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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    2

    Default What is a Hostile Work Environment

    My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: Louisiana

    I have been working in a small law firm for just over a year and a half. During that time, I have witnessed one of the two partners engage in work ethics that are somewhat questionable, but perhaps not illegal: Notarizing documents not signed in front of her (usually friends or clients), having me pose as her in order to talk to an IRS agent to get information on a pending case, etc. She is often gone from the office on various social networking or personal errands. She has had the legal secretary reschedule client appointments because they conflict with getting her nails or hair done.

    She ran off her associate, a new graduate from law school, making that poor girl miserable until the day it happened. She lied to the managing partner about some of the circumstances that led to the resignation/firing, and I am embarassed to say that I stayed quiet during this time.

    When a new part-time associate was hired, I met with the managing partner in private and told him that I was concerned that we were seeing a repeat of her absentee behavior from the year before, and that I felt that in order to not have a repeat of the issue with the associate that had left, that he should consider having ongoing meetings with the partner and the associate in order to make sure that the associate was properly trained/acclimated.

    That didn't happen, unfortunately.

    And, the partner found out that I had talked to the managing partner "behind her back", and for the past several weeks, she has had a rather stand-offish behavior with me, making small digs, and then laughing them off as jokes, and making what I felt were demands for performance outside of my job requirements.

    Last week, I lost it with her, and announced I was quitting as of January 5th. She said fine and we both parted ways. I talked to the managing partner on Friday and he agreed I could stay on to help with end of year transition until January 30th. I sent him an email to confirm this.

    I got an email back saying that she already had someone to help with the transition and I would be let go on January 5th.

    Now that you have all this background (and congratulations for reading thus far), can I insist that he stick with our original verbal agreement?

    If I wished to fight this, can I say that I have never been written up, never been told that I was performing inadequately, and thus never given a chance to correct any deficient behavior.

    Also, is this considered a resignation or a termination. I initiated the parting, but in his email to me, he labels it a termination.

    Can I go to the labor board about the partner creating a hostile work environment (I can call the former legal secretary and the associate both), and can I go to the bar about some of her work ethics?

    I know, several questions. But thank you very much for your input.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    24,262

    Default Re: Hostile Work Environment

    The term, hostile work environment, has a very specific meaning under employment law. Unless you were being subjected to either sexual harassment or illegal discrimination/harassment under Title VII and related laws (race, religion, national origin etc.) you were not, legally, in an HWE. Nothing you have posted suggests that this is the case.

    In any case, the Department of Labor does not address HWE complaints. That is the jurisdiction of the EEOC.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Hostile Work Environment

    I was probably too quick to actually use the phrase 'hostile work environment' now that I know that it has an actual legal meaning.

    The partner in question also told the legal secretary and the receptionist that if they wanted to keep their jobs, they were not to speak to me at all. This is before I had talked to the managing partner, and I am the HR/Office manager. I'm not sure that denying them communication was a proper course of action.

    What about the first two questions, of never having been written up (and on the contrary, I have several emails attesting to what a good job I'm doing), and of whether this would be classified as a termination or a resignation?

    Thank you very much for such a prompt reply.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    24,262

    Default Re: Hostile Work Environment

    Whether you have or have not been written up before is immaterial. Nothing in the law says that you can't be disciplined or fired without a writeup first, and if you think about it you'll realize why.

    As far as I can see, you quit but they elected to accept your resignation earlier than you wanted. That is legal.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    3,835

    Default Re: Hostile Work Environment

    Quote Quoting phatmomma
    View Post
    My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: Louisiana

    ....having me pose as her in order to talk to an IRS agent to get information on a pending case, etc.

    Her asking you to do that was a federal crime on her part, IMO. However to implicate her, you would implicate yourself. Your defense, of course, would be one of coercion to keep your job.

    Never do that again.

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