What to do about workplace harrassment?

UPDATED: Jan 24, 2011

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What to do about workplace harrassment?

For the last 2-3 months I feel that I have been harassed in my workplace. I work in a small dental office and am 1 of 3 techs who work in back with the dentist, and there are 2 woman up front with a new hire (in late August). Timeline goes like this. Front manager reprimanded me in front of the newly hired with regards to doctors time and how it should be handled. I talked to the doctor and spoke of how I was treated. I have heard the newhiredspeak of my private life and ask questions to 1 of the dental techs which is my cousin. When I asked my cousin what is goingon she stated that she didn’t want to get involved. I then started noticing comments posted on Facebook(which I have copied) that are in reference to me and are beingposted during workinghours. I have treated everyone in the office with a Good Morning, Have a nice lunch and Good Night. I no longer make small talk and focus on my patients. This past week I was confronted by the office manager in front of the new hire and asked what my problem is. New hire stood laughingand had to hide behind a wall. I simple said to the office manager, “I said Good Morningto you.” She then walked away. Again, that same week I was confronted by the new hire woman, not once but twice within a 4 minute period. She yelled at me and ask if I have a communication problem. I told her, “You do your job up front and I will do my job in back” and walked away. She then went in when doctor arrived and told him I scared her by getting in her face and yelling at her. Unfortunately it was only the 2 of us in the office at that time. I had a lengthy conversation with the doctor that day and spoke of the enviornment in which I have been working. He is calling a meeting tomorrow and I would just like to be prepared.

Asked on January 24, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Connecticut


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

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Workplace harassment has to do with an employer creating a work environment so hostile that it prevents an employee from performing their job duties in a reasonable manner. In such a case, a superior or co-worker, either by behavior or actions, creates an environment that is counterproductive to an employee's performing their work duties.

However, these behaviors typically must be "discriminatory" in nature and are not just a result of rude or unprofessional behavior.  In a workplace context, discrimination is action taken against an employee because they are a member of a "protected class" (ie race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, etc. must not be a factor in their treatment). Unfortunately, based on the facts that you have presented, you do not appear to have legal recourse here.  While your co-workers behavior is unprofessional, it does not rise to the level of an actionable claim.  You should be aware that most employment relationships are what is known as "at will", which means that employers can hire or fire someone for any reason or no reason at all.  Additionally, they can increase/decrease salary/hours, promote/demote, and generally impose requirements as they see fit. In turn, the employee can work for an employer or not, their choice.

Note:  Exceptions to the above would be if there is a stated company policy covering your situation, or there is a union/employment agreement to the contrary, or (as stated above) if the situation has arisen due to some type of discrimination.

Bottom line, try to clear the air at work in as professional manner as possible.  You don't want your employer ot think that the workplace will be better without you.

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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