California Labor Laws Called Into Question Once Again


Employees facing harassment in the workplace find themselves in a difficult position: seek relief and risk more abuse, or suffer in silence. Understanding the options can help make the choice clear. But what can an individual hit with such harassment do when the abuse doesn’t target personal traits such as ethnicity, religion or age?

One Such Case

Consider a recent incident at a California Costco which led to hostility toward a worker and his subsequent termination in mid-July. The employee, who worked for Warehouse Demo Specialists – workers responsible for delivering samples to Costco shoppers – needed to use the restroom. With no relief available despite repeated attempts to locate a supervisor, he closed down his station. Returning ten minutes later, he was challenged by the store’s loss-prevention officer, who then verbally abused the worker in front of other security personnel, making the worker so uncomfortable he was told to go home by human resources.

Ex-Employee Now at a Loss

He hasn’t returned to Costco since he was instructed to leave. Despite Costco’s ability to relocate him, the worker claims, he was fired under pretense and now believes he faced harassment and wrongful termination just for needing to use the bathroom. Returning to Costco without an official reprimand of the security guard he dealt with has left the worker with anxiety attacks – and fears that the loss officer’s roaming job means he could face the same situation at another store.

Is Relief Achievable?

The main concern with this individual’s situation is that the security personnel who made him so nervous insulted his honesty, not his personal origin or his beliefs. But even so, verbal abuse is unacceptable under state and federal law, as it can create a hostile work environment that constitutes harassment and impedes workers’ ability to do their jobs. Employers who don’t wish to be held accountable for the bad acts of their employees should take these incidents seriously. When they fail, the affected worker should look for options, more informed and ready to make their case.


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