Verbal abuse is more common than you'd think in the workplace. In fact, around 42% of employees in the US have reported they've been the victim of workplace harassment, at one time or another. Are you aware that you can sue your workplace for verbal abuse under California law similar to the situation in Ontario? Here's what you need to know.
A article from our American Contributor.
What Constitutes Verbal Abuse?
Firstly, you need to know what exactly verbal abuse is, in the workplace. “In essence, verbal abuse is negative comments, rumors, or gossip about a person's characteristics, that are directed either directly or indirectly at a person” says Barry Pierson, a business blogger at Write My X and 1 Day 2 Write. It also counts as verbal abuse when the person making the comments fails to, or refuses to, retract or apologize for those comments.
What can verbal abuse look like? There are several instances where you could be being verbally abused:
Your boss threatens, yells or curses at you
Co workers spread rumors about you in the office
You are insulted by others
Others attempt to embarrass you on purpose
You are teased or bullied
These are just a few examples of how verbal abuse can happen. Just like other types of abuse though, no two cases of verbal abuse will look exactly alike.
Furthermore, as an employee, you might have to ask for a pay advance from your employer in times of emergency. According to the surveys, this is something that many employees will encounter over their service years. The last thing you want is for your boss to verbally abuse you or shout at you. To prevent such scenarios, a weekend lender is an easy way out. You don't want to offer your boss any more reasons to humiliate you for needing the cash advance.
When Does Verbal Abuse Become Illegal?
In most US States, verbal abuse isn't actually unlawful! Says Linda Davies, a journalist at Essay Help and Brit Student. “In California though, you'll see that the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) actually protects you against verbal abuse.”
Typically, the protection is there for those who are being verbally abused thanks to their membership in a protected class. As such, if you're dealing with slurs, epithets or general abuse thanks to that protected class, it becomes unlawful under that act.
As there's law in place in California, your employer is required to take all reasonable steps to prevent verbal abuse from happening. As such, if you suffer any health issues due to stress brought on by the abuse, your employer can be found liable for it.
So with this in mind, you'll see that you'll be able to sue your employer under California law, if you can prove that the abuse you're suffering at work is due to discrimination. Also, be aware that if you're able to prove the abuse has created an unsafe work environment, then you'll be able to sue under CalOSHA violations.
California Vs. Other North American Laws
California law is somewhat unique when it comes to legally outlawing verbal abuse. This type of abuse isn't covered as comprehensively elsewhere in most other US States. That doesn't mean that there aren't provisions for it in other North American areas, though.
In Ontario, for example, there are some provisions for verbal abuse. There is a tort against intentional infliction of mental suffering, which outlaw flagrant and outrageous comments and remarks, made intentionally to harm the plaintiff, and has caused the plaintiff to suffer a provable harm.
This has been upheld in cases such as Boucher Vs. Wal-Mart Canada Corp., where $100,000 worth of damages were awarded to the plaintiff, who had been systematically targeted and harassed by her supervisor for a six month period. Human Rights Damages are usually awarded in the form aggravated damage and punitive damage to punish the egregious conduct of the employer. For example, in Bassanese vs. German Canadian News Company Limited et al, the employee was given $50,000 in aggravated damages, after her employer failed to investigate her claims of abuse and workplace harassment.
If you are a victim of verbal abuse in the workplace, contact us for assistance and legal consultation.
Suing For Verbal Abuse In California
So, if you've suffered any kind of verbal abuse at work, DO KNOW that you might be able to sue your employer in California. There are certain legal requirements that have to be met if you want to do this:
You're being harassed directly because of your membership of a protected class
The employer has not investigated any claims of abuse
The employee has evidence that abuse occurred
There is evidence the employee has suffered physical, mental, or emotional damage
Employment laws in California differ slightly from those in Ontario. In California, you have legal recourse if you have suffered verbal abuse in the workplace. If your employer hasn't sufficiently acted to prevent the abuse from happening, then you can look into suing them for any damages that arise from it.
Unfortunately, this important employee right against verbal abuse has been traditionally overlooked by many employers and employees alike. It's time to make a difference by being more aware of verbal abuse!