It is normal for employees to want solid working relationships with their supervisors; especially around this time of year (when annual reviews are made). Think of it; a healthy relationship is not only good for productivity, but it may also open up advancement opportunities that may not be available in adversarial employer-employee relationships.
While this may represent an ideal working relationship, many employees don’t get to experience it. Instead, they have the misfortune of working through a tumultuous experience that feels more like an emotionally abusive relationship.
Whether they are ultimately terminated or denied a promotion, a disgruntled employee may want to pursue a lawsuit because of harassment or discrimination. Essentially, they may believe that if a supervisor is rude or disrespectful in their dealings, this automatically forms the legal basis for a lawsuit.
But that is not how the law works. In fact, the law does not require supervisors to be warm, fuzzy, or understanding. As such, claims against an employer for being difficult or mean-spirited may not be sufficient (by itself) to form the legal basis of a discrimination or harassment claim under California law. However, if it can be shown that this type of constant angst is directed towards an employee because of his or her membership in a protected class, this could lead to an employment discrimination suit.
In the meantime, it may be difficult to know for certain when harsh treatment crosses the line from hard-nosed management to illegal discrimination. This is especially difficult in high-pressure situations and emotions are running high.
In these instances, it is a good idea to discuss your situation with an experienced employment law attorney.