Is there protection for people being pushed out of there job by harassment or bullying?

My wife is a worker’s comp. claims investigator. She has been under a constant barrage from her boss and team leader. She recently came back to work after a vacation to find that no one processed her files or work while she was gone. Processing of work for absent individuals is normally taken care of while they are gone. No one was instructed to fill in for her and now her boss gave her a verbal warning due to late files. Now the boss is sending work requests or asking questions via e-mail between 9 pm and 10 pm at night. Once my wife get’s to work there are already nasty e-mails pertaining to not answering the ones from the night before. She does not have work e-mail access at home. I believe that they are trying to push her out.

Asked on November 30, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

This may be a case of a "hostile work environment". This occurs when a workplace environment prevents an employee from doing their job in a reasonable manner. In such an environment a superior or co-worker, either by behavior or actions, creates a work atomoshpere that is counterproductive to their performing their work duties.

However, these behaviors must be "discriminatory" and not just a result of unprofessional or even rude or behavior. And discrimination in a workplace setting means action taken against a worker because they are a member of a "protected class"; in other words based on their race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, etc.

Based on what you write, your wife may or may not have aclaim. At this point she should contact either the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state's labor department. She may also wish to consult with an employment attorney (the initial consultation is often free) to see if she has an actionable claim.


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