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JB Umphrey
JB Umphrey, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 20233
Experience:  Assisting employees and employers for over 14 years.
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I work for an elected official for the last 5 months. He has

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I work for an elected official for the last 5 months. He has an administrative assistant which I am required to work with. She is a prescription drug addict (this is common office knowledge) and is argumentative and aggressive. I have been the recipient of this behavior (I work with her 7 hours a day/5 days a week) and all attempts to rectify the problem with the elected official have been dismissed. I have been told that I am a weak individual, I have no backbone, demeaned, threatened job loss, etc. He stated, and I quote, "the reason I hired you was to pick up the pieces when she doesn't do her job." and if I don't like it, I will be fired or I can quit. Some history: Her husband was his campaign manager and a close friend. Any other attempts by me to seek help, going to the Deputy Clerk (he told me not to come into his office because he wasn't interested in getting involved) and HR stated because he is an elected official, I have no recourse. This elected official has no integrity, he violates the Ethics ordinance, major HIPAA violations (he openly discusses employee's health issues), Discrimination law, (openly talks about other races negatively or in a joking manner) , violates collective bargaining agreements (and gets away with it), and just disregards XXXXX XXXXX he is supposed to uphold. I have done a daily journal for the last 3 months and documented conversations, emails, with dates and times and so far I have over 17 pages of typed information and counting. What recourses do I have?
Thank you for your question. Please permit me to assist you with your concerns.

This is indeed a bit of a tough situation. How many individuals, all told, work for this person? How many people are employed in your department? I ask to figure out if federal or state law may attach, or if this is a private matter only. Please advise.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

2 administrative assistants - full time - (I am one of them) - non-union - Administrative Department

1 administrative assistant/consultant - part-time - non-union - Administrative Department

1 analyst -non-union - Administrative Department

1 part time analyst - non-union - Administrative Department

19 collective bargaining employees - UNION - 5 Tax Department - 6 Vital Records Department - 8 Elections

3 managers - non-union - 1 Deputy Clerk - Administrative Department - 1 - Vital Records/Tax Manager - 1 Elections Manager

Hope that helps.

Thank you for your follow-up. I appreciate the detail.

You have two very legitimate options available to you. As you are non-union, your only in-house recourse is to speak to HR or to the superior (the elected official) and request that he potentially intervene. I realize this may be a somewhat sensitive request as the admin and the official are married, but it is your first approach to deal with this in-house and attempt to resolve it in good faith.

Then, if that does not work, consider contacting the EEOC. The EEOC will evaluate your grievance on grounds of a hostile work environment concern and will potentially issue a 'right to sue' letter which you would then be able to take and pursue a claim against the official. His disparaging comments and treatment may be used to show that you are exposed to this hostile work environment but only generally if you are a member of that class of individuals. In terms of a HIPAA violation that you could potentially pursue by filing a grievance with the US Dept of Health and Human Services--no private right to a cause of action exists, but you can get the federal agency to investigate and potentially pursue it.

Good luck.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Relist: Answer quality.
A. I already mentioned that HR will NOT speak to me and your response says I should go to HR. I already tried that.

B. The problem is with the highest elected official and you say I should go to talk to the elected official. I have already done that.

C. Nobody is married. Where did you get that information?

D. What do you mean by "exposed to this hostile work environment but only generally if you are a member of that class of individuals"
I see that you have some follow-up questions/concerns and the first expert you were working with is not currently online. Would you mind if I tried to assist you in addressing your concerns?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Yes, absolutely and thank you for your time.

You are most welcome. Your original post touches upon a number of things and I will do my best to address each of them (and, perhaps, offer some insight as to why some of them are not legally significant. They may make for a poor work culture, but they do not violate any laws).

But, first, it would be helpful to know, at the end of the day, what is the outcome you are seeking in your work environment?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Job retention. Should I be fired, do I have a legal recourse and if I do, how strong is my case?

Information: Do I have to work with a drug addict? Are there any laws that protect me from being exposed to her and her erratic behavior? Is it legal for all her work to be given to me so that she has no job responsibilities because she can't perform her responsibilities?


