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Hostile Work Environment

Southern California Attorneys Helping Employees Fight Harassment

Hostile Work EnvironmentBullying and threats can make it unbearable to go to work. When workplace harassment is based on a protected characteristic, it may be actionable. In California, hostile work environment harassment is prohibited under certain federal anti-discrimination laws, along with the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). If you believe that you were subject to a hostile work environment at your job, you should consult the Orange County hostile work environment lawyers at the Serendib Law Firm.

Hostile Work Environment

Hostile work environment harassment occurs when an employee is harassed because of a characteristic protected under federal or state laws. Actionable harassment may be committed by coworkers, supervisors, managers, customers, or clients. Federal anti-discrimination laws under which a hostile work environment could be actionable include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Generally, however, the broadest protection against a hostile work environment is found under California’s FEHA.


If you are harmed by a hostile work environment, you may be able to recover damages under FEHA. Protected characteristics under FEHA include race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, medical condition, genetic information, age, and military or veteran status. To recover damages, you will need to show that you were harassed because of a protected characteristic, and the harassment was either severe or pervasive. For example, if you are Sikh, and your boss repeatedly calls you a terrorist and refuses to accommodate your wearing of a turban, and your coworkers send you clips of bombings, you should consult a hostile work environment attorney in Orange County to explore whether you have a claim. For another example, if you are Black, and your boss calls you the n-word, and another supervisor leaves a noose on your desk, this may be severe enough to create a hostile work environment.

It is usually more straightforward to hold an employer accountable for a hostile work environment produced by supervisors or managers than it is to hold an employer accountable for harassment by coworkers, clients, or customers. While an employer is strictly liable for a hostile work environment produced by supervisors or managers, you will need to show that the employer acted negligently to hold it accountable for a hostile work environment created by customers, clients, or coworkers. If you believe that you are being harassed by customers, clients, or coworkers, you should make it clear to them that the conduct is unwelcome. You should also file a written complaint with HR, unless a different grievance procedure for harassment is specified in your employment handbook. It is important to give your employer a chance to rectify the situation once it knows of the harassment. If it does not, an Orange County hostile work environment attorney can explain your next steps.

Often, employees fear reporting hostile work environment harassment or filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). While there is no guarantee that you will not be treated adversely as a result of reporting harassment, it is critical to report it. FEHA prohibits retaliation against an employee for engaging in a protected activity, such as filing a charge for a hostile work environment.


If we establish liability for a hostile work environment, we may be able to recover compensatory damages on your behalf. These can include back pay, front pay, benefits, and emotional distress damages. In certain circumstances involving egregious misconduct, it may be possible to recover punitive damages.

Consult a Dedicated Employment Attorney

A hostile work environment can result in depression, humiliation, and economic losses. You should not be mistreated in the workplace because of your identity. If you believe that you were subject to a hostile work environment, you should talk to the employment attorneys at the Serendib Law Firm. We represent people in Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties. Call us at 1-800-LAW-8825 (800-529-8825) or contact us via our online form for an appointment with a hostile work environment lawyer at our Orange County firm.

Client Reviews
"Integrity, competency, and compassion! Dimuth Amaratunga has represented me and counseled me in several matters over the last several years, and each time, I have benefited tremendously from his knowledge, his wisdom and his empathy. He is without a doubt an authority in employment law and personal injury. But most importantly, he has compassion and truly focused on getting the best result for his clients. I am a practicing attorney and I wholeheartedly recommend him and his firm!" David J.