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What counts as a hostile work environment?

Many people misunderstand what the law in Idaho considers a hostile work environment. If someone is ridiculing your favorite sports team or being rude to you, the law doesn’t recognize this as a hostile work environment.

Protected classes

The harassment you’re experiencing at work needs to be in relation to a protected class in order for you to take legal action. Examples of protected classes are race, color, national origin, disability, orientation and age over 40.

Sexual harassment

Employment law protects employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment counts as a hostile work environment. Asking for sexual favors, making unwelcome advances, verbal comments, and gestures are forms of sexual harassment.

What isn’t a hostile work environment

Receiving a negative job review doesn’t count as a hostile work environment. Other common situations that employees have mistaken as grounds for legal action for a hostile work environment are having their food stolen from the fridge and feeling irritated that a colleague is playing music. While these situations are certainly upsetting, the court isn’t going to recognize it as a hostile work environment.

Employers must address all claims

When an employee reports harassment based on their protected class status, the employer needs to investigate. Employers can reduce how many complaints they receive of a hostile work environment by explaining to employees what this legal term means. Some employers receive a lot of complaints that don’t count as a hostile work environment.


The law protects you from harassment based on your sex, age over 40, orientation, disability, race, color, national orientation and religion. If you have any questions about what counts as a hostile work environment, you can consult with a lawyer who understands employment law.