Can I sue My Non-Profit Employer for Workplace Harassment?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I sue My Non-Profit Employer for Workplace Harassment?

I started working for this animal shelter April 4th 2017, I started out as a kennel tech and worked my way up to Shelter Manager and was fired November 4th 2017. After returning to work after being off for a week with a broken leg. Within my time at this shelter myself and other employees and volunteers were subject to the Harassment of the shelters Director who would send out very verbal and degrading Text/Facebook messages along with always having a hostile attitude with clients and other who visited the facility. I reported her actions to several members of the board and was told by the president of the board that I should leave without starting drama. I even reported to a board member that she had grabbed my butt one day while cleaning the cat room,Which that was completely over looked. I had told both the director and a board member about her behavior and how it was uncalled for and needed to stop.It was so bad that I no longer wanted to be in the same work environment as she was. I kept messages she and others sent me as proof of her behavior. Only to find out that a member of the board knew she was drinking heavily and taking pills. They did nothing to protect the staff or volunteers of the shelter from this director. Other then replace anybody who didn’t agree with her. The board member who protected her is one of the shelters biggest benefactors and called the shots on more things then she should. I did the directors job many days before my promotion to management. I worked a lot off the clock and was told I shouldn’t receive pay for that. Do I have a case of any sort?

Asked on January 12, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Non-profits are not exempt from the workplace discrimination or harassment laws, so if this was illegal harassment, you can sue them.
You mention she grabbed your butt: if this was sexual harassment, it was illegal and you could take action. Or if it was harassmernt based on your race, color, age 40 or over, disability (including a temporary disability), or religion, all of which categories or characteristics are also protected, you would have a legal claim.
But if the manager didn't like your policitics, your taste in music, or sense or humor, or simply you for any reason other than above, or simply is an awful person who treats everyone badly, you would not have a legal claim or grounds to sue. Except for barring a few specifically defined forms of discrimination or harassment, there is no law requiring supervisors, employers, etc. to treat you fairly, decently, professionally, courteously, or well. Employers may generally abuse and harass employees.

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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