Poquoson, VA asked in Employment Law for Virginia

Q: What is considered a hostile work environment? I'm pregnant and my employer isn't happy.

Today I told my boss's boss (a regional leader at my company) that I'm expecting my third child. Her response was, "You do know how that happens, right?" A few minutes later she loudly told one of my coworkers that she doesn't like that I'm pregnant. I'm terrified of being retaliated against so I'm hesitant to call my HR department, but I'd really like to not have to deal with these comments my entire pregnancy. Because she made it clear my pregnancy is not wanted at work, I feel like it's become an awkward work environment. But is it considered a hostile enough work environment to complain to HR about?

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1 Lawyer Answer

A: Those two comments, alone, do not make for a hostile work environment. To be a hostile work environment, comments must be so extreme as to be beyond all normal bounds of dignity; or be continuous and ongoing over a period of time. These comments were rude, but not extreme. However, if similar comments continue - on and on - they may become a hostile work environment.

Do not be afraid to reach out to HR. It is critical that you document these instances of harassment and give the company a chance to correct the issues. Your failure to contact HR could later be held against you, and could even bar a potential employment lawsuit were it to ever come to that.

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