Did you know that there are roughly 100,000 reported workplace harassment lawsuits per year? These lawsuits make up a portion of the many legal issues that can appear in the workplace.
For employers, it can prove difficult to create a healthy and safe work environment. How can you avoid a hostile work environment lawsuit while your company grows?
If you’re curious about how to encourage a healthy workplace culture and avoid lawsuits, we’re here to help. Read on to learn more about hostile work environment lawsuits and how to avoid them. We’ll also look at some ways you can build a healthy and diverse workplace.
What Is a Hostile Work Environment Lawsuit?
To begin, it’s important to know what a hostile work environment lawsuit is. Some employers confuse these with lawsuits related to injuries or workers’ compensation.
Legally speaking, a hostile work environment is one wherein harassment is so significant that it changes the working conditions. Having bad management or an incompetent coworker isn’t necessarily hostile. While issues like a bad boss, rude coworkers, or poor equipment make an unenjoyable workplace, it won’t always legally classify.
A work environment becomes hostile during a variety of issues. For example, your boss may function in a way that makes your job impossible. These actions often include harsh language, discriminatory actions, and more.
Here are more factors that can create a hostile work environment:
People sharing pornographic or “not safe for work” images and videos during work hours
- Coworkers harassing you during or outside of work hours
- People using derogatory names and terms, particularly slurs
- Bosses targeting you for your age, religion, race, gender, body, and more
- Coworkers being sexually explicit in words or actions
A hostile work environment lawsuit often involves emotional distress or strain. Most often, discrimination, sexual harassment, or verbal abuse are the main factors.
How to Avoid a Hostile Work Environment Lawsuit
Now that we better understand what makes a hostile work environment, how can we avoid these workplaces?
It’s easy to simply say “Create a healthy work environment,” but this isn’t an easy task. Here are some of the most important qualities to highlight while creating a positive work environment.
The first step in any healthy workplace is to encourage diversity.
When a workforce is made up of a single demographic, many issues will arise amongst the team. Studies show that workplaces that lack diversity suffer from communication issues, mistrust, and unintended offenses.
The team can also alienate people of color or from different backgrounds and cultures. As a result, your company will suffer as it misses these qualified and skilled workers.
A diverse workplace features people of different skills, insights, understanding, and more. Some of the many benefits include, but are not limited to:
- Variety of different perspectives for input
- Greater problem-solving
- More informed decision making
- Greater employee engagement and socialization
- Reduced turnover rate for employees
- Stronger creativity amongst the team
- Better highering rates
One of the best benefits is the improved company image. Your company’s brand will grow as one dedicated to promoting diversity and being socially responsible. Most consumers are drawn by socially-conscious companies and workplaces, making this an excellent boon.
To grow a diverse workplace, do your best to hire people of different backgrounds. Focusing on diversity recruiting will give you a healthy, varied workplace. Diversity isn’t solely race or gender, though these are factors to consider.
Ensure that your focus is also on age, ethnicity, income, and sexuality. These will help ensure people from all walks of life are in your workplace.
Another core factor in avoiding a hostile work environment is strong management. Your managers are the leaders of your team and someone that most employees will report to. As such, they have an immense effect on your team.
A toxic manager can quickly grow resentment among your employees. Employees may disregard the manager’s input, avoid reporting to them, or feel hesitant to talk to them.
These issues can overtake your workplace culture with negative feelings and hostility. If the manager is rude or unpleasant, your whole team will need to deal with these issues.
You should ensure your managers are the most qualified people on your team. Qualifications aren’t only technical skills – people skills are critical as well.
Hold quarterly discussions with your managers to see how they’re handling their team. Additionally, discuss the work environment with employees when possible. Giving your employees an avenue of communication will help them feel heard and cared for.
It’s vital that employees have a way to anonymously give feedback to management and coworkers. Many employees will hesitate to speak negatively if their name is attached out of fear of backlash.
Furthermore, you should never punish an employee for voicing concerns about a manager. Protecting toxic managers against concerned employees will poison your workplace. Doing so is a quick way to find yourself dealing with a hostile work environment lawsuit.
Build a Healthy Work Culture
Finally, you should encourage a healthy work-life balance.
Many employees find themselves burnt out by overwhelming tasks, smothering hours, and more. You should do your best to not bury your employees in work.
For example, many hourly employees will feel exhausted from multiple double shifts, especially consecutively. However, some may prefer these shifts so that they can earn more.
Some salaried employees may feel that they never get time away from work. They may not have enough time to get their tasks done during work hours, needing to complete them out of work. As such, the line between work and leisure blurs.
Do your best to help build an environment where employees aren’t consumed by their responsibilities. The manner of doing so depends on the specifics of your workplace. Get creative and rely on employee feedback to find ways.
Making a Positive Work Environment
Avoiding a hostile work environment lawsuit is easier with a healthy, balanced work environment. Do your best to encourage a diverse workplace and a positive work environment that employees don’t dread. Build teams with qualified and strong managers while growing a healthy workplace culture.
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