November 8th, 2012

Let’s Talk with Kalola: Grocery Store

Let’s Talk with Kalola, where targets can share their experiences with WBI’s blog readers. Here we go!

Dear Kalola,

I recently had to resign from the grocery store I was working for. I was constantly bullied, verbally harassed, sexually harassed and called crazy and retarded. They put me down, both co-workers and managers. I have a mental disability and they bullied me and ridiculed me. They made threats toward me before I resigned. They never accommodated my disability. Now, I am emotionally traumatized from the bullying I endured for over three years. I was a target. They all got away with hurting me and humiliating me each day I was working. I do not know if I can have justice. Is there anything that I can do now? They will keep doing this type of behavior to someone else. They cannot leave me hurt by their mistreatment of me. It was pure horror for me. Please contact me with any advice and resources that I can reach out to.

Bullying is dehumanizing.


Dear Gwen,

I am sorry to hear about your work experiences.  Have you talked to your doctor about what happened to you at work?  Your doctor can refer you to a mental health professional who can help you deal with what you experienced.


Were you a member of a union?  If you were a union member, did you talk to your union shop steward about what happened to you?


Here is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) definition of “disability”:

“Not everyone with a medical condition is protected by the law. In order to be protected, a person must be qualified for the job and have a disability as defined by the law.”

“A person can show that he or she has a disability in one of three ways:

  • A person may be disabled if he or she has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning).
  • A person may be disabled if he or she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is in remission).
  • A person may be disabled if he is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he does not have such an impairment).”

“Disability discrimination occurs when an employer or other entity covered by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended, or the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, treats a qualified individual with a disability who is an employee or applicant  unfavorably because she has a disability.”


By law, the employer is required to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability.  However, the employer doesn’t have to make the accommodation if it causes an undue hardship, that is, it is too expensive or too difficult to make that accommodation.

Disability discrimination and harassment is illegal when it is so severe or so frequent that it causes a hostile or abusive work environment or results in an adverse work decision such as a demotion or being terminated from the job. 


You quit your job due to the terrible working conditions.  This is also called a “constructive discharge”.   A “constructive discharge” is when working conditions are so intolerable that a reasonable person would feel compelled to quit the job.  The intolerable conditions that you describe are:  being ridiculed and humiliated on a daily basis based on your mental disability, being threatened, and being told that you are “crazy” or “retarded”.   Workplace bullying is not against the law, however, discrimination of a worker with a known disability could be illegal depending on the facts of the matter.  Although it sounds like you may have been illegally discriminated against, more information would be needed to document what you are saying.

I would strongly suggest that you telephone the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at:  1-800-669-4000.  You may want to have a friend or family member with you when you make the call to the EEOC.  Your friend or family member can listen in and take notes for you.  If you are uncomfortable talking to the EEOC, maybe your friend or relative can speak on your behalf.

The EEOC representative will want to know the date when you quit your job, and the dates that you were employed at this job when you were treated so badly.   There is a strict deadline for filing a complaint so don’t wait too long to call the EEOC.  The EEOC will ask you about your disability, and how it affects your ability to work.  Please do not be offended by the questions.  For example:  to accommodate your disability, what would the employer have needed to do so that you could do what is called, “the essential duties of your job” or to make it easier for you to do your assigned duties?  The EEOC will ask very personal questions so you will need to describe what you mean by “sexual harassment”.  What did the person do to you and/or say to you?  Did you file a complaint with Human Resources?  Did you tell your work supervisor?  Are there any witnesses who saw how you were treated?


Being bullied, verbally harassed, sexually harassed, ridiculed, called names, and threatened at work would make a reasonable person want to quit the job.  Yes, this kind of treatment is very dehumanizing.


The anti-bullying Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) doesn’t give legal advice.  WBI does have some tips on how to find an attorney should you wish to pursue your matter:

I am not an attorney so I can’t tell you whether you can get justice for what happened to you.  I can only tell you that what happened to you should not have happened.  Whether on the job or not, every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. 




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This entry was posted on Thursday, November 8th, 2012 at 10:46 am and is filed under Let's Talk with Kalola. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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