Is this a 'hostile work environment'?

I work for an admitted 'born-again' christian, and I've got no problem with that. However, I've got a problem with some of the things he has said and done over the last few months. quick list:
1. when discussing the oscars with me in the office, stated that sean penn won best actor because of 'all the gays in hollywood. it's a disease.'- i have gay family and friends.
2. sent me an email with the following link: with the subject line of 'Watch this video'- i have muslim family and friends, he then walked by my desk a few minutes after sending it to me and stated 'be sure to listen to the audio too'
3. has told me how 'jews will burn in hell because they haven't accepted jesus christ as the savior. they'll learn when they're dead.'- you guessed it, i have jewish friends and family too.

it's getting to the point where I can't work for such a bigot who's trying to foist his twisted values on me. what can/should I do? aside from looking for another job, which I am presently doing.

1 answer  |  asked Feb 27, 2009 11:12 AM [EST]  |  applies to Ohio

Answers (1)

Neil Klingshirn
This may be a hostile environment

You may have a claim for a hostile work environment. At a minimum, you have the right to complain to the owner and ask that the comments stop.

A work environment is "hostile" if unlawful harassment is so severe or pervasive that it makes the working conditions intolerable. Harassment is unlawful if it is based on sex, race, religion or other protected class status. Sexual preference is not a protected class, therefore sexual preference harassment is not unlawful. Items 2 and 3 would fall into the category of unlawful religious harassment, however.

The fact that you are not in the protected class does not defeat your claim for harassment. Other people in the hostile environment can pursue claims, but they must prove that the hostility directed at others in fact makes their working conditions (and not just those of the targeted group) intolerable.

The factual question that appears from your situation is whether there is more harassment then the two unlawful incidents and, if not, whether the two are severe or pervasive enough to give rise to a law suit. Even if they are not, you have the right to object to the harassment without getting fired. In other words, if you complain about the owner's conduct and get fired for doing so, you should have a claim of retaliation against him.

posted by Neil Klingshirn  |  Feb 27, 2009 12:13 PM [EST]

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