How to Explain Leaving a Hostile Work Environment on a Resume

How to Explain Leaving a Hostile Work Environment on a Resume

by Kay Bosworth, Demand Media

“Hostile work environment” is a legal term that is not necessarily appropriate for a resume. A hostile work environment, by legal definition, is not the same as a workplace that is occasionally hostile. A bullying boss or an obnoxious coworker can be annoying, but not rise to the level of creating a legally hostile work environment. Inappropriate use of the term on a resume could make a negative impression on a prospective employer.

Step 1Understand the correct terminology. Specific federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit creation of a hostile work environment. Legally, a hostile work environment is one in which one or more employees experience discriminatory harassment. The basis of this harassment must be race, color, national origin, religion, disability, age or gender. Illegal harassment must be severe and intentional to the extent that it interferes with the employee’s job performance. The victim or other employees must believe that they have to put up with the situation to keep their jobs.
Unless your situation is severe enough to warrant a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the equivalent state agency, it is not a genuine hostile work environment and should not be described as such. If you have, in fact, filed an official complaint with the EEOC, that information should not be mentioned on a resume.

Step 2Use the constructive discharge defense. An employer might deliberately create a hostile environment to force an employee to quit. If this is the case, mention your reason for leaving on the resume if you feel it may require an explanation. In a cover letter or an interview, you can elaborate by explaining that you tried your best to cope with the situation.

Step 3Leave it out. Reasons for leaving a job are not part of most resume formats. Simply include the start and end dates of the job along with your accomplishments. If your interviewer asks why you left, put a positive spin on the departure. Without criticizing your employer, briefly focus on the goals and results that you achieved and emphasize that you welcome new opportunities to grow and learn. Employers want to know that you are adaptable, flexible, loyal and a team player. They don’t want to suspect that you are thin-skinned, uncooperative or given to whining and complaining.


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