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Is your employer just awful or acting illegally?

There's a big difference between a bad boss and one that is acting illegally. It's important to know the difference before you decide that you're going to quit and sue.

There's no law that says an employer has to be a nice person or even treat his or her employees reasonably. In general, just because something is unfair doesn't mean it's illegal. There are, however, laws in place that prevent an employer from acting in a way that discriminates against you based on your status as a member of a legally protected class.

In practical terms, what does that mean? It means that your boss is free to be rude, demanding, mean, petty and otherwise terrible as long as you aren't singled out for treatment based on your minority status, gender, sexual orientation, age, race, skin color, citizenship status, national origin, religion or disability.

That being said, there are plenty of times when you can -- and probably should -- sue your boss. They include:

  • Your employer violates wage and hour laws by doing things like denying you overtime, denying you benefits you are due or improperly classifying you as an independent contractor to avoid paying taxes or carrying insurance on you.
  • Your employer retaliates against you because you complained about workplace safety issues or participated in a protected concerted activity (like talking with other employees about wages or joining a union).
  • You are subjected to discrimination or sexual harassment by other employees or customers and your employer refuses to do anything about the situation.
  • Your employer actually breaks the terms of your employment contract (if you have one) in some way.

Naturally, you have the right to take legal action if your employer is treating you different from the other employees based on your membership in one of those protected classes.

Still not sure if your employer is acting illegally or just a bad boss? A consultation with an attorney who is experienced in workplace rights and employment law can help you make that determination.

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