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Marsha411JD, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 20243
Experience:  Licensed Attorney with 29 yrs. exp in Employment Law
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What are the guidelines for filing a complaint against a co-worker

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What are the guidelines for filing a complaint against a co-worker who is abusive and has created a hostile working environment. I'm do not want to hold my firm responsible because they have tried on numerous occasions to get this person to back down (he's even had to pay fines); and he does so (back's down) for a while; but when he doesn't get what he feels is his due (having his own way), he has a mega temper tantrum. He has an extremely toxic disposition towards staff and on occasion even his peers. Thank you.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 5 years ago.

In order to assist you I will need a bit more detail. What do you mean he has been "fined?" By whom and for what? Are you in a union or do you work for a government entity? Are you saying he treats everyone this way or does he just target a particular employee? If he does target one employee what do you think makes them different in his eyes?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Well, he had to pay a fine to the firm about 2 years ago for screaming at another attorney; I'm not privy to the amount or any other specifics, but my source of this information is very reliable. I work for a private law firm and this person doesn't have any particular "reason" for targeting people. I'm his secretary and I've had to train six people since 2005 and finally the firm told him that I was his "last" secretary; and if I left, he would no longer be assigned a secretary (this was told to me by our HR Manager). He has been getting away with this conduct since I've known him (June 1995) and he has caused senior partners to leave at our former firm - both male and female - he doesn't discriminate. When working at our former firm, he went through 6 secretaries in 6 years. Enough is enough. At the present time, the firm does not let him supervise any young associates; no one else in the firm will work "near" him because of his toxic personality.
Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 5 years ago.
Hello again,

Thank you for the information. If you have already spoken to HR or other attorneys in the office, then you might know that unless the harassment and bullying is motivated by discrimination against the target because they are a member of a protected class under employment discrimination laws, it is not legally actionable. In other words, "hostile work environment" harassment, which is the only actionable workplace harassment, is a legal term of art created by the Supreme Court in describing a type of unlawful discrimination.

So, since you say this person is not motivated by discrimination and treats many, if not most, people this way, then there would be no cause of action. Even if he was motivated by discrimination the cause of action would be against the employer and not the employee because the discrimination laws only apply to "employers."

All that said, if he ever touches someone without their permission in an agressive manner, including throwing something at them that makes contact, or makes an immediate threat of physical violence, then that person should call the police and file a criminal complaint and might even be able to file a tort action against him for any assault. Again though, if he does this at work, the employer will also be a defendant, especially since they know of his tendencies.

Ultimately it is up to the senior partners to discipline this partner ( I assume). If they don't respect their employees enough to do that, then it might be time for the employees to find a firm that does.

Please feel free to ask for clarification of my answer or a related follow up question simply by replying to my answer. That comes as a part of the service I provide in exchange for the fee you have agreed to pay for my services. Also, please let me know if you are having difficulty processing your Accept/Submit.

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