Do I have a substantial case for a hostile work environment if my employer isn’t properly handling a situation where a fellow bartender is stealing tip money?

There have been ongoing issues with a fellow bartender I work with at a corporate restaurant. This person has been caught taking money before and they were confronted by a manager and made to give the money back and it was washed under the rug from that point. I have discovered that it happened again recently and have substantial proof. I have taken it all to my managers and discussed my position on having this individual removed from the bar staff, if not terminated. Other bartenders have also discussed this issue with our general manager and stated the same thing. I’ve said I will not work with this individual because they are in fact stealing. It’s been 4 days so far, and nothing has still been done about it. If something doesn’t change tomorrow, then I will be forced to tend bar next to this person and I have a lot of anxiety, stress and anger just thinking about it. My GM was made aware of the situation and was supposed to talk to me about it yesterday they chose not to speak to me or the bartender in question and left for the day. I feel as if I’m being ignored, because our GM likes this employee very much. Another manager texted the GM last night and asked when he was going to talk to us. The GM replied that they would tell them the plan tomorrow and what to tell me. I still have heard nothing so I would like advice before I go to upper management and Human Resources.

Asked on June 1, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Florida


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

A "hostile work environment" is one that prevents you from doing your work duties reasonably. In such an enviornment, a co-worker, either by their behavior or actions, creates an atomoshere that is counterproductive to your performing your job. However, typically these behaviors must be "discriminatory" in nature and are not just a result of rude or unprofessional behavior. And workplace discrimination is action taken against you because you are a member of a "protected class". In other words race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, etc. must be a factor in your treatment. None of which you indicated to be the case in your situation. You should be aware that most employment relationships are "at will", which means that an employer can set the conditions of the worklace much as it sees fit. The only exceptions to this would be if there is if you have a union agreement or employment contract to the contrary. At this point, you can either accept the situation, continue to complain but risk termination, or quit.

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