A Word from the Legal Team

What Is a Hostile Work Environment?

A hostile work environment is when the unwelcome comments or conduct based on a protected characteristic is severe and pervasive and unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.

In Maryland, employers are prohibited from discriminating against any person based upon the person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, or disability as stated in §2-606 of the State Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland.

Anyone in the workplace can commit this type of harassment—a supervisor, principal, co-worker, or non-employee, such as a parent or contractor. The victim can be anyone affected by the conduct. Examples of conduct creating a hostile work environment include jokes or remarks based upon a protected characteristic, graffiti or cartoons, derogatory comments, posters, unnecessary touching, or other behavior. To determine a hostile work environment, courts look at the conduct and its frequency and severity, as well as if it is physically threatening, humiliating, or an offensive utterance and if it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.

Similarly, Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) enforces Title IX and issues regulations related to the law’s requirements. While currently revising regulations that should be finalized in May 2023, USDE has issued notice of its interpretation that Title IX includes discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity.

If you are harassed at work, you have recourse. You can:

Questions? Contact your UniServ Director.

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