Is it against the law for an owner of a business to be hostile to their employees?

I have worked in a pizza shop for approximately 5 months the first 2 weeks were fine then after the third week it was an extremely cruel, brutal, horrible place to work in my 35 years of working I have never seen such a hostile environment with so much yelling and at one point customers being cussed out and when they call to complain the owner hangs up on them for e it has been really an embarrassment the owner doesn’t take you outside to tell you what you did wrong she tells everybody inside in front of you this has been extremely hard to deal with and much more to it I could right a book but there’s only little room here only to say it has made my life very very nervous and at times the owner has told or convinced employees that I’m stupid the things in the past that I have made mistakes others do everyday and she doesn’t bother them I feel this is unfair humiliating ad it has change my life from a normal life to a very degrading one that I no I will have to get counseling I don’t no the law but I no something needs to be done no one in that pizza shop.

Asked on August 30, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio


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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Creating a hostile work enviornment can be illegal if it prevents an employee from doing their job in a reasonable manner. Specifically, a boss or co-worker, by either their behavior or actions, creates an environment that is counterproductive to a worker's performing their work duties. However, as a general rule, these behaviors must be "discriminatory" in nature and are not just a result of rude or unprofessional behavior. In order to bediscriminator, the action taken against an employee must be due to their being a member of a "protected class". This means that their race, religion, age (over 40), disability, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, etc. must be a factor in their treatment. Therefore, unless the foregoing is true, which you did not indicate, no such discrimination appears to exist in your case. Further, unless your treatment violates the terms of an employment contract or union agreement, it is not actionable. Bottom line, most employment relationships are what is known as "at will", which means that an employer can set the conditions of the workplace much as they see fit. In turn, an employee can work for an employer or not, their choice. So you can either put up with this treatment, complain and risk termination, or quit.

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