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AlexiaEsq.
AlexiaEsq., Managing Attorney
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 11837
Experience:  19+ Years of Legal Practice in the Employment law arena.
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I am a 56 y/o/f - Registered Nurse working for a large insurance

Customer Question

I am a 56 y/o/f - Registered Nurse working for a large insurance company. My concern has to do with being wrongfully accused of 1) doing drugs and 2) lying to my supervisor. My supervisor councelled me about being accused by an anonymous co-worker of "doing drugs" and was going to report me to the ethics board. This accusation was based on a statement she said she overheard me make to another co-worker that I had a medication hangover that morning. This accusation remains in my "file" without documented resolution. This happened 1 year ago. I was not offered the opportunity to be drug tested or submit a written response. At the time I was devastated by this that I did not request either of the above to clear my name. Then 2 weeks ago I was given permission to work from home (via computer linked thru my computer at work) in order to
be available for workers to come to my house to switch from one cable provider to another. I was working on the computer when the technician disconnected me without warning from the internet. I immediately notified my supervisor by phone of the situation. And I immediately notified her by IM as soon as I was told I had access to the internet again which was approx 2 hours later. I have now been accused by my boss and her boss of lying about about not being able to work for those 2+ hours. There is much more in my "file" that she is keeping on me. The majority of these "notes" are unfounded and unwarranted. For instance, I called her to tell her I did not like how one of our doctors talked to me -"Do it Mary! Just do it!" - in regards XXXXX XXXXX him information on a case. But her note is only about the doctor telling her that my documentation is 'lacking'. My supervisor and I were peers and friends at work prior to her promotion. She told me after the work at home incidence that she has "trust" issues with me which she has shared with her supervisor (which was also a peer prior to promotion) and is now under the impression that I am untrustworthy.
I have never been accused of such things, am innocent of these accusations and need guidance what steps I should take to have all of this resolved. My supervisor still has doubts of my truthfulness even after providing her with a letter from the cable provider supporting me. Any guidance you might have for me in this troubling situation would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you! Mary
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  AlexiaEsq. replied 1 year ago.
Hi, my name is XXXXX XXXXX I thank you for your inquiry. I have been practicing Employment law for 19+ years and look forward to assisting you.

With regard to your post:

I am a 56 y/o/f - Registered Nurse working for a large insurance company. My concern has to do with being wrongfully accused of 1) doing drugs and 2) lying to my supervisor. My supervisor councelled me about being accused by an anonymous co-worker of "doing drugs" and was going to report me to the ethics board. This accusation was based on a statement she said she overheard me make to another co-worker that I had a medication hangover that morning. This accusation remains in my "file" without documented resolution. This happened 1 year ago. I was not offered the opportunity to be drug tested or submit a written response. Did you know you can go get yourself drug tested? Speak to your own doctor and ask for such a Rx for a blood test. Don't rely on others to build your evidence for you, particularly if they have an agenda that is inconsistent with your interests.

 

At the time I was devastated by this that I did not request either of the above to clear my name. I understand.


Then 2 weeks ago I was given permission to work from home (via computer linked thru my computer at work) in order to
be available for workers to come to my house to switch from one cable provider to another. OK.

 

I was working on the computer when the technician disconnected me without warning from the internet. OK, yes, that will happen if they are there to change your provider.

 

I immediately notified my supervisor by phone of the situation. Good. And I immediately notified her by IM as soon as I was told I had access to the internet again which was approx 2 hours later.


I have now been accused by my boss and her boss of lying about about not being able to work for those 2+ hours. But you didn't lie, right? You admitted you couldn't work those hours because the cable co. disconnected the internet access, correct? Consider printing off your phone detail record showing your outgoing call to the office at the very time it occurred. And if you DID document your IM print a copy. If you didn't think to take a screen shot or the like and it is not saved in an account on your computer, try to remember in the future.

 

There is much more in my "file" that she is keeping on me. Well, that is the job.

 

The majority of these "notes" are unfounded and unwarranted. Who decided unfounded? Were they investigated? Or or you just saying your opinion?

