What are my rights if I was verbally assaulted by a customer at my store and received no help from my co-workers when I called for assistance?

The customer brought me to a point of frustration and I had an outburst where I cursed out loud. I did not curse at the customer or say anything inappropriate to them. The customer called the corporate office and had me fired. I have experienced a lot of emotional distress from the incident including depression and increased anxiety. Is there any way that I can press charges against this customer?

Asked on June 12, 2014 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

No, you can neither press charges nor sue the customer. Quite simply, the law does not protect our feelings, or protect us from being yelled out, made fun of, etc. by other people, including customers. This person had a legal right to be rude, abusive, etc. to you. Your co-workers were under no obligation to help you. And your employer is free to fire you for your outburst unless you had an employment contract guarantying or protecting your employment, since without a contract, you would be an "employee at will"--that is, you could be fired at any time, for any reason, even unfair ones. (Though consider: rude customers are, unfortunately, a fact of business; employees need to be able to not get upset by them.)


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