What Is A Hostile Work Environment?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss’ wife accusations:

My wife’s boss asked her to come to the office, and she closed the door and began cursing her out–making false accusations toward her and saying how she can’t stand her. Does that justify filing a hostile work environment complaint with her HR officer? Thanks.

Signed, Stressed Husband

Dear Stressed Husband:

“Hostile work environment” is a term that historically described and expanded discrimination and sexual harassment cases; however, more recently it increasingly has been linked to verbal abuse and bullying. You tell of one occasion in which, behind closed doors, your wife’s boss cursed her made false accusations, and stated she couldn’t stand her. Does that constitute a hostile environment? Probably not, unless it is one instance of a pattern of boss behavior that has clouded the climate within your wife’s working area.

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