 

For instance, I called her to tell her I did not like how one of our doctors talked to me -"Do it Mary! Just do it!" - in regards XXXXX XXXXX him information on a case. OK. Not seeing anything illegal there.

 

But her note is only about the doctor telling her that my documentation is 'lacking'. OK, I know we don't like it when a co-worker speaks to us without the respect and/or professionalism we would like. However, unless you have a written contract where the employer has bound itself to document your complaints on decorum or illspeaking co-workers, the employer CAN pick and choose how to run its business and deal with complaints. I.e. as of now, no state, including LA, requires that an employer even address complaints of rudeness between employees, much less put it in writing. It is also free to treat complaining employees differently, based on the employee, based on the type of complaint, etc. But it can NOT treat them differently based on a protected discriminatory class, such as, "she is female and he is male." As such, we won't worry about her complaints, but we will document his. (Or Race, disability, nationality, etc.).

 

My supervisor and I were peers and friends at work prior to her promotion. She told me after the work at home incidence that she has "trust" issues with me which she has shared with her supervisor (which was also a peer prior to promotion) and is now under the impression that I am untrustworthy. That is untrustworthy. If she is legitimately concerned (as in, "really" is unsure, rather than knowoing you are legit but trying to make you appear illegit to others), consider showing her the proof that what you say happened, actually happened. In fact, you probably DO have the work receipt from the tech that was at your house. Use it.


I have never been accused of such things, am innocent of these accusations What accusations??? You mean this one about not working those 2 hours that you intended to work, but couldn't due to internet? Show her the proof of what happened and offer to make up the hours.

 

and need guidance what steps I should take to have all of this resolved. It will only be resolved if both parties want it to. If an employer (or its agent) does not choose to resolve favorably, and there is no contract term that you were able to secure in writing that forces the employer to favorably resolve, or give you some level of "due process" before disciplining, you can only rely on it choosing to do so in its discretion, because you have no contract where it is obligated to do so. That being the case, what is often the best (but never guaranteed tactic) is to bend over backwards to get them to either look at your evidence and realize you are telling the truth, and/or realize how sincere you are in wanting to continue to do the best job possible, and put this behind you both. But THEY have the power and you do not - i.e. neither side can force the other to do anything in particular. Each side can decide to terminate the employment relationship.

 

My supervisor still has doubts of my truthfulness even after providing her with a letter from the cable provider supporting me. OK, that is helpful. Now show her your phone detail that proves you called her at X'O'clock as soon as connection went down.

 

Any guidance you might have for me in this troubling situation would be greatly appreciated. Hope this helps Mary. It sounds like you do need to schmooze, but getting evidence is likely the best way to prove to her factually that you did indeed call as soon as power went out. Offering to make up the work, and perhaps a little extra to show you are trying to make whatever is lacking due to your not working, be fixed so there is no loss to the company from your loss of 2 hours of work at that time. That would likely be the stance I would take.

 

Thank you! Mary

Optional Information:
Country relating to Question: United States
State (if USA): Louisiana
What have you tried so far?: My supervisor and I met to discuss her reasoning for not trusting me. To add to my concern in my narrative - I was told that I could not work from home for 3 months (which is not a problem for me) and that I would have to take a full day Personal Time Off if I had to go to any appointments (I am currently being treated for hypertension and depression by two different physicians.) Is it legal for them to make me use 8 hours of my PTO for a 1 hour doctor appointment - after which I almost always return to work to finish out the day? Possibly, if it is a legitimate need. But, also look at possible FMLA protection. While we can get intermittent FMLA time off at times, there are rules that say an employer can't charge you 8 hours off your 12 weeks of FMLA leave (unpaid possibly) if you only need 2. Alternatively, if you don't want to make more waves, consider making your appointments at night or on weekends. Many doctors have evening appts. available, or weekends, so consider using such a doctor so you are not asking for more concession, when you are already in the hotseat. I.e. make your personal medical needs your issue and not your employer's inconvenience, to help you get back into the position of trust you seek.

 

I hope this helps! My goal is to provide you with excellent and accurate service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Kindly rate me "excellent" when you are done. I look forward to assisting you in the future, should you have legal questions.

