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Hostile Work Environment Explained

on September 22, 2008 6:42 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
 What is a hostile work environment? A work environment may be found to be "hostile" when managers or co-workers are engaging in any discriminatory behavior (i.e., behavior based solely on race, sex, religion, national origin, physical disability and age intimidation) or intentional ridicule and insult which is sufficiently severe or pervasive enough to alter the complaining worker's conditions of employment and which create a real "abusive working relationship." The harassment must be abusive objectively, as oppose to subjectively; and the injured worker who files the complaint also must experience it as abusive. "Hurt feelings" are not necessarily the same as experiencing objective "abuse in the workplace."

Factors that competent federal and state courts may use to determine whether or not the workplace environment is sufficiently hostile to justify bringing a hostile environment lawsuit will include some or all of the following facts:

  • The frequency of the challenged conduct
  • The severity of the challenged conduct
  • Whether the challenged conduct is physical, verbal or both
  • Whether the challenged conduct unreasonably interferes with a worker's job performance
  • The effects that the challenged conduct has on the worker(s) or victims.

Contact our attorneys for a more detailed explanation of what is a hostile work environment or for an evaluation of your own potential hostile work environment case.

Claims of employment discrimination are evaluated under the burden shifting analysis set forth in Ford v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Connecticut, Inc., 216 Conn. 40, 53-54, 578 A.2d 1054 (1990). See Mele v. Hartford, supra, 270 Conn. at 766, 855 A.2d 196. "Section 31-290(a) prohibits an employer from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee because the employee had filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits or otherwise exercised her rights under the act." Id., at 767, 855 A.2d 196. "The plaintiff bears the initial burden of proving by the preponderance of the evidence a prima facie case of discrimination.... In order to meet this burden, the plaintiff must present evidence that gives rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination.... If the plaintiff meets this initial burden, the burden then shifts to the defendant to rebut the presumption of discrimination by producing evidence of a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its actions.... If the defendant carries this burden of production, the presumption raised by the prima facie case is rebutted, and the factual inquiry proceeds to a new level of specificity.... The plaintiff then must satisfy her burden of persuading the factfinder that she was the victim of discrimination either directly by persuading the [fact finder] ... that a discriminatory reason more likely motivated the employer or indirectly by showing that the employer's proffered explanation is unworthy of credence." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., at 768, 855 A.2d 196. The plaintiff, however, bears the ultimate burden of proving that the defendant intentionally discriminated against her. Id., at 768-69, 855 A.2d 196.

For a further explanation on proving a connecticut employment discrimination case, contact our attorneys.

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