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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 12916
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I have worked in a toxic hostile work enviornment since

Customer Question

I have worked in a toxic hostile work enviornment since uncovering an embezzlement, have been demoted, hours reduced etc. HR person failed to give me any reviews for 4 years, and set me up to look bad to upper Management and promoted other staff who had less experience showing favoritism to them, trying to discourage me so I would give up, but I would not. In 2014 things got really bad, most my work was taken from me, and hours cut. I been on SDI for surgery leave and still on extended leave, I was told there is not enough work for me to return, however they have not officially terminated me, probably because of the way they have treated me or afraid of me suing them. I had consulted with an Attorney who was going to try to get a severance agreement for me, but she stopped communications with me over 3 weeks ago and I have no agreement with her and very unproffesional for no replies to calls or emails at all.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Hello and thank you for entrusting me to assist you. I am very sorry to hear about this situation. What is your question, precisely?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I do not want to return to work in the toxic work enviorment, I have been treated unfairly since uncovering and embezzlement of 250K, treated like crap and set up to look bad. I also have chronic conditions with migraines and issues with pain, (stress related issues from the toxic work environment have more than likely also contributed to this). I have been on anti-anxiety meds since starting to work there, as I worked with the socio-path billing manager who constantly told me my boss hated me, and told my boss I hated her, thus creating a stressful envioronment, after uncovering the embezzlement, I found that my boss did not hate me, and then realized the HR person and another employee set me up to look bad, I was demoted. I pointed out to my former boss that the HR told me to stop the family health deductions for a specific employee which I knew was not right but I feared retaliation, the HR told me to stop my deduction also, however I didn't stop mine. Anyway the employees family deduction cost the company over $12K a year (approx) and my former boss pointed out to upper Mgmt and it was then halted and shortly after that I was treated more like shit, and then lost my office and put into a cubilcle, and HR treated me like shit, (so I am pretty sure she figured out I pointed it out to the former boss). Needless to say my postion was downsized to just Payroll and unfairly treated. Do I have any potential case to ask for a severance package verses filing a workers comp case on stress or other things that happened?
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

This is a really tough situation, and to be honest, there probably is not going to be an ideal legal remedy for you as most of what you describe is nasty office politics but not in violation of any law. Reporting the embezzlement would only be considered a form of legally protected activity (thus protecting you from retaliation) if you reported it to a government agency such as the IRS. An internal report of embezzlement is not protected, and therefore retaliation for it does not violate the law.

In general employers have no legal obligation to pay severance except in certain limited and seemingly inapplicable circumstances involving mass layoffs. In all other circumstances, an employer's sole motivation for offering severance is to obtain a waiver of that employee's right to sue. Thus, the amount of severance an employer is willing to offer (if any) is going to correspond to the perceived legal exposure of a lawsuit.

Here, for the reasons noted above, it would not seem as though there is any legal basis to sue your employer unless you reported the embezzlement to the IRS or another government agency and you could prove that such report was the motivation for retaliation. Otherwise, this is a case of nasty office politics that do not violate any law. So, you can certainly demand severance in exchange for a waiver of your legal right to sue, and it is definitely possible that your employer will be willing to offer something just to avoid against the possibility of a lawsuit, but since any basis for actual liability is doubtful, your employer if they are well advised probably won't be willing to offer that much.

I know this is not what you were hoping to hear, but I am trying to be honest and realistic with you so that you can move forward appropriately. I would be doing you a disservice by suggesting that you had tremendous leverage here when you do not.

I hope that you find this information helpful if not particularly encouraging. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.