Does Verbal Abuse Qualify for a Lawyer?

Does Verbal Abuse Qualify for a Lawyer?

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Does Verbal Abuse Qualify for a Lawyer?

No employee should be subjected to upsetting verbal abuse and dread going to work. Verbal abuse such as name-calling, bullying, and humiliation, can result in mental and physical health issues. Moreover, a hostile work environment can also hinder career progression, reduce productivity, and have negative financial consequences for individuals. 

While no laws explicitly protect workers from verbal abuse, an employer is generally responsible for providing employees with a safe work environment free of harassment. Despite labor laws hardly touching on verbal abuse, you could pursue legal action and recover compensation in certain circumstances. Find out whether you have a case against an employer by contacting us today for a free consultation.

What Is Verbal Abuse?

According to Forbes, workplace bullying is on the rise, with nearly four out of ten employees affected. Verbal abuse can have devastating mental and physical consequences for victims, especially if they are subjected to daily intimidation and threats. 

Types of Verbal Abuse in the Workplace

Verbal abuse in the workplace can come in many different forms, including but not limited to:


Insults, abusive language, racial slurs and other types of derogatory and offensive language can erode a victim’s self-esteem and feeling of self-worth. 

Threats and Intimidation

Threats and intimidation can be used to control, manipulate, and scare a victim into doing what the abuser wants. Some perpetrators threaten a victim’s physical safety or their property.

Blaming and Gaslighting

An abuser may try to blame the verbal abuse on the victim or try to make them question their own judgment and sanity.

Unwarranted Criticism

Abuse includes persistent and unwarranted criticism that is not constructive but instead hurtful, personal, and aimed at making the victim feel bad. 


Verbal abuse can include making fun of the victim or humiliating them in front of others on a recurring basis.


Harassment is an umbrella term that can describe many types of ongoing verbal abuse in the workplace. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), harassment includes any unwelcome conduct involving race, color, religion, sex, national origin, older age, disability, or genetic information. 

Most types of verbal or emotional abuse are, unfortunately, not illegal in the workplace according to current labor laws, with the exception of harassment of protected classes. However, you could still have legal recourse if you suffer from verbal abuse, especially if your work environment is generally hostile and damaging to your health. An employment attorney from our firm can walk you through your options.

The Impact of Verbal Abuse at Work

Verbal abuse can severely impact an individual’s home life, relationships, work performance, and career development. However, verbal mistreatment, especially over a prolonged time period, can also cause significant mental health problems, including: 

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Chronic stress
  • Decreased self-esteem 
  • Feelings of worthlessness or shame
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse

In some cases, prolonged verbal abuse can have negative consequences on the physical health of the victim, causing chronic pain, heart racing, tremors, and other health problems.

Labor Laws and Verbal Abuse 

If you are the victim of verbal or emotional abuse at work, your legal options could be limited as there are no federal or state laws specifically dealing with verbal abuse. However, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), an employer can potentially be held accountable for failing to provide a safe and healthy workplace for employees. If an employee is unable to carry out their daily job duties due to persistent verbal abuse at work, an employer could be liable due to retaining an abusive employee. 

In some cases, verbal abuse can be unlawful. According to 18 U.S. Code § 16, threats of violence against you or your property are generally illegal, whether they happen in or out of the workplace. If verbal abuse crosses over to harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), you could also have legal recourse. 

If you have been subjected to verbal abuse that falls into any of the following criteria, labor laws and other regulations could help you to fight back:

  • The verbal abuse was based on a protected characteristic 
  • The verbal mistreatment happened over a prolonged period of time
  • You were threatened with violence against your person or property
  • The incidents can be interpreted as hostile

You could potentially sue your employer over a hostile work environment.
An attorney from our firm can help you understand your legal rights. 

You Could Recover Compensation  

The damages you could potentially recover with a lawsuit will vary depending on your specific verbal abuse case. You could be entitled to:

Back Pay

If you missed out on a promotion, were denied a pay rise, or were terminated from your job due to harassment or bullying at work, you could be entitled to back pay, such as:

  • Back wages 
  • Pay rises you should have received
  • Sick pay or vacation pay
  • Pension or retirement benefits
  • Commissions or tips

Front Pay

If you had to leave your position or lost your job due to prolonged verbal harassment, you could be entitled to future loss of income. 

Medical Bills and Out-of-Pocket Costs

If ongoing verbal abuse had a negative impact on your emotional or physical health, you could be entitled to any healthcare expenses you incurred as a result, such as:

  • Psychological counselling
  • Cost of medications
  • Cost of doctor’s appointments
  • Medical treatments

You could also potentially pursue other out-of-pocket expenses such as job search or retraining expenses.

Non-Economic Damages

If verbal abuse at work caused you considerable emotional and physical distress, you could potentially recover non-economic damages such as awards for pain and suffering.

Punitive Damages

A court may award punitive damages when an employer is found to have acted egregiously. For example, the employer knew of the hostile work environment but did nothing to fix the situation. Punitive damages are designed to punish the employer and deter them from creating a hostile and unsafe work environment in the future. 

