Nooses, “Whites Only” Graffiti, and the Hostile Work Environment

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Headlines about workplaces getting hostile might remind you of the classroom: boss bullying, unruly coworkers, and harassment. It’s all coming back, hitting hard in a way that’s unpleasant especially when facing the story of the General Motors plant dealing with racist threats, such as images of nooses on pieces of paper and graffiti laced with N-words and the term “WHITES ONLY” infecting the workforce. It’s not a pretty picture, but it needs to be addressed.

The Legal Implications of a Hostile Work Environment

You have a right to work in an environment that is not hostile to your wellbeing, but take note—the law actually defines what is considered a “hostile work environment.”

According to the law, a hostile work environment must involve communications or behaviors that would make it impossible for a worker to complete the job. This can involve both a boss and a coworker equally. Additionally there has to be some sort of discriminatory aspect involved, monitored by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC, created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964). It can be racial, gender-related; even sexual harassment applies to this fundamental law.

Knowing that, you can certainly be the judge to determine the recent development of the GM plant in Ohio facing a true hostile work environment via racial discrimination. After all, even a state law enforcement agency reviewed the case, stating that GM isn’t even accomplishing enough to rectify the issue.

As it stands, GM faces a pending lawsuit as a result given the underlying culture prevalent in that establishment: workers are essentially told to brush it off as it’s nothing but a light matter and nothing to worry about. They trivialize it and chalk it up to rivalry and perhaps trash talk between workers in a manufacturing plant. The issues get more and more severe as workers not only complain about messages in bathroom walls, but even derogatory comments meant to demoralize. But here’s the worst of it:

It literally ends up being the norm. It happens all the time. It therefore isn’t unusual or even serious. People ignore it, thinking tt doesn’t ‘hurt’ anybody. That’s when it can obviously get dangerous in the sense that more and more workers find it harder and harder to get their jobs done with that kind of harassment constantly occurring.

You Can Determine If You’re in a “Hostile Work Environment” Exists Based on a Couple of Factors:

One: are you being discriminated against enough that it’s affecting your work?

And two: is the company actually doing something about it?

If the answer’s positive for the first and negative for the second, you have an appropriate story to tell to any employment attorney about your situation, and you’re entitled to file a lawsuit that will set things right. Simply consult a qualified lawyer with your questions to find some peace of mind. No one deserves harassment, especially in the workplace.