What can be don’t about verbal abuse in the workplace?

My boyfriend’s boss keeps tell him that he is fat and needs to lose weight. Also, that he’s stupid and usless, all just for running a few minutes late. He has told the owner but nothing has been done. In fact, the owner is usually there when the comments are made.

Asked on September 27, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Texas

Answers:

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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

In this situation, unless your boyfriend has a medical condition or disabiltiy that is covered under the ADA or like law, he has no legal protection here. While rude and insulting, his treatment is unfortunately not illegal. The fact is that most employment arrangements are what is known as "at will". This means that a company can set the conditions of employment much as it sees fit. In order for a workplace to be considered a "hostile work enviornment", it must be one that prevents an employee from reasonably doing their job. Accordingly, by either words and/or actions, a co-worker must create an enviornment that is counterproductive to a worker performing their duties. However, these actions must constitute legally actionable discrimination not just unprofessional or rude behavior. In other words, action must be taken against an employee because they are a member of a "protected class" (i.e. based on their race, religion, disbility, national origin, age (over 40) or the like. Given the facts presented, it's not that clear that your boyfriend has a claim. At this point he may want to consult directly with a local employment law attorney or the state's department of labor.


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