Many of us endured some kind of bullying during our school years. We assumed that when we grew up and joined the workforce, people would behave like adults. Sadly, that's not always the case. We often had to put up with it in school because we had nowhere else to go. Likewise, employees sometimes feel that they have to endure hostile behavior in the workplace if they want to keep their job. However, you may have legal rights and options if your employer does nothing to stop the behavior, particularly if it is determined to create a "hostile work environment." A number of federal as well as state laws offer protection against such behavior. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Many actions that contribute to a hostile work environment involve discriminatory or harassing behavior towards people because of characteristics that are protected under the law. These may include negative comments, depictions, gestures and other actions relating to a person's: -- Race, ethnicity, ancestry or national origin -- Religious beliefs or lack thereof -- Age (if they are 40 and older) -- Physical or mental impairment -- Gender The last involves actions or comments (such as saying that women aren't qualified for a particular job) that is separate from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment, however, is among the things that may contribute to a hostile work environment. Following are some clear examples of such actions: -- Sexual harassment, innuendoes or jokes -- Inappropriate e-mails or other communications -- Unwanted touching or "leering" -- Threatening retaliatory action like firing or demotion if an employee refuses to do something inappropriate We recommend that employees keep evidence of any of these hostile activities and documentation of their efforts to report and resolve the problem with their employers. This is often crucial in a hostile work environment case. At The Epstein Law Firm, P.A., we fight to help protect our clients' rights to a workplace where they are not inhibited from doing their best work by the hostility, prejudices, inappropriateness or intimidation of others. Sometimes this means seeking reinstatement to their job or a promotion or salary increase they were denied. Other times it means seeking an end to the harassment. Call or contact us online for a free consultation to discuss your case and find out how we can help you.