June 13th, 2014

Let’s Talk with Kalola: Please Help, What Are My Rights, Can I Sue?

Dear Kalola,

I am still in a bullying workplace. The person who is bullying is my supervisor. It started immediately after I started. The supervisor is related to the boss and that is why she gets away with it. She does it it front of other coworkers never the boss.

Some examples of bullying; she once said to me “where are you wearing that short ass skirt to?”.

She once said to me in front of two people, “why aren’t you taking notes, don’t come to these meeting without a pad”.

She once said to me, ” I would hope you are not acting like a den bat.”

Just recently she got upset because she has a visitor and because I notified her and she said to me ” I am tired of this from you” and slammed the phone in my ear.

These are just some of the examples. They go on and on.

Please help, what are my rights, can I sue? Do I need to start documenting?


Dear Dore,

Thank you for writing to “Let’s Talk” and sharing your story. I am not an attorney, and I can’t give you legal advice. If you feel strongly that you have a legal case, make an appointment to talk to an employment and labor attorney that works with plaintiffs or workers. The attorney will tell you whether you have a case or not. WBI has suggestions on how to find an attorney.

As of this writing, workplace bullying is not against the law in your state. However, on June 3, 2014, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed HB 1981, the “Healthy Workplace Act” into law. Although not the version of the Healthy Workplace Bill that we would like to see become law, nevertheless, the Tennessee law is a beginning. The Tennessee law takes effect on July 1, 2014. The Tennessee law will require that the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations create a model policy that state and local government employers can follow to protect employees from workplace bullying as well as protect employers from future litigation. The Tennessee Healthy Workplace Act does not affect workers or employers in the private sector.

I would encourage you to document what is happening to you at work. Keep your documentation at home. Do not tell your co-workers, supervisors, or anyone that you are keeping documentation. Use it IF the bully crosses the legal line and illegally discriminates and you suffer an adverse or negative employment action. Note date/time/location, what happened in detail, and if there were any witnesses. If your supervisor leaves an unwelcome or a threatening message on your home or cell phone don’t erase the message, save it. Same with e-mail messages, notes left for you, or other correspondence whether received at work or at home from the bully. Start documenting now. Note: Threats to do harm to you should be reported to the police.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends: “Employees are encouraged to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. Employees should also report harassment to management at an early stage to prevent its escalation.”

The EEOC goes on to say, “The employer is automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in a negative employment action such as termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages. If the supervisor’s harassment results in a hostile work environment, the employer can avoid liability only if it can prove that: 1) it reasonably tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior; and 2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.”

To read more about illegal discrimination and the laws that are enforced by the EEOC, go to the EEOC website. The types of unlawful discrimination that the EEOC enforces are: Age, Disability, Equal Pay/Compensation, Genetic Information, Harassment, National Origin, Pregnancy, Race/Color, Religion, Retaliation, Sex, Sexual Harassment.

Although there will likely be repercussions for reporting that your supervisor is bullying you, an attorney might ask you, “Did you ask him/her to stop?” “Did you ever have a discussion with your supervisor about how she/he was treating you?” “Did you file a complaint with your supervisor’s boss?” “Did you file a complaint with HR?”

I recall a woman who claimed she had been sexually harassed by her supervisor. The HR Dept. where she worked told her that they would handle the matter. They didn’t. The woman never filed a complaint in writing about what the supervisor was doing to her. In fact, there was nothing in writing. It was basically his word against her word. That’s why documentation is important. You need it to prove your case. You may not have a case now but should things escalate then you have documentation showing a pattern of abuse.

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” … Sam Walton, American Businessman



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This entry was posted on Friday, June 13th, 2014 at 5:09 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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