Sometimes, work is just plain unpleasant. That’s no reason for employees to sue. Unless the working conditions can be traced to some form of illegal discrimination, the court system won’t intervene.
Recent case: Edgar is Hispanic and worked for many years as a police officer. On his last major assignment, he ended up in the midst of a tense and difficult situation. One of the precinct’s other officers (who was not Hispanic) was being investigated for corruption. That officer thought Edgar, who had just been assigned to the precinct, was a plant from the Internal Affairs Bureau. From the get-go, he treated Edgar badly. Other officers warned Edgar to watch his back.
The officer under investigation was eventually arrested. Edgar was transferred and then retired after an accident.
That’s when he decided to sue, alleging he had been subjected to a hostile environment and retaliated against because of his Hispanic origins.
The court tossed out his case. It noted that Edgar couldn’t tie the bad working environment to his protected status. The court said this was just a case of an unpleasant place to work. (Bayas v. City of New York, No. 11-CV-5266, ED NY, 2013)
Final note: Of course, employers should try to provide a low-stress and harmonious workplace. But don’t worry too much if an employee complains about what seems to be petty—or at most, annoying—workplace problems.
- When supervisor makes stupid comment, make sure you can justify discipline
- Complaining about unfairness isn't protected
- When discrimination is at issue, manager's race alone doesn't imply prejudice
- Prepare for change when ADA Amendments Act takes effect next month
- Complying with the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act