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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 7110
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I wonder if this is a hostile work environment? For several

Customer Question

I wonder if this is a hostile work environment?

For several months my coworker, and direct supervisor, has been exhibiting extremely emotional and seemingly irrational temper tantrums. I believe most have been directed at our producer, but I'm not sure. Three months ago, though, he flipped out at me. His reasons were crazy and incoherent. I was willing to let it go, though it was very frightening, but since then he has been very cold, in a scary robotic way. He only speaks to me when he has to and has made it known that he wants to get rid of me! Though the reasons he gave were ridiculous and nobody seems to take them seriously. For instance, he minds that I want to advance myself. Even though I am an exemplary employee in my current position and NEVER slack off. I have worked off the clock on my own on projects that can eventually perhaps lead to a promotion. I have done work FOR him at his request on unpaid overtime.

I've been in way too many meetings in HR. They assure me my job is NOT in jeopardy and that the issue is with my coworker. They have been, it seems, escalating this thing and a few weeks ago I was pulled into a meeting with a legal person. They are investigating a complaint that my coworker is scaring somebody and making them feel their environment is hostile. I am NOT the person filing the complaint and they didn't tell me who it was. (probably our producer)

Problem is I have been forbidden to talk about it. Everyone has. But of course everyone knows whats going on anyway and, sadly, they think I am the one who filed the complaint!

My coworker is palpably angry. The guild we work for is more worried about him losing his job than about my physical safety. They were upset that I spoke to HR, though I had no choice. Meanwhile, my coworker is really mad at me. He is setting me up constantly and mucking about with the project, then blaming me for 'errors' he creates. I've always been very good at my job but the stress is freaking me out. I'm having trouble sleeping and can't concentrate. When he comes in the room I start shaking.

I think he is capable of violence. I don't dare speak to anyone or the guild could come after me. I'm starting to have a lot of trouble doing my job. This has been going on for MONTHS. At one point, I asked the producer if I could please start applying for positions in other departments. She said 'no, you have to face this'. WHY?

My coworker's hostility and scary behavior aside, are they not creating a hostile work environment for ME?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.

LegalPro54 :

Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question.

LegalPro54 :

Many people are familiar with the term "hostile work environment" but don't know its legal context. They believe that hostility in the workplace has somehow become illegal and actionable, but generally it is not.

LegalPro54 :

An employer is not violating any law by calling employees names or disrespecting them in public ways, however unacceptable, so long as he or she is not doing it for discriminatory reasons or reasons that violate public policy.

LegalPro54 :

In other words, if your boss calls you an "idiot" because he thinks you are an idiot, that's permitted, no matter how hostile or offensive you might find that to be. On the other hand, if he's calling you an idiot because of your race, gender, nationality, etc., that is not permitted.

LegalPro54 :

There is no law requiring civility between employer and employer.

LegalPro54 :

Furthermore, unless the conduct is quite severe, a single incident or isolated incidents of offensive sexual conduct or remarks generally do not create an abusive environment. A “mere utterance of an ethnic or racial epithet which engenders offensive feelings in an employee would not affect the conditions of employment to a sufficiently significant degree to violate Title VII.” Rogers v. EEOC, 454 F.2d 234, 4 EPD ¶ 7597 (5th Cir. 1971),

LegalPro54 :

Here are some things that someone in your position can do: First, write down all information that you believe is relevant to your claim. Dates, places, times, and possible witnesses to what happened. If possible, ask your co-workers to write down what they saw or heard, especially if the same thing has or is happening to them. Keep the record away from work so that your employer doesn't discover it. Create a paper trail. If you decide to report the discrimination to your employer, do so in writing. This creates a written record of when you complained and what happened in response to it. Keep copies of everything you send and receive from your employer.

LegalPro54 :

If you want to file a lawsuit, you must first file a formal complaint of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Either the EEOC or the DFEH will issue you an authorization to sue after they investigate your claim. You don't need to file with both agencies. Finally, if you decide to sue, don't miss your deadline. Under federal law in California, you have 300 days from an act of discrimination to file a complaint.

LegalPro54 :

For information on how to bring a claim through California's DFEH, visit this link: http://www.dfeh.ca.gov/Complaints.htm For information on how to brig a claim through the EEOC, visit this link: http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm

Customer :

What? I have been forbidden to speak to fellow employees about this! File a lawsuit? What about the guild? I'd be banned! I'm not worried about a few insults. I'm afraid he is going to HURT ME. I don't think you read my question.

LegalPro54 :

I did read your question.

LegalPro54 :

If you are worried about physcial harm, you can file a restraining order with the court.

Customer :

you've got to be kidding me. forget this.

LegalPro54 :

I'm sorry that you are disappointed by the information I have given you, but I do not control what legal remedies would exist in this situation.

LegalPro54 :

If you believe that your physcal safety is at issue, contact the authorities and request a restraining order.

LegalPro54 :

In extreme cases, the kind of conduct you describe may constitute "intentional infliction of emotional distress," which is a tort actionable in civil court.

LegalPro54 :

I understand that you may be disappointed by the answer I've given you, as it's not particularly favorable to your situation. Had I been able to provide a more favorable answer, it would have been my pleasure to do so.

I sincerely hope that this information helps you and I wish you the very best of luck. Bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.

Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
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