AmI being harassed if I’m being treated differently than other employees?

UPDATED: Feb 13, 2012

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AmI being harassed if I’m being treated differently than other employees?

Our company handbook advises that we should not conduct work for another company that may interfere with our workplace. I sell cosmetics to fellow employees who are interested but I am being advised by my manager that I should not be working on any of that during business hours. My work is always complete and on time and I am helping another department when Iam needed. A member of our HR department gets in with employees who purchase lotto tickets when the jackpot is high, other staff members sell items their children maybe using to fundraise and every year there is a superbowl pool.

Asked on February 13, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, contrary to common belief, employers may harass employees or treat employee A differently than employee B. There are exceptions, of course--

1) An employer may not treat one employee worse than another on the basis of a protected characteristic--for example, an employer can't discriminate against you because of your race, sex, religion, age over 40, or disability.

2) An employer may not retaliate against you for having used a protected benefit (like FMLA leave) or for having filed a protected claim (like for overtime; or that you were the victim of illegal discrimination as per 1), above).

Apart from this, though, as a general matter, an employer could tell you to not sell cosmetics while allowing, for example, John Doe to sell his daughter's Girl Scouts cookies. It  is unfair, but not illegal.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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