Fred Geonetta
By: Fred Geonetta

In all fifty states, employers who tolerate hostile work environments are violating state and federal law. If an employer allows you to work in a hostile environment in the San Francisco Bay Area, discuss the matter promptly with a San Francisco employment rights lawyer.

What is a hostile working environment? If you’re employed in this type of work environment, how can you stop the hostility? Can you recover monetary compensation from an employer who creates or tolerates a hostile work environment?

Keep reading for the answers you may need, but if you’re being victimized personally by working in a hostile environment, get in touch immediately with a San Francisco hostile work environment attorney to begin stopping the hostility where you work.

How is a Hostile Work Environment Defined?

State and federal employment laws protect your legal right to work in an environment where hostility, harassment, and discrimination are not practiced or tolerated. However, under the law, a hostile work environment is more serious than a boss who’s grouchy or a coworker who’s loud.

To constitute a hostile work environment, one or several of the supervisors, managers, or foremen at your workplace must be consistently acting or speaking in a way that makes it exceedingly difficult to do your work.

Furthermore, the behavior and speech must violate an average, reasonable person’s beliefs about what constitutes a productive and professional working environment. The behavior and speech must be continuing and ongoing in a way that establishes a pattern of hostility.

A single slur or explicit joke does not constitute a hostile work environment, but if a boss or a coworker consistently treats you with hostility due to your race, age, gender, or religion, or if someone shares vulgar jokes or explicit images, he or she is perpetuating a hostile environment.

What Can You Do to Stop the Hostility?

Your first effort to stop hostility at your workplace should simply be directly and politely asking the bosses or coworkers who create the hostility to stop it. If there’s a procedure for reporting harassment or discrimination, report it.

You are legally required to take all available internal, “administrative” measures before a state or federal court will consider your claim.

If nothing changes at your workplace after you’ve taken all of the appropriate steps, a San Francisco hostile work environment attorney will provide the advice, insights, and legal services you may need.

Your attorney will examine your claim, compile evidence on your behalf, possibly speak with witnesses, and negotiate privately for the justice you need. If an out-of-court settlement with the employer isn’t possible, a lawyer will take your case to court and hold the employer accountable.

What Will It Take to Prevail Against an Employer?

If you file a claim against a California employer, conveying the truth about a hostile working environment to the judge and jurors may be challenging. You must be aggressively represented by a San Francisco employment rights lawyer.

To prevail in court with a hostile work environment claim, your lawyer must show that you were subject to offensive and unwelcome behavior and speech so severe or pervasive that it impaired your work and violated an average, reasonable individual’s expectations for a work environment.

Additionally, your employment rights attorney also must show that the hostility at your workplace was illegal – that it was discriminatory or that it constituted harassment on the basis of a trait protected by law – for example, your age, race, gender, or religion.

Can You Be Compensated for Emotional Distress?

If your employer has created or tolerated a hostile working environment, you may sue that employer for any emotional distress you suffered as a result of that hostility.

Emotional distress surfaces in a number of ways. You may have difficulty sleeping, lose your appetite, gain or lose considerable weight, or experience a number of other symptoms. Many who suffer from workplace-related emotional distress require extensive counseling.

If your employer created or tolerated a hostile working environment that caused you to suffer emotional distress, your employment rights attorney may advise you to file a lawsuit based on emotional distress.

What Else Will Your Attorney Do to Help You?

Your California employment rights lawyer will explain your rights and determine if you have grounds to take legal action against your employer. Your attorney will answer your questions about filing a lawsuit, the possible outcomes of a lawsuit, and whether you may be compensated.

If you proceed with a lawsuit, your lawyer will determine if previous discrimination or harassment claims have been filed against your employer. If the hostile environment you were exposed to was only one part of a general pattern, it’s evidence that will strengthen your claim.

Your employment rights lawyer will negotiate for a fair and just settlement amount, and if it’s necessary, your lawyer will take your case to court and ask a trial jury for the compensation – as well as the justice – you deserve.

How Can You Help Your Own Case?

You can help your attorney if you can find witnesses who will confirm that you’ve been treated with hostility where you work. These witnesses may include one or more coworkers who have seen the hostile behavior or speech.

Make hard copies of any hostile, harassing, or discriminatory emails, texts, or memos you may have received. Whether your case is settled privately or in court, documents and testimony from witnesses may make the difference.

Having the right attorney can also make the difference. Your employment rights lawyer should be thoroughly experienced and familiar with federal and state employment laws – a lawyer who has represented scores of California clients in hostile work environment cases.

What Else Should You Know About Taking Legal Action?

The State of California does not impose a cap on damages in workplace-related civil trials. Except for medical malpractice claims, any compensation amount that is considered fair and reasonable by a civil jury may be ordered by that jury.

You may be compensated for lost back pay and emotional distress. When an employer’s behavior was egregious, punitive damages may also be ordered – damages that are awarded to deter employers from creating or tolerating a hostile environment again in the future.

Employment rights attorneys in California work on a contingent fee basis. If you bring a claim against an employer, you do not owe your lawyer a fee until (or unless) you are compensated with an out-of-court settlement or a jury verdict.

Your first legal consultation is also provided with no cost or obligation, so it will cost nothing to learn more about your rights and how the law applies to your own case. If you are not being treated at work with basic human dignity, make the call to an employment rights lawyer today.

Fred Geonetta
By: Fred Geonetta

Frederick J. Geonetta is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law. His legal practice is entirely devoted to litigation. Mr. Geonetta has spent the past 25 years in private practice representing both plaintiffs and defendants who have been harmed or wronged by the actions of others or who have been falsely accused of causing harm to others. He represents clients across the U.S. and international clients who seek U.S. legal advice or representation.