A hostile work environment exists when an employee experiences workplace harassment and fears going to work because of the offensive, intimidating, or oppressive atmosphere generated by the harasser.[1]

A hostile work environment may also be created when management acts in a manner designed to make an employee quit in retaliation for some action. For example, if an employee reported safety violations at work, was injured, attempted to join a union, or in some way caused trouble for the management, then their response might be to harass and pressure the employee to quit. Actions that could be taken in furtherance of this might include inappropriate disciplinary procedures, reduced hours or wages, unreasonable scheduling or workload or similar things. The company's behavior in lieu of termination avoids the need to pay unemployment benefits.

The anti-discrimination statutes governing hostile work environment are not a general civility code. Thus, federal law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not extremely serious. Rather, the conduct must be so objectively offensive as to alter the conditions of the individual's employment. The conditions of employment are altered only if the harassment culminates in a tangible employment action or are sufficiently severe or pervasive.

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