Is it legal for my boss to try and make my job experience so bad as to make me quit?

UPDATED: Oct 23, 2010

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Is it legal for my boss to try and make my job experience so bad as to make me quit?

My direct manager has been hostile toward me. The most egregious and recent examples are that I was passed up for summer employment despite having seniority, and my hours were cut from 20 to 8 when I returned to work this fall. She also sent disparaging texts regarding me to a co-worker that I also work with at an internship after work hours. I asked her why she was doing these things, and she admitted that she wanted me to quit, but couldn’t fire me because my performance reviews and customer comments were all exceptional. I tried to contact HR, but nothing came of it. Is there anything I can do about it?

Asked on October 23, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Utah


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

There *probably* is nothing you can do about it, unfortunately. Unless you have an employment contract or agreement of some kind (in which case, it's terms regarding work conditions, discipline, etc. have to be honored), you are an employee at will. Companies may essentially treat employees at will however they like--including, for that matter, firing them at will despite their performance reviews and customer contacts. If a manager chooses to not simply fire an employee for whatever reason, she can be as nasty, meanspirited, disrespectful, unfair, etc. as she likes. There is no obligation for employers to be fair, reasonable, or logical--again, unless there is a contrat.

The only likely ways a cause of action might arise in a case like this are:

1) Certain types of discrimination (e.g. vs. race, religion, age over 40, sex, disability) are illegal; if you think you are being singled out for bad treatment on one or more of these bases, you may have a cause of action;

2) If the texts, etc. sent to a coworker (or anyone else) about you contained false negative factual statements (not merely opinions; they must be statements off fact) that damaged your reputation, there may be a cause of action for defamation.

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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