Is it a hostile work environment when a supervisor continually makes derogatory comments about your intelligence to other employees who are not supervisors?

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Is it a hostile work environment when a supervisor continually makes derogatory comments about your intelligence to other employees who are not supervisors?

I work for a collections firm who has a supervisor who makes derogatory comments about peoples intelligence to another employee who is not a supervisor. She makes rude comments and insults ( I overheard her say in reference to another employee, “I wish they had hired someone with a half a brain” or to me she made the comment, “Where haven’t you worked at girl? The Bunny Ranch?” (a reference to a strip club). I have brought this to the attention of her superiors and nothing has been done about it.

Asked on February 12, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Alaska

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

"Hostile" does not necessarily mean "illegal." Employers are allowed to insult, harass, denigrate, demean, belittle, etc. their employees, as long as they are not doing so on the basis of a protected characteristic. Under federal law, for example, it is illegal to harass or discriminate against an employee on the basis of his or her race, sex, religion, disability, or age over 40.  If you feel you have been harassed on one or more of those bases, you may have a legal claim, and should consult with an employment law attorney to evaluate your rights and recourse.


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