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  • hostile environment?

    I have had problems from a certain small group of female co-workers who have been playing "games" with male managers. I am also female. The problems included very severe verbal harrassment and I noticed that it began after I had walked away from a conversation in which one of the women, an older woman, was counseling her own daughter who also works there, to let the general manager touch her because he had already faced one sexual harassment complaint (which he won). I made a remark to the younger woman that she should not think bringing a complaint is easy when I stood up, so they must have known I was not sympathetic to them. I have avoided conversation with them ever since. They are definitely playing with male managers who are recent immigrants and who might not fully understand that they can face lawsuits for flirting.

    I did not mention this conversation when I filed a complaint about the verbal harassment, because that harassment was witnessed and there was no question of its seriousness. There was a meeting with the general manager and the two women, the one above and another who also harassed me but who I did not think was connected. I was surprised that at the meeting they spoke about having been friends for years. I was still a new employee at the time and I did not understand the reason for their hostility and the general manager made it clear to them that I am to be treated with respect and they have done so ever since.

    After that meeting the general manager told me that the first woman was "leaving" within 2 weeks. This later changed and she has not left. During this time I discovered the real reason for the hostility: They are embezzling. One of them has trained new staff to juggle sales slips in order to keep the company books more profitable and the other has apparently been going way overboard, actually pocketing money or giving product away. I have had to avoid serving certain people because they are expecting not to have to pay for everything.

    These women are both careful not to harrass me, but they just trained a new employee to harrass me in EXACTLY the same way they did, so that if I were to file another complaint I would look really weird! I did not do it, but just ignored her because she did this in front of someone else who had witnessed the first round, and I figured her behavior will get her fired on her own.

    She filed a complaint against me, making many statements that I know came from collecting gossip from the first two, but which surprised the general manager. He called me at home to say maybe he made a mistake, maybe there is something really wrong with me, but at least he asked a couple of factual questions which showed him she might be lying, so he said he was going to look into it with the manager who was on duty at that time, because of course if there was a problem he should have heard from him, anyway.

    That was my night off. One of the things that has happened, regarding the embezzlement problem, is that another manager has been compromised and spoke to me about it recently, and I tried to reassure him that nobody who is not participating should have to worry. He was on duty the night after this complaint was filed against me, and so was the same young woman who filed it, who has been trained by one of the embezzlers and has been playing her own sales slip games. He called me up very very upset and yelled at me that he had trusted me and now he is being told (by her apparently) that I spoke about him with the other managers and so he is suspending me.

    I was shocked. I have not yet seen this girl's written complaint, but the general manager had questioned me very closely over the phone and had not asked anything about this other manager, so I assume she did not say anything about him, but apparently she frightened him by telling him her complaint was that I was "talking trash" about him. I could not calm him down, and he said he was suspending me for a week, and if he could, from ever working with him at all.

    The next day I called to talk with the general manager and ask about this suspension, but he was not in and the manager who had witnessed my tolerance of this girl answered the phone. I asked him if he thought I had done anything wrong and he said no. The night it happened we had talked about a problem with cooks and meal tickets that did not involve sales issues, and I had mentioned the other manager's name in that conversation, but it was not a negative remark. I asked this manager if he thought my mention of the other manager's name was made in a critical way and he said no, not at all, and I told him that the same girl who had filed a false complaint with the general manager had apparently also told the other manager that I was "trashing" him, and now I am suspended. He said if I talk to the general manager he would support that nothing negative was said or done, and he said he had not even seen the other manager so there had been no conversation with him at all.

    So I called back to talk to the GM, but the angry manager was there and I said I am just calling to see if I am still suspended, and he said "Yes you are" and I said "Is it your decision or the genral manager's to suspend me?" And he said it was his, but he did not sound angry or upset. I said "Ok, then I have things to do at home and I will call the gm tomorrow to see when I return to work".

    I called and the GM would not talk to me but told the person who answered the phone to tell me I will be in the next schedule.

    I know that I am facing more than one issue here: the sexual thing does not directly involve me, but because these three managers are fairly young men who are letting themselves get compromised with the 2 younger waitresses, they are beginning to put me on a "zero tolerance" of complaints by these same girls, and the angry one has been threatened in some way by them with being made responsible for the embezzling. No one has gone "upstairs" with any discussion of this because, in fact, these guys are likely to be held responsible without a full investigation or fair hearing. This little crew has apparently survived a number of managers.

    Can I file a federal harassment complaint that a hostile work environment has been created for me by younger co-workers flirting, so that I can protect my job? I am over 50, and I think that places me in a protected class related to them, doesn't it?

    Or would a complaint like this just detract from being able to protect myself when the company finally gets a full look at the theft that is going on? I am not worried about being implicated, and I have not said anything because there are no "whistle-blower" protections in this company's guidelines and I think these people are being watched, anyway. It is not really in my job responsibilities to know what I do know about their activities. The angry manager is the main one who should be speaking up, but he is too scared and I don't trust his judgement enough to talk further with him. When I tried to reassure him the night he showed me all their unpaid tickets, he did not seem to think I knew what I was talking about, so I did not pursue it.

  • #2
    You need to respond in writing to your employer, and if need be report the theft to the police if you feel you are being lied on and can prove it and take what you have to them. As for the harassment, there could be TITLE VII discrimination creating a hostile workplace environment. I suggest going to a free consultation with an employment attorney to discuss these issues before taking actions. Too bad this is your workplace. And be careful. Get your proof, expose enough to get you out in a positive way and then get out of there.

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