Sincerely,

Alexia Esq.

AlexiaEsq., Managing Attorney
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 11837
Experience: 19+ Years of Legal Practice in the Employment law arena.
AlexiaEsq. and 2 other Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your response. Although I am not particularly happy with it - I do appreciate your time and expertise. The 2 hrs offline - I continued to work - making calls and doing handwritten tasks. The documented phone calls, a letter from the cable company, documentation from our own IT department - and a copy of the IM where she 'inferred' that I lied about those 2 hours. Also, I am an exempt employee - I work overtime VERY often without issue and on this particular day 1 of the 2 hours was my lunch break and I did work past 5pm to complete the work i was doing at the time I lost internet connection.


In my opinion, she is refusing to accept that she was in the wrong - especially about those 2 hours. My concern is, with her new position comes power and she doesn't know how to handle it . My job is extremely important to me - as is my integrity as a professional and a person. To be labeled as a drug user and a liar is the death of my reputation. Now, because knowing what my supervisor (and former friend) thinks of me, my sense of security in my job has been threatened. When it was told to me that I was reported for "using drugs" I did bend over backward to prove myself but apparently that didn't work. And with this current accusation of lying (and yes I believe accused is accurate) bending over backward to placate would only be seen as an admission of quilt.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Relist: Other.
would like a different opinion
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your question and seeking a second opinion. I am a different expert and a Louisiana licensed attorney. I would first like to state that your previous expert was correct and I really see no need to rehash the law she mentioned to you as it is valid and accurate, UNLESS you ask for further explanation and then I will do so. However, I will repeat some things she said to clarify.

First, all employment in Louisiana is considered at will, unless you have some written contract to the contrary. An at will employee has pretty much no rights in Louisiana workplaces except to be free of conduct and treatment based only on your age/race/sex/disability. The at will employer gets to make the rules. In fact, the US Supreme Court, following the lead of the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, stated clearly, "The laws on workplace harassment and hostile work environments were enacted to protect employees from conduct based only on the age/race/sex/disability of the employee and they were not intended by Congress to create a code of civility in the workplace" (See: Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore).

What this means is that a workplace can be extremely uncivil, but this does not give an employee any legal rights against the employer I am afraid. Louisiana has not passed any workplace bullying law that would protect you from this conduct of being talked down to or talked to in a bad manner or being talked to in an accusatory manner, I am sorry to say.

THAT IS NOT THE END THOUGH!!!

If they have accused you as a RN of drug abuse, this is a serious allegation that is actually grounds to revoke your license, and as such it is something that can be considered Defamation/Libel, which in Louisiana has a 1 year statute of limitations from the date of the act to sue the person who made such an known false allegation against you.

As far as the issue of the internet outage, you have proof from the internet company technician and once you provide that proof to the employer with a letter informing them you have proof the company disconnected your internet and if they continue to pursue these false claims about you not being truthful after you provided them proof, you will have to sue them for defamation, if they do not cease AND they take action against you that costs you money (for this type of allegation in LA you have to prove monetary loss) you can sue them for the defamation regarding this incident. The allegations about drug use are a bit different as that can be considered defamation per se as it is so malicious and can cause you great professional harm because of the drug allegation that monetary loss does not have to be proven.

I am afraid though that these are your limited recourses in this case. You do not have rights in Louisiana to demand or even seek apologies from supervisors. Louisiana does not have any laws prohibiting the bullying or poor management conduct in the workplace. Thus, as an at will employee, as stated, your recourse is very limited.



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Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you very much for responding to my quandary. It's sad to think that being loyal to the company you work for, and the supervisor who is there to guide you, means nothing. I was hoping to find some words of encouragement that would, in some way, make me feel like I had some rights in my workplace and security in my job/career. Anyway, I thank you again for your attention to my concerns.


 

Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you very much for your response.

I am sorry to say that you are not the only one who is surprised when they find out that as an at will employee there are no loyalties and no protections in the workplace under Louisiana law. All you can do is your work and document everything you do to protect yourself from false allegations I am afraid, as an at will employer does not even need a reason to terminate any at will employee and the employee has no recourse except seeking unemployment.

