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Thread: Hostile Work Environment Colorado

  1. #1
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    Default Hostile Work Environment Colorado

    Today at work myself and two other employees were in a disagreement about work related issues. Two of us agreed the other did not. The employee who did not started raising his voice to me and than looked at me and said f-u, punched a hole in my office door. He than walked out and said i'm sick of this. I told my boss about it immediately and as of right now he has not been fired. this is the second time this employee has done something like this, the first time he kicked a door because he was mad at an employee. My husband talked to my boss and told him he was concerned. My boss did nothing but make excuses for the employee at fault. I filed a police report at work while my husband was there talking to my boss on his cell phone because my boss was not in the office. While my boss was talking to my husband on the phone he pulled up to the office and saw the cop car. He told my husband "oh the cops are here I guess I'll find out whats going on" but than he left without doing anything or talking to them. I need advice about whether or not I should return to work under these hostile circumstances?

  2. #2
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    For the record, the term, hostile work environment, has a very specific meaning under the law and what you describe does not meet it. Unless you are being subjected to either sexual harassment or illegal discrimination under Title VII (race, religion, national origin etc.) you are not, legally, in an HWE.

    There are no circumstances whatsoever in which the employer is required by law to fire someone. How or even whether they discipline the employee is up to them; nor are they required to make public what they do. You have no idea what they may have said to him in private or put in his file.

    If I may say so, it was not a good idea for your husband to contact your boss about this unless your husband works for the same employer, and even then it would be questionable unless he was present. Your husband does not have a standing to participate in your work environment. It does not make you look very good to have your husband running interference for you.

    We cannot advise you on what you should do. I can tell you that you can be fired for not returning to work.

  3. #3
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    I used the term "Hostile work environment" because when I called the police to report the incident they are the ones who stated my boss was allowing me to work in a "Hostile work environment" I have talked to several attorneys who have stated that until I'm fired for this incident there is nothing they can do. They did say however that "constructive discharge" could be an issue do to the fact that I feel I am in an unsafe work place and my boss said that he would accept my resignation over this. However I never told him that I would resign. I did call in to work today to let him know that I would not be in today do to this employees rage and the fear that I have of him doing this twice already.
    Do I have any legal ground to stand on here? After everything that I have gathered so far, I don't. It's amazing to me that an employee can treat people like this and make them live in fear and I have to put up with it. I certainly feel that there should be laws in place to provide a safe working environment for employees. Yes, I know I can quit my job and go find something else. But lets face it, it's not that easy, ie. health insurance, finances, etc. This is ridiculas.

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    The term "constructive discharge" describes a situation in which a reasonable employee is forced to quit a job because the employer has made working conditions intolerable. Working conditions may be considered intolerable if, for example, the employee is discriminated against or harassed, or if he or she suffers a negative change in pay, benefits, or workload for reasons that are not performance-related. I really don't see this as the case since it wasn't the employer, but the your co-worker who became violent. As cbg stated, the employer isn't required under any law to terminate an employee.
    Somedays you're the windshield and somedays you're the bug.

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    As the others have said, unless the working environment is intolerable to the "reasonable person" because of discrimination on a legally protected basis or other such attribute protected by law, it isn't constructive discharge. It is questionable that being involved in one incident where you were not harmed amounts to being in a totally unsafe environment where most would feel their only option was to resign. As I understand it, the door kicking incident had nothing to do with you. while it does show that this person has anger management issues and were he my employee, he'd be out the door, there are a lot of other factors to consider as well.

    How far apart were the incidents? How heated did the argument get and was he the only one who was acting inappropriately? How often do you actually have contact with this person? How this person reacted after the fact? If the police actually took action or if they just took the basic statements because they were called but didn't see anything to base any action? If there are extenuating circumstances that might account for the outburst?

    Not everything that makes an employee unhappy is prohibited by law. There is just no way to legislate every act an employee might commit and even when an employee committs an infraction that is a violation of the law, the law does not stipulate that the employer must fire the employee. In other words, even if this guy had instead sexually harassed you, the law would not go so far as to state he must be fired for it, only that the employer must see that the conduct stops. Even then, unless his conduct was particularly eggregious, one act would not make the claim for constructive discharge.

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    The police are not lawyers or HR professionals. The fact that they called it an HWE does not make it so.

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    I used the term "Hostile work environment" because when I called the police to report the incident they are the ones who stated my boss was allowing me to work in a "Hostile work environment" Which only proves that police officers know nothing about employment law (and there's no reason why they should.)

    I have talked to several attorneys who have stated that until I'm fired for this incident there is nothing they can do. They did say however that "constructive discharge" could be an issue do to the fact that I feel I am in an unsafe work place Constructive discharge does not give rise to any legal claim against your employer (absent an underlying prohibited reason such as race, religion, gender, etc.) It would only be an issue if you decide to quit and file for unemployment benefits, in which case the State will decide whether you had "good cause" to resign and still be eligible for UC.


    and my boss said that he would accept my resignation over this. You can resign any time you like for any reason you like. Your employer doesn't decide whether they will "accept" your resignation.

    However I never told him that I would resign. I did call in to work today to let him know that I would not be in today do to this employees rage and the fear that I have of him doing this twice already. Okay but your employer is free to interpret that as job abandonment if they wish to.

    Do I have any legal ground to stand on here? After everything that I have gathered so far, I don't. You are correct.

    It's amazing to me that an employee can treat people like this and make them live in fear and I have to put up with it. I agree and I don't understand why your employer hasn't discharged this emlpoyee but no laws compel them to.

    I certainly feel that there should be laws in place to provide a safe working environment for employees. There are plenty of laws that compel employers to provide safe work environments but they don't apply to a situation like this. IF you are harmed by this employee after these two prior outbursts, you MIGHT have a civil claim against the employer for negligent retention. That's something you'll need to discuss with an attorney though.

    What you can do is return to work and just stay the heck away from this nut-case employee. You certainly shouldn't engage him in any further conversation.

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    Even though most of your replies are not what I wanted to hear. It is what it is. I have one more question though because everyone continues to talk about discrimination. The employee that I have had this happen with told me several times, "If I wanted to be bleeped at I would have a wife". As well as my boss saying the same thing to me about this employee's defense. Is that descimination? Considiring I am the only female out of 14 employees?
    At this point I'm just looking to keep my job because I need my income to support my family. I have been at my job for 11 years and have never had any problems before. I wish I could avoid this guy but unfortunately he is in my office every day so I guess I have no choice but to suck it up. right?

  9. #9
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    The fact that you are the only female does not make every unpleasantness illegal discrimination. It is only illegal discrimination if the offending behavior occurs BECAUSE you are female.

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    No, his comment does not suddenly turn what happened into illegal discrimination. You mention there were two of you who disagreed with him and if you are the only female, then both the person he kicked the door at as well as the other one who argued with him were male as well.

    Further, for it to be illegal under federal law, there would haveto be 15 employees, not 14. Your company is too small to be subject to the federal regulations prohibiting discrimination based on sex.

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