HR Chronicles: Unveiling Insights & Lessons

Work-Place Safety & Hostile Work Environments

HR Chronicles is a periodic look at real-life situations for which our HR experts have provided client guidance.

The Situation

An Employer had two Employees who started arguing aggressively and yelling in front of the other Employees in the workplace.

One of the Employees felt uncomfortable and physically threatened. The Manager was called and informed of the situation.

There are steps the Manager could take in a situation like this – some are more appropriate than others. The Manager can:

  • Investigate and collect all information and details of the situation. This would include interviewing both individuals and collecting witness statements. Then review all information and determine the type of disciplinary action to implement.
  • Terminate both Employees without an investigation.
  • Continue with normal operations and ignore the situation.
  • Suspend both Employees, pending an investigation.

Depending on the severity of the altercation the Employer may choose to suspend both Employees (to be fair to both) pending investigation and investigate and collect all information/ details. The Manager should interview both individual’s and collect witness statements, then review all information and determine the type of disciplinary action to take.

In this case, the investigation determined:

  • On several occasions, Employee #2 has made offensive racists remarks and inappropriate jokes towards Employee #1. In addition, Employee #2 frequently block’s Employee #1 movements around the workplace. Employee #1 has asked Employee #2 to stop this behavior; this behavior occurs in front of numerous coworkers.

A hostile work environment is one where the words and actions of a supervisor, manager or coworker negatively or severely impacts another employee’s ability to complete their work. Any employee can be responsible for creating a hostile work environment. Hostile words and actions include:

  • Repeated offensive remarks
  • Inappropriate jokes
  • Racists remarks
  • Discrimination of any kind
  • Obstruction of someone’s movements, such as blocking them from any movement throughout the workplace.
  • The intended victims of the harasser.
  • Bystanders, co-workers and/or vendors who witness the offensive conduct.

Important to note: The intended victim should make it clear to the harasser that the behavior is unwelcome and should stop.

If your company is experiencing similar issues, contact us for a confidential consultation. All employee-related matters will be help in the strictest confidence.