Examples of a Hostile Work Environment

Hostile Work Environment Example


Looking at examples of a hostile work environment is a good way to develop an understanding of the types of behaviors and attitudes that can lead to serious harassment and discrimination issues in the workplace.

Any actions and attitudes within the workplace or that are exhibited by employees, employers, and others who represent the company that may be seen as hostile, intimidating, or offensive can be examples of a hostile work environment.

Unwelcome Advances


Behavior that is, or that might be seen as, an unwelcome romantic or sexual overture, such as:

  • Repeatedly asking for a date after the person has said no
  • Suggestive comments, looks, or gestures
  • Touching or invading a person's personal space
  • Sexual remarks

Racial or Ethnic Slurs


Actions or comments about race or national origin, including:

  • Using derogatory slang about particular groups
  • Telling ethnic or racial jokes
  • Excluding or treating people differently for race or nationality reasons



Perpetuating stereotypes in the workplace is one of the most common examples of a hostile work environment. Common situations include:

  • Requiring men to perform all heavy lifting even though women have the same job description
  • Assigning women managers to take minutes at leadership meetings without rotating the task to male managers as well
  • Excluding women from golfing outings an other traditionally male activities

Discussing Sexual Topics


Conversations about one's sexual activities are not appropriate in the coworkers. Examples include:

  • Bragging about one's sexual prowess
  • Asking questions about other employees' sex lives
  • Telling dirty jokes
  • Spreading sexual rumors about co-workers

Religious Discrimination


Actions that result in harassment or discrimination based on religious beliefs creates a hostile work environment

  • Making derogatory remarks about a person's faith
  • Telling jokes basked on religion
  • Treating workers differently because of their religion
  • Failing to make reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs

Displaying Offensive Content


Displaying images or text that can be construed as offensive where co-workers may be exposed to it is not appropriate in the workplace. Examples include:

  • Sending sexual or discriminatory messages through the company's email system
  • Passing around printouts of inappropriate pictures or language
  • Exhibiting pictures or posters that can be construed as offensive

Using Inappropriate Language


Employees who use inappropriate language at work can be responsible for creating a hostile work environment. Examples include:

  • Yelling and screaming
  • Cursing
  • Calling people names

Learn More to Protect Yourself


To learn more about hostile work environment harassment, see What Constitutes a Hostile Work Environment and Hostile Work Environment.

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Examples of a Hostile Work Environment