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Marsha411JD
Marsha411JD, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 16973
Experience:  Licensed Attorney with 28 yrs. exp in Employment Law
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I work for a federal contractor in the human resources department.

Resolved Question:

I work for a federal contractor in the human resources department. I have been subjected to harrasment on the job including choking, hitting, pinching, shoving, rocks being thrown at me and other items. I finally called our ethics hotline who did investigate and found my claim to be validated and factual. However, this employee still continues to work in my department and i feel like my company did not take my claim seriously. Do i have any type of recourse?

Thank you,
Jennifer
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 10 months ago.
Hello,

Thank you for the information and your question and I am sorry to read about your situation. Can you tell me whether you ever filed a police report for the assaults? If not, why not and how long ago did this occur? Were you injured and did you file a workers' compensation claim? Finally, can you tell me briefly what the genesis of this behavior was and why you, instead of someone else, were targeted?
Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 10 months ago.
Hello again Jennifer--I see that you read my request for more information but not where you responded. If you did attempt to respond, it did not come through and I would need to ask you to try again. So, if you still need assistance, I will need to know: Can you tell me whether you ever filed a police report for the assaults? If not, why not and how long ago did this occur? Were you injured and did you file a workers' compensation claim? Finally, can you tell me briefly what the genesis of this behavior was and why you, instead of someone else, were targeted?
Customer: replied 10 months ago.

Sorry...I tired to respond using my tablet....but it did not work for some reason so I sent an email to you instead.


 


I never filed a police report or anything and was never injured. It was found to be more of a horseplay situation but I did not take it as such. The investigator said that the person wanted to intimidate myself and others. I was not the only one she harrased but I am the one who made the claim. The investigator told me that she interviewed our entire staff and found my claim factual and validated but she said that is all she could tell me. This person continues to work in my department and I still have to put up with her stares and nasty emails. Very uncomfortable situation and I feel my company has let me down. We has an HR department should be held at a higher standard and we are also on a federal government project so an even higher standard.

Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 10 months ago.
Hello again Jennifer and thank you for your reply. First, if you were touched without your permission and you did not act first, then that is still an assault, even if you were not injured. So, you can still file a police report. If you do so, that may change how the company handles the case. That said, your employer always has a full range of actions they can take, depending on contracts and policies, that although it may include termination could also include a counseling/write up. In other words, they do not have to terminate an employee. Should they, probably. But do they have to, no.

That said, if you are being retaliated against because of your report, or you were targeted because you are a member of a protected class under employment discrimination laws versus just because this bullying picked you at random or because of jealously, or some non-illegal reason, then if the situation is not resolved (stops) you could file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC. Normally, an employee would have to file a discrimination complaint with their HR or EO Office first, but, if that is where you work, that would appear to be fruitless.

If this is not though a case of unlawful discrimination and the behavior (assault) does not occur again, then legally, the employer has done all that they have to. However, if you are touched again by this employee without your permission, then you might have a suit against your employer for negligent retention of an employee that they knew had these tendencies.

I agree that you should not have to work in a workplace like this, but if your employer is not supportive and proactive, you really only have the options that I mentioned. The only other option is to sue her in civil court for the tort of assault.

Please let me know if you need any clarification. I would be glad to assist you further if I can.
Customer: replied 10 months ago.

I am a white female...over the age of 40. The bully is a Hispanic female also over the age of 40 and seems to target non minorities in our department. Does any of this matter?

Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 10 months ago.
Yes, it definitely could. Racial discrimination is illegal no matter what the race of the victim is. So, if she is targeting whites, or anyone that is not Hispanic, then it could be racial or national origin discrimination. That would be a basis to file a discrimination complaint. If there is an EO Office where you work that is separate from your HR Department, then you would want to start there. If not, then you can file a complaint directly with the EEOC. Since you were actually assaulted, and assuming there are other negative actions directed toward you and other non-Hispanics, then that would likely be enough to support a claim of "hostile work environment" harassment since the assault would generally be considered "severe" and other actions would meet the requirement of "pervasive." In other words, there must be "severe and pervasive" harassment based on your race or national origin in order to support a "hostile work environment" claim.
Marsha411JD, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 16973
Experience: Licensed Attorney with 28 yrs. exp in Employment Law
Marsha411JD and 7 other Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 10 months ago.

If I were to file an EEOC claim...what could the outcome be potentially? And I have heard that companies typically find ways to terminate employees who file claims. All I have wanted is for the right thing to be done...whatever that may be, and to let my company know that they knowingly allowed this to happen and did nothing. We have policies in place that address this behavior specifically and nothing has been done. Would I have to retain counsel if I chose an EEOC claim?

Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 10 months ago.
Well, initially the EEOC would try to set up a mediation before they have even done a complete investigation. In that mediation, the employee gets to say what they want to have happen. However, it is highly unusual for that to result in the firing of another employee. As you probably know, the employer is probably being more careful with this employee specifically because she is a minority. So, outright termination is probably not an option.

So, then what could you expect. If you want to transfer to another department, they might agree with that, or if you want to know if the other party was counseled or warned, then you might get that. Mediation would be fairly limited. So, then the EEOC, if no agreement were reached would do an investigation, and then decide whether or not to take action against the employer or just issue you a "right to sue" letter. I have to tell you that you can't expect any real major monetary award out of this and really would probably be better served by filing a criminal complaint against her or filing suit for the assault against her. But, in any event, the company would start paying attention more if they are called on it by the EEOC. They cannot lawfully take adverse action against you for filing a complaint. If they did, that would definitely be a lawsuit that you could file and receive monetary damages.

You do not have to have an attorney to file a complaint with the EEOC, but you may still want to consult with a local attorney about your situation so that you have one in the ready should you have to file suit.
Customer: replied 10 months ago.

Thanks for your quick reply. I did not file a police report and I was
never injured. It was in a horseplay fashion on her end...but I did not
feel the same way. The investigator found it to be in a horseplay fashion
and that the person did it to intimidate me. I have to work closely with
her and just remained silent for months and months. All the investigator
told me was that she found it all factual and she said that is all I can
tell you. That was weeks ago and I still have to work with this person who
is now treating me badly and sending nasty emails to me.


 


I also wanted to let you know that my whole department was interviewed as
well and she has also harassed others and done some of the same physical
things like pinching and hitting. So it is not just me she does things
to....but I am the one who filed the claim.

Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 10 months ago.
Well, those are all relevant issues. As I mentioned though, any unwanted touching is an assault, no one has to be hurt. But, as I also touched on, the employer has the right to take any action that they think is appropriate and do not have to terminate her, but if you are being retaliated against versus just not liked, and it is because of your race or national origin, then you can file a complaint with the EEOC. That is entirely up to you.

Otherwise, just trying to ignore here and take the high road is probably your best bet until she does something else that is overt, like touching you or doing something intentional to you. At that point, you would need to go back to your employer and give them one more chance to take action and then you would want to consider an EEOC complaint if this is motivated by race or national origin and not just a mean girl in the workplace. The mean girl attitude, although clearly inappropriate and unprofessional is not unlawful, unless as I mentioned you are touched against your will or it is motivated by unlawful discrimination.

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