Harassment In The Workplace
A frequently asked, and often misunderstood, question is can I sue my boss because he/she is always harassing me? The answer depends on the provable motivation of the boss. This is because harassment, in and of itself, is not illegal. Harassment becomes illegal if it is based on the person receiving the harassment being in a protected category. Only a limited number of characteristics are protected by law. These include race, sex, height, weight, age, whistleblowing activity, union activity, pregnancy, asserting workers' compensation rights, serious disability, religion, color, marital status and national origin.
We receive frequent calls from people who are in a situation where the boss is harassing the employee based on a personality difference. Another common situation is where the boss is harassing everyone. In both of these situations, the harassment would not be illegal because the motivation is not because of a characteristic that is given protection by statute.
An employee who is receiving harassment that is not based on a protected area is in a difficult situation. One option is to find another job. This, however, is often not a good option. The second option is to tough it out. Sometimes, an employee who is toughing it out finds symptoms of depression or other mental and physical ailments resulting from the work situation. If this occurs, one should report to the company physician and/or one's family doctor, as to the best way to deal with the work situation. If the doctor takes the employee off work, workers' compensation benefits should be requested from the employer. If those benefits are denied, the employee should immediately seek legal advice.
Unfortunately, the law does not require an employer to run its business in a professional, or even proper, way. An employee faced with harassment must first determine the reason for the harassment. If no protection exists under the Civil Rights Laws, the employee must survive or leave. The process of surviving often leads to mental or physical problems that result in a workers' compensation claim. If that has happened to you, competent, experienced, legal help is a must.