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physical harassment in Washington

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  • physical harassment in Washington

    I've been having problems with an ear infection for the past year - pretty well documented and I used a couple sick days for procedures. I've worked for this company for almost 3 years and have been in good standing.

    Yesterday afternoon a senior partner was having an argument with an engineer behind me when the partner suddenly grabbed my bad ear lobe, squeezed hard and pulled, while yelling "Say it! Say it!"
    I got him to stop and let him know the ear was off limits.
    A moment later I had my hands back on the keyboard and he snuck up behind me, crimped my entire ear, twisted and pulled HARD while saying something about "who's the boss." It hurt.
    I'm not clear on exactly what I yelled but I think it was along the lines of how he should let go or I'd go for his balls. Somehow "let go or I'll sue" just didn't spring to mind.

    The partner let go and walked off. My co-workers started loudly talking about going to HR to talk about rough housing. My ear is killing me but I'm OK with the partner - he's just a dork with bad judgment and poor impulse control.

    Problem is this morning I'm hearing from someone adjacent to HR that they're talking about writing me up, or maybe even firing me, for violation of a zero-tolerance policy on "terroristic threats of violence" once the President returns from a trip.

    Any thoughts? Maybe a chance it could be turned into a constructive quit so I'd retain benefits? Should I seek legal advice?
    The whole thing may just blow over, too. Hard to tell at this point.

  • #2
    I don't have any answers or advice for you, but just wanted to bump this since you hadn't yet received a response.
    I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.


    • #3
      Hi, SecondEd,

      Have you reported the incident to HR? If not, it would be in your best interest to do so, especially since the other employee physically touched you and caused you pain.


      • #4
        I guess there aren't many responses because we don't know enough about your company's policies.
        But just going on what you wrote, if there is indeed a "zero-tolerance" policy on workplace violence and threats, it seems to me that whatever disciplinary action is taken with you should be taken with the person who became physically aggressive with you. Especially since it appears that there were numerous witnesses to the incident.
        Though since this person was a senior partner, that sounds like an owner, or part-owner, so it's not like an owner would be subject to internal disciplinary procedures.
        You are only hearing rumors at this point, so you really can't act on rumors. It's likely that if the partner wants you fired for threatening him, that someone with some common sense would remind him that he physically hurt you, in front of witnesses. The attorneys my company uses to advise HR are always eager to tell us when taking a certain action could backfire on us with legal action from an employee.

        Even if you don't press criminal charges against the partner, they might be afraid that you might look into whether a negligence suit against the company would have any merit. I've seen my own past employers threatened with a suit for failing to ensure safety in the workplace, and our attorneys advised us to not term the employee who could potentially sue (at least until the situation blew over, and there's some other clear and unrelated reason to fire the person).

        I'm not saying that a lawsuit would have any merit; I don't know. But most companies have attorneys who advise their HR dept, and those attorneys (usually in a most frustrating manner) tend to advise against terminating employees who have had any kind of "strange" incident like yours.

        If it's just a write-up, then maybe you can ask to attach a note to it, with your side of the story. We let people do this all the time; it doesn't make the write-up go away, but it allows the employee to get thier "rebuttal" on record in a professional and drama-free way.


        • #5
          We let people do this all the time; it doesn't make the write-up go away, but it allows the employee to get thier "rebuttal" on record in a professional and drama-free way.

          And in the OP's state of Washington, the law requires that an employee be allowed to insert a rebuttal if there is any information in the file with which he does not agree.
          The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


          • #6
            Ha Ha, wish I could say "I knew that"!


            • #7
              Thanks very much everyone, for all the helpful tips.
              I'm crossing fingers that I've got it covered. My workplace doesn't keep employee files beyond simple worker eligibility records... for reasons we don't need to go into here.
              But today our HR took the afternoon off for a meeting and designated payroll/benefits as the stand-in. I sent payroll an e-mail thanking whoever spoke with the exec about his ear-pulling problem, notifying her that I'd need to take an absence to see a doctor about the new pain in my ear. Got a nice reply acknowledging the problem and excusing the absence on medical grounds. So the issue is skirted and documented for the moment.
              Oh, I run the mail server too.

              TSCompliance - you are correct on the part owner and "exempt" status. Which is why I'm only playing for the end game, if it comes to that. Hopefully like you said if I can get enough on the record I'll be able to stave them off for a while. Things are hard all over and I'm not sure how much longer this gig will last, but would like to leave on my terms. Was looking for work when I got there... and hopefully experience in BOMs (bills of materials) and routings are still worth something out in the real world.
              Best to everyone,