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Marsha411JD
Marsha411JD, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Licensed Attorney with 29 yrs. exp in Employment Law
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Regarding bullying in the workplace. I realize there is

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Regarding bullying in the workplace.

I realize there is probably no clear cut answer you can give me but I feel I need a "sounding board" on this situation.

I work as a security officer in a large facility that deals with dangerous chemicals and distills ethanol. The most important part of my job is safety and I take it very much to heart.

I have one crew leader who for whatever reason seems to have a personal vendetta against me and has displayed very unpleasant aggressive and bullying behavior toward me. Frankly, my opinion is that she has some serious psychological issues and isn't competent to supervise employees. (Mine is not the only complaint).

I reported this to security manager and she was very sympathetic and remarked that no employee should feel they are being bullied.

Things have been fine for about a month. The fellow who takes over on the next shift "clocks me out" and I asked him not to because sometimes situations arise where I might have to stay a little while beyond my hours in which case I would get paid overtime.

He agreed that he would not clock me out but has been doing so anyway. He is an older man and it may not have been intentional. He may have just forgotten. The overall security manager has told me that it is wrong for another crew member to clock me out so I am well within company policy.

Last night I called the front desk and told them that they should not clock me out unless I call in.

Well lo and behold the bullying crew leader shows up a few minutes before I leave and starts lamb basting me about my behavior and criticizing me for making this request. It was totally ludicrous and seemed to be an excuse to resume the bullying.


In anticipation of such an event I have been carrying an electronic sound recording device with me to protect my own interests and from distortions and/or lies from the bully. I do have last nights conversation on the recording.

I know by Iowa State law that I am within my rights. However the company I work for has very strict policies. I am somewhat concerned it could backfire. My concern is that my security manager could say that company policy doesn't allow this or that you should have asked first before you used this device.

I am being extra careful as I am under financial duress and I can take a chance of losing my job. Besides the bullying issue I like the job and the people I work with.

Any thoughts, concerns, or suggestions would be appreciated.
Hello,

Thank you for the information and your quesiton. Can you tell me if you are in a union? Do you have any idea why you are being bullied by this person? In other words, are they just targeting you and if so what do you think makes you different in their eyes? Have you spoken to HR about this, or only your supervisor?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks Marsha,


 


I am not in a Union.


 


I can only guess why she is bullying me. That being said I know she has had serious problems with men and otherwise.


 


I would guess she has been bullied herself and perhaps is paying it forward as it were.


 


Also she was not offering breaks. By law I am entitled to 2 15 minute breaks per 8 hour shift. She tried to convince me that breaks were optional. I wrote her up and she probably got reprimanded. This could have caused her to want to get back at me??


 


Also for some unknown reason I have a lifetime history of being bullied which is vastly outweighed by people who think highly of me, respect me, and I have received a lot of praise over the years for my performance on the job - including this job.


 


I get the impression that the security manager is considered my HR contact. We are security sub-contractors so even though its a huge facility there are only about 10 on the security crew.


 


The security contracting company is one of the largest employers in the world and I have the impression that they want our location to be self-sufficient in terms of operations and management.

Hello again Michael and thank you for the additional information. First I want to address the recordings of this behavior you have addressed. Although you are correct, that it is not unlawful in Iowa for one party to a conversation to record another party, if the employer, who owns the facility or sets the rules for the facility, says it is strictly not allowed, then you could be subject to termination for doing so without permission. That doesn't effect the legality of the recording, just your job security.

In terms of the harassing behavior, if you believe that you are being targeted because you are a member of a protected class under employment discrimination laws, for example, because of your gender, then you have a right to file a gender discrimination/hostile work environment complaint with both your employer and the facility's HR or EO office. In other words, the fact that you are a subcontractor does not relieve the main employer from liability for unresolved discrimination issues that take place in their facility. They cannot be held responsible unless they are notified and given the opportunity to investigate and resolve the issue.

Although illegal retaliation for raising legitimate wage and hour issues can be an issue in some cases, the fact is that Iowa law actually does not mandate breaks for employees 18 years of age and older. The employer might, but that is not the law. You can see a statement of the law here: http://www.iowaworkforce.org/labor/wagefaqs.pdf
So, you could not use the retaliation for reporting the break issue as a legal claim in this case.

If though, you think this behavior is just based on her unprofessionalism and maybe a general personality conflict, then there would be no legal recourse for it and you would have to try to work within your reporting chain to try to resolve the issue.

Finally, you must be paid for all of the hours that you work, so you will want to make sure that if you are being clocked out early, you go to your supervisor and your HR and get that straightened out, since the employer can be liable for the actions of other employees changing your clock out time. I am not sure why someone else is even allowed to clock you out anyway, but the employer has strict liability for paying you correctly.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Marsha,


Thank you for your thoughts.


It sounds like it is a good idea that I checked with you about the recordings.


 


I was thinking that maybe going forward, I could ask my security manager if I can make a recording of any future exchange with this employee whether overtly or covertly. I suspect she would say yes but you never know with all the rules and regulations they have.

If she says its OK then perhaps I could reveal to her that I have the previous recording? It could still backfire on me I suppose.


 


Regarding discriminaton: I think I am being discriminated against because I am a male but have no proof. Would there be anything wrong with filing a gender discrimination/hostile work environment complaint with both your employer. Even if it is not honored it might send a loud message to this crew leader that she must stop. Any thoughts?


 


Thank you for the information on breaks. For one reason or another they have stated in writing that we are entitled to the 2 breaks by law so this is not a big issue. I was just using it as an example of why she might be retaliating.

You're welcome and no, it won't hurt to file the discrimination complaints, and you are right that it might send a message that you are serious about your complaints and that they have a problem employee.

The recording issue sounds like a good resolution.
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