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Anne_C
Anne_C, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 2302
Experience:  15 Years Litigation Experience
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My partner is teacher in public school. (12 years experience,

Customer Question

My partner is teacher in public school. (12 years experience, exemplary record, natl board certified). Her principal has been engaging in non-respectful, harrassing activity, making school environment difficult. Now my partner is having serious health issues--high blood pressure, anxiety, depression which were not happening prior to this year. She has spoken with Union and HR department with no success. Do we have any legal recourse?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Anne_C replied 5 years ago.

Anne_C :

Good Evening -

Anne_C :

How long has she worked for this principal?

Anne_C :

Does she believe she is being discriminated against on some basis?

Anne_C :

And can you clarify - are you in Washington state, or the District of Columbia?

Anne_C :

Hi, are you still there?

Customer:

Hi,

Customer:

the principal has been at the school for 6 years

Customer:

yes, discriminated based on sexual orientation and bullying behavior

Customer:

my partner has been at this district for 12 years and has served on many many leadership committees, received awards, etc.

Anne_C :

Okay, thanks for the additional information

Anne_C :

Washington State?

Customer:

yes

Anne_C :

Okay, she's got two issues here:

Anne_C :

Discrimination, and workers' compensation.

Customer:

my main concern at this point is the health related side-effects which we can show did not exist prior to this year and the principlals behavior

Anne_C :

Here's a discussion I have developed about Washington employment law that I have developed while working for JustAnswer:

Anne_C :

Washington is an employment-at-will state. That means that any employer can take an adverse action, including treatment that may not be the same as other employees, against an employee at any time for any reason that is not against the law or discriminatory.


 


An adverse employment decision that is against the law would be, for example, terminating an employee in retaliation because the employee filed an OSHA complaint.


 


A discriminatory reason would be one based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, genetic information, pregnancy or age. Here is an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission publication explaining illegal discrimination: http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/qanda.html. Washington also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.


 


There are exceptions to employment-at will. Those are:


 



  1. An employment contract. In Washington, an employment contract does not necessarily have to be in writing. It may be implied by the actions of the employer, or what the employer says.An employment manual that states employment is not at will, or that certain procedures must be followed to terminate an employee.


 



  1. A union agreement.


 



  1. In Washington, an employee may not be terminated for reasons in violation of Washington’s public policy – such as termination for pregnancy.


 



  1. There may be additional exceptions that apply to public employees, such as police officers and employees of government agencies.


 


A “hostile work environment” is related to the issue of discrimination and retaliation. A “hostile work environment” arises when an employee is harassed in the workplace because they are in a protected class, or in retaliation for filing a complaint. A prime example of a hostile work environment is in the movie North Country, where a woman working in a mine was subjected to sexual taunts and assaults because she was a woman. (A “hostile work environment” does not happen just because a workplace is awful to work in, or an employer is unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious – the bad treatment has to happen because of discrimination or retaliation.)


 


If the adverse employment action was discriminatory, here is a link to the EEOC website for more information: http://www.eeoc.gov/ explaining discrimination. Washington discrimination complaints are made to the Washington State Human Rights Commission (http://www.hum.wa.gov/) Your complaint must be filed within six months of the discrimination!


 


If the adverse employment action might have been retaliatory, contact the agency where the Complaint was filed and ask for assistance.


 


If the adverse employment action was wrongful but not discriminatory, a government agency cannot help, but an attorney may be able to help. www.findlaw.com is a good resource. If the adverse employment action violated a Union agreement, you need to work with your Union representative first.


 

Anne_C :

Now, let's talk about the Workers' compensation issues

Anne_C :

Here is a link to the State of Washington Department of Labor and Industries:

Anne_C :

This is the workers' compensation agency for the State

Anne_C :

Here is a link to file a complaint: http://www.lni.wa.gov/ClaimsIns/claims/

Customer:

how is this workers compensation? because of health related side effects?

Anne_C :

Yes!

Customer:

what happens if we file a complaint?

Anne_C :

With which entity?

Customer:

I think you said DOL yes? from link above?

Anne_C :

Ah, Washington State, you mean . . .

Anne_C :

Actually, she could even request a workers' compensation claim form from her employer rather than going directly to the State

Anne_C :

What will happen is that an injury report will be taken

Anne_C :

And she will be sent to doctor(s) to evaluate her injury

Anne_C :

She may be given time off

Anne_C :

And possibly, some compensation

Anne_C :

But keep in mind that stress claims will involve mental examinations

Anne_C :

Which can be pretty intrusive

Customer:

got it. The district and union have been very loosy goosy about taking her complaints seriously-- she has met with Union Reps, District HR reps, and they really aren't giving her conerns much credence-- I thought we might pursue some legal action.

Customer:

thank you for your help. How can I get a copy of this "chat"?

Anne_C :

I believe you will be sent a copy of the transcript once this is closed out.

Anne_C :

If not, you will be able to access it again with the link, and you can block and copy - it's ALT + F4 and highlight the text on my computer

Customer:

OK, based on what I've shared would you recommend leaving it alone, or pursuing legally?

Anne_C :

My guess, btw, is the the Human Rights Commission is a good place to start

Anne_C :

Okay, difficult question - a usual employment law intake is about an hour, and really detailed

Anne_C :

I can tell you that employment law litigation is usually extremely stressful for the employee

Anne_C :

but equally so for the people who are accused of the discrimination

Anne_C :

I can also tell you that as stressful as it is, a lot of times, things don't change without pursuing a discrimination complaint

Customer:

thank you very much. I appreciate your information and detailed response.

Anne_C and other Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you