You should speak with an employment lawyer? Did you ever complain to management about this behavior? Any prospective release of claims will not be enforceable.
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I'm sorry that you had to deal with such an awful situation. If you were terminated on the basis of a protected class or if the actions of your coworkers created a hostile work environment you may very well have a cause of action against your former employer. Depending on whether the agreement you signed regarding arbitration is binding, you may need to resolve your claims in arbitration but I would certainly suggest that you consult an employment law attorney as soon as possible to discuss what your best options are, the validity of the agreement regarding arbitration, and what rights or remedies you may have. As for the recording of your coworker, it is unlawful to record another person without their consent and violates the state wiretap statute. Through discovery or in arbitration you should be able to gain access to those emails, among other things. The best thing to do at this point is consult an attorney. Certain discrimination claims are time sensitive and must be submitted properly and within the requisite period before initiating suit against your former employer. Best of luck.
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Yes, you may have a claim against your employer for harassment, and the fact that you signed an agreement to go to arbitration instead of court does not mean that you can't "sue" them; you just have to do it in an arbitration rather than in court, but, if you win, your recovery is the same. The outcome may also depend on the reason you left your prior employment. Please feel free to call me to discuss your case.
Yes, it sounds like you have claims for discrimination, plus illegal retaliation. I agree with my colleague who says that an arbitration agreement does not mean you forfeited your right to protection under the law.
It's not clear if you quit or were fired. The law protects employees who are forced to quit due to an illegal hostile work environment. Below is an excerpt from my blog that you may find useful.
Massachusetts law prohibits an employer from discharging or penalizing an employee who opposes discrimination in the workplace. The protection applies to employees who file formal charges of discrimination in court or an internal complaint with Human Resources or management. The person who files the complaint does not need to be the actual employee who is facing discrimination. Anti-retaliation laws extend to co-workers who corroborate or otherwise support the allegation of discrimination.
The employee does not have to show that actual discrimination occurred before she can claim illegal retaliation. The employee just have to have an objective, good faith basis for believing that discrimination occurred.
To make a claim for illegal retaliation, the employee has to show: (1) she filed a complaint; (2) the person who retaliated against her knew about this complaint; (2) the employee then was subject to an adverse employment action like a suspension, termination, transfer, a bad performance review, or a job warning; (3) a causal connection exists between 1 and 2.
The employee can show a causal connection by direct evidence: Drop this discrimination complaint or I will fire you. If there is no direct evidence, circumstantial evidence is admissible. For example, if there is a close period of time between the employee’s complaint and the negative job action, this can be proof of discrimination under a theory known as “close temporal proximity.” I know, that sounds like a Star Trek term. But, it’s much simpler than that. It just means that retaliation can be inferred from the close time between the complaint and the adverse action.
This information should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.
Criminal charges for harassment Employment Discrimination in the workplace Hostile work environment Workplace harassment Sexual harassment Employee arbitration agreement Protections against employer retaliation Termination of employment Arbitration Lawsuits and disputes Discovery Evidence Discrimination