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Salem Employment Law Blog

A miserable job is not necessarily a hostile environment

Movies and TV shows often make fun of workplaces in which a boss or employees behave incompetently or inappropriately. While such situations make for hilarious entertainment, if you are working in such an environment, it might be anything but funny.

If you work with people who are difficult to get along with, have bad personal hygiene or have annoying habits, you may hate your job. You may even consider your workplace hostile. However, can you take legal action? There are certain factors that must exist for a workplace to legally be a hostile environment.

Have you become a victim of retaliation at work?

You deserve a workplace free from harassment and discrimination. Oregon and federal laws aim to protect you from these circumstances, but this assumes that your employer complies with them.

When an employer fails to follow these laws, a hostile work environment fraught with inappropriate, and often illegal, behaviors from co-workers, supervisors or managers could exist. If you complain about these behaviors or reject advances, you could find yourself a victim of retaliation, which also violates existing employment laws.

Fighting for your rights in the workplace after age 40

You may accept the number of candles on your birthday cake with grace and humor. After all, growing older is one of those facts of life you can't change, so keeping a good attitude is important. However, you may grow weary of the subtle comments about your age from co-workers.

Perhaps your younger colleagues assume you are not tech savvy because you are over 40. Maybe they never miss an opportunity to point out your graying hair or to make joking references about TV ads for products marketed to senior citizens. While you try to be a good sport about the jokes, it may be no laughing matter if your employer discriminates against you because of your age.

Was your job termination legal?

Whether it came out of the blue or you have felt something brewing for months, the day your manager fired you was likely one of the most stressful days you have gone through. Despite the humiliation of clearing out your desk, the main thing you focused on was the overwhelming worry about how you would pay your bills and provide for your family.

Your employer may have given you reasons or excuses for your termination, and Oregon follows most states that have "at will" employment. This means your boss usually does not need a reason to let you go. However, something about the situation is nagging at you. Was your employer within his or her rights to fire you? How can you tell if you lost your job unfairly?

Your religion could be the reason for your mistreatment at work

All Oregon workers have the right to a workplace that is free from harassment and discrimination of any kind. Unfortunately, not all employers and co-workers acknowledge these rights, and you may experience mistreatment from those who employ you or work with you. Religion is a common reason for discrimination and harassment. 

You may not be sure that what you are experiencing qualifies as religious discrimination. It may be helpful for you to learn more about what qualifies as discriminatory treatment and how you can protect your rights. If you are a victim, you have the right to fight back and hold your employer accountable for a hostile work environment.

Are you a victim of workplace mobbing?

It seems that news outlets are reporting on cases of bullying more and more often. Of course, when these stories break, they typically involve a school-aged child suffering due to the malicious actions of his or her peers. However, bullying does not just affect kids and does not only happen in schools.

As an adult who performs well at your job, you may have experienced bullying in the workplace. Though the actions may make you uncomfortable -- and possibly even frightened --, you may think that you simply have to put up with the mistreatment from your co-workers. However, their actions may constitute harassment, and if your employer does not make efforts to put a stop to those actions, you may have reason to file a lawsuit.

What does your pregnancy mean for your employment rights?

If you are pregnant, you understand this will affect many areas of your life, but you may not expect a potentially negative impact on your career. Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination is a real issue for many Oregon women. If you are experiencing unlawful treatment from your employer as a result of your pregnancy, you have options.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to the Civil Rights Act, making it illegal for an employer to discriminate against a woman for pregnancy, childbirth and other medical issues that relate to pregnancy. Employers who violate this law may be subject to legal action. As a victim, you could have grounds to move forward with a civil claim.

What are reasonable accommodations for a disability?

If you are looking for work in Oregon, you do not have to disclose your disability during the hiring process, and you may prefer to keep it to yourself if you are able. After all, you have likely had experiences where people make unfair judgements or discriminate against you when they learn of your medical issue. On the other hand, your disability may be obvious, for example, if you use a wheelchair or have a visual impairment.

Even if you are well qualified for a position you are seeking, you may worry that your future employer will be unwilling to make the accommodations you require to do the job successfully. It is important to understand your rights and protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Did your boss ask you for a "favor" in exchange for something?

It used to be fairly commonplace to hear stories of a woman's boss wanting sexual favors in exchange for something such as a promotion or a raise. Hollywood starlets believed the "casting couch" was just the way directors and producers handed out parts in movies. Then, just as it is now, this behavior is quid pro quo sexual harassment. The Latin translates to "something for something." In the workplace, this has most often meant sex for [insert what you want here].

Now, in a society in which men and women are on more equal footing than in the past, it may be a female boss requesting sexual favors from a male employee. In fact, the parties involved don't even have to be of the opposite sex. No matter whom the parties involved are, this form of sexual harassment violates federal and Oregon laws regarding sexual harassment.

Protecting whistleblowers from retaliation

There may come a time when you need to report your employer for certain types of inappropriate activities. This is called whistleblowing, and it can have various financial and legal repercussions.

Employees are often afraid to speak out over fear of retaliation, like losing their jobs and perhaps legal action. However, if you believe you have grounds to report your employer, supervisor or another individual for wrongdoing, the law is on your side. As a whistleblower, you have certain rights.

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