I am being harrassed by my supervisor. I am having to deal with constant performance issues on my comapny laptop due to remote monitoring. What are my legal rights as an employee to get him to back off.
State/Country relating to question: Georgia
I haven't done anything about the monitoring at this point. The monitoring started in March after I went to HR over a review that I didn't agree with.
Thank you for your question. An employer is generally permitted to monitor its employees while on the job. You know the situation best--what is happening here that is out of the ordinary?
It did not start (consistently) until I started talking to HR in March. We had our first encounter last summer when he gave me my first review after being a member of the group for 6-8 months. He question my ability and integrity and thought I should just take it as constructive criticism. We talked for about the review on several occassions and all his comments were unclear and his examples proved my points.
To rephrase, the question is basically what are the legal options of an employee when facing adverse consequences for making potentially negative remarks about one's supervisor. I will start by saying that, because the nuances of every case are different, you should not rely on this information as advice or apply it to a specific situation without a more thorough consultation with counsel. The information I have is probably not going to be construed as "good news", but my endeavor is to provide accurate information even if it is not positive information.
Georgia is an employment-at-will state, which basically means that either the employer or the employee can modify or terminate the employment relationship at most any time and for most any reason. For this reason, unlike some other jurisdictions, there is no presumption that the employer has an unequal bargaining position, so there are no extra protections in place for the employee; if either side does not like their arrangement, they have the right to quit. The employee can quit the relationship if he does not like the employer, and the employer can quit the relationship if it does not like the employee. So an employer can generally discriminate against an employee for most any reason. It's not fair, but it's generally legal.
This is not without limitation. Some reasons for discrimination are illegal; for example, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee because of their race/color, gender, religion, ethnicity, age (if over 40) disability, genetic information, or in retaliation because the employee is a whistle-blower. It is not illegal, however, to discriminate for reasons that are simply unfair or ill-informed. The breakdown of inter-personal relationships and being on the losing side of an office political war is generally a valid reason.On the other side of the equation, this also does not give the employer or employees a blank check to make false, damaging statements. Even if an employer has the right to discriminate, this does not give it or its employees the right to make objectively false statements. Defamation of character is (1) a false statement (2) which exposes a person to public contempt, ridicule or disgrace or causes others to think badly of the person defamed (3) and is made to a third party. When the defamation pertains to the plaintiff's work or business, it is considered "defamation per se", meaning that the plaintiff can prevail without proving actual damages (meaning, even if you are not fired and even if you are not disciplined, you can be awarded money damages). Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but when that opinion amounts to objective falsity, they can be legally held responsible for their statements.So, in short, the law does not get involved with regulating workplace fairness. The phrase "hostile work environment" in a legal context describes the situation where someone is being punished for an illegal reason like race, age, etc., not where it is merely literally hostile. But the law does not allow one's work reputation to be damaged by false information, and the people who engage in that conduct or perpetuate the lies can be held civilly responsible.
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