Equal Opportunity Jerk or Actionable Hostile Environment Harassment?

Employment Attorneys Serving Northern and Central New Jersey

Sometimes bosses suck. It is one of life’s unfortunate truths. Some bosses yell at or criticize employees constantly; some blame employees for their own mistakes; some hover over their employees’ every move; some set unreasonable demands. They make you hate going to work and make every day unbearable. But do you have case against them for hostile environment harassment?

The answer is (as with most lawyerly answers) it depends.

Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, employees have the right to be free from harassment based on their membership in a protected class. This means, for example, that you are protected from harassment because you are a member of a particular race, because you are a woman or man, or because you are pregnant or disabled (among other protected classes). Thus, a boss who yells at a female employee, but does not similarly yell at her male co-workers, might be harassing her because she is a woman. A boss who makes racial slurs or “jokes” toward a black employee is likely harassing him/her because s/he is black.

However, there is nothing in the law that protects an employee from a just plain, mean boss. If your boss is one that yells at, places blame on, hovers over, or sets unreasonable demands for everyone, then they are likely just an equal opportunity jerk. While it’s a difficult situation, it isn’t actionable in the New Jersey courts. Check out this article for some ideas on how to handle a terrible boss.

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