Is it legal for my boss to bully me at work?

For the past couple of months my boss has been bullying me at work (ie: personal insults, threats, etc).  Its gotten to the point where it is affecting my overall health. She has insulted me in front of clients, talks bad about me to my peers at work, threatened me in the past that she will “push back” if I question her authority, and just today insulted my work appearance (I wear a suit and tie). She has also undermined my status at work. I have brought this to the attention of her boss but still the bullying continues. What can I do to alleviate this until I find a new job?

Asked on September 15, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, California


Reginald Mason / Mason & Mason, LLP

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It sounds as if you are being subject to a hostile work environment.  Go to our firm's website and complete an intake form.  Be sure to specify the length of your employment, your title, duties and kinf of work you do.  Also, indicate whether there have been previous disciplinary actions taken against you and whether, in your opinion, they were retaliatory.


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) Bosses can be bullies, tyrants, etc. They can create stressful working conditions that affect health, the can "push back" if challenged, they can undermine authority, they can insult etc.

2) However, they can't defame someone, which is to say that can't make untrue statements of fact to third parties that would damage the reputation of the employee and/or make others less likely to work with them. The key things are "untrue" and "fact." They can offer negative opinions--e.g. "Doe is ugly." They can say true negative things--e.g. "Doe lost a $1mm account." It's untrue facts that can give rise  to a cause of action.

Also, defamation to comments to a third party; anything can be said privately between the two of you.

3) They can threaten your job, but they can't threaten you personally or physically; that would be a form of assault.

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