I Hate My Co-Worker

Sometimes, we all have to work with people we don’t really like.  Every day, employees across Michigan call us to complain about their coworkers.  Some are bullies.  Some smell bad.  Some are loud.  Some are inappropriate.  Some are just unbearable in every way.  If you don’t like your coworkers, is there anything you can do about it?

Like many legal questions, the answer to whether you have a legal course of action if you hate your coworker is “it depends.”  To determine whether you would have a case, we need to look at the reason working with your coworker is so difficult, and how that coworker’s problems have affected you.

Employees have legal protections that say they should not be subjected to work environments that are “hostile” based on a protected status.  This means that no one should have to put up with a work environment where there is serious and/or frequent harassment based on something that is considered “protected” by law.  Protected statuses in Michigan include race, religion, sex, age, height, and weight.  If you are regularly being harassed at work based on any of these things, you may have a case.  If you have a difficult coworker who regularly insults your religion or always tries to push some other religion on you, or if your coworker constantly teases you about your weight, or if your coworker is always hitting on you, you have rights.

If we assume that the problem with your coworker is based on something protected, the next questions is whether the employer has “notice.”  Notice means that the employers either knows or should know about the problem.  The most common way for an employer to be put “on notice” is for an employee to complain.  If you go to your boss and say that a coworker is making inappropriate racist jokes that you find offensive, your employer is on notice.

Once we have established that the behavior from your coworker is considered “harassment” as a matter of law and that your employer is officially on notice, the next question is whether you have any damages.  Sometimes the behavior is bad enough that an employee has “emotional damages,” which means they should be compensated for the distress and mental anguish they went through as a result of the behavior.  Other times an employee may have an out-of-pocket loss, called “economic damages,” such as when an employee gets fired for complaining about illegal harassment.  Some laws also allow for “punitive damages,” meaning money given to the employee to punish the employer for its bad acts.

If your coworker is engaged in illegal harassment and your employer refuses to take action, or you have any other questions about what may be an illegal work environment or wrongful employment action, call Gold Star Law for help.