I am only trying to gather information and educate myself, if I do need to seek counsel.

I am single and this is my only source of income. I am actively seeking other employment.

And, lastly, the stress level has caused health issues (I am a cancer survivor) and I have sought professional help trying to manage this.


Hope this information gives you more insight.


(PS: When I attempted to talk to the Elected Official and stated I have months of documentation about the work environment, he asked me for all that information. Should I give it to him or not?)


Thank you. I realize that you do not belong to a union but do you have a written contract signed by you and the elected official which says that you can only be fired for just cause?

Or, are you considered to be an at-will employee?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

At-will, and yes I understand that there doesn't need to be a cause.


Thank you for the follow-up.

First, let me say that I am very sorry for the delay in my follow-up to you. The site is experiencing an error in a different area and it prevented me from re-accessing your thread. I have reported the matter to the engineers for follow-up. Again, please accept my apologies for my delay.

Now, as for the at-will employee label, I hope you understand this means that the employer does not have to keep you on board. Most employees are at will. The employer could fire you if they wanted. You could quit if you wanted.

The Illinois courts have been very clear. In Illinois, "a noncontracted employee is one who serves at the employer's will, and the employer may discharge such an employee for any reason or no reason." Zimmerman v. Buchheit of Sparta, Inc., 164 Ill.2d 29, 32, 206 Ill.Dec. 625, 645 N.E.2d 877 (1994); accord Fellhauer v. City of Geneva, 142 Ill.2d 495, 505, 154 Ill.Dec. 649, 568 N.E.2d 870 (1991) (stating this court's adherence to rule that employer may discharge at-will employee for any or no reason); Price v. Carmack Datsun, Inc., 109 Ill.2d 65, 67, 92 Ill.Dec. 548, 485 N.E.2d 359 (1985) (stating "accepted general rule" that "in an employment at will there is no limitation on the right of an employer to discharge an employee").

Separately, there is no laws that protect you from working with a drug addict.

Let me be very clear. There are no laws against working with a co-worker who is argumentative and aggressive.

What you have described is a symptom of poor management and a toxic work environment. However, there is no law against that. Instead, the at-will employment laws empower you with the choice to simply quit.

I know that's not the ideal option for you and I do not offer it to be flip. Please, please understand that.

I am simply trying to provide a complete perspective of the legal framework. As I said earlier, some of the items you described are not legally significant. They may make for a poor work culture, but they do not violate any laws.

If your stress levels reach the point that you are no longer able to work, then you need to seek medical treatment. If this is work-induced, then your recourse is to file a workers compensation claim. That would be the exclusive recourse. Workers compensation is the exclusive recourse for on-the-job injuries.

My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back. I am happy to address follow-up questions. Thank you for your business!

~~ J.B.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

J. B.


Thank you for your help. This information has confirmed for me that the American work force is in a sad shape of things where an elected official (who takes an oath to work for the people and who's wages are paid for by the people), can conduct himself and his team with such poor management skills, and there are no consequences. He definitely needs to be voted out of office.

Though I am currently in this administrative position, my prior job was a middle management executive working in an industry that serviced multi-million dollar clients and, due to the economy, this industry collapsed and I found myself in this role because of necessity, but I always conducted myself with professionalism and tact. Maybe that is why I am so determined to make this "wrong" a "right". That being said, I appreciate you providing a clear understanding of my options and, hopefully, I will find other employment real soon! Once again, thank you for your services.

You are most welcome and, be assured, your frustration is warranted. The American legal system does not provide a solution via the courts in every instance of injustice. However, you did identify where the solution is for dealing with this person: via the ballot box. Many elected officials have lost re-election efforts because they were poor managers. They may know how to knock doors and mail glossy fliers but they don't know how to manage employees. It happens frequently.

I really appreciate the opportunity to be of assistance. Please do not forget to click on excellent service feedback so that we are credited for assisting you.

~~ J.B.
JB Umphrey, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 20233
Experience: Assisting employees and employers for over 14 years.
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