What is needed to proceed with a case for a hostile workplace?

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What is needed to proceed with a case for a hostile workplace?

I’m 48 years old and worked for a non-profit organization. Recently, there was an organization restructuring and my position was eliminated, effective immediately;. However, I was still required to perform the same duties and had the same responsibilities for more than a month. Previously, there were situations where I believe the workplace was hostile, including personal attacks, ” You talk so much you make my head spin. You are like a car salesman. I can’t say no to you, etc.” Further, other individuals commented on how my program had difficulty with “team work,” and comments by HR that they didn’t think I supported change.

Asked on June 12, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, a "hostile workplace" doesn't really mean that you have a legal claim if your workplace (or co-workers, supervisors, etc.) are hostile, and the workplace can be incredibly unpleasant and hostile, and your co-workers can loathe you and let you know that, and that is perfectly legal.

Nor does it mean that simply because you are a member of a protected category (e.g. over 40) that the workplace cannot legally be hostile. All it means is that the workplace cannot be hostile to you *because* you are a member of a protected category. Therefore, you would have to show that the hostile treatment is directed at you because you are 48, and not because you are personally disliked--coworkers and managers are free to personally dislike anyone they choose--or because your colleagues are as$%&#es. Since none of the comments you describe seem to have any element of "agism" to them, it may be very difficult to make this showing. You need to have some factual or evidentiary basis tying the hostile comments or behavior to your membership in a protected category to make out a case.


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