Hostile work environment can be a confusing term because it creates an erroneous impression that just because a boss yells at somebody or is being negative or hostile towards employees it’s illegal under the federal anti-discrimination statutes. In reality, in order for your boss’ conduct to be illegal, it has to be so severe and pervasive it affects the terms and conditions of your job. And it also has to single you out because you belong to a protected category. For example, you’re a woman, or you’re disabled, or you’re pregnant, or you’re the age of 40.
So if your boss yells at you all day long because you have a disability, he is creating a hostile working environment. However, if your boss yells at everybody all day long, he’s probably just being a jerk.