Can I file a lawsuit against my private employer for violations of my civil rights and creating a hostile environment at work?

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Can I file a lawsuit against my private employer for violations of my civil rights and creating a hostile environment at work?

Since I started working at this privately held company, I have been targeted for bullying from my boss

and certain co-workers whom made the bullying worse. I am overweight and a victim of domestic violence. I took a leave of absence from my job due to domestic violence issues and, besides that, I have done my job just as good as anyone there. I am not certified and I have not been sent to trainings but I still complete every task just as well as everyone else. I go beyond the expectations of my boss because I want the bullying and the criticism to stop. However, no matter what I do nothing pleases her. I’m treated unequally to my co-workers. Her treatment towards me has created a hostile environment for me; I’m always afraid that I’m gonna loose my job because they are trying everything they can to get me to quit. They are watching me very closely trying to find any reason to fire me. And regarding my domestic abuse situation, there has been no attempt in accommodating me. Instead, I’m being punished and humiliated in front of co-workers. I’m to the point that I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid.

Asked on August 18, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, New Mexico

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, while what you describe is unfair, it is legal, and there is no violation of your civil rights. As a general matter, under "employment at will" (the law of the land, except and only to the extent changed by a written contract), an employee has essentially no rights at work, and a workplace may be abusive, unfair, unprofessional, etc. Work, quite simply, can be as awful as the employer wants, and the employee's only recourse is to seek other employment.
While there are certain things that are considered illegal workplace discrimination, those are harassment or acts aimed at certain, specifically protected categories or characteristics: e.g. an employee may not be discriminated against or harassed due to her age over 40, religion, race, color, national origin, sex, or disability. This does not mean, however, that a 50-year old, or a woman, or a Muslim, etc. cannot suffer unpleasant or unfair behavior or conditions at work; it means only that the behavior or conditions cannot be aimed at her *because* she is 50, or female, or Muslim, etc.
Being overweight is not a protected category. Being a survivor of domestic abuse is not a protected category, either--which also means they do not have to accommodate it. Therefore, there are no civil rights violations based on what you write, and so no legal claim you can assert, because being overweight or having suffered domestic abuse are not protected characteristics or categories.


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 AttorneyPages.com 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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