When can I file an harassment suit against my employer?

I have an immediate supervisor who constantly harasses a co-worker and I about time needed off for family emergencies or, in my case, cancer related treatment and recovery. He has been verbally abusive on numerous occasions in private and in front of customers. Prior employees have filed complaints with upper management only to be shrugged off or completely ignored. He’s made such a hostile environment that people get intimidated from attempting to perform their duties out of fear of being berated in front of a customer.

Asked on September 15, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Iowa


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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

In order for a workplace to be considered a "hostile work enviornment", it must be one that prevents an employee from doing their job in a reasonable manner. A co-worker/superior, either by their words and/or actions, must create an environment that is counterproductive to a worker performing their work duties. However, these behaviors must be discriminatory and legally actionable, not just rude or unprofessional. In other words, workplace discrimination is action taken against an employee because they are a member of a "protected class" (i.e. based on their race, religion, age (over 40), disability, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, etc. Given the limited facts presented, it's not that clear there exists an actionable claim. At this point you may want to consult directly with an employment law attorney in your area or contact your state's department of labor.

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