Threatening you or your property, yelling, and using insulting or offensive language can all qualify as verbal harassment. In general, harassment refers to repeated behavior rather than a passing remark. Victims of verbal harassment can suffer from significant emotional distress and even develop mental health problems. Verbal harassment at work can stifle career progression, lead to income losses, and negatively impact a victim’s home life.
While there are no specific laws protecting individuals from verbal harassment, you could have legal recourse if someone makes a threat against your person, your family, or your property. You could also have a case if the verbal harassment is coupled with discrimination, sexual harassment, and other illegal behavior.
If you are suffering from verbal harassment, Morgan & Morgan could help. Contact us today to learn more and determine whether you qualify for compensation.
What Is Verbal Harassment?
Language qualifying as verbal harassment generally causes emotional or psychological harm to the individual targeted. Verbal harassment can include:
- Offensive jokes
- Yelling and screaming
Verbal harassment is not always illegal. However, if it involves discrimination, you could have a legal case and potentially sue. You could also have a case if someone is making threats against you and your property.
Types of Verbal Harassment
Individuals can experience verbal harassment in various situations, including at work and home. All examples of verbal harassment mentioned below constitute civil harassment and include threats of violence or abuse, sexual harassment, and other types of verbal abuse. Generally, to qualify as civil harassment, threats must either include actual violence or involve a credible threat of violence. Credible threats of violence include threatening behavior or words that would make a reasonable individual afraid for their safety or the safety of their family.
Unfortunately, incidents of workplace bullying and verbal harassment are increasing. According to Forbes, almost four out of ten employees experience harassment at work. Workplace harassment contributes to low morale and low productivity and can lead to a toxic work environment. However, if you are experiencing verbal harassment at work, the law can be on your side. Various federal laws deal with verbal harassment at work, including but not limited to:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
If the verbal harassment you are experiencing is based on your membership of a protected class, you could have legal recourse and fight back. Protected classes are, among others:
- Sexual orientation
You do not have to put up with workplace harassment. If you were repeatedly harassed or threatened with violence, you should speak to our experienced attorneys to determine whether you could sue your employer and receive compensation.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), approximately five million older Americans experience abuse each year. Verbal harassment occurs when a senior is subjected to insults, humiliation, yelling, and other forms of emotional abuse. Verbal harassment can have devastating health impacts on an older person, including:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Reduced life quality
- Trouble sleeping
Emotional abuse such as verbal harassment can be tough to detect. However, signs that your loved one suffers from verbal harassment can include sudden changes in character, social withdrawal, and fear of caregivers. If you suspect that your loved one is verbally harassed in their nursing home or assisted living facility, an attorney from our firm can advise you about your next best steps.
Domestic violence can include verbal threats by:
- The spouse
- A domestic partner
- A separated spouse or partner
- A current or past dating partner
- Close relatives (such as siblings, parents, children, and others)
Often, domestic abuse entails physical violence. However, verbal threats, harassment, or threatening to destroy property can also constitute domestic abuse.
What Qualifies as Verbal Harassment at Work?
Verbal harassment in the workplace can include:
- Offensive, insulting, or vulgar language
- Harassing remarks due to the victim’s race, nationality, or membership of another protected class
An employer can be held responsible in some circumstances. For example, if an employee cannot perform their job due to persistent harassment, the employer may be liable if they did nothing to stop the abusive employee.
The Consequences of Verbal Harassment at Work
Verbal harassment at work can negatively influence your entire life, including your career and family relationships. Continued verbal harassment and a toxic work environment can cause a variety of mental health issues, including:
- Feelings of unworthiness and shame
- Substance abuse
Although legal options could be limited if you experience verbal harassment at work, you do not have to suffer in silence. Employers may be liable for failing to provide a reasonably healthy and safe workplace, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). If you are suffering from verbal abuse at work, consider contacting our attorneys, who can assess your situation and clarify your legal options.
You Could Sue for Verbal Harassment
Although words can cause a great deal of distress and trauma in some cases, suing for verbal harassment alone can be challenging. However, verbal harassment can be enough to initiate legal action in some circumstances.
Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule about when verbal harassment qualifies for a lawsuit. However, if you can prove the following, you could potentially sue:
- The perpetrator intentionally verbally harassed you by using insulting or abusive language
- The perpetrator should have known that their verbal attack would cause you severe distress
- You suffered emotional or psychological distress as a result of the verbal harassment
However, to have a legal case against the perpetrator, you would generally have to prove that they intended to cause actual harm. Racial and sexual slurs can also be grounds for filing a lawsuit, particularly if you are subjected to offensive language at work. You would then have to prove that the harassment was based on your protected status, such as your age, race, religion, and others.