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Harassment must be related to unlawful discrimination based on race, color, nationality, ancestry, religion, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, age or disability, in order to have any real power in a legal action.
Emotional abuse that is personally directed and unconnected to unlawful discrimination is actionable, but only as a breach of contract claim. This means that a terminated individual could sue for lost wages from the date of termination, to the date of trial or date of finding new employment. But, there would be no reinstatement of employment, as there would be for unlawful discrimination.
That said, there is no case at all without credible proof. And, if witnesses will not support the terminated employee's claims, then there is no proof -- and thus no case.
Hope this helps.
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Now, I believe that you may have misread, or I did not state clearly that there ARE indeed witnesses to the treatment that the plaintiff received. The treatment is best described as cruel. We are in the murky legal waters of subjective interpretation only because there was not actual physical violence. But cruelty, verbal abuse on one occasion which was witnessed near closing time by the victim's husband and child. The other witness, of course, was the perpetrator himself, the manager. What is murky is the motive behind his behavior: jealousy and fear of a female employee demonstrating, albeit in all innocence, superior intellectual and professional abilities to his own in the course of properly carrying out her duties. The abuse indeed has a sexual nature--the manager's abuse of a female employee because she was female and also because she is not an American-born person, but rather a spouse of an American.
Actual physical violence would certainly make things much more clear, because the case would instantly be converted into a criminal prosecution.
That said, if the employee believes that there is a sexual harassment issue, then the employee can and should file a complaint with the EEOC or DFEH. Since the employee is already terminated, she has nothing to lose, whether or not an attorney is interested in the case.
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