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Oct16

Hostile Workplace

We were informed by an employee that someone had urinated on their property, and that their property had been repeatedly removed from their work area. Nothing was done. No investigation or plan was put in action to stop this from occurring. It was reported to the direct supervisor and general manager. We terminated that employee for another cause. He is now saying that he reported an assault in the workplace and that nobody responded to it in any way. It is basically a he said she said situation. Could we be liable in any way? Thank you.

An employee reporting that his belongings were stolen and urinated on while at work warrants an investigation. The employer failing to investigate the matter and put a stop to the behavior essentially allowed the inappropriate conduct to continue.

A hostile work environment is created when unwelcome conduct is so severe or pervasive that it alters the conditions of one’s employment and creates an uncomfortable and abusive working environment. Hostility in the workplace becomes unlawful when the behavior or actions are discriminatory in nature. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency responsible for enforcing laws prohibiting employment discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, color, sex (including pregnancy), religion, national origin, age (40 and over), physical or mental disability, and genetic information.

Thus, if the employee was targeted due to a protected characteristic and the employer failed to resolve the matter then a hostile work environment may have existed and the employer may be liable.

In the future, it’s important to investigate matters relating to an employee feeling uncomfortable and/or abused in the workplace. Allowing inappropriate behavior to continue, even if it’s not unlawful discrimination, is unethical, shows poor judgment and affects employee morale; ultimately affecting business operations.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 16th, 2014 at 12:00 pm and is filed under
Human Resources Management, Labor Laws.
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