What Can I Do If I’m Being Harassed at Work?

There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about the harassment suffered by former Miami Dolphins player Johnathan Martin.  Apparently, his (now suspended) teammate Richie  Incognito threatened and harassed him in such a severe manner that Martin had to leave the team.

In general, workplace harassment falls into two categories: harassment based on the victim’s status as a member of a protected class (race, gender, religion, etc); and harassment not based on membership in a protected class.  In this case, it seems that Incognito used racial slurs in his communications with Martin.  This type of harassment- assuming it reaches a level beyond the occasional stray remark- can create a “hostile work environment.”  Employees who suffer this kind of harassment may often sue under state and/or federal law.

However, harassment that is just mean and not based on an employee’s race, gender, religion, etc. usually can’t be the basis of a lawsuit.  This is true unless the harassment becomes so intense that it qualifies as the “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”  In Connecticut, the standard for this type of case is as follows: “the case is one in which the recitation of the facts to an average member of the community would arouse his resentment against the actor, and lead him to exclaim, Outrageous!”

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