Family Files Wrongful Death Over Workplace Bullying
Melding tort claims with civil rights abuses is the sort of thing that Ben Crump does. However, these lawsuits are being filed all over the country, now with greater frequency than ever before. In this case, the family of an employee who took his own life filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company he worked for claiming that hazing and bullying played a substantial role in his death.
In cases where there is a civil rights allegation, even one made by a white male, the lawsuit can move forward. However, absent racial, gender, age, or other protected forms of bullying, you cannot claim a hostile work environment. While some states will protect you for political opinions, many will not. In this case, the young man was to the left of his coworkers and relentlessly harassed on that basis. They called him “Antifa” and one of the managers vowed to “make his life a living hell” and “oust him”. He further claims he was stalked, sent threatening messages, and sent child pornography.
The plaintiff requested a transfer from the store, but was told management would need 60 days to process the request.
Can you sue for bullying?
In Florida, there is the smallest of windows to sue over bullying. However, you must be able to establish that the conduct was so vile that it shocks the conscience of the public. Unfortunately, Florida has ruled that racial bias does not shock the conscience of the public and it is unlikely that a lawsuit filed in Florida concerning political bullying would qualify under the ultra-high standard.
To sue for bullying, you must either establish that there was a physical injury committed by the defendant (ie: some form of battery) or the above-mentioned standard which is out of reach for most plaintiffs.
Without a valid civil rights claim, the lawsuit would not be actionable. In most states, political identity is not a protected status. Hence, the employee would not be able to file a civil rights or hostile work environment lawsuit on that basis. Instead, the family is forced to file a wrongful death lawsuit using the state’s tort system. We can’t say for sure how that will play out as tort rules are generally set by the states.
If the rules of the state this suit was filed in are anything like Florida, then the lawsuit would be blocked by the ultra-high standard Florida sets in bullying cases without physical battery.
Even if the case is allowed to move forward into litigation, the defendants will request the plaintiff’s medical records, comb through his personal history, and talk to his family and friends concerning any evidence that he was suicidal prior to his employment.
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