Hostile Work Environment
All sorts of behavior can create what employees deem to be a “hostile work environment”. But, in the legal sense, a hostile work environment is caused by unwelcome conduct in the workplace, in the form of discriminatory harassment toward one or more employees.
The harassing workplace bully might be an employee, such as a bad boss or coworker, or even a non-employee such as a client or independent contractor.
But who the workplace bully is doesn’t matter as much in the legal sense, as does the fact that he or she is creating an intimidating, offensive, abusive or hostile work environment through discriminatory workplace harassment.
Both victims and witnesses are protected under the relevant laws. The courts recognize that witnesses too might suffer consequences of workplace hostility, even though they were not the direct targets.