What are my rights if today while I was at work and a co-worker made me feel threatened?

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What are my rights if today while I was at work and a co-worker made me feel threatened?

A situation happened and I was told to remind him he was there to do a job. When I did he got loud with me as took 3 threatening steps towards me. I told my boss, who was the one who told me to remind him he has a job to do, and all my boss said was ok. What are my next steps that I should take?

Asked on January 7, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You can't really do anything pre-emptively (before being attacked--which we hope will not happen) unless you believe (and believe there would be credible evidence) that the threatening conduct was directed at you due to some protected characteristic of yours, the main ones of which are your race, religion, age over 40, sex, or disability. If you were subject to threatening conduct due to a protected characteristic and your employer does nothing about it, you may have an employment discrimination or harassment claim; if you believe that may be the case, you should contact the federal EEOC or your state equal/civil rights agency about possibly filing a complaint.
If the behavior wasn't discrimination against or harassment of you due to a protected characteristic--if, for example, your coworker simply doesn't like you personally--then your employer has no obligaton to get involved and there's no claim against the employer for failing to get involved.
That said, it would be wise for the employer to take action before this escalates: if you are harmed by a coworker after the employer has knowledge of a threat, then a failure to act can make the employer liable for your injuries under the theory of "negligent supervision"--that is, that they were unreasonably careless in supervising their employees. But this only comes into play after the fact, after there is an attack or injury; they are not required to take affirmative steps.


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