What Are the Labor Laws Against Verbal Abuse in North Carolina?

No one is immune to the demands of a hectic, high-pressure work life. Stress, physical exertion, and long hours behind a desk can take their toll. Of the 157 million people employed in the U.S., 83% report that they suffer from work-related stress. But while some career demands are acceptable, others are not. 

Workplace harassment and abuse have an unimaginable effect on a person’s workload. And unfortunately, these occurrences are not uncommon. In fact, about 9.5% of working men and 11% of working women experience some form of harassment while at their job. 

An abused person may suffer from a range of physical and psychological health effects. These include:

  • Ulcers
  • Loss of sleep
  • High blood pressure
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Increased stress levels

If you are the victim of verbal abuse in the workplace, you likely have questions. Namely, “What are my rights,” “How do I take action,” and “Do I need a lawyer?” 

Many abused workers are in the dark about their rights. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to remain the case. 

The team at Morgan & Morgan is experienced in NC labor laws/verbal abuse claims. If you believe your employer has violated your rights, fill out our online form to schedule a free, no-obligation legal consultation.

What Qualifies as Verbal Abuse?

In North Carolina, every person has the right to work in a discrimination-free, harassment-free environment. You should never experience unwelcome speech or conduct regarding these factors, while at work:

  • Race
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender
  • Religion or creed
  • Age
  • National origin
  • Disabling conditions

Unwanted speech can take the form of an angry outburst, backhanded remark, or office gossip. But for the experience to constitute harassment, it must fall into one of two categories. The abuse must either occur on a continuous basis or be something a reasonable person would consider to be hostile/abusive. 

Events that are minor or isolated do not fit the requirements. 

Workplace abuse is never acceptable. But the harassment becomes unlawful in these scenarios:

  1. When the abuse becomes a condition of the victim’s employment
  2. When the abuse creates an environment that is intimidating or hostile

Have you been insulted, belittled, or discredited in a way that puts you in either of these situations? If so, it is time to take action. If you have concerns about NC labor laws/verbal abuse, reach out to the experienced team at Morgan & Morgan today.

What Is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

When the harassment comes from a supervisor, it may culminate in a tangible employment action. This is considered “quid pro quo” harassment. Oftentimes, quid pro quo harassment is sexual in nature. 

Has your employer explicitly or implicitly made submission to harassment a term of your employment? Here are a few scenarios that may apply to you:

Fear of Negative Consequences

In some cases, employees fear that rejecting or reporting harassment will result in negative consequences. If you have received these threats or similar ones, you might be experiencing quid pro quo harassment:

  • Undesirable transfers
  • Demotions 
  • Negative performance reviews
  • Undesirable work schedules and shifts
  • Termination

An implied or explicit threat of unfavorable work consequences should not be tolerated.

Expectations of Reward for Dealing With Abuse or Harassment

Sometimes, harassment comes with the expectation that the employee will benefit as a result of putting up with negative behaviors. Those benefits may include the following:

  • Raises
  • Recommendations
  • Promotions
  • Favorable schedules
  • Desirable transfers

If the harassment has an implied “this for that” transfer, it is likely quid pro quo harassment. And again, this type of abuse is most often sexually motivated. 

When you are unsure whether your abuse fits the requirements of quid pro quo, it’s wise to consult with a lawyer.

What Is a Hostile Work Environment?

Cases involving a hostile work environment don’t include an exchange of favors. If you are experiencing verbal abuse, odds are that you have a hostile work environment—rather than quid pro quo harassment. 

Before you seek legal action, consider the frequency, severity, and nature of the abuse. Does verbal abuse occur on a continuous basis? Is it something a reasonable person would consider to be hostile? And does it target you based on your demographics? 

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are likely experiencing a hostile work environment. You may also work in a hostile environment if a coworker receives this type of abuse on a regular basis. 

In either case, if the abuse comes from or is accepted by a supervisor, you may have legal recourse. Morgan & Morgan can further direct you on NC labor laws/verbal abuse when you reach out to our office to discuss the specifics of your situation. 

What Are an Employer’s Responsibilities in Regards to Workplace Harassment?

To prevent verbal abuse in the workplace and correct problems when they occur, your employer should have protections in place. Keep in mind that certain practices are not legally required except for government-funded agencies.

With that being said, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has a history of established guidelines and court rulings. These precedents make it clear that employers should provide periodic harassment training and other harassment safeguards. 

Otherwise, employers may be in violation of these acts:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

Keep reading to learn more about the harassment safeguards all companies should put in place.

Workplace Training

Training pushes an employer to establish and communicate a strong harassment policy. Each employee should be aware of these policies and their responsibilities as to workplace harassment. This is especially true for employees in management positions. 

This process also requires the employer to determine how cases of harassment will be addressed. How will the employer and HR team evaluate complaints? What disciplinary actions will be taken? When will law enforcement be notified if NC labor laws for verbal abuse are breached?

Answering these questions can help an employer to establish an effective process for handling workplace harassment. Verbal and physical abuse should always be handled promptly. 

Confidential Reporting

The employer should also establish a need-to-know procedure to protect employee confidentiality. Harassment can only be addressed when employees feel safe and willing to report verbal abuse. There should be no fear of retaliation. 

Prompt Investigations

Reports of workplace violence, verbal abuse, and harassment should be promptly investigated. 

Appropriate Discipline

Disciplinary actions may include the following:

  • Verbal warnings
  • Written warnings
  • Demotions
  • Suspensions
  • Dismissal

In extreme cases of harassment, the employer may also request law enforcement intervention. This will help to enforce NC labor laws about verbal abuse.

These processes help an employer reduce their chances of facing liability for harassment claims. Managers and supervisors are also responsible for coordinating adequate training opportunities and ensuring compliance with company policies.

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