What Does It Take to File An EEOC Hostile Work Environment Claims?

Filing an EEOC hostile work environment claim may not be as easy as you think. In order to qualify as a legitimate claim it must meet the criteria set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This means that the claimant must fall into a protected class. Therefore, this means that many people that feel they are being unfairly treated and in some type of hostile work environment they probably are not.

So what is a protected class of employees? Title VII defines a protected class as race, religion, color, sex, and national origin. However, additional laws include age and disability. Some states include other classes such as sexual orientation.

When it comes to age the magic number is forty years old or over. However, simply being over forty does not mean that this allows you to file an EEOC hostile work environment claim. The harassment must pass the reasonable person test and be related to the employees age. The comments/harassment must be more than a simple one time comment making fun of some ones age. Perhaps a supervisor makes a onetime comment like “Come on Grandpa!” Although that comment is very inappropriate it would not fall into an actionable statement.

Sexual harassment and racial harassment are probably the most common types of hostile environment claims. Again, simply being female or a person of color does not meet the criteria. It requires the types of comments or employer actions that would cause a reasonable person to be intimidated or frightened. Perhaps an employer has allowed coworkers to continually badger an African American during breaks with jokes that pertain specifically to blacks.

Often claimants try to file EEOC hostile work environment claims that are merely an attempt to get even with an employer for correcting poor performance. On the other hand employers can be guilty of a hostile environment if they are singling out some in a protected class for poor performance. Employers must treat everyone fairly. So if you have corrected someone in a protected class for not making enough widgets you better be correcting anyone else for the same performance.

So see if you can make the right call on this potential EEOC hostile work environment claim.

A female sales person was recently hired for an interior design company. The company has national contracts and requires a lot of traveling. After just two months the female sales person’s supervisor, a male, tells her that they will be traveling together on the next trip. This didn’t seem like a problem until they arrived at the hotel and she discovered they he intended for them to stay in the same room. He told her not to worry that he is married and nothing was going to happen. Although she felt very uncomfortable she worried about losing her job even though he made not threats about her losing it if she didn’t stay in the same room. Once they were in the room the supervisor didn’t do anything; however, he did go shirtless and left the bathroom door open while taking showers. Does she have an EEOC hostile work environment claim?

This could be a tough one to call but it sure has the makings for a claim. A reasonable person would feel this is inappropriate no matter how much the company tried to claim it was an effort to save money. The actions of the supervisor in the room would lead a reasonable person to believe that he was subjecting the employee to unwelcomed behavior. Some of the problem is that the female could have elected to leave and/or pay for a room out of her own money. She may have a better case for sexual harassment.

Thank you and May God bless you!

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