Thursday, February 10, 2011

Unfortunately, There is No Law Against General Incivility in the Workplace

One of the hardest realities to communicate to potential clients is the fact that though some workplaces and coworkers are mean, unbearable and sometimes cruel, it simply is not against the law to be subjected to this type of behavior absent membership in a protected class, participation in a protected activity, or a clear public policy that prohibits the employer’s conduct. A recent court case out of an Ohio appellate court explains that fact beautifully:
Fortunately or unfortunately, not all upsetting or even mean-spirited conduct in the workplace is actionable. In the absence of an employee’s membership in a protected class, participation in a protected activity, or a clear public policy that prohibits the employer’s conduct, an employee cannot maintain a claim for harassment merely because his employment has become unpleasant or undesirable.
I always try to explain to people that, as humans, when we have to work side-by-side by others for 8 hours per day or more, 5 days per week or more, until we can retire and issues, tensions and disputes will occur and some people will be easier to get along with than others but that does not mean the law is being violated or that an actionable hostile work environment or harassment is at play. However, just because there are sometimes no viable claims in an employment situation does not mean there is no remedy.

Hat tip: Ohio Employer's Law Blog

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