As a cash employee, do I have any legal recourse against a co-worker’s verbal harassment?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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As a cash employee, do I have any legal recourse against a co-worker’s verbal harassment?

I work for a small company where all employees get paid in cash. I resigned due to a co-worker’s constant verbal attacks. The company talked to him told me would never happen again and talked me into staying. After that he got promoted to a manager position and the verbal attacks began again. I see a psychiatrist and I am on meds for depression and anxiety. This whole episode has triggered my past trauma and although it seems like the easiest thing to do is look for another job, in my current mental state, it’s hard enough to get out of bed. From what I’ve been reading doesn’t sound like I have any legal recourse but thought I would ask. It’s so unfair that I have to look for another job when Ive done nothing wrong and the employee who created this, who is undocumented and on probation by the way, gets promoted.

Asked on January 2, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If the harassment was due to a protected characteristic or category--principally race, color, national origin, sex, age 40 or over, religion, or disability--this may have been illegal employment discrimination (harassment is a form of discrimination), and whether you were paid cash or by check, you may have a viable or valid legal claim. (There is no exemption from the employment discrimination laws for employers paying employees in cash.) In this situation, if you believe the harassment was aimed at you due to one of these protected characteristics, contact your state's equal/civil rights agency or the federal EEOC about filing a complaint.
But if the harassment was not due to a specifially protected characteristic or category, there is no protection: under the law of this land ("employment at will") there is no right to a job or to be treated well or fairly at your job. Your employer (e.g. supervisors, co-workers, etc.) may harass you, be insulting or cruel to you, verbally attack you, etc. and that is perfectly legal.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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