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Hostile Work Environment Definition

Meeting “Efficiencies”

One reader of Undercover Lawyer contributed the following piece based on his own experiences at a large employer in Southern California.  Our guest writer, Brian, followed the advice in "Work Laws Exposed" and filed claims with California 's DFEH.  He has now retained a California attorney to further fight back against the Hostile Work Environment he had to live through.  Here are Brian's insights: MEETING "EFFICIENCIES" Every now and then a company needs to “meet efficiencies”, which also means to get rid of employees for whatever reason; (over budget, employee complains, don’t like, asks for training, wants a raise, etc). How the game works: A manager is usually asked to lunch by his/her supervisor. During lunch the supervisor will inform the manager that the company has a problem and … [Read more...]


Avoiding the Axe…Part Two — by Jenn S.

Here are a few more tips for keeping on the straight and narrow at work and avoiding many of the common pitfalls that I have seen result in many lost jobs… DON’T gossip. It’s hard, I know. I have a hard time following this one myself. Gossip is just so fun. Though talking about other people’s faults and foibles can be great entertainment, it can also cause a lot of problems. Generally speaking, people don’t like to be gossiped about and when word gets around that you’re one of the folks spreading other people’s business to all parts of the office, you might become the target of some unpleasant commentary yourself. Office dramas and rivalries often begin with what some might characterize as harmless gossip and end with someone losing a job or at least being moved or demoted. And be … [Read more...]


Podcast #6: 10 Tips for Anyone Facing Termination, Including Negotiating a Severance Package

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Download PDF Transcript If you want to listen on your iPod via iTunes, you can use this link (will open iTunes and take you to the podcast): You can also listen through this website using the player below. The primary message of Episode #6 of the Hostile Workplace Podcast is "You Are Not Powerless When Facing Termination!"  This episode shows you how to fight back and try to keep your job, PLUS, we cover how to negotiate a severance if you decide to leave.  Negotiating a severance would also apply to anyone who is facing layoffs at their company. Tips 1-3: Fight Back by utilizing protected classes and turning the tables on your supervisor. Tips 4-7: Slow the Process Down by knowing all your due process rights … [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 3, Your Good Work Gets No Rewards

A law firm partner who wanted me fired used to sing my praises, calling me a "golden boy" and going on and on about how I seemed to have a "magic wand" that would solve all the partner's problems.  Now, this partner's inability to remember to take all their pills each morning was not my doing, but it was nearly my undoing (ever had a boss like this?). One day I had obtained an especially good result for a demanding client in a challenging case.  I was exuberant as I bounded into my boss's doorway and blurted out "Did you hear how the judge ruled on our Rule 11 motions? Granted! We got them!"  I fully expected my boss to jump out of their chair and hug me, or at least shake my hand and offer to call the client and give me credit for the victory. Instead I got a cold emotionless stare, and … [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, their way … [Read more...]


10 Steps of Walking the Plank Toward Termination: Step 1 Your Industry Is Sputtering


Many people have written about "Signs You're Getting Terminated," but all those articles miss the natural progression that usually occurs.  These signs don't appear scatter shot around you like the pellets of a shotgun blast.  No, it's more ordered than that.  There are a series of steps that occur before you are terminated.  One leads to the next, like the steps of "walking the plank" toward termination and falling into the cold ocean of unemployment. Through my decade of practicing employment law and through my previous years in human resources, I came to recognize a pattern that almost always occurs, with only slight variations, anytime an employee is fired. Due to these rough economic times, I've added a step at the beginning which is not always there, but certainly increases the … [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...]