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Hostile Work Environment

What rights do you have when you believe that you are being subjected to a “hostile work environment?” “Hostile work environment” protections arise under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and other anti-discrimination laws. Union advocates and members need to know and understand the concept of a “hostile work environment” claim. The phrase “hostile work environment” has made its way into the vocabulary of the workforce, but the concept is easily misunderstood and misused. If you file a claim alleging a “hostile work environment” without fully understanding the concept, your claim may be unsuccessful. Understanding the basic concepts of a “hostile work environment” claim will help you avoid any pitfalls.

A “hostile work environment” is a type of harassment, resulting from speech or conduct that is:

  • “severe or pervasive” enough to
  • create a “hostile or abusive work environment”
  • based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, or, in some jurisdictions, sexual orientation, political affiliation, citizenship status, marital status, or personal appearance,
  • for the plaintiff and for a reasonable person.

What this means is that the harassment must be severe or pervasive. It is usually not enough to have a single instance of offensive behavior. The harassment must be based on a protected category such as race, sex, religion, etc. It is not enough that there is a personal dislike involved or even a mistreatment based on a non-protected category, such as being a Yankees or a Red Sox fan.

Finally, the harassment must meet a “reasonable person” standard. Would a reasonable person, as defined by the EEOC and the courts, find the speech or conduct to be severe or pervasive enough to constitute a hostile work environment?

Remember that if you are discriminated against based on your union activity, that may constitute an Unfair Labor Practice under the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Act, a separate law.

Acts of hostility or harassment that do not meet the strict “hostile work environment” standard may be actionable under the FAA’s Accountability Board.

Before you file a hostile work environment claim, check with your Facility Representative, EEO counselor, or your NATCA LR representative for further assistance.

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