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  1. #1
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    Jul 2012
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    Default Harassment at Work

    My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: Virginia, Fairfax County

    I work for a big company A at my company's site and there are some subcontractors/partners from another big company B as coworkers. The managers are all from my company A and we work together on a big government contract.

    A female coworker from company B insulted me, harassed me many times in the past in the joke way and although I felt very bad about it, I didn't do anything about it. The lastest incident happened about a little more than a month ago, she told me in front several other coworkers at coffee break that I should have married an American guy so that I could have a cross breed son of bitch. I'm Chinese and she is Chinese too and 10 years older than me. In the past, she told me many times that her husband liked "fat" type like me and her husband should meet me sometimes in a joke way. It was quite insulting. BTW, I'm not really "fat" with 5'3" and 120lbs and she is the skinny type. When I was in a transition of job promotion about two months ago, she spreaded rumor to my coworkers that I was going to lose my job and she also told coworkers many times what I did while I didn't do and didn't even know she told others that way. I tolerated her and forgave her many times before, but this time, I decided to stand up when she told me I should have a cross breed son of bitch by marrying an American guy. Therefore, I wrote her a formal email and cc to the guys who were at the coffees break too and told her that her behavior was insulting, harassing and unacceptable and it should never happen again. I firmly told her if she did this again, I would address this to management, HR and even take legal actions. Immediately after I sent out the email, she addressed this to the manager to complain about me. Therefore, I had to forward the email I sent to her and explained what happened to managers. The managers took it seriously and addressed it to HR. Since this woman is company B employee and they can't discipline her directly (which I found untrue later. They could.). After it was addressed to HR, HR in company A didn't do anything for over a week and I had to push them and then they had to forward issue to company B. Then company A and company B both didn't do anything about it as far as protective, corrective actions are concerned. BTW, this woman did apologize to me in email in writing she did say in my allegations, but she interpreted as joke.

    If this woman totally stopped her behavior, I may have moved on and forgot about it. However, after I complained the issue, she began to gossip among my coworkers (I don't know what she exactly gossiped about) and now many coworkers stop talking to me. She also aggressively filed untruthful, malicious complaints against me too based on the conversation with HR that woman needs protection too which I had no clue about.

    Now after I addressed this issue to HR and senior VP of HR in company A, they claimed they did investigation for over a month and found the incident can't substantiate harassment and decided not to do anything about it even with the crystal clear proof of that woman's admission in her email. I requested a new investigation and new, satisfactory resolution from HR now and didn't get response yet.

    Now I have following questions:
    1. The HR and legal department of my company A denied it was harassment. How can I prove them it is and enforce them to do something about it in a smart way? I know I file a charge in court, it will be very easy to prove it with sound proof of that woman's email and with the witness. However, I dont want to sue my company if I don't have to. Besides, I have a very good job and I dont want to ruin it because of this evil woman. However, I got to find a smart way to let my company realize it is serious, and if they dont do anything, they have serious consequence to face. I did tell HR if I can't get a satisfactory resolution, I have to take legal actions. Also, I know I could file charge to EEOC, but it takes time and I'm still working for company A...

    1. What's the code of VA or code of Fairfax County of VA based on my jurisdiction location for specific harassment at work like this situation? I may need to refer to...

    1. Is there anything I can do to company B to pressure them to take corrective actions?

    1. I talked to an employment attorney and he told me he could send legal letter to both company A and company B to pressure them to take some actions. Will this help? Besides, there is cost of it? Is it worth it?

    1. My company A told me I can't talk about this issue at work with coworkers and I can't contact company B either. Basically, I can't even get support from coworkers. Do I have legal obligation for these?

    1. Is it a good idea to sue the harasser in the county court for harassment (and get protective order) and sue company B's inability for its liability for its employee's harassment? again, what's the code of VA? I am quite familiar with the court procedure and would be able to represent myself, esp. considering it's so easy to prove case with hard core evidence of email in writing.

    1. I dont want to quit my job which will make the harasser really happy since my good job and title with younger age and only several months experience in company A was what she was jealous of and what her motivation of harassment. She has been working on the site for 6/7 years and never got promotion. However, I am enforced to tolerate the hostile working environment. The company does have zero tolerance harassment policy, but now they just denied it was harassment. I know if I quit my job for this harassment issue and I can make it a big legal case out of it... But now I'm debating...

    May I get other guidance on how to proceed this successfully and efficiently without damaging my own interests much?

    Thank you!

  2. #2
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    Jun 2006
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    Massachusetts
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    Default Re: Harassment (Not Sexual) at Work Problem Need Urgent

    Let me ask you a question or two or three, and it is VERY important to the answers to all of your questions. If you had to guess, why do you believe that she is treating you this way? Why has she chosen you for this treatment, and does she behave this way to others?

    No prompting from the gallery, please - I don't want to put words in the poster's mouth.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Harassment (Not Sexual) at Work Problem Need Urgent

    Thanks for your quick reply!

    I couldn't put too many details in the previous post...

