What to do if Iwas the victim of workplace harassment to the point I had to seek medical attention and then I got fired for it?

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What to do if Iwas the victim of workplace harassment to the point I had to seek medical attention and then I got fired for it?

I was harassed for filing a formal harassment/discrimination claim via HR to the point that one day I was having chest pains at work. After seeing a doctor, I was given sedatives and told to be away from work for 48 hours until my blood pressure went back to normal. The next morning the owner of the company e-mailed me and told me that he and my boss (the harasser) would be calling me. When they called me they badgered me about work assignments and then fired me stating first because my “stress level is too high”, then adding that I wasn’t “meeting deadlines” but the deadlines were all in the future.

Asked on January 11, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, there is no legal claim for compensaton for medical conditions caused by a stressful work environment, including harassment by management. People are expected to deal with the stress or seek other employment.

The law does protect people from discrimination on certain specific grounds: federal law makes it illegal to discriminate or harass employees because of race, religion, age over 40, sex, or  disability, and some states  (e.g. NY, NJ, IL, CA) add additional categories, such as no discrimination or harassment due to sexual orientation, family status, or national origin. It is also illegal to retaliate against someone for raising a claim of discrimination against a protected category.

Therefore, if your original harassment/discrimination was based on harassment or discrimination against you because you are a member of a legally protected category, then if you were  harassed and fired in retaliation for that, you may have a legal cause of action. (Note: other than the specifically protected categories, employers may discriminate against or harass you--so you may be harassed because of your political views or hobbies, for example.) If you think this may be the case, you should consult with an employment attorney to discuuss the matter.


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