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socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 38910
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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I am being harrassed at work but I cant prove it because Ive

Customer Question

I am being harrassed at work but I can't prove it because I've never seen the person doing anything. I went to HR quite a few times and they've made a few changes but nothing has stopped. The harrassment has increased during the past months and I was asked to speak to one of our therapists because they felt I was being over emotional (note that the harrassment was going on for over three years). During my first phone conversation with the therapist, she asked me if I every felt like hurting the person I feel is harrassing me. I made the mistake of telling the therapist that sometimes I get so frustrated, I feel like throwing something at him. The therapist told me I was suffering from paranoia and I should either retire or file for unpaid disability, etc., etc., Because of the comment I made, the therapist sent me to see a psycologist who administered a series of assessment tests and I was also put on short-term disability. I'm now waiting for the therapist to get back to me after she receives the tests' results. I have been with the company for 30 years and I have a clean record. I am afraid that I am going to lose my job and want to know if I have any rights in this situation. Since I was on disability, I have developed diabetes because I am extremely stressed from this situation. I'm afraid if I lose my job I will not have health insurance. Please let me know if there is anything I can do. I do not want to go back to the job because of the stressful situation that has been created there. Thank you.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  socrateaser replied 6 years ago.

Sorry for the delay, but I was out of the office over the weekend.

Cncerning your situation, the best way to protect your job is to request "reasonable accommodations" for your current disability. Even if you are certain that you are being harassed, by using the fact that you are being clinically treated for paranoia or depression as a means to try to get yourself transferred away from the person whom you believe is committing the harassment, you are also exercising your right to be free from disability discrimination under federal law, and the employer will be very careful about any thought of terminating your employment, as long as you are successfully performing the essetial functions of your job.

To this end, you may need your psychologist to certify you need for "reasonable accommodations" to the employer. Once this is done, you can simply return to doing your job, and then if the employer retaliates against you, you would be able to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Note: you can find a database of "reasonable accommodations" that apply to employers and employees, at this link. This may assist you in determining what you may need to successfully continue working.

Also, note that I am not discounting the possibility that you are actually being harassed and that your employer is ignoring the issue. Sometimes, however, you have to play it safe, and using your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act may be the best way to do this in your circumstances.

Hope this helps.

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Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hi Socrateaser. Thank you for your response. I just wanted to add that in 2009 I was moved to another location in the office because of the harrassment (reasonable accommodations) but the harrassment continued. My concern now is that since my company has flipped the switch on me (they're accusing me of paranoia, of wanting to hurt someone and also sending me to a phycologist), if they lay me off from the firm, what are my rights? Taking into consideration the stress I've been going through and also my recent diagnosis of diabetes, is it possible to file for some kind of disability if they lay me off? I am 60 years old and I need to find out what I should do to protect myself? Thank you.

Expert:  socrateaser replied 6 years ago.
If you are laid off, and you are actively looking for work then you are eligible for State Disability Insurace, which would run for one year, after which you could be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance. You are also eligible for unemployment insurance if you are not considered disabled at the time of your employment termination.

If you were already relocated in the office, then the employer has made the reasonable accommodation, and you would have to actually prove that the harassment is continuing. I can't tell you how to accomplish this, but having a coworker willing to testify to the harassing employee's conduct could be effective.

And, if you are suffering from paranoia, then maybe you should be on SDI and trying to recover. I'm not a physician, but it seems to me that you may want to contact your own physician/psychologiest, rather than the employer's, because the employer's physician has a vested interest in supporting the employer's needs, rather than yours.

Hope this helps.