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

  • What Can I Do if I Am Verbally Abused at Work?

    If you are suffering from verbally abusive behavior in the workplace, you should alert your employer of the situation. If you work in a larger company, speak to your HR department for help and advice. 

    If the abuse continues, make sure to document the incidents in writing. Include dates, times, location, and the name of the person or persons perpetrating the abuse. It is crucially important to collect and retain any tangible evidence such as emails or correspondence that show abusive language or bullying. 

    Notify OSHA

    If you feel that your work environment is not safe or healthy, you can file a complaint with OSHA. The agency will then most likely inspect your workplace and discuss their findings with your employer. You will also be legally protected from retaliation by an employer. 

    Contact a Lawyer

    If your employer fails to get a grip on the situation, or they are the abuser, consult with an attorney to learn of your legal rights and options for getting justice. 

  • How Do I Recognize Verbal Abuse at Work?

    Most of us associate verbal abuse with yelling and outright insults or other offensive language. However, in many cases, verbal abuse can be subtle and include language that is:

    • Discriminatory
    • Intimidating or threatening
    • Humiliating and insulting
    • Degrading

    Employees may even question whether they are experiencing verbal abuse and allow hostile behaviors to go on for a prolonged period before realizing that they are victims of abuse. Moreover, if an employer is the abuser, an employee is more likely to ignore or trivialize what is happening due to fear of retaliation or losing their job.  

    If you are getting called names, coworkers or employers make offensive jokes at your expense, or you are suffering from another type of verbal hostility on an ongoing basis, you are a victim of workplace bullying. Do not suffer in silence if you are dealing with daily abuse or dread going to work. Our experienced employment attorneys could help you get justice and compensation for your suffering and damages. 

  • Can I Sue if Coworkers Make Inappropriate Jokes at Work?

    There is no simple answer to the question of whether you could sue someone who is making inappropriate jokes. When a coworker’s sense of humor clashes with yours, or you occasionally feel annoyed by having to listen to inappropriate jokes, you most likely do not have a case. However, if offensive jokes are aimed at you, told repeatedly, and inflict severe distress, you could potentially file a claim or lawsuit. 

    For example, if a victim can provide tangible evidence of distress and suffering, such as having contacted their HR department several times about the inappropriate behavior or seeking mental counseling as a result of the hostile work environment, they could have a case. A victim could also file suit if the offending jokes include racial slurs, sexist remarks, or other types of unlawful discriminatory language. 

  • Do I Need a Lawyer to Sue for Harassment? 

    Your options for filing a lawsuit due to verbal abuse at work are quite limited. A lawyer can help determine whether you have a good case and which labor laws could apply to your verbal abuse situation. 

    Generally, to be successful with a claim, you must prove that the person perpetrating the verbal abuse violated the EEOC harassment statutes or threatened to physically harm you or your property. Moreover, a victim of workplace verbal abuse also needs to show that they were severely affected by the abuse, whether emotionally, physically, or financially. 

    Since the burden falls on the victim to prove harassment and verbal abuse claims, you will have to provide compelling evidence. Working with an employment lawyer can be crucial. A dedicated attorney can help with all aspects of your case, including gathering and organizing evidence, negotiate a settlement with your employer, and represent you aggressively in court. 

  • What Is the Time Limit for Filing a Verbal Abuse Lawsuit?

    Since the time you have available for filing a claim can differ from one state to another and potentially be prohibitively short, you should speak to an employment attorney as soon as possible after your verbal abuse incident. 

    If an abuser violated discrimination labor laws, you could file a claim with the EEOC. Generally, individuals only have between 180-300 days, depending on the details of their case, to file a claim with the EEOC. If the agency determines that you can go ahead with legal action, it will provide you with a “Notice of Right to Sue.” 

    However, if you are filing due to a violation of another state or federal law, your time limit for filing a suit can vary. Knowing the applicable statute of limitations for your lawsuit is absolutely essential. If you miss the deadline, you may be left without legal recourse and the opportunity to seek damages. 

  • Contact Morgan & Morgan for Help Today 

    No individual in the workplace has the right to verbally abuse you on the grounds of race, color, age, disability, or any other protected class. Moreover, no employee should have to suffer a hostile work environment day in and day out or be frightened to go to work. Although there is no labor law dealing exclusively with verbal abuse at work, certain employment and discrimination regulations could apply in your case. 

    Morgan & Morgan’s experienced employment attorneys have handled countless cases involving workplace abuse issues. We know firsthand the devastating consequences that hostile work environments and workplace bullying can have on victims’ health and financial stability. 

    You do not have to endure hurtful and recurring verbal abuse and can take action today. Our determined attorneys can assess your claim, identify your legal options, and handle your case from beginning to end. You only pay attorney’s fees if we win. If you are a victim of workplace abuse, contact us now for a free, no-obligation case review.

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