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Examples of an unlawful hostile work environment and harassment

A hostile work environment can make it very difficult for a person to perform his or her job responsibilities. Furthermore, in the most serious of cases, an employee may think about quitting one's job as a means of finding relief.

You need to realize that there is a big difference between a unlawful hostile work environment and basics teasing. In other words, just because somebody takes a "jab" at another person, it does not necessarily mean there is a hostile environment.

Here are some of the many examples of behavior that can be considered unlawful:

-- Discussing sexual activity

-- Unnecessary touching

-- Commenting on the way a person is dressed or his or her physical attributes

-- Using crude language

-- Displaying racially insensitive images

-- Sabotaging another person's work to make him or her look bad

-- Using inappropriate or demeaning terms

-- Threatening another worker with violence

-- Engaging in any type of hostile physical conduct

If individuals feel they are working in an unlawful and hostile work environment, it is important to learn more about the way the company deals with such a situation. This information can typically be found in the employee handbook. It is also possible to learn more by discussing the situation with a supervisor or HR department professional.

There is never a good reason for a hostile work environment or workplace harassment. Any employee can become a victim, so it is essential to know your rights, how to pinpoint such behavior, and what to do if you are put in this position.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "What do I need to know about... WORKPLACE HARASSMENT," accessed Aug. 12, 2015

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