My supervisor has made fun of my hearing impairment can I sue him or the company

My supervisor has made fun of my hearing
impairment

Asked on January 4, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

IF you told his supervisors, HR, or upper management (in writing, so you can prove it) that he did this, gave them some short but reasonable time (a few business days) to look into the matter and stop him from doing this again, but after that, he *kept* making fun of your hearing impairment, THEN you may well have a disability-related discrimination complaint and could potentially sue the company and/or file a complaint with EEOC. The company's obligation is to look into and take appropriate action when harassment like this occurs, so they can be liable if they don't respond. However, that is their only obligation: to take action after it is reported to them, since they obviously do not mentally control your supervisor and can't prevent the comments in the first place--all they can do, and all they are expected to do, is take action when a problem is reported.
If you have not reported it, therefore, you can't sue the company. If you reported it but did not give them some time to look into it, you can't sue them. And if they did take action and/or the problem does not repeat after you report it, you can't sue them, because in that case, they did what they were supposed to.
You can't sue the supervisor personally: the law does not prevent people from, as individuals, making fun of disabilities--after all, if it did, Donald Trump would have suffered some legal penalty after publically mocking a disabled reporter during the campaign, to use a high-profile example. An individual may be hateful and bigoted and cannot be sued for it. It is only the employer that is obligated to prevent harassment and discrimination, but, as stated, has to be given a chance to fix the problem before you can take legal action.


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