Hostile work enviroment

My question concerns eligibilty for unemployment benefits. My wife has worked for a privately owned company for the past 4 years. She has been extremely successful with her sales, but was recently severely "verbally abused" by the owner of the company, because of what he states is her "unappreciative" attitude. Which, by the way, is a complete falsehood. This incident along with several others have made what my wife classifies as a "hostile" work enviroment. That directly effects her ability to do her job. Due to the attitude and actions of her direct supervisor, the owner.
Would this meet the "just cause" requirement for unemployment benefits, if she decided to quit. Thank You.

1 answer  |  asked Jan 10, 2003 1:05 PM [EST]  |  applies to Ohio

Answers (1)

Richard Renner
Difficult question on quit for verbal abuse

Unemployment compensation claims are not subject to scientific determination. The official legal standard is whether the cause is, "that which, to an ordinarily intelligent person, is a justifiable reason for doing or not doing a particular act." Peyton v. Sun TV, 44 Ohio App.2d 10 (1975); Ivine v. UC Bd. of Rev. (1985), 19 Ohio St.3d 15. This "standard" gives the hearing office wide discretion. From my practical experience, this type of case is difficult to win unless we can show the adverse health effects of the verbal abuse. Did it cause loss of sleep, appetite? Did it cause anxiety, stress, marital tension? Did it require professional mental health counseling? Even if it did, the hearing officer might expect the worker to tell the boss, "your language is causing me too much stress; it affects my health; can you agree to stop?" If you have this type of discussion with the owner, I suggest a confirming letter so you have a document to show the date and contents of your notice to the boss about the health effects. If the boss persists, I suggest writing a letter reviewing the notice the boss had of the adverse health effects, that the boss had an opportunity to correct the behavior, and yet persisted. Then I could feel better about the unemployment claim. But no case is ever certain. Two sources of support for such a claim would be the Ohio DJFS "Nonmonetary Policy Guide", Part II, Section V, page 18; and 76 ALR3d 1079.
There might be other issues that affect the case. Was the verbal abuse connected to retaliation against something you said? If what you said is, "how about we follow the law," then it might be protected activity, and the boss's abuse might be unlawful retaliation. I worry about the boss testifying that he was always polite and you wife was the eggshell. That is where the paper trail of confirming memos and letters is especially helpful. If you are ready to quit, then why have fear of any retaliatory discharge?

Richard Renner

posted by Richard Renner  |  Jan 10, 2003 1:37 PM [EST]

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