Hostile environment harassment occurs when unwelcome, unwanted, or offensive conduct interferes with an individual's work or academic performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment. Unlike quid pro quo harassment, hostile environment harassment does not have to impact a tangible job benefit or academic performance or progress. The unwelcome, unwanted, or offensive behavior must be based on a person's membership in a protected class and must be severe or pervasive in nature.
The key factors associated with hostile environment harassment are the severity and pervasiveness of the unwanted, unwelcome, or offensive conduct, and a "reasonable person standard," which refers to whether a reasonable person would react to the offensive conduct similarly to the claimant (the person with the concern).
Harassing words or actions may be aimed at an individual or a group of people. General comments or behaviors that make others feel intimidated or offended are also examples of unlawful harassment.