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Can I sue my Boss for slander and emotional distress for false write-ups or for bullyingharrassment/?

Pittsburg, CA |

My boss has had it out for me for awhile now and has written me up for things I did not do, I wrote a rebuttal letter and since then she has created a hostile and uneasy environment, and has really been a bully, to where I ended up going on medical leave for 2 weeks causing various medical issues due to stress and anxiety. I came back to work and within 2 hours of being back I was written up again for issues that was brought up while i was on leave, and it was pretty serious and I don't believe I was at fault. I feel she is constantly slandering my character and is creating emotional distress for me to where I had to leave the office that day and ended up being put back on leave for another week and leading to disability for a few more weeks by a Psychologist.

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Attorney answers 3


Taken as a whole your post suggests that you are caught in a prolonged and complex personal conflict with your boss. That can be a very stressful situation, but the legal rights of the employee in such situations are very limited.

For the most part, the law does not enable defamation (slander or libel) claims based on employment performance evaluations. The boss is not only allowed to state an opinion of the employee's performance, that is the assignment by the employer. And any employment review is by definition opinion, and defamation claims cannot be successfully maintained an opinion, even if the opinion is provably wrong and unfair.

An emotional distress allegation in these circumstances is also highly dubious. The employee's exclusive remedy for any physical or psychic injury sustained in the course of employment is through the worker's comp system. The work comp system is by and large a "no fault" system, but a claim based on injury or illness caused by the employee's reaction to supervisor's expressed disapproval of employee work performance is not likely to be a successful work comp claim.

It is not bullying when the supervisor or employer criticizes work performance or instructs the employee in different conduct, even if there is anger, frustration, hostility and disrespect in the employer/manager's interactions with the employee. The law acknowledges that the employer is paying the employee to do what the employer wants, the way the employer wants. When the employee fails to satisfy, the employer's disapproval matters and can be acted upon. That is the core of the concept of paid employment: it is for the benefit of the employer.

The employer has a legal right to terminate an employee for being non-responsive, uncooperative, defiant or otherwise giving bad attitude in response to an employment write-up or even verbal corrections and disapproval. The employer has that right even if the write-up or criticism is factually wrong, and even if the employee is not at fault for the issues detailed in the write-up or criticism.

Do you have any evidence on which to base an allegation that the underlying reason for the supervisor's original write-up, or the supervisor's unpleasant follow-up to your rebuttal of it, is based on your race, religion, or another protected characteristic? If so, then you will want to immediately consult with a local employment discrimination attorney. If the protected classifications of race, religion, etc., are not the reasons for your supervisor's disapproval and treatment of you, then it may be time to look for a new job or to somehow find the emotional stamina to take the initiative to try and repair this damaged relationship.

When the employee get sick because the employee is offended by the employer's expressed dissatisfactions with the employee's work performance, the employee does not enjoy meaningful legal protections.

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So although, all the disciplinary write ups are based on he said she said from others, rather than her own observation since she was out for 4 1/2 months and was not present to witness all her accusation herself and while I was on medical leave she is within her rights? Let me mention it states and is very obvious on the disciplinary write ups that the context is not specific to my actions but the action off all the staff members. (Yet I am the only one that recieved a write up) Clients and partners have addressed that when they arrive in the office it is not a very welcoming place yet I am not the one in the front/receptionist or the first person they see when client/partners walk-in. I am actually not even seen unless I walk to the front. I am also given a one time write up on accusations of events that occur that could have been a liability to the agency on a project that I was not even in charge or barely was a part of. In which my boss stated she gave the "go" for a client to get services even though she herself stated 3 days prior to the event she was scrambling with the other employee who was in charge of the project to clear up issues that was concerning an were red flags. She still allowed the service to be provided because in her word "They already told the client YES" knowing that there were still red flags. But yet I was written up for that, and was told was held accountable because of my job title NOTjob description but job title. When I asked if additional conversation could be made with herself and the other employee who was in charge of the project can take place to find out where the ball was dropped or where there was a disconnect. She stated that this write up is about me and only me she can not involve other employee for personnel reasons. My boss has written me up for exsessive absences which has caused a burden on the agency and clients since i am the only one that does assessments in the office. I mentioned to her the reason there has been an overwelming amount of days I was not in the office was because before she left on her leave she had asked me to step in and attend meetings/trainings/conferences that she would normally attend if she was in the office. Doing that took up alot of service days that did not allow me to see clients. So I really don't understand how that could also be a sufficient write up. To circle back and summarize what is going on, I have been written up put on disciplinary action plans, am constantly being reminded that my job is on the line daily, been asked to sign letters that I addressed was not comfortable signing but had to because it would cause me possibly loosing my job and the writes are not specific to issues pertaining to my job duties or performance or me in that matter but general issues that involve the whole office (staff of 4) and projects that are not even mine. In addition, during a recent conference where one of the projects Advisory Board Member was apart of witnessed behaviors that she stated was appalling. Which lead that Advisory Board Member to write a letter to the rest of the board members and human resources where she specifically named me as the victim in bullying by other staff members (that my boss is very close to.) Which caused me to once again be repremended(written up) when my boss came back from her 4 month leave. Because she ws embarressed that, that had to take place. In which I mentioned to her that it stated that I was the victim in all this and feel that there is a lot of victim blaming and that letter was written by one of her supervisor. So with all that your saying I have no rights? I pretty much really just have the option of just looking for another job? While all these write ups that are not specific to my job be on my personnel file? If so than be it, but my personnel file is my reputation. Please advice thank you.

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall


There is no point in picking an argument with me. You are an at will employee unless you are represented by a union and at will employment can be very harsh and unfair. I answered all of your follow-up questions in my original response. If the protected classifications of race, religion, etc., are not the reasons for your supervisor's disapproval and treatment of you, then you have virtually no legal protections and can be fired on all of the grounds recited in your post. It isn't fair. It's just the state of the law.


I am not a CA lawyer, but Ms. McCall's answer is spot on. The courts are not going to get into a "she said, she said" dispute between you and your boss. Unless you are a member of a union or have some form of a written employment contract that governs such things, you are what is known as an "at will" employee. That means you can quit for no reason, and they can fire you for no reason. So in a situation like you describe, it is better to make nice then risk losing your job.

This post is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney client relationship with Mr. Cassara.


Christine laid it out well

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