    She specifically harassed me this way. There were some background stories...
    The first day I went to my job, she rushed to my space without saying hi or introducing her, and rudely and loudly told me it supposed to her workspace which the manager promised and I should move out of it. I told her to deal with manager instead of me.

    Later she began to be nice to me since she really wanted to join my team which sounds like a better team. We began to have talks and interactions and I am very nice to her. After several months I have been at new job, many of my coworkers told me and told her too that I totally changed her since she began to care about her hair, shoes and dress which she doesn't care at all before. This may seriously damaged her ego. Also, the position I got is the position she desired for.

    I got equipped with brand new Mac pro and iPad as a newcomer while she didn't...

    Therefore, just to clarify, I'm not a nuts for her to target while she didn't target to others.

    But in general, she is nothing of style or classic. And she always had all kinds of sexual harassing jokes she didn't care. But she didn't usually target to specific anybody except me...

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Harassment (Not Sexual) at Work Problem Need Urgent

    I am not asking you what she has done that you are classifying as harassment. I am asking you why, in your opinion, she has decided to treat YOU and not someone else this way.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Harassment (Not Sexual) at Work Problem Need Urgent

    Quote Quoting cbg
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    I am not asking you what she has done that you are classifying as harassment. I am asking you why, in your opinion, she has decided to treat YOU and not someone else this way.
    These are only my guess: my younger age, better job in short time (several months) to reach the position she desires compared to her 6/7 years with no promotion, better work equipments, popularity at work among female and male coworkers...

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Harassment (Not Sexual) at Work Problem Need Urgent

    NONE of which constitutes illegal harassment under the law. That being the case, the answers to your questions are as follows:

    1.) You can't because they are correct. Not all of what the average Joe or Josie believes is harassment, is illegal under the law. While there is such a thing as illegal harassment, what you have described does not fit the legal definition. On another board you referenced the EEOC - the EEOC does not take on harassment based on your getting the job she wants, you getting better equipment, or you being more popular, and it only takes on age issues if you are being treated adversely because you are OLDER, not younger - and at that you have to be over 40 before it counts. Based on your description, the company can do absolutely nothing about it and face no consequences whatsoever. While they MAY take action to correct her, they are not REQUIRED to based on your description.

    2.) There is none.

    3.) No.

    4.) It might. It might not. If it does, it will be because the company chooses to take action, and not because there is any illegality about what is happening.

    5.) No.

    6.) No.

    7.) The term, hostile work environment has a very specific meaning under the law, and what you describe is not it. The reason I wanted you to explain why you thought she was behaving this way, was to see if your perception of her actions met the definition. It does not. Therefore, if you quit your job and sued you would lose. What you have defined is NOT harassment under the law.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Harassment (Not Sexual) at Work Problem Need Urgent

    I already had meeting with employment attorney and confirmed it was illegal harassment and it caused harassing working environment.

    I was confused by your precious questions which proved now may be unnecessary. The definition about harassment is not on the harasser's motivation which is totally irrelevant, like Colorado killer, He can explain there was no motivation or the motivation as joke. However, it is the consequence counts. The killing is crime regardless if the killer has malicious motivation or not. The harassment is illegal because the victim feels insulted and harassed and causing negative impact to work to the victim.

    I was not asking if this is harassment which I already confirmed. Please do some research before giving others advices, otherwise, it's really misleading.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Harassment (Not Sexual) at Work Problem Need Urgent

    Perhaps your lawyer tried to explain the reasonable person standard to you - that if a reasonable person would be offended by something, in certain context the speaker's intention can be irrelevant; but we're talking about a reasonable person, not an individual's subjective impressions that may reflect significantly heightened (or lowered) sensitivity. But if the so-called harassment does not relate to a protected status, it's something for your employer to deal with pursuant to its personnel policies. That's a long way from justifying a lawsuit - which would presumably be why the lawyer offered to let you pay him to send a letter rather than signing you on as a client on a contingency basis.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Harassment (Not Sexual) at Work Problem Need Urgent

    Quote Quoting lily2012
    View Post
    I already had meeting with employment attorney and confirmed it was illegal harassment and it caused harassing working environment.

    I was confused by your precious questions which proved now may be unnecessary. The definition about harassment is not on the harasser's motivation which is totally irrelevant, like Colorado killer, He can explain there was no motivation or the motivation as joke. However, it is the consequence counts. The killing is crime regardless if the killer has malicious motivation or not. The harassment is illegal because the victim feels insulted and harassed and causing negative impact to work to the victim.

    I was not asking if this is harassment which I already confirmed. Please do some research before giving others advices, otherwise, it's really misleading.
    You and it appears your attorney have no clue what you're talking about. I've seen your same post on several other websites and know that all you want to do is argue the point but NOTHING in any of your posts suggests any form of prohibited harassment is taking place. Not even close and not under any theory of law. No laws require your co-workers to be nice to you.

  10. #10
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    Jul 2012
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    Default Re: Harassment (Not Sexual) at Work Problem Need Urgent

    Problem solved. The harasser was punished by company B by taking some corrective, disciplinary actions. Outcome is satisfactory.

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