Can I Sue for Hostile Work Environment if I Work from Home?

shutterstock_1104919763-300x200A work from home (WFH) schedule offers many benefits to employees. You’re spending less money and aren’t stressing out from a long commute and can go to work without ever leaving the comfort and convenience of your home. But at the same time, this more laid-back atmosphere may lead to situations that are ripe for illegal harassment. Even without being physically at the worksite, you’re still subject to some of the same challenges that you can encounter in the physical workplace.

A remote setting can’t negate a hostile work environment although it may change the number of claims arising in the workplace and the way that the harassment occurs. It’s very early to say how the increase in WFH workers will impact instances of hostile workplaces. However, when there isn’t a centralized worksite, people are less connected and fell less accountable for their conduct. It’s possible to be a victim of a hostile work environment even as a WFH employee, and it’s possible to sue your employer if you have a valid claim.

What is Considered a Hostile Work Environment?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a hostile work environment exists when there is pervasively or severely offensive conduct based on sex, race, religion, national origin, disability, or another legally protected status occurring in the workplace. This means that the objectionable behavior (if it’s of the less severe variety) either occurs frequently or it’s so severe and egregious that it can occur only once and can constitute a hostile workplace because the environment is intimidating or offensive to a reasonable person.

 What is Considered a Hostile WFH workplace?

Remote workers may no longer have face-to-face interactions, but may experience mistreatment via digital means, such as chat, text, or video applications. This can occur in various ways, but some of the more common examples making offensive jokes in chats or emails, using racial or sexual innuendo in messages or forums, or distributing inappropriate photos, gifs, or memes based on protected characteristics. Another instance could include subjected an employee to ridicule by tampering with their profile pictures.

Proving a Claim

The standard for proving a hostile workplace claim is the same whether it’s an onsite workplace or a remote site. An employee must show that they believed that the work environment was hostile and that a reasonable person would feel threatened or abused by the offensive behavior. Additionally, they will show that this affected their work performance. Hostile environment evidence is typically based on conflicting accounts of what was said or what was done. That’s why it’s important to document as much as you can. Since most WFH claims would be based on electronic interactions, the likelihood of obtaining proof through screenshots or recordings is high.

Discuss your Hostile Workplace Claim with Employment Law Firm Walton Law

If you believe that you’ve experienced hostile workplace harassment, then your first step could be to immediately put your employer on notice and document all of the incidents for the record. You should consult with counsel familiar with employment issues like an experienced Walton Law attorney who can help you evaluate the strength of your claim. Contact us today.

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