Legal and Illegal Implications

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Legal and Illegal Implications

Legal Implications

Some difficult personalities have the potential to cause legal problems. Oppressive personalities use various forms of harassment and intimidation to achieve their own goals. An oppressive person's goal may be:

  1. To build himself or herself up by tearing another person down.
  2. To force better productivity.
  3. To push a person to leave.

The behaviors may be mild or severe, or may be aimed at one person or everyone.

Any time we face a challenging personality, we should try to rectify the situation. However, in these cases if the situation cannot be rectified, it is important to know there are legal protections that may help. For employers, poor working conditions can lead to costly legal battles. Employers should do everything they can to prevent these situations from arising.

Grievance Processes

Most companies have a grievance process defined in their Policies and Procedures statement. If issues cannot be resolved directly, an employee may take their issue through that process. Employers who do not follow the grievance process as presented to the employees may be held legally liable, because the policies are considered a condition of employment.

Illegal Behavior

Certain behaviors may be directly illegal. Laws have been enacted, and continue to be enacted, to protect employees from behavior that may be harmful or unjust. Some of these laws are State laws, and some are Federal laws.


Workplace bullying can include such tactics as:

  1. Verbal abuse
  2. Nonverbal abuse
  3. Psychological abuse
  4. Physical abuse
  5. Humiliation

Nearly half of all states have introduced bills that address workplace bullying. These Healthy Workplace bills:

  1. Forbid health-harming "abusive work environments."
  2. Hold employers liable unless they have taken steps to correct and prevent abuse when reported.

To date none of these bills have become law; however, many states have laws addressing hostile work environments.

Hostile Work Environments

A hostile work environment exists when:

  1. An employee experiences workplace harassment and fears going to work because of the offensive, intimidating, or oppressive atmosphere generated by the harasser.
  2. Management acts in a manner designed to make an employee quit in retaliation for some action. This allows employers to avoid unemployment benefit payments.

Many states have laws addressing the hostile workplace. There is no Federal law that addresses this situation, though hostility is addressed in part by anti-discrimination laws. Regardless of whether the behavior is illegal or not, the cost to the company is clear, and a wise company will work to keep this kind of behavior out of its ranks.


Federal law protects some people from harassment when the harassment is discriminatory. Illegal discrimination covers:

  1. Race
  2. Color
  3. Religion
  4. National origin
  5. Disability
  6. Genetics
  7. Age
  8. Sex

Family Medical Leave Act

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was put in place to protect people from retaliation or losing their job while suffering from unexpected health issues. People covered by the FMLA include:

  1. The employee.
  2. The employee's dependents.
  3. The employee's immediate family.

The FMLA provides the following to employees:

  1. 12 weeks of leave in any 12 month period.
  2. The same health insurance coverage as prior to the leave.

If a health care provider is willing to diagnose a "serious health condition" related to workplace stress, it does not matter if the stressed-out employee is able to work elsewhere or otherwise engage in normal day-to-day activities. This includes stress and anxiety about a pending termination or other performance issues. That person is still entitled to FMLA leave and a company cannot retaliate against him or her for taking that leave.


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