What can I do about a supervisor who has put me in fear for my safety?

I am a 65 year old white woman who works at a store in a mall selling handbags and jewelry. The other day my manager, who is disrespectful and rude to me and others, said, “I hate you” when I asked her if we had any use for a sign holder before I put it away. My co-worker said to me wide eyed, “She can’t talk to you like that”. At any rate I have never been told by anyone that they hate me. In this age of violence in the workplace, I find I cannot sleep well at night and am actually worried about my safety.

Asked on December 7, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Florida


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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The law provides recourse for an employee who works in a "hostile work environment". In other words, it prevents them from doing their job duties reasonably. Basically, a superior and/or co-worker, either by behavior or actions, creates an environment that is counterproductive to an employee performing their work responsibilities. That having been said a person stating that they hate you, while disconcerting, most probably does not give rise to a legally actionable claim; superiors/co-workers can make rude and cruel remarks (unfortunately).
However, behaviors that are discriminatory in nature and are not merely the result of unprofessional or rude behavior, may be actionable. Accordingly, action taken against an employee because they are a member of a "protected class" is illegal. In other words if their treatment is based on race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, etc. , they may have a claim.
Since you mentioned both your age and race, it appears that they may be a factor in your treatemnt. If so, you should consult directly with an employment law attorney or contact your state's department of labor for further information.
d on the limited facts that you have presented, it's not clear that neither plays a role in your situation. You should be aware that most employment relationships are what is known as "at will", which means that an employer can hire or fire someone for any reason or no reason whatsoever, as well has increase/decrease salary/hours, promote/demote, and generally impose requirements as they see fit. In turn, you can work for an employer, or not, your choice.
Note:  Exceptions to the above would be if there is a stated company policy covering your situation, or there is a union/employment agreement to the contrary, or (as stated above) if your situation has arisen due to some type of discrimination.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You can, and perhaps should, resign and seek other employment. While you say that the supervisor put you "fear" for your safety, the law woud not agree: saying "I hate you" or generally being disrespectul and rude is--
1) Not a crime; only threats of violence are crimes, but the law does not criminalize hating another;
2) Not something you may sue over--the law does not give you compensation for being hated; and
3) Not something which a supervisor is prevented or barred from saying--to be blunt, the law allows supervisors to hate their employees.
This is not to say that this job is a healthy or good environment for you; but it is to say that based on what you write, you do not have legal recourse.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.