work for a shipping company. I feel my employer has created a hostile work environment for me. About a year ago one of my co-workers, who happens to have a child with my sister, was caught stealing shipments of medications. He was fired. Soon I heard from co-workers that I was under investigation by loss prevention. Though they never questioned me or confirmed I was under investigation, many people from work knew that I was a possible suspect. I feel that this stigma created on my integrity will make it impossible to advance any further. Two weeks ago when I arrived to work there was a person from loss preventions waiting for me. He asked me to follow him and we went to the LP office, a HR person also was with us. He questioned me about a shipment that was stolen from my department. He said during the interview that people mentioned my name because I might have financial difficulties. I wrote a statement and went on my way to my work. Now I feel that people are again treating me different. I also notice people watching me and paying more attention to what I am doing than usual. It is hard for me to be at work.
I am gong to a doctor to request to be taken out of work for personal stress, which will be a state disability thing. I was wondering if I should make this a workers comp. case and seek a lawyer to pursue any other options?
3 Answers from Attorneys
That is not an illegal hostile work environment. Your employer is acting reasonably under the circumstances. Why would they not investigate if you had any role in the taking of the goods and watch you a bit more closely if they still have not found who did it? Jobs are not easy to find in the current economy and if you go off work you probably will never return to this job. You should go to a WC attorney to find out what your options are, but legally if you can not not work because of the facts you cite you should be denied for State Disability as you are claiming a a work related injury and they may require that you make a claim for WC benefits and be denied before you will get any State Disability [likely no more than 2/3rd of your paycheck] and then the WC carrier will deny that it is covered by WC or that you are disabled from work. You will then have to decider whether you will go off work; if you are off for 100 days or more you probably will never return; what will you tell a new possible employer as to why you left your last job? It is better that you try to resolve the problems with your own employer first.
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Nice try, no brass ring as to any lawsuit against the employer for 'hostile environment'. Investigation of potential crimes or misconduct is perfectly reasonable, including interviewing employees for any info or opinion they have. The employer could just as freely have terminated your 'at will' employment immediately upon suspicion of you. If you have any stress claims, consult with WCAB attorney to see if it is worth pursuing.