What are my rights regarding my boss’s abusive behavior?

UPDATED: Jun 27, 2015

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What are my rights regarding my boss’s abusive behavior?

My boss yelled at me and pointed at my face saying, “You don’t walk away when I’m talking”. I felt scared, so I tried to leave. I told him, “Who do you think you are talking to me like that?” and attempted to open his office door to leave. However, he held the door shut and didn’t let me open it; he told me to calm down. I’m 22 weeks pregnant and wasn’t feeling well. I told him that yet he still wouldn’t let me go. He said he didn’t want his patients to see me crying so I waited in his office for a while. I later ended up going to the hospital with stomach cramps and found out my baby’s heart beat was dropping every once in a while. I now have to go to a high risk pregnancy doctor. He also mentioned that if I applied for unemployment things would get ugly.

Asked on June 27, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

1) A boss may yell at you as often, as loudly, and as abusively as he likes: the law provides NO protection against being orally/verbally abused by your boss--even if you get so upset as to suffer some physical illness or consequence (since he has the right to yell at you, he cannot be liable for yelling at you).

2) The fact you are pregnant is irrelevant *unless* your boss was abused you specifically  BECAUSE you are pregnant. If that was the case, then he may have committed illegal discrimination against a woman and/or on the basis of a (temporary) disability. However, if he's just a jerk and a yeller, and you just happened to be pregnant but the pregnancy is not why was doing what he did, you have no recourse.

(If you feel that he did abuse you because you are pregnant, contact the federal EEOC or your state civil/equal rights commission and file a complaint.)

3) If he does take illegal actions against you if you file for unemployment, you may have a claim, but not yet, based solely on his comments--people can make vaguely threatening or intimidating remarks without giving rise to liability.

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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