+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 10 of 10
Like Tree4Likes
  • 1 Post By commentator
  • 3 Post By commentator

Thread: Employee quit Filed Unemployment benefits due to Hostile Work Environment

  1. #1
    swike79 is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    5

    Employee quit Filed Unemployment benefits due to Hostile Work Environment

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Pennsylvania
    A disgruntled employee of mine filed for unemployment benefits and is claiming hostile work environment. He was denied benefits and has filed an appeal. I am looking for advice on how to handle this. His accusations are un founded. But is maddening to read his letter to the UC Appeal Clerk. Can anyone give me advise? I am a very small buisness. Myself my husband and only one other employee since this guy quit. We are very emotionally attached to this situation and need advise about how to handle the hearing.

    Thanks in Advance for what ever advice you are willing to give.
  2. #2
    sandyclaus is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Ho Ho Ho, Wouldn't YOU like to know ;)?
    Posts
    7,817
    Quote Originally Posted by swike79 View Post
    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Pennsylvania
    A disgruntled employee of mine filed for unemployment benefits and is claiming hostile work environment. He was denied benefits and has filed an appeal. I am looking for advice on how to handle this. His accusations are un founded. But is maddening to read his letter to the UC Appeal Clerk. Can anyone give me advise? I am a very small buisness. Myself my husband and only one other employee since this guy quit. We are very emotionally attached to this situation and need advise about how to handle the hearing.

    Thanks in Advance for what ever advice you are willing to give.
    Simply present your evidence that you weren't creating a hostile work environment, and that rather than comply with the duties and requirements of performing the job, that the former employee chose to quit instead.

    If you have more details about what actually transpired before he quit, those might be helpful if you need further information.
  3. #3
    cbg
    cbg is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    34,066
    The term, hostile work environment, has a very specific meaning in employment law, and I would guess that about 90% of people who claim they are in one, aren't.

    Do you know what he is claiming was "hostile"?
    Two things I am tired of typing: 1.) A wrongful termination does not mean that you were fired for something you didn't do; it means that you were fired for a reason prohibited by law. 2.) The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding contract or CBA expressly says otherwise. If it does, the terms of the contract apply.
  4. #4
    commentator is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    4,793
    Do not be too terribly concerned. People love the phrase "hostile work environment" and think it exists and is going to do them all sorts of good. In reality, hostile work environments are like wrongful terminations, and both of them are about as rare as reindeer. They do exist, in certain very specific conditions, but they aren't common and they aren't easy to prove at all.

    When a person is terminated, the onus is on the employer to show that they had a valid misconduct reason to terminate this employee. When an employee quits, it is up to the quitter to show the burden of proof that there was a very good reason why they quit.

    When an employee quits a job, to prevail in an unemployment hearing, he must show that he had such a good valid reason to quit that continuing to work there would have been completely impossible for a reasonable person. The classic evidence of this is when your paycheck bounces, when you are not being paid, or when your employer is chasing you around the desk, or throwing things at you and you really fear for your life. Being subject to gropes, screaming cursing fits, asked to do impossible tasks and not paid properly if you do not accomplish them...These are good reasonable reasons for quitting. If you are asked to do something in your work that is illegal or very dangerous or unsafe, this can be a good reason to quit according to unemployment purposes.

    But because you asked off on Friday and your boss said no, and then Joe Blow asked off on Friday and he was granted leave, or because your boss yelled at you and told you go to back to your station and shut up, or because you didn't get the raise that you felt you deserved, these are not good reasons.

    Does your business have an employee handbook or policy manual for its employees? I fear not because it is such a small business. But is the former employee saying they were "not treated fairly"? This is pretty easy to rebut as all you have to do is say that we did always try to treat our employees fairly and well. If you were rebuking him/her for the quality of their work, or giving them warnings about their job performance, this can be defined as a legitimate workplace behavior, whether the employee liked it or was happy about it or not. There is no law that says you have to be nice to your employees or fair to your employees or that you have to speak sweetly to them or that you have to treat everyone the same. It's okay to threaten your employees with firing, though it may very well be counter productive and not a good way to manage, it's still not illegal or doesn't create a textbook "hostile work place"

    What is the employee saying you did that make the workplace so hostile?Let us know and we'll see if there is a good way to present your situation. The hearing will follow a very specific format, you'll be there, in person or in a conference call, and both you and your former employee will present information, and then both parties will have the opportunity to ask questions or answer questions from the hearing officer. Assume that your former employee may lie. They also assume you may be lying. The hearing will go in favor of the "most believable" party in the group.
    Banned_Princess likes this.
  5. #5
    swike79 is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    5
    What is the employee saying you did that make the workplace so hostile?Let us know and we'll see if there is a good way to present your situation. The hearing will follow a very specific format, you'll be there, in person or in a conference call, and both you and your former employee will present information, and then both parties will have the opportunity to ask questions or answer questions from the hearing officer. Assume that your former employee may lie. They also assume you may be lying. The hearing will go in favor of the "most believable" party in the group.[/QUOTE]

    Thank you for your responses I am already feeling a bit better about this.

