What is Hostile Work Environment?

In general, workplace sexual harassment refers to two types of inappropriate behaviour:
1. Quid Pro Quo (literally means, “this for that”)
2. Hostile Work Environment

In this blog, lets talk about hostile work environment.

A hostile work environment is a workplace in which an employee experiences harassment, discrimination, or other unacceptable behavior that creates an intimidating, offensive, or oppressive atmosphere. This type of work environment can include:

– Verbal or physical harassment, such as teasing, mocking, or insulting remarks.

– Sexual harassment, including unwanted advances, sexual gestures or comments, and other forms of sexual misconduct.

– Discrimination, such as unequal treatment or denial of opportunities

– Retaliation, such as being fired, demoted, or subjected to other adverse actions in response to the employee reporting or resisting harassment or discrimination.

– A toxic workplace culture that supports or tolerates harassment, discrimination, or other abusive behavior.

Let us now look at some examples:

Example 1:

Asha works as a researcher at a media agency led by Dr. Purshottam, a famous journalist. At first, Dr. Purshottam was very happy with Asha’s work and praised her in front of others. Later, he started calling her to his office for work-related meetings but made sexual advances and comments towards her. When Asha refused his advances, he stopped and began to make fun of her work and embarrass her in front of others. He also started to discriminate against her by giving her projects and then taking them away.

The workplace mistreatment experienced by Asha is a direct result of her rejection of the unwelcome sexual advances made by Dr. Purshottam and this as an example of inappropriate behavior at hostile work environment.

Example 2:

Jayanthi works at a garment factory in Bangalore where her supervisor, Varghese, constantly touches her under false pretenses. For instance, he adjusts her dupatta while she’s working on the excuse of covering her back. Jayanthi feels very uncomfortable with his behavior, and her colleagues at the workplace make fun of her and spread rumors about her relationship with Varghese.
In this example, the physical touching by Varghese is unwelcome and sexual in nature. The gossip, which is based on Varghese’s behaviour towards Jayanthi at the workplace, is creating a hostile work environment for Jayanthi.

Example 3:

Sumedha is a Captain in the Indian Army. She declined an offer for a relationship from a senior officer. Although she remained quiet about the situation, the senior officer spread rumors that gave her a negative reputation. As a result, Sumedha has been facing repeated unwanted advances from three senior officers. When she spoke out against their behavior, she was subjected to extra physical training as punishment.

In thise example, Sumedha’s refusal to the sexual advances of her Senior Officer, leads to her being subjected to rumours, gossip, character assassination, unwelcome sexual advances by other officers, and arbitrary disciplinary action. Thus making the workplace environment hostile for her.

A hostile work environment can have serious consequences for the affected employees, including decreased job satisfaction, decreased productivity, and even physical and psychological harm. It is important for employers to take proactive steps to prevent and address hostile work environments in order to create a safe, healthy and respectful workplace for all employees.

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