Representing Employees In Discrimination And Harassment Litigation

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You Don’t Need To Tolerate A Hostile Work Environment

Every workplace has a culture, which consists of the behaviors, attitudes and beliefs of all workers and the ways in which they interact with one another. Some workplace cultures are healthy and productive. Others are toxic and destructive.

When a workplace culture is destructive and the harm is focused on a few workers or a group of workers, it often meets the definition of a hostile work environment, which is illegal. If you’ve been a victim of a hostile work environment, my firm may be able to help you correct the problem and/or seek financial restitution.

What Are The Signs Of A Hostile Work Environment?

Bad interpersonal relations, low morale or isolated incidents of inappropriate behavior don’t usually constitute a hostile work environment. Instead, the actions/words must typically be repetitive and aimed at individuals or a group belonging to the same protected class. Examples of a hostile work environment can include:

  • Sexual harassment (perpetrated by men or women against men or women)
  • Frequent use of racial slurs and intimidating acts against employees of a certain race (such as vandalizing personal property, putting nooses in someone’s locker, crude drawings, etc.)
  • Persistent unfair and unequal treatment of a certain group compared to others in the office
  • Unwanted physical contact and/or comments about a victim’s protected class (sexist jokes, racist jokes, disparaging older workers, unwelcome touching, etc.)
  • Frequent disparaging comments and actions regarding an employee’s religious practices, cultural dress/traditions, ethnic food choices, accent or anything else that sets them apart as ethnically “other”

What Are The Protected Classes?

Certain classes or characteristics are defined and protected under federal law, Colorado law or both. The following characteristics are protected classes under both state and federal law:

  • Race or color
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Gender (which includes related medical conditions like pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding)
  • Citizenship status
  • Disability or perceived disability
  • Genetic information
  • Age (for employees 40 and older)
  • Sexual orientation or gender identity (per a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling)

In addition to those cited above, Colorado law also prohibits discrimination or harassment based on:

  • Ancestry
  • A person’s AIDS/HIV status
  • Mental illness
  • Military status (including veterans)
  • A person’s lawful conduct outside of work
  • Marital status, including being in a civil union partnership

Actions that violate these protected classes can be reported federally to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or Colorado’s Civil Rights Division, depending on the circumstances.

Not Sure You Have A Case? Contact My Firm.

Wilbur Smith, P.C., is based in Boulder, and I proudly serve clients throughout the area. To discuss the details of your case and learn more about your legal options, contact my office to arrange your initial consultation. Simply call 720-805-1002 or fill out my online contact form.