Last week we discussed Texas employers’ responsibilities after an employee reports discrimination, including instances involving hostile work environments. Here, we take a closer look at what constitutes a hostile work environment.
Under state and federal civil rights laws, Texas employers are prohibited from engaging in discrimination based on an employee’s sex, race, religion, national origin, age, disability, or pregnancy. Harassment is among the conduct that is prohibited under the anti-discrimination laws. Further, sexual harassment can include a wide range of offensive conduct. A few common examples of harassment are:
- offensive jokes
- slurs or disrespectful language
- epithets or name-calling
- physical assaults or threats
- distribution of offensive pictures or harassment
- insults or put-downs
- ridicule or mockery
Harassment is unlawful when 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment; or 2) the harassment is so severe or pervasive that it creates a work environment that a reasonable person would consider to be intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Importantly, hostile work environment claims and other Texas harassment claims do not require an employee to have suffered any adverse employment outcome, such as being demoted or fired. This means that being subjected to harassment is enough to establish a case against an employer.
Significantly, an employee may be the victim of harassment even if the employee is not the target of the harassment: For example, if he or she is offended by the offensive conduct and it interferes with his or her ability to work. Additionally, harassment can come from either a supervisor or fellow employee. In either case, harassment is impermissible and should be stopped immediately.
In situations where a supervisor is responsible for the harassment, the employer is presumed to be liable for the supervisor’s conduct. An employer can also be liable for harassment conducted by co-workers, who often are responsible for a significant portion of workplace harassment.
Have You Been Subjected to Harassment?
If you are routinely subjected to a hostile work environment at your job, contact our office to learn more about how our committed team of attorneys can help you. You can call us at 214-528-6500 to schedule a consultation or reach us online at robwiley.com.