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Hostile Work Environment? Washington

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  • Hostile Work Environment? Washington

    I work at the IT help desk of a non-profit organization (referred to as "the organization" for this posting) in Seattle as a contractor through another company (referred to as "my employer"). I work all day in a space the size of a bathroom with two guys that our team strongly advised our supervisor (an employee of the organization) not to hire. They're extemely unprofessional and fail to show up to work on time (which often means I don't get a break) and neglect their core job functions. Those matters aside, they're both a couple of sexist pigs.

    The first individual is a married man with three kids who thinks that lusty headshots of models are acceptable wallpaper on a computer that faces our users even though he was warned not to use such images. He is more than happy to blatantly drool over and patronize female members of the staff one moment and to put it VERY lightly, make disparaging remarks about the institution of marriage the next. His attitudes toward women have affected his ability to fulfill his duties. On one occasion, he disappeared five minutes prior to the start of his shift with a less than discreet female member of the staff for "coffee" and did not return until more than 25 minutes after he was supposed to be at his desk, logged into phones, helping to take some of the load off of his very busy co-workers.

    There's more. The other guy I work with is a real piece of work. He actually came to work back in November and tried to convince myself and another female co-worker to vote for an initiative to legalize LAP DANCES! This topic was brought up again and again over a period of days and when he couldn't convince us he tried to tell us it was a women's rights issue. When he still could not convince us, he openly and viciously insulted my and my parents' – more specifically my father's – moral convictions. He openly called me and my parents “stupid.” This was reported to my employer who informed our supervisor at the organization (an employee of the organization) of the incident. No action was taken against him at this time.

    On a separate occasion, this individual insulted my ethics again after he showed up 26 minutes late to work, hung over and confused after having gotten completely wasted at an organization event in an organization building the night before. He’d apparently gotten so drunk that he’d manage to lose his jacket and messenger back the night before and was making a terrible fuss about it. He tried desperately to pull me into an emotionally charged argument when in response to his bemoaning I made a passing comment that drinking at work is walking a very fine line – the reasons for which are numerous and many of them are quite obvious. When I tried to very calmly lay some of these reasons out for him in an attempt to appeal to any sense of logic he opted to berate me and idolize, indeed glorify, irresponsible drinking at work as necessary for “team building,” completely ignoring my statements that there is a very big difference between getting tipsy with colleagues at a pub after a long day and getting drunk at work. This incident was immediately reported to our supervisor's manager (another employee of the organization) who stated that he was not aware of any previous problems with this individual at all (which shows just what a stellar job my employer is doing at handling the complaints of their employees and how blindly the organization has placed their trust in the hands of contracting companies to deal with serious HR issues occurring under their roof). My employer was informed of this incident as well and since then has been increasingly less and less willing to discuss the conditions in which I am left to work.

    When the attacks of this individual led to me relocate temporarily he lashed out at me over messenger and had the nerve to question my dedication, my professionalism, my ability and willingness to fulfill my duties in an angry, dismissive and belittling manner. This exchange was handed over to my employer, who took it up with the organization, and he's still here.

    I just want to make very clear that the tone used by this individual is regularly one of an abusive maniac who thinks he can bully people into a corner. On better days here at the help desk he has taken to completely ignoring me which has already led to performance issues including deleting voicemails after being asked specifically to leave them. When I asked him what happened to the messages, he proceeded to start a childish argument and accused me of LYING – in front of my colleagues – about having asked him to leave them. This was reported to my employer as well.

    This individual was finally, as I understand it, spoken to by his agency about how he conducts himself at work and yet his poor behavior continues.

    My manager has said over and over that I'm a rock star of a team member, doing a stellar job, etc. But when I asked that I be permanently relocated, he denied this request saying it would send a bad message to the rest of the team and he shoved me back to my employer.

    Things have gotten increasingly worse. My employer has grown less and less receptive to valid, verifiable complaints that I've continued to bring to their attention. My manager at the organization has now started to become more and more retaliatory. He's relocating me to a server room - very, very loud, very cold, very dark, very cramped environment - despite my objections. He's started nagging me about closing tickets sooner when I continue to produce the most quality work of anyone on our entire team. He recently snipped at me - in front of the two team members I've filed complaints against - because he couldn't reach me on my personal cell phone during business hours for work related questions after I told him that I keep my cell phone off while I'm at work and that my cell phone has no signal in our building. He also snipped at me - again, in front of the two team members who are causing problems - for not creating documentation on another team member's job tasks (another star female, whom he's been extremely critical of as of late for missing work for verifiable and documented serious medical problems) that he never - I repeat, NEVER - asked me to create. He's also doubled my workload.

    I reported these changes in my manager's behavior and expectations to my employer and they've now basically stopped responding. They also claim that this situation in no way constitutes a hostile work environment which goes against every HR video I've ever seen.

    Can anyone advise as to whether or not this constitutes a hostile work environment? I basically don't have a choice at this point but to endure this or quit but if my instincts are right and there's serious wrong-doing here, I want to find a lawyer. I don't want to leave my friends at this organization to endure this same fate.

  • #2
    No this isn't a hostile environment as the law defines it. These guys dfon't like you, and you don't like them. You have good reason but the writing is on the wall here that management obviously doesn't value you enough to place your happiness there over their continued employment and you can not make your employer give you a different workspace nor fire these two.

    The comments about women are borderline hostile environment but these two have no authority over you and it isn't clear how often the comments are made and whether it is really enough to alter the terms and conditions of your employment. Insulting you and your parents because you disagree is juvenile, but it doesn't break the law. Most of your complaints seem centered on the fact that these two behave unprofessionally (come in late, don't do their work, arrive hung over) and that you are in an undesireable workspace and your manager has criticized you in front of others. All of this is a sign that it is time to dust off the resume. It is not legally actionable.
    I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by ElleMD View Post
      No this isn't a hostile environment as the law defines it. These guys dfon't like you, and you don't like them. You have good reason but the writing is on the wall here that management obviously doesn't value you enough to place your happiness there over their continued employment and you can not make your employer give you a different workspace nor fire these two.

      The comments about women are borderline hostile environment but these two have no authority over you and it isn't clear how often the comments are made and whether it is really enough to alter the terms and conditions of your employment. Insulting you and your parents because you disagree is juvenile, but it doesn't break the law. Most of your complaints seem centered on the fact that these two behave unprofessionally (come in late, don't do their work, arrive hung over) and that you are in an undesireable workspace and your manager has criticized you in front of others. All of this is a sign that it is time to dust off the resume. It is not legally actionable.
      ElleMD is not a lawyer, is certainly not a jury, and cannot tell anyone whether they have a claim or not. At most, she can tell you whether she sees a claim, but she certainly cannot definitively state anything is "not legally actionable."

      The actions of co-workers who are not superiors can establish a hostile environment in many situations, most particularly when allowed by superiors - even more so when allowed by superiors because they want you out for some legally protected reason 9race, religion, sex, national origin, etc.)

      Elle does not have all the facts, and neither do I. She's not qualified to render any legal advice other than to advise you speak with a lawyer, and because we cannot possibly have all the facts neither is anyone else posting on this board.
      Any advice provided does not create an attorney-client relationship. This is a public forum and therefore no confidentiality is assured. Attorney Joel Grist does not enter into an attorney-client relationship without a written representation agreement.

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