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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 6757
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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A co-worked shared information about me posted on a social

Resolved Question:

A co-worked shared information about me posted on a social networking site. The information posted was not created at work and was of a political nature. This worker called other workers over during work hours to view this information on a company computer. My co-workers began "shunning" me at work. They ignored worked related questions I asked, stopped speaking to me, and one worker closed a door in my face. I now face open hostility at work and am afraid to return to work. I believe this to be a form of harassment that will continue until I am forced to quit. I also believe if I file a complaint I will continue to be harassed until I am forced to quit.

Do I have grounds to file a complaint against my employer and if so what type of complaint should I file?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question.

First, you should know employment in the state of California is presumed to be "at will." Specifically, California Labor Code Section 2922 provides that: "employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other." Assuming that you do not have a contract that guarantees you employment for a specified term, and assuming that you are not a public sector employee, you are an "at-will" employee. As an at will employee, you are free to leave your job at any time. In exchange, your employer is free to change the requirements, promote, terminate or demote you as it sees fit and without reason--even for reasons that you perceive to be unfair.

That said, California and federal laws prevent harassment or termination on the basis of being part of a protected class. Unless your employer is harassing you (or terminates you) on the basis of your sex, gender, race, ancestry, national origin, color, sexual orientation, religion, medical disability (including HIV/AIDS diagnosis), marital status, age (40 and over) his or her treatment of you, however unfair, is probably not illegal.

Typically, harassment must be sufficiently "severe or pervasive" to be actionable. Therefore, where there is a single harassing act, it must be shown to be particularly severe or egregious. Where there are numerous acts of relatively less serious harassment, the conduct may be viewed as "pervasive" in the aggregate, thus allowing a case to proceed.

I hope this information helps you in deciding what to do. Bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice. Good luck and please remember to click "accept" so that I get paid for my time. Thanks so much.

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If my answer has been helpful to you, please click on the GREEN ACCEPT button directly above. I will not get credit for assisting you or receive payment for my work unless you do this. Your question will not close after you click "accept," and you will still be able to ask follow-up questions if necessary.
 
The only facts I know about your situation are the ones that you tell me, so please try to be specific and bear in mind that, occasionally, miscommunications will occur. I will do everything I can to clarify my answer if I have misunderstood your question. Also bear in mind that the law does not always read how we think it should. I ask that you be understanding if an opinion I have provided is not consistent with what you wanted to hear.
 
Finally, the information that I have provided is not legal advice. I am not acting as your attorney and my answer does not establish an attorney-client relationship between us. I encourage you to consult with a local attorney in regard to legal matters.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
So, my co-workers' behavior towards me may unfair but not illegal and any information shared about my political or personal activities outside of work maybe shared at work by my co-workers. If my co-workers harass me, since I am employed at will, it would be my choice to endure harassment or quit. This type of harassment in the workplace is not illegal unless I am a member of a protected class. Is this a correct assumption?
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Not exactly. Although what I said above is an accurate statement of the law, I misread the part of your post indicating that the information shared about you was political in nature. This potentially changes the analysis.

Specifically, Labor Code 1102 states: "No employer shall coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence his employees through or by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity." This statute was expanded upon in Ali v. LA Focus Publication (2003) 112 CA4th 1477, which held that termination on the basis of one's political affiliations constitutes a violation of public policy and can form the basis for a lawsuit for wrongful termination. You can read the court's full opinion here: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1010427.html

If you were to be terminated on the basis of your political views or affiliation, you would likely have grounds to be a lawsuit. The challenge, however, would be in proving that your employer's treatment of you was actually motivated by your politics and not by your job performance or other legal consideration.

Hope this helps. Bear in mind that the above does not constitute legal advice, and please remember to click accept so that I can get credit. Thanks so much.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 6757
Experience: Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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