I Think My Iowa Work Environment is a Hostile Workplace. What Can I Do?

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Posted by Tom Foley

If you believe your place of employment has become a hostile work environment, you may be feeling demeaned, upset, or even angry. But what are your rights as a targeted employee in an Iowa workplace?

What is NOT Considered a Hostile Work Environment in Iowa?

Before we talk about what a hostile work environment is legally, let’s talk about what it is not.

Not every rude or inappropriate behavior that occurs in a workplace is legally considered a hostile work environment. For example, if a coworker keeps trying to guilt you into donating to another coworker’s baby shower, even if you repeatedly tell them no, that is not considered legal harassment or considered a hostile work environment.

Even what many people consider “bullying” at work is not necessarily considered a hostile work environment. Why not?

What is Legally Considered a Hostile Work Environment?

Because in order for a place of employment to be considered a hostile work environment, there are a few things that have to occur:

The harassment must be considered discriminatory toward a protected class of persons. This means that whoever is harassing you must be targeting you because of your:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Religion

The harassment must be repetitive, ongoing, and pervasive. If someone makes a single inappropriate comment or insult to you, that is not generally enough to be considered legal harassment. This inappropriate behavior must happen over an extended period of time and affect your ability to work.

The employer knew about the harassment and did not take reasonable steps to make the harassment stop. Iowa employers are required by law to make a reasonable effort to stop mistreatment once they know about it.

Keep a written record of each time you are harassed, and report it to your employer. If your employer does not take appropriate steps to stop this mistreatment, then you may be able to file a lawsuit.

Some examples of a hostile work environment can include:

  • Talking about sexually explicit acts or telling sexual jokes
  • Using racial slurs or other insensitive or offensive terms
  • Unwanted touching or gesturing
  • Inappropriate notes, emails, or phone calls

Should You Quit Your Job in a Hostile Work Environment?

A hostile work environment can drain your energy and affect your self-esteem. You may feel helpless in your current situation, and believe the only way to fix it is to quit your job.

First and foremost, you should care for yourself and your mental and physical health. However, we generally do not recommend that you quit your job unless you feel you have no other choice.

The reason for this is once you quit, you will no longer be able to gather evidence of this harassment. Your employer will likely delete emails, voicemails, and other hard evidence once you leave the company. This evidence can be crucial in an Iowa harassment case.

To keep your access to this information, you should stay at your job as long as you are able.

What You Should Do If You Believe You’re Being Bullied at Work in Iowa

The first thing you should do any time you are bullied at work is to ask the person or people harassing you to stop. One of the conditions of a successful harassment claim is to prove that the harassment was unwanted. Discourage the harassment in a firm manner and do not “stoop to their level” by calling names or insulting your bully.

If the bullying doesn’t stop, your next step is to take your complaint to a supervisor or your employer’s human resource department. As mentioned above, keeping a written record of each time the harassment occurs with details on what was said and who said it will be crucial to proving your case.

We also recommend reaching out to an experienced Iowa harassment lawyer sooner rather than later. An employment attorney can explain your rights and tell you what your next steps should be.

RSH Legal offers free, no-obligation case evaluations to Iowans being bullied or harassed at work. To schedule yours, call 1-800-433-0283 today.

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