Hostile Work Environment Definition

Whistleblower Stops The Train of Hostile Work Environment


Federal OSHA ordered Union Pacific Railroad to give the welder his original job back, repay the welder for all the time and mileage he spent commuting to the second job he was transferred to, pay his attorney fees and pay him compensatory damages. OSHA doesn't release the names of employee-whistleblowers, but here's what we do know about the situation: the employee was a welder based in Beverly, Iowa, who worked on repairing railroad tracks for Union Pacific Railroad. You've heard the old adage that you're never supposed to stop on railroad tracks, right? Well that's exactly where this welder spent his work day -- sitting on railroad tracks. It's dangerous work. So one day he is particularly concerned about on-coming trains. In fact he goes to his Track Manager and asks for a … [Read more...]


The Abusive Boss Who Lost in Court

Download PDF Transcript Abusive bullying boss ruining your work? You need to hear about Joe. Joe is a hospital perfusionist (the person who operates the heart-lung machine during an open heart surgery).  Well Joe's boss, a surgeon, yelled at Joe, cussed at Joe, shook his fist and threatened Joe's job. Joe got sick.  Literally sick.  As in having to go to his doctor and get anxiety medication, dreading every single work day morning type of sick. Joe didn't just turn the tables on his boss, Joe freakin' flipped the tables over.  Here's how: The Bully-Boss Surgeon Joe Doescher's "boss" was a cardiovascular surgeon named Dr. Daniel Raess. Dr. Raess behavior included yelling, screaming, and swearing at Joe with "clenched fists, piercing eyes, beet-red face, [and] popping veins." … [Read more...]


Can My Employer Do That? Part One By: Jenn S.

Can My Boss Do That

In a busy employment law practice, I field a lot of questions from employees who want to know whether an action taken by their employer was “illegal.” In the vast majority of cases, the action of the employer is not illegal per se, though it may have been grossly unfair, blatantly discriminatory, or in extreme bad taste. However, there are situations where an employer is acting illegally and quick action is necessary. The following are some common and some unusual questions from employees who call wanting to know, “Can my employer do that?” Can my boss tell me to cover my tattoos / cut my hair / take out a piercing? Freedom to express yourself is surely a great right in America.  But, if you want to hold a job you’d best take note of your employer’s appearance standards.  An employer … [Read more...]


STEP 5 of Walking The Plank Toward Termination: Is Your Boss Hassling You About Tiny Aspects of Your Work?

If you feel like your boss has suddenly started hassling you about tiny, and seemingly irrelevant aspects of your job, then a red flag should go up in your mind.  This is another tell-tale sign that your boss is on the hunt for an employee to terminate -- you. Your boss may be trying to "build a record" of documented mistakes you have made, in order to justify terminating you. Your boss probably has not given you any negative feedback for years, if ever. And when the boss evaluates the major parts of your job -- everything is fine. So, instead of noting your solid performance and moving on, your boss redoubles his or her efforts to find something, anything, that you are doing wrong. This leads your boss into the tiny minutiae of your job -- items that you can't really say are … [Read more...]


10 Steps of Walking the Plank Toward Termination: STEP 4 Your Boss Switches From Harassing You In-Person to Harassing You In Writing

When your boss goes to Human Resources and asks "Can I fire this employee right now?", do you know what the H.R. Rep always answers?  H.R. says, "What documentation do you have that shows your employee is not doing their job?" You know what happens next?  Your boss looks down at his or her own feet, and their face starts turning red.  Then they look back up at the H.R. Person and say something like "Goddamnit, don't we have at-will employment in this state?!  It used to be if someone didn't do their job they got fired!  Plain and simple.  How come all you ever say is 'no'?  Why don't you ever help us get things done around here, instead of just putting up road blocks all the time?!" The H.R. Rep responds to this tirade with something like, "I take it you have done no documentation of … [Read more...]


10 Steps of Walking the Plank Toward Termination: Step 2 You Have a New Supervisor

Note: If you missed Step 1 in this series you can read it HERE. If a new supervisor takes over your department, brace yourself.  New supervisors change everything, and employees HATE that. What you need to understand is that it is unthinkable to a new supervisor to not change everything.  A new supervisor feels like they need to PROVE that they were the right person for the job.  How do they prove it?  By making changes. It doesn't matter to your new supervisor that everything was working just fine, thank you very much.  Your new supervisor is going to make changes for change's sake.  Your supervisor believes that their changes prove that they are making their mark, shaking things up, raising the bar, blah blah blah. In your new supervisor's mind, this is now their kingdom, … [Read more...]


Does Your Boss Harass You Like This?


One of the most frequently recurring patterns of conflict in the workplace is when a New Supervisor joins a department and ruins everything the senior employees liked about their jobs. Company Executives often assign the New Supervisor the task of “clearing out the dead wood” or “cleaning house.” Excited to have his or her first supervisory job, the New Supervisor charges into the task of “cleaning house” with all the delicate subtlety of a pro wrestler. Is the New Supervisor just doing their job, or buying into a company policy and practice of age discrimination toward older “dead wood” workers? True Story: A New Supervisor at Best Buy bought into the task of clearing out 54 year old Jolyn McDonald, big time. McDonald worked at Best Buy for 17 years before the New Supervisor, Ed … [Read more...]


Does Your Boss or Co-Worker Create Problems To Solve and Take Credit For the Solution?


Many of the people who contact me for help with a stressful workplace are dealing with a new supervisor who is causing chaos in the employee's formerly peaceful workplace.  Why does a new supervisor feel the need to upset everything and everyone? To look good. That's right, to look good by fixing a big mess.  And don't think the supervisor will take responsibility for causing the big mess.  The employees who "can't accept new ideas" will get the blame. New supervisors are under a lot pressure to look good fast; they need to demonstrate that they deserved to be hired or promoted; they desperately want to show their own boss that he/she "made the right decision" in choosing who got the open management spot. A Wall Street Journal article touches on this scenario (the WSJ piece … [Read more...]


Go To Trial or Settle Your Case?

Whether or not to take a case to trial, especially an employment case, can be a gut wrenching and life changing decision. Make the right decision, and you vindicate yourself, prove your boss wrong, and walk away with two or more years' worth of wages in your pocket. Make the wrong decision, and you spend $15,000 in costs (not the attorney's fee, but the attorney's trial expenses), and you walk away with nothing to show for it besides 2-4 wasted years of your life.  And a gloating ex-boss. So, it's obviously a HUGE decision. That's why I want to tell you about how the decision to go to trial was studied by scientists, and what they found out about what is usually the right decision, what what is usually the wrong decision. There article is from the Journal of Loss … [Read more...]


Podcast #4: Michelle + Dan = Retaliation

La Represalia en el Trabajo

Download PDF Transcript Michell and Dan began their working relationship as friends.  Dan supervised a group of 8 employees; 7 young men plus Michelle.  Michelle was only 21. Before work each morning, however, she had to drop off her young son at her mother's house.  As a result, Michelle often arrived between 5 and 15 minutes late. But Dan was sympathetic to Michelle's struggles as a single mom.  He was the only other person at work with children.  Plus, how could you not like Michelle?  She worked hard, she was cute, and she could talk "like one of the boys."  In fact, sometimes she made the boys blush! Yet, little voice in the back of Michelle's head kept telling her that the crude sex talk at work wasn't something to be proud of.  In fact, she admitted to herself that she … [Read more...]