Chicago, IL asked in Employment Discrimination and Employment Law for Illinois

Q: I am unable to do my job due to the state of my mental health, caused by a hostile work environment. What can I do?

After communicating with a supervisor and HR regarding my mental health and concerns about a hostile work environment, including harassment via micro-aggressions and unfair scrutiny/biases, my employer retaliated with increased scrutiny, overt incivility, and a denial of benefits.

A non-minority colleague ​​expressed similar concerns​ about a hostile work environment and the effects on her mental health and was​ promptly provided with support and assistance​.

This led to my explicit request for the same assistance provided to my non-minority colleague, a leave of absence to facilitate short-term disability coverage. HR granted the leave of absence and provided the necessary information to facilitate the claim, advising that the leave would be unpaid due to a lack of accrued PTO. I found this disappointing and surprising since my non-minority colleague was approved to use 10 days of unearned PTO.

1 Lawyer Answer
Rhiannon Herbert
Rhiannon Herbert
  • Employment Law Lawyer
  • Columbus, OH

A: If you haven't already, you should make a written report to your company's HR department regarding the differences in treatment you have observed that may be based on race (based on your message above). While treating some employees more favorably than others is inherently unfair, this behavior can only become unlawful if you are treated differently than other employees based on a protected class characteristic under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (e.g., race, sex, age, disability, religion).

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