What constitutes employment discrimination or harassment?

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What constitutes employment discrimination or harassment?

A girl I’m friends with works at a bar that my ex-wife manages. It appears that this girl is being discriminated against because of me. I’ve been amicably divorced for over a year after 20 years of marriage. this girl is young, 22, but has been an excellent and reliable employee for over 18 months,. However, ever since she’s been around me she’s had her schedule cut and lost preferred shifts that she had for over a year. Also, she has had certain meetings with my ex and my ex asks non-work related questions about what’s up with us. This girl says nothing. But now she’s afraid for her job.

Asked on October 10, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Workplace harassment or a hostile work enviornment has to do with an employer creating a hostile work enviornment that prevents an employee from doing theirr job duties reasonably. In such, a superior or co-worker, either by behavior or actions, creates an environment that is counterproductive to your performing your work duties. However, these behaviors typically must be "discriminatory" in nature and are not just a result of rude or unprofessional behavior.  In a workplace context, discrimination is action taken against you because you are a member of a "protected class"; in other words race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, etc. must not be a factor in your treatment.

Unfortunately, based on the facts that you have presented, your friend appears to have no legal recourse here.  While your ex's behavior is unprofessional is does not rise to the level of a legally actionable claim. You should be aware that most employment relationships are what is known as "at will", which means that an employer can hire or fire someone for any reason or no reason whatsoever, as well has increase/decrease salary/hours, promote/demote, and generally impose requirements as they see fit. In turn, the employee can work for an employer, or not, their choice.

Note:  Exceptions to the above would be if there is a stated company policy covering her situation, or there is a union/employment agreement to the contrary, or (as stated above) if the situation has arisen due to some type of discrimination.


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