HAE LAW » Hostile Work Environment Lawyer San Diego

Hostile Work Environment | San Diego Employment Attorneys

Your place of employment may have plenty of hostility: a nasty boss, backstabbing co-workers, people whose personalities don’t mesh with yours. But when used in a legal sense, the term “hostile work environment” does not refer to any of these. It has a specific legal definition and applies only to hostility directed at a member of certain protected classes specified in by federal or state law: not just any hostility, but hostility based on the worker’s membership in that class.


In California, protected classes include:

  • race
  • religion
  • color
  • national origin
  • ancestry
  • physical disability
  • mental disability
  • medical condition (including pregnancy)
  • marital status
  • sex (including gender identity)
  • age
  • sexual orientation

The law also forbids any retaliation for employees who have made discrimination claims and “whistleblowers” who have reported unlawful employer activities to authorities.


Let’s say, for example, you are a person with a disability and thus a member of a protected class; your boss is a nasty bully who uses coarse language and is constantly yelling at everyone in the department, making working there extremely unpleasant for everyone. In this case, the hostility is general, the entire department is suffering equally, and you are not protected. If, however, the boss singles you out and treats you differently from the other workers, continually commenting about your disability to the point that it becomes nearly impossible for you to do your job, you may very well have a claim for a hostile work environment. The harassment must be serious and pervasive, not just an isolated or occasional off-the-cuff remark that gives offense.

In California, workers are protected from discrimination by federal and state laws, including the following:

  • Equal Pay Act of 1963
  • Title Vll of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act
  • California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

FEHA is generally more favorable to employees than the federal legislation, lacking the damage caps and hard-to-meet burdens of proof and employer defenses found in the federal laws, as well as allowing a longer period of time in which to file your charges with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).


If you win a discrimination lawsuit based on a pervasively hostile work environment, you are entitled to recover various types of compensation, including lost earnings, emotional and psychological distress, attorney fees, and litigation expenses. In some cases, you can recover punitive damages, intended to punish your employer and deter the behavior in the future.


The law firm of Haeqquist & Eck, LLP, is a leader in enforcing our state’s enlightened anti-discrimination laws. We are proud of our record and our commitment to the working people of the State of California to ensuring that the right to work for a living is protected as a fundamental human right shared equally by all Californians.

If you feel that you have suffered discrimination on the job because of your inclusion in one of the protected classes listed above, call the San Diego law offices of Haeqquist, & Eck, LLP, to schedule a free consultation. We will help you file your complaint with the appropriate agency and once we receive a “right to sue” letter will institute a legal claim for damages against your employer. We are aggressive in our pursuit of justice and, although we are often able to settle out of court, meticulous in our preparation of your case for trial should it become necessary.

Don’t suffer in silence. Protect your rights by calling Haeqquist & Eck today.