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Verbal Abuse, Stressful Working Conditions, Salaried employee required to compete time sheet

Tampa, FL |

I work as an account manager for a private company since December 2005. For the past year I have been told numerous times by the owner via email and over the phone. I am the “worst account manager”, my performance is “very weak and needs improvement” when it comes to working with challenges brought on by the client. I have been told I will be saying “Welcome to Wal-Mart”.

My concern is the owner is saying these things to me when I go to my director and/or vice president and they tell me they are keeping the owner up to date with regards to my clients.

This has caused a very stressful work environment for me that the week for December is suffered from excruciating back muscle spasms where I ended up being heavily medicated and bed ridden for 4 days. (Luckily I had the days off as vacation)

I need to understand my rights can an employer stated such awful things and when I attempt to communicate with him he doesn’t want to listen. I even went to the extent of surveying my clients on my services and ability and I received excellent feedback. When I mentioned this to the owner he did not care to hear about it.

Also, I am a salaried virtual employee working over 55 hours a week and only getting paid for 40. The company requires us to complete a time sheet yet we are not offered over time or comp time. Can you tell me if this is legal?

I must advise you I have over 18 years experience in my industry and have an excellent reputation and credentials. Unfortunately the best solution would be for me to get a new job but of course due to the economy there are no openings in my field.

The company is based in PA and I work out of my home in FL.

Thank you

This information was helpful and I found out since the company is based in PA I must follow those laws. The worst part is the owner is the one doing the harassment and last Tuesday I was handed a written warning. I did refuse to sign it and I am working on a response since the warning lacked details and truth. My mental and physical health is deteriorating over all of this, other in the company state I am being set up. I don't understand since my clients respect me and I am one of the few that have the most experience. Thank you!

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Attorney answers 1


It sounds like you have some potential overtime claims. It would depend on whether you are classified as exempt from overtime or not. You'll probably want to speak with an attorney who specializes in Fair Labor Standards Act issues to get a definitive answer.

On the issue of harassment, unfortunately many employees have the mistaken belief that, if they are being harassed by their employer, a supervisor, or a co-worker that they automatically have a claim against the employer. This is simply not the case. The only type of harassment that is illegal in Florida is harassment due to race, age, sex, religion, 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 just a jerk or abusive, that is not illegal. And many small employers are not covered by these laws, so you may not be protected at all.

The other thing that I hear way too much of is, “I was harassed, so I quit and then I told them why.” This is a frequent mistake. The United States Supreme Court says that, where an employer has a published sexual harassment/discriminatory harassment policy, the employee must report it under that policy and give the employer the opportunity to fix the situation. Appropriate remedies may be to discipline or warn the harasser, to move the harasser, under some circumstances to move the victim, to do training, or in extreme cases, to terminate the harasser. If you did not avail yourself of the employer’s policy before quitting, you are 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. Sometimes, the fear is justified. But 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.

Employers will usually take accusations of this type of conduct seriously. Once they are on notice, they will be held liable if they allow it to continue, and they know it. And most employers know that this behavior is disruptive, has nothing to do with making money, and can adversely affect morale. Even if the employer takes no action, by reporting their inaction to EEOC or the Florida Commission on Human Relations, you have put these agencies on notice that this behavior is occurring. The employer will have no excuse when the harasser does it to the next employee. And in some cases, you may have a remedy.

General harassment, bullying, and other disruptive behavior that is not addressed to an employee for a protected status or activity is not illegal. So before you write the long letter airing all your grievances against your boss, you should make sure you are addressing your protected status. If you do complain, put it in writing and call it, “FORMAL COMPLAINT OF SEXUAL 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.

While a long letter stating that your supervisor is incompetent or a jerk can and should get you fired, the formal complaint addressing illegal behavior should get a serious response.

If you are harassed, make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities. Report it to the employer and give them a chance to address the situation. If they allow the harassment to continue, or if they retaliate, contact an attorney to discuss your potential claims.