Can you sue a co-worker for harassment?

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Can you sue a co-worker for harassment?

My husband is a sub-contractor. He drives another co-worker around to different jobs and this co-worker happens to be the son of the franchise owner. My husband gets harassed everyday by the son, stuff thrown at him, vulgar language, and threats. Can we sue him for harassment?

Asked on October 11, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Indiana

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Workplace harassment has to do with creating a work environment that is so hostile that it prevents an employee from performing their job duties in a reasonable manner. In such a case, a superior or co-worker, either by behavior or actions, creates an environment that is counterproductive to an employee's performing their work duties.

However, typically these behaviors must be "discriminatory" and not just a result of unprofessional or even rude conduct.  In a workplace setting, discrimination is action taken against an employee because they are a member of a "protected class" (i.e. their treatment must not be based on a person's race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, etc).

Unfortunately, based on the facts that you have presented, while this co-worker's behavior is unprofessional to say the least, it does not rise to the level of an actionable claim. Unless there is a stated company policy covering your husband's 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.

Bottom line, try to clear the air at work in as professional manner as possible. 


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