact, even if you are the victim of sexual harassment, but it is an isolated incident within your workplace, it may not mean that your place of employment is a hostile work environment.

Instead, the Federal Communications Commission defines a hostile work environment as harassment that unreasonably interferes with an employee's ability to perform his or her job, or when the harassment creates a work environment that is considered offensive, intimidating, or hostile. It must also be considered unwelcome and the harassment must be based on something about your color, religion, race, national origin, disability or genetic information, age (40 or older), or sex (which includes pregnancy).

In the case of sexual harassment, the Federal Communication Commission gives clear guidelines and examples of what may create what one would consider sexual hostile environment harassment. Examples of this could include staring or leering at someone in a sexually suggestive manner, touching an employee in a way that makes her or him feel uncomfortable, making lewd comments or telling sexual jokes, sending or soliciting sexually suggestive emails, letters, notes, or images, or making offensive remarks about an employee's clothing, looks, or body parts.

It is important to realize that sexual harassment is not gender specific. It does not matter whether you are male or female, nor whether the person creating the hostile environment is male or female. If you believe that you are or have been working in this kind of environment, you may find it beneficial to discuss your concerns with an experienced California attorney.

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