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Hypothetical employee, (not his real name) who is not a

Hypothetical employee Fred, (not...

Hypothetical employee Fred, (not his real name) who is not a manager tries to discipline employees from another department. When those two employees do not listen to Fred's instructions, Fred loses his temper and yells profanitites and insults (and threatens to write them up) at these two employees infront of many customers and employees. The manager of the two employees then calls and leaves voice mails aggressively telling Fred to stop this behavior. I do not know the content of those voice mails but Fred claims they are derogatory and threatening. Fred says that unless the manager of those two employees is fired immediately, he will go to the local police and file for a restraining order against him.

Lawyer's Assistant: Has the employee discussed the disciplinary action with a manager or HR? Or with a lawyer?

Employee Fred acted entirely on his own with no authority to manage these two employees. Fred has been warned several times that this type of behavior (acting like a manager when he is not) is not acceptable.

Lawyer's Assistant: Is the workplace "at will" or union? Is the job hourly or salaried?

At will. Hourly for all involved. No lawyer contact that I know of. Fred claims to have called the NJ Ethics and Work Force Department. He claims to have gotten advice from them that the manager was demonstrating work place harassment and work place violence since he was supposedly clocked in when making these threats.

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

Likely, if he called, that Fred did not advise the NJ Ethics folks that he swore and yelled and carried on like that and that he is not in anyway a manager.

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Answered in 8 minutes by:
3/28/2018
Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 32,264
Experience: Former judicial law clerk, lawyer
Verified

Hi,

I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear about your dilemma.

Derogatory is really a matter of opinion, but it would only be actionable if Fred were part of a traditionally marginalized group and the comments were directed at him because of it. So, if the manager made racist comments, that's grounds for a lawsuit. It's not grounds to call the police, but it could open the company up to liability.

Legally, a threat has to be of physical violence to be actionable. If the manager said something like "We've told you repeatedly not to discipline other employees, if this happens again, we'll have to fire you" (or take other disciplinary measures), that's not a threat. And threats have to be specific. If I say "Do this again and you'll regret it," that's not a threat. It doesn't convey any information about what I'm likely to do.

Honestly, my gut reaction is that if the manager actually did make derogatory and threatening comments, Fred would have saved them and agreed to play them for you. After all, he has nothing to gain by deleting the messages if the content really is illegal. The NJ ethics and work force commission may investigate, but unless they get to hear the messages, it's entirely possible they won't take action for that reason. Your first step may be to see if he will provide a copy of the voice mails.

It's not legal to fire an employee for reporting a violation of the law to the state. If the messages are threatening, you can note Fred's behavior in his file, but he can't be disciplined for making the reports - and it might be tough to prove that any action taken was for the original conduct rather than the report. But if they're making up legal violations and the employee otherwise has disciplinary or performance based issues, then those laws wouldn't apply to you.

Have I answered your question? If any part of my response is unclear, please reply WITHOUT rating so I can clarify. My goal is to provide excellent service, so if I've done that, please give me a 5-star rating before signing out. Thank you for using JustAnswer.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Clarification ,,,, Fred is a Caucasian, the two employees he was trying to discipline are African American and their manager is also African American.

Then he can't file a discrimination claim. The only way he'd have anything to report here is if the manager actually did threaten him with violence.

Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 32,264
Experience: Former judicial law clerk, lawyer
Verified
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