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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Default Employer Would Not Stop Co-Worker Harassment

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

    Co-Worker Harassment

    A co-worker (a male/abuser) has initiated a hostile work environment on three (3) separate occasions against another co-worker (female/victim). The abuser has never been provoked by the victim. The abuser has always approached the victim when initiating hostilities. All incidents have occurred in the office at the work-site. The abuser abuses the victim by:

    Intruding into victim's personal space while yelling & swearing
    Making furtive movements with arms/hands while in victim's personal space
    Interrupting victim's business phone calls with yelling and disrupting workflows

    1st instance:

    Victim told abuser to stop harassment/hostile work environment and that if harassment continued, employer would be notified and an in-office claim would be filed.

    2nd instance:

    Victim informed employer of harassment/hostile work environment in writing and asked employer for a remedy. Employer did nothing.

    3rd instance:

    Husband of victim took wife to local police department; victim filed public harassment claim with local police; police department contacted abuser by phone and told abuser to cease in-office verbal hostilities against victim; husband escorted wife to office for protection; husband introduced himself to abuser for the first time and told abuser "the harassment of (victim's name) ends now." Abuser, smiled raised his left hand approximately shoulder height and flicked his finger up and down whole mouthing the words, "bye, bye...bye, bye". Husband told abuser, "if the harassment does not stop, I'm coming back to the office to defend my wife and I won't be talking." Husband then entered wife's office, informed wife that he abuser continued with harassment to contact the police first, then contact husband second. Husband, had routine cordial (typical) conversation with one other co-worker before leaving premises.

    Subsequent Employer Activity

    1) Employer arranged a meeting. Present at the meeting was the employer, the employers attorney, employer witnesses, the abuser and the victim. End result of the meeting was to tell the victim that no hostile work environment existed and that all previous incidents were, "a verbal disagreement between two employees requiring no discipline action."

    (insulting to say the least)

    2) Abuser refuses to come back into the office (he's a part-time employee working between 10 am -2 pm only) and will only work from home. Abuser has told employer that if employer forces abuser back into the office, that abuser would "quit" his position.

    Transition from Co-Worker Harassment to Employer Harassment and Defamation

    1) Employer directs its attorney to contact victim directly. Employer's attorney contacts victim at her office during business hours, interrupts victim's work flow and demands that victim sign a binding agreement stating that the victim will control a third-party by preventing her husband from entering the building. (Note: Employer leases one small suite inside a large, multi-suite privately owned commercial building being leased to the general public per square foot. Husband's and Wife's dentist occupies same commercial building).

    2) Victim refused to sign employers demand citing that such a binding agreement was 1) Unlawful and 2) Not binding on her (victim) as employer had no right to force victim to sign an agreement that would bind victim to an unlawful demand - the control of a third-party who was not a dependent minor. Victim stated to employer that she felt she was now being harassed by employer for exercising her lawful right to file a hostile work environment complaint and re-stated her request that the employer ethically and honesty engage in protecting her right(s) as an employee to not be harassed by a peer in the office.

    3) Employer continued harassment by repeatedly interrupting the victim's daily work flow and demanding that she give personal contact information to the employer, including a residential address, so the employer could serve a Temporary Restraining Order on the victim's husband on behalf of the abuser.

    (adding insult to injury)

    4) Employer sent a company representative to victim's office, read a prepared statement from a document, demanded the victim's building access security badge and then told the victim to leave the building. Employer representative DID NOT tell the victim that she was being "terminated" or "suspended," just to "leave the building." Victim left the employers suite, into the sitting area of her Dentist on the ground floor and made a phone call. Employer's representative approached the building security desk and told building security, "(victim's name) is not allowed in the building. She's been suspended." Building security repeated employer's statement verbatim to Dental office personnel and told victim that she must leave the Dental office.

    Current Status

    Employer ordered victim back to work 48 hours after taking victim's security badge away and forcing victim to leave the building by way of the employer's false statement given to building security, that victim had been suspended (victim was never told that she was being suspended). At EOD on the same day, the regional President/Employer approached victim with a two (2) page document entitled, "Proposed Discipline of (Victim's Name)."

    In said two (2) page document, the employer makes zero mention of victim's hostile work environment claim, but rather concludes that victim will be placed on "unpaid leave" indefinitely within 10 days, as a direct result of the victim being in violation of a collective bargaining agreement, where said violation was summed up as the victim's "refusal to cooperate" with the employer in helping it serve the victim's husband with a restraining order by giving the employer the husband's personal contact information including a residential address. (Note: the victim used a P.O. Box number for business related correspondence including for employment related issues).


