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Can you sue your boss for bullying in California?

If you suffer with a boss you don’t like, you are far from alone. Perhaps your boss is abusive and bullying. Do you have to take it or can you sue? That depends on the circumstances. California has no law against employers being bullies, but there are laws against targeted bullying based on certain protected classes. Here are a few examples of illegal bullying:

  1. Sexual harassment: If your boss bullies you by using sexual innuendos, slurs or jokes, or uses bullying or intimidation to get you to agree to a romantic or sexual relationship, then the bullying has become sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is illegal in California and every other state.
  2. Discrimination: Like sexual harassment, the law prohibits discrimination based on a number of protected classes, including race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy and age. If you belong to one of these classes and your boss targets you, you may have a discrimination case.
  3. Retaliation: If you complain about an illegal or unsafe condition at work, the law protects you from workplace retaliation. Retaliation can often show up in the form of bullying and abuse by your boss or even other co-workers.
  4. Physical abuse: Of course, any time your boss physically abuses you, they have broken the law and you should report them immediately.

Workplace bullying can have devastating effect on your mental and physical well-being. Groups are pushing for more legislation to protect people from bullying, and California has done better than some states. In California, lawmakers made workplace bullying part of the required workplace training for employers of more than 50 people.

What can you do?

If your boss is bullying you, ask yourself if you are the target based on sexual advances, discrimination of some sort or retaliation for filing a prior complaint. If the answer is yes, you should report the bullying right away, and express your concerns about why you have been targeted. If your employer fails to correct the situation, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.

Of course, you can always report the bullying behavior in hopes that your employer will put a stop to the situation, whether the bullying violates the law or not. Everyone deserves respect in the workplace.