What legal grounds do I have to fight back after being subjected to abuse by a superior?

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What legal grounds do I have to fight back after being subjected to abuse by a superior?

I am on a H1B visa and working for a firm that holds my visa. I am thinking of leaving as I have been subjected to abuse (both verbal and physical to a degree) from my manager after a confidential conversation to my VP was not kept confidential (he was in a relationship with an employee that was affecting the office). I also had a promotion taken away. What are my legal options to leave? If they fire me for taking offence to my treatment (I am “at will”), what grounds do I have to fight back under US law? I was told I could not complain as I would have to face the repercussions.

Asked on January 26, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the employer has done anything inherently illegal--such as assault (you write about "physical abuse")--you may have a legal claim or cause of action and should speak with an employment attorney.

Note, however, that there is nothing illegal about verbal abuse as a general matter, unless it is due to a protected category. Federal law protects people from being harassed or discriminated against due to their race, sex, religion, disability, or age over 40. Certain states may also protect against discimination on the basis of national origin, which could be significant for you.

But if the "verbal abuse" is not based on a protected charactertistic, there is no recourse for it--so long as they are not engaging in illegal discrimination, employers may be verbally abusive to their employees.


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