Do I have any recourse regarding harassment-like conditions with a co-worker?

Asked over 3 years ago - North Fort Myers, FL

I work for a healthcare agency where I work with a nurse due to us sharing the same caseload of patients. (I'm a Social Worker). An incident happened 3 months ago where the nurse wrongly accused me of something she thought I had done behind her back. She won't let it go despite the fact there has been a meeting between the two of us and our supervisors. The situation has worsened such that this person has belittled me about going to her supervisor about my concerns for the situation. She also has verbalized her disapproval to me about talking to our patients’ caregiver about how the pt’s are doing. She additionally emails me disapproving emails to complain about other perceptions of my wrongdoings. I feel like I‘m being bullied basically. My supervisor does nothing. I was just wondering if I have any other recourse.

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Donna Marie Ballman

    Pro

    Contributor Level 11

    Answered . Many employees have the mistaken belief that, if they are being harassed by their employer, a supervisor, or a co-worker that they have a claim against the employer. The only type of harassment that is illegal in Florida is harassment due to race, age, sex, religion, genetic information, national origin, color, disability, marital status, pregnancy, having objected to illegal activity, having taken Family and Medical Leave, having made a worker’s compensation claim, because of testimony under subpoena, or having engaged in activity that is otherwise protected by a statute. If your boss is a jerk or abusive, that is not illegal. And many small employers are not covered by these laws at all.
    The other thing that I hear is, “I was harassed, so I quit and then I told them why.” This is a frequent mistake. The Supreme Court says that, where an employer has a published sexual harassment/discriminatory harassment policy, the employee must report it under that policy and so the employer can fix the situation. Remedies may be to discipline or warn, move the harasser, sometimes moving the victim, do training, or in extreme cases, terminate the harasser. If you didn’t use the employer’s policy before quitting, you’re giving up your right to sue for a violation.
    Many employees simply refuse to go back to work, even where the employer has warned or disciplined the harasser. It is the employer’s duty to create a safe workplace. If you return and are retaliated against or continue to be harassed, report it again. If the employer allows retaliation or continued harassment, that is the time to get an attorney involved.
    The harasser who gets away with small violations will usually accelerate the behavior until stopped. If the employer turns their head to this type of behavior, they run the risk, once being placed on notice of the harasser’s propensity, of being held strictly liable for their behavior or even incurring punitive damages.
    General harassment, bullying, and other disruptive behavior that is not addressed to an employee for a protected status or activity is not illegal. Before you write the long letter airing all your grievances against your boss, you may want to have an attorney look at it, or just make sure you are addressing your protected status. If you do complain, put it in writing and call it, “FORMAL COMPLAINT OF GENDER-BASED HARASSMENT,” or “FORMAL COMPLAINT OF RACIAL HARASSMENT” or whatever category you fit into. Set forth the harassment due to your protected status, and be businesslike. This is not the time to air all your complaints about the business or your boss, only to air the specific complaint about the illegal behavior.

  2. Bonita M. Riggens

    Contributor Level 14

    Answered . Donna Ballman's answer is excellent and complete. I would advise you to follow her recommendations.

    Donna Marie Ballman

    Posted about 2 hours ago. This attorney is licensed in Florida.
    Many employees have the mistaken belief that, if they are being harassed by their employer, a supervisor, or a co-worker that they have a claim against the employer. The only type of harassment that is illegal in Florida is harassment due to race, age, sex, religion, genetic information, national origin, color, disability, marital status, pregnancy, having objected to illegal activity, having taken Family and Medical Leave, having made a worker’s compensation claim, because of testimony under subpoena, or having engaged in activity that is otherwise protected by a statute. If your boss is a jerk or abusive, that is not illegal. And many small employers are not covered by these laws at all.
    The other thing that I hear is, “I was harassed, so I quit and then I told them why.” This is a frequent mistake. The Supreme Court says that, where an employer has a published sexual harassment/discriminatory harassment policy, the employee must report it under that policy and so the employer can fix the situation. Remedies may be to discipline or warn, move the harasser, sometimes moving the victim, do training, or in extreme cases, terminate the harasser. If you didn’t use the employer’s policy before quitting, you’re giving up your right to sue for a violation.
    Many employees simply refuse to go back to work, even where the employer has warned or disciplined the harasser. It is the employer’s duty to create a safe workplace. If you return and are retaliated against or continue to be harassed, report it again. If the employer allows retaliation or continued harassment, that is the time to get an attorney involved.
    The harasser who gets away with small violations will usually accelerate the behavior until stopped. If the employer turns their head to this type of behavior, they run the risk, once being placed on notice of the harasser’s propensity, of being held strictly liable for their behavior or even incurring punitive damages.
    General harassment, bullying, and other disruptive behavior that is not addressed to an employee for a protected status or activity is not illegal. Before you write the long letter airing all your grievances against your boss, you may want to have an attorney look at it, or just make sure you are addressing your protected status. If you do complain, put it in writing and call it, “FORMAL COMPLAINT OF GENDER-BASED HARASSMENT,” or “FORMAL COMPLAINT OF RACIAL HARASSMENT” or whatever category you fit into. Set forth the harassment due to your protected status, and be businesslike. This is not the time to air all your complaints about the business or your boss, only to air the specific complaint about the illegal behavior.

  3. L. Maxwell Taylor

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . You are describing something which you experience as workplace bullying. I know of no law that protects you from the disapproval of a co-worker expressed verbally and through e-mails. You can read about workplace bullying at the link below.

    Not legal advice as I'm not licensed in Florida. It's simply my two cents on the facts you present in light of general principles of law. If you need legal advice, please consult a lawyer who holds Florida licensure.

    Good luck.

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