A Bad Work Environment Isn’t Always a Hostile Work Environment

By Eric B. Meyer

Every so often, I get a call from an employee. The call goes something like this:

“I need an employment lawyer. Are you an employment lawyer?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Because I am dealing with a hostile work environment.”

“Well, I generally only represent employers. So—“

“— But, my hostile work environment is bad. My manager is so mean. He yells at me. He gives me lots of work. He’s terrible. Do I have a case?”

“How did you get my number?”

“I found it on the Internet.”

(*** curses Internet ***)

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NOT a hostile work environment

Folks, I’m right there with you. Mean bosses suck. And who likes having to do a lot of work, especially when you’re getting yelled at? But this is not what the law recognizes as a hostile work environment.

But don’t just take my word on it. Consider the Philadelphia-based U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s recent opinion in Fichter v. AMG Resources Corp. In this case, the employee cited 14 examples of what she believed created a hostile work environment, ranging from her male manager asking that she finish her work quickly and being required to tell her male manager if she would be arriving to work late or leaving early.

In denying the plaintiff’s claim for hostile work environment (based on gender), the Third Circuit underscored what the manager was asking of Ms. Fichter is what managers generally ask of their employees. So nothing here amounted to a Title VII violation.

Title VII doesn’t guarantee a perfect working environment. But, calls like the one above suggest that, while your workplace may not violate discrimination laws, there could be some problems worth addressing. As evidenced by the Fichter case, some lawyers don’t have the same filters that I do.

And, last time I checked, it’ll cost you money to defend a discrimination lawsuit — even if it’s meritless.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.

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1 Comment on “A Bad Work Environment Isn’t Always a Hostile Work Environment

  1. If I had $5.00 for every time a team member came to me to complain about a hostile work environment, when it was nothing of the sort, I could be retired. Good topic!

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