If I am being badly treated in my workplace, is there something that I can do about it?

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If I am being badly treated in my workplace, is there something that I can do about it?

All day my co-workers treat me differently then everyone else. I am the lowest person at the job. I get things thrown at me such as screws and nails, and generally the environment seems very bad, is there something I can do about it legally?

Asked on September 28, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I think what you are referring to here is a claim for something known as a "hostile work environment". That is, a workplace environment that prevents you from doing your job duties reasonably. In such, a boss or co-worker creates an environment that is counterproductive due to their behavior and/or actions. However, these behaviors typically must be discriminatory in nature and are not just a result of rude or boorish behavior. (Note: discrimination is action taken against you because you are a member of a "protected class"; in other words race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, etc. must not be a factor in your treatment.)

Based on the limited facts that you have presented, it's not clear that neither plays a role in your situation. Accordingly, your treatment while obnoxious and unprofessional, unfortunately might well be legal. The fact is that most employment relationships are what is known as "at will". This means that basically the employer can hire or fire someone for any reason or no reason whatsoever, as well has increase/decrease salary/hours, promote/demote, and generally impose requirements as they see fit. In turn, you can work for an employer, or not, your choice. Exceptions to the above would be if there is a stated company policy covering this, or there is a union/employment agreement to the contrary, or (as stated above) if your situation has arisen due to some type of discrimination.

If you feel that you may have an actionable claim against your employer, you should speak with an employment law attorney in your area.


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