As an Independent Consultant can I be protected against workplace retaliation when the person retaliating is my upline director?

My Director has been harrassing me and bullying me over the
course of 4 years. I have been terrified to say anything
about it. However, last week she personally attacked me and
has reached out to several members on my team to harass them
as well.

I contacted out Career and Guideline Support representatives
to request to be transferred because of my Director’s
actions against me and they are saying it is a ‘personality
conflict’ and that unless she has made a personal threat to
me or my family that they cannot rightfully move me out from
under her as my Director.

What are my options here?

Asked on September 14, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You most likely don't really have any protection, based on what you write:
1) If you truly are an independent contractor (I assume that's what you mean by independent contractor), you have no protection against harassment or discrimination whatsover; the workplace anti-harassment/anti-discrimination laws only protect employees, not independent contractors.
2) Not all people who are allegedly independent contractors are actually independent contractors--if the employer exercises the degree of control over the alleged independent contractor commonly excercised by an employer over employees (i.e. the "independet" contractor is not "independent" in any meaningful way), the independent contractor is probably actually an employee. But even in that case, protection against harassment is very limited: an employee may not be harassed or discriminated against on account of (that is, based upon or due to) his or her race, national origin, religion, disability, sex, or age over 40--but an employee may be harassed for any other, nondiscriminatory reason, including a "personality conflict" or that the supervisor simply does not like that person. Workplace harassment and bullying is perfectly legal (and unfortunately common) except and only when it is based on one of those few specifically protected characteristics.
So unless you are actually an employee and the bullying, etc. is aimed at you because of your race, sex, etc., then the bullying is allowed, and if your employer chooses to let it go on, there is nothing you could do but look for other employment.
If you believe that the the bullying and harassment is aimed at you due to a protected characteristic (like race or disabiltiy), then you could contact the federal EEOC or your state equal/civil rights agency to file an employment discrimination complaint.


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