Please do not forget to leave excellent service feedback as the experts do not get any credit for the time spent with customers unless the customer does so (the feedback is about the expert's service and interaction with you, not that the laws enacted by our government are not helpful).
Expert:  AlexiaEsq. replied 1 year ago.
Hi again, and thank you for your patience. I realize the unfairness in the workplace is very disturbing (and we do see it a lot, many of us having experienced it ourselves in the past). It is one of the reasons many of us contribute here to keep visitors apprised, when they have questions or dilemmas, and need to know some of this information.

I am sorry we missed each other yesterday. After I posted, I didn't hear from you for over an hour and I had to get to the neighboring state for a memorial and then, conversely, a 70th birthday party. I am glad Paul was able to confirm the legal status of your workplace quandry. I'll address your question, below, to make sure all is covered by me as well, secondary to my original answer.

Thank you for your response. Although I am not particularly happy with it And that I very much understand.

 

- I do appreciate your time and expertise. The 2 hrs offline - I continued to work - making calls and doing handwritten tasks. The documented phone calls, a letter from the cable company, documentation from our own IT department - and a copy of the IM where she 'inferred' that I lied about those 2 hours. I know that is upsetting, her lack of trust.

 

Also, I am an exempt employee - I work overtime VERY often without issue Ugh! I understand, having been exempt for the past 20 or so years myself. And it makes her nitpicky lack of trust even more troublesome, since you clearly have MORE than made up for 2 hours, regardless, well before this event.

 

and on this particular day 1 of the 2 hours was my lunch break and I did work past 5pm to complete the work i was doing at the time I lost internet connection. It does sound like she has some other things going on in her mind. An agenda perhaps or a bit of a mental disorder or hang up of some kind, since she can't seem to piece those facts together, to realize that clearly nothing was amiss, with regard to your work productivity and devotion to it.


In my opinion, she is refusing to accept that she was in the wrong - especially about those 2 hours. Sounds accurate.

 

My concern is, with her new position comes power and she doesn't know how to handle it . My job is extremely important to me - as is my integrity as a professional and a person. To be labeled as a drug user and a liar is the death of my reputation. Absolutely. If she is spreading such false statements, you have a lot to consider, as to how you choose to deal with that.

 

Now, because knowing what my supervisor (and former friend) thinks of me, my sense of security in my job has been threatened. It truly never really is secure, short of a good strong employment contract making it so - and it is far more fragile a security when one is dealing, as you are, with a troubled superior or anyone, really, who is less than concerned with your job security.

 

When it was told to me that I was reported for "using drugs" I did bend over backward to prove myself but apparently that didn't work. It is appalling - I'd be quite livid.

 

And with this current accusation of lying (and yes I believe accused is accurate I agree - lying is definitely a negative, so accusation does seem an appropriate term) bending over backward to placate would only be seen as an admission of quilt.Possibly. Although there are no guarantees, of course, that NOT placating would reverse the situation.

 

I realize you cherish your job and how important it is to you. Being the type of person to be cautious and one who seeks to always "plan for the worst while hoping for the best" - do you think that you job is substantially at risk enough, even if only possibly and prospectively, that it may be idea to get your networking hat on and see what it out there that could be as good or better than this job? ... So you have options should the "worst" occur or even if the worst doesn't occur, but you find yourself not enjoying your current job so much that you actually want to leave it, and move on. Surprisingly, it does seem that often times, when a workplace turns sour, and one has the opportunity to job seek while she still has a job, the opportunities out there can be very appealing, and within reach. 6 months or a year from now, you could be saying to yourself, "Thank goodness for that 'bad' situation last year - had it not occurred, I'd likely never have looked to see what else is out there, and never would have gotten my current wonderful position." I do hope you situation improves where you are at, but if it doesn't, not all is lost - just a different fork in the road.

 

I hope this helps!

 

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AlexiaEsq.
AlexiaEsq.
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19+ Years of Legal Practice in the Employment law arena.