Hostile Work Environment Definition

Avoiding the Axe (Pt. 1) — By Jenn S.


It is with great pride that I introduce a new attorney and columnist to the community of  Jenn S. is a small town employment lawyer who has been a big city employment lawyer, big corporation H.R. Rep, and for a time was even a rock music journalist!  She brings all these different backgrounds to her columns. I met Jenn when we were both employed at a large law firm.  We've both since moved on to greener pastures (almost literally for her), but we've kept in touch due to a friendship forged in the trenches law firm life.  I'd say we both learned a LOT in those early years of our legal careers, but we're both happy to be elsewhere now. Jenn lives in a beautiful spot some where in the Mountain Time Zone; she has one young son, a husband, and a great sense of humor.  … [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...]


The Dumb Money is Betting On Sunny Skies

FRIDAY UPDATE: "The U.S. lost more jobs than forecast in August and the unemployment rate climbed to a five-year high of 6.1 percent, a sign that the economic slowdown is worsening." (Full Article). "Foreclosures accelerated to the fastest pace in almost three decades during the second quarter as interest rates increased and home values fell, prompting more Americans to walk away from homes they couldn't refinance or sell."  (Full Article). Betting on Sunny Skies? If you need a job in order to pay your bills, this isn't the best of times.  Today the federal Labor Department announced that unemployment claims increased more than the "experts" had expertly predicted.  Other cheerful facts about the state of the U.S. economy: Unemployment rolls are at a five-year high 3.4 … [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...]


Bad News: No Home Sales = No Emergency Cash


Why are people so concerned about their jobs right now?  Because they see the "For Sale" signs going up all around them -- and they know the reason is because these neighbors can't afford their mortgages any longer. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said Friday the economy continues to be in a recession, by his definition, and will continue to be for at least several more months. (Full Article Here.) U.S. Fed Chief Ben Bernanke said Friday that "the financial storm that reached gale force" last year "has not yet subsided, and its effects on the broader economy are becoming apparent in the form of softening economic activity and rising unemployment," . (Full Article Here.) That certainly appears to be the case in my own neighborhood.  I live in a sub-division that was built five years … [Read more...]


Age Discrimination or Disciplinary Policy Exception: Why Does the Text Message Generation Get More Chances?

Girl Texting

Does your company state that it will not discriminate on the basis of age, race, religion, color, nationality, disability or gender?  Does your company also have a written progressive disciplinary policy? Do your supervisors always follow each step of the progressive discipline policy?  A new court ruling says that if they don't, you could successfully sue and win significant money damages pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The Real Case of Cynthia and Leann: Cynthia Kildoo and Leann Richter worked as retail sales associates (RSA's) at a Cellular One store. Both were over 40. The company set specific sales quotas for its RSAs.  For those who failed to meet their quotas, like Cynthia and Leann, Cellular One instructed its store managers to follow its written … [Read more...]


Can You Be Harassed at Work by …a Radio?


You know those creepy people who drive around real slow with their car stereos blaring? Those creepy people have jobs. And when you are stuck sitting next to one at work, you can’t just start up your cubical and drive away. Your co-workers’ radio volume isn’t the only reason you may feel harassed by a co-worker’s listening habits. More and more people have portable satellite radios, which broadcast without the decency restraints the FCC places on traditional AM/FM radio shows. Sexually explicit talk and songs lyrics laden with swear words commonly come out of satellite radio (and sometimes come out of regular radios and CD players). Satellite radio isn’t the only new source of music in the workplace. Computers can “stream” radio shows and podcasts and play them through the computer’s … [Read more...]


Is Time Off On FMLA Really Time Off? (Or, do you have to maintain your full-time work load while working a reduced-time schedule?)


Case: Lewis v. School District #70 (April 17, 2008) A federal court case established for the first time that your employer can NOT expect you to maintain a full time work load when you are off work under the FMLA. The Federal Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit held that employees using their FMLA rights to be away from work cannot be held to the same requirements as full-time employees who are at work all day. Your company violates federal law if it tries to discipline or fire an employee who is on FMLA leave because he or she is isn’t producing as much work as the employees who are not on leave. A Good Worker Must Live Through Bad Times The worker in this new case was Debra Lewis. Debra began working for Illinois School District #70 in September of 1997 as a bookkeeper and … [Read more...]


“Work Laws Exposed” Launched

You CAN Break Free

This last month my new eBook "Work Laws Exposed" launched at; this blog will, however, do much more than support the book. Over the coming weeks and months we will be adding articles, tips, and breaking news from the perspective of how you can use legal strategies to have a better work life. And what does "having a better work life" mean? Here are some examples: Getting humane, respectful treatment from your boss rather than abusive behavior, sabotage, micro management or a hostile work environment; Stopping a bully or backstabbing co-worker from ruining your days, if not your life, and getting those people kicked to the curb where they fit in with the rest of the trash; Fighting back against unfair, unwarranted discipline such as a new manager who starts … [Read more...]