    In my mind, this entire case is one where an employer is trying side-step and ignore an internal hostile work environment problem, by claiming that the employer must "protect" the abuser from the husband of the woman who is obviously a victim of the abusers in office hostility. The employer refuses to protect the victim of the hostile work environment claim, but does everything to stand side-by-side with the abuser.

    a) Does the employer have legal standing (either State of Federal) to force an employee to sign a binding agreement that would then force said employee to control the actions of a third-party who is not the employee's minor dependent?

    b) Does the employer have legal standing (either State or Federal) to threaten termination and/or unpaid suspension and to force an employee to give statements/information that assists the employer in filing a legal action against a third-party/spouse?

    c) Does the employer have a legal obligation/duty (either State or Federal) to fairly investigate and resolve all claims of a hostile work environment?

    d) Does the employer have legal standing (either State or Federal) to harass and/or retaliate against an employee, because said employee filed an internal hostile work environment claim against a co-worker and/or peer.

    e) Does victim have grounds for filing in court for:

    Employer Harassment
    Employer Retaliatory Suspension
    Defamation through either Libel and/or Slander

    (recall: false statements to Security that ended up with Dentist, where victim previously enjoyed a good business "relationship" that has now been tainted.)

    Thank you in advance for your help on this.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2006

    Default Re: Co-Worker Harassment Leading to Employer Harassment and Retaliation/Slander

    That's about three times too long; however, I believe your understanding of what constitutes an HWE is flawed.

    Unless an employee is being subjected to either sexual harassment or illegal discrimination under Title VII and related laws (race, religion, national origin etc.), it is NOT an HWE. Yelling, swearing, interrupting phone calls etc. does NOT constitute an HWE.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Default Re: Co-Worker Harassment Leading to Employer Harassment and Retaliation/Slander

    Quote Quoting cbg
    View Post
    That's about three times too long; however, I believe your understanding of what constitutes an HWE is flawed.

    Unless an employee is being subjected to either sexual harassment or illegal discrimination under Title VII and related laws (race, religion, national origin etc.), it is NOT an HWE. Yelling, swearing, interrupting phone calls etc. does NOT constitute an HWE.

    I can't possibly imagine a judge or more importantly, a jury, sitting and listening to a case where a male co-worker, known for blowing-up into emotional outbursts, who picks his victim, bullies her, verbally abuses her, makes physically furtive movements in her personal space that intimidate her and cause her to feel threatened, yells at her, swears at her, having previously referred to her as a "monkey" and "naive" to a second employee (at some time in the past - not concurrently); that would come to the conclusion that said bully had not instantiated a hostile work environment, merely because he did not rape her on the spot.

    If the law can't protect people in the workplace from this kind of abuse and has no mechanism for remedy should such co-worker abuse take place, then what good is the law? Why not just become a nation of vigilantes instead of pretending to be a nation of laws.

    Furthermore, what does the law say about an employer who attempts to force an employee to sign a binding agreement that unlawfully forces an employee to control a third-parties actions? Is that not unlawful on its face? Or, what about an employer who threatens an employee with suspension with pay indefinitely, if said employee does not give the employer private and privileged information for the sole purpose of litigating against her own spouse? Or, what about an employer who makes false statements to a third-party, who then repeats those false statements to a party in relationship to the employee causing estrangement within the employee's professional relationship(s)?

    Have you actually read the complaint - before commenting on it?

    If HWE does not apply, then what about the right to not be forced to give privileged/private information to an employer that is not related to work the employer hired the employee to perform? What about the right to privacy? By what authority does an employer have the legal power(s) to force an employee to participate in the pre-litigation of a family member? Where is the employers responsibility for fairly investigating claims of hostile work environment issues? Why would an employee do nothing about a co-worker obviously out of control and who has engaged in the verbal intimidation of another co-worker on multiple occasions without correction, yet find it perfectly fair and balanced to file a restraining order against a husband who finally came to the defense of his wife/victim?

    Is the law blind to these issues, of just deaf and dumb to them?

    Certainly, there must be an attorney with common sense who can see the pedestrian nature of a case like this and how to apply the relevant portions of the law to win a case of this kind in a court of proper jurisdiction. If this case can't be won, the what can - other than cases involving sexual misconduct or outright physical violence in the workplace.

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