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Ask wallstreetfighter Your Own Question
wallstreetfighter, Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 17080
Experience:  14 years exp, General counsel for National Corp. firms, Hostos College instructor, Represented employees in discrimination lawsuits
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I have a co-worker who sits close to me in a cubicle. We were

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I have a co-worker who sits close to me in a cubicle. We were hired to be clinical and work together. She would not speak or look at me the first two Months. After I knew more, she spoke every now and then an discussed her problems she had with her boss. I know I should have never said anything about the boss, and I hope that doesn't get exposed, she would be in same boat if she did. Finally after Months of pushing and pulling, I decided it was over and told the boss that if she is on a team, that means working together on important subject. Now we are being investigated because of my complaint. What do think will happen? We are supposed to move in a new facility. But I am feeling like I should not have called her out on it. Is her silence bullying? I found out she filed a claim about me, but I don't know for what. She keeps writing me up on really stupid things so I will get fired

wallstreetfighter :

Hello I am a licensed attorney here to help you with your question, please review my response and do not hesitate to ask for clarification

wallstreetfighter :

This is a common issue, do you feel your race, gender, age or any other protected civil right is the reason for her treatment of you?

wallstreetfighter :

What you may want to consider at this point is to send a letter to the employer, stating that you wish to work with her as a team, and that you want the matter settled,

wallstreetfighter :

by doing this the employer may believe that you are cooperative and may try to mediate the matter,

wallstreetfighter :

in terms of an investigation, they will see if any misconduct was happening, and if they do not find anything wrong, they may either warn both of you, or make arrangements to put each of you in different teams, or terminate you or the other,

wallstreetfighter :

It is hard to know what an employer will do, so it is your best course of action to try to cooperate fully now, and be proactive and give the employer options, other than a termination

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
The girl is black and I am white, but that hasn't come up. Is silence a way of bullying.
Silence can be bullying, however unless the bullying is not due to your race, gender age or other protected civil right it is not against the law, since she is a minority, the employer may be investigating any possible discrimination issues, as that is the only workplace issues that an employee can legally complain to the State.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
what defines bullying?
Legal bullying, would have to be due to a persons race, gender, age or other protected civil right, regular workplace bullying is not protected under the law, in fact bullying laws have not come into the workplace yet, but may in the future.

So an employer can bully an employee at anytime, except if it is due to an employees protected civil rights.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
what about a hostile work environment, what the rules for that?? What you do once the boss has my letter hoping things will work out?
But,mainly-what is a hostile work environment.?
Harassment under the law is similar to bullying, the only harassment protected is if it is harassment due to an employees gender, race, age, national origin or other protected civil right.

If the harassment at work is not due to the employees civil rights, the law does not have any protections for employees.

Once the employer receives the letter, I would try to have a meeting with them to solve the matter, it is best to try to settle the matter as soon as possible.

The below is from the EEOC, which handle harassment complaints.

Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).

Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.

Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.

Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:

The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
Unlawful harassment may occur without economic injury to, or discharge of, the victim.
Prevention is the best tool to eliminate harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take appropriate steps to prevent and correct unlawful harassment. They should clearly communicate to employees that unwelcome harassing conduct will not be tolerated. They can do this by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process, providing anti-harassment training to their managers and employees, and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains. Employers should strive to create an environment in which employees feel free to raise concerns and are confident that those concerns will be addressed.

Employees are encouraged to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. Employees should also report harassment to management at an early stage to prevent its escalation.

Employer Liability for Harassment
The employer is automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in a negative employment action such as termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages. If the supervisor's harassment results in a hostile work environment, the employer can avoid liability only if it can prove that: 1) it reasonably tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior; and 2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.

The employer will be liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees or non-employees over whom it has control (e.g., independent contractors or customers on the premises), if it knew, or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.

When investigating allegations of harassment, the EEOC looks at the entire record: including the nature of the conduct, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination of whether harassment is severe or pervasive enough to be illegal is made on a case-by-case basis.
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