    The details of this situation are a bit lengthy but I will try to summarize. Please bear with me.

    To begin the employee is my husbands younger brother, who has been plagued by emotional problems through out his life the biggest one being depression which included cutting himself. He has been to counselor and prescribed medication for this but does not continue these with regularity.

    HIs younger brother lived with another family from the age of 13 and is close with them even calling the woman in the house mom. As the years have gone by my husband has excelled in life. Both in school and then in the workplace after. We began our own stone masonry buisness 10 years ago and could not be more happy with what we have achieved.

    His younger brother has struggled with everything. He makes poor decisions which have landed him in trouble for DUI. We had him work for us and live in an apartment at the end of our road so he could travel to work with my husband daily. Then when he qualified for ARD (since it was his first DUI) One condition was that he pass a drug test or be sent to Jail. He knew this would happen and according to him "thought he had waited long enough and his test should have been clean." So he went to Jail. for 90 days.

    This is one example but represents a single mistake but for this individual the ball always rolls down hill and he is unable to see how his actions cause him to be in these situations.

    His "mother person" enables him. She trys to give him advice but is never sucessful. Her word to us once were, "He could rob a bank or committ murder and I would still have his back." Which as a mother of two I understand how you would always love your child but sometime they need to be told NO or that was wrong. He is 27 not and all of her tact and patience has created a man who is still a child.

    More recently this employee (winter 2010) went out drinking late at night with his girlfriend and his adoptive brother (this is the oldest son of the woman who took him in) It was the worst ice storm of the whole year. Long story short they wrecked the car on the way home, leaving the oldest son dead, and my husband brother with a broken neck.

    We spent weeks in the hospital with him which was 2 hours away. We put our buisness on hold. And he not only survived but surgery was able to repair all of his broken vertibrae. He needed to be in a halo and stay where he could have someone to help him 24 hours a day. Since we were family and since I work from an office in the upstairs of our home. As soon as they released him from a rehab facility he came to our home. We helped him pay his bills, fed him and took care of what ever he needed us for. Anyone would have done the same for your family member.

    During this time is when his substance abuse became noticable to us. He started by saving his pain pills during the day so he could take them all at once.

    In May 2011 we returned to the specialist who did his surgeries and he was give the ok to return to life! It was a happy day... Or should have been for him but he seemed in shock. He had become comfortable with his life where everything was done for him (especially the part where the insurance company sent him $ since he had been unable to work.

    We tried to be very encouraging and patient. Giving him time off to go to therapy 3 days a week. Allowing to make up that time if he wanted to however it was convienint for him. He was at times very difficult to work with an two of our other employees expressed this to us. They asked that they not have to work with him every day if we could alter our scheduling some how.

    We spoke to my husbands brother repeatedly about his actions and his attitude. And did our best to give everyone space from him with a rotating schedule.

    But with only 4 guys working in the field time apart was never for very long.

    In october he got a big insurance settlement and that changed him again. He began to brag to our other employee's about how "he was set for life" and how he only went to work because he liked what he did and was so good at it...... This was frustrating to our other employees so again we had to explain that it was not right to say these things. I don't think he really understood.

    During this time he bought everything he ever thought he wanted and justified it by saying he deserved it. And by Feb. He was broke. +/- 80,000 dollars gone. While we saw it happening and tried to give him advice about saving some for the future. He said he didn't trust any investor to care for his money that he would prefer to be in charge of it. As you can see that turned out Well for him.

    He again became very depressed when the realit of what he had done hit him. He had nothing to show for it because even the 20,000.00 truck he bought he totalled while drinking and driving. In addition he had not upgraded his insurance to include collision so that was a total loss.

    I tell you all of this to paint the picture of how it has been over a decade, where we have never been able to get through to this now 27 year old man. He is not dumb just plagued by his inability to do the right thing.

    In April and May of this year it was obvious he no longer wanted to be here but he did not have a better option of the drive to look for other work. I suggested to him more that once that a life change might make him happy and that we would understand if he wanted to do something else.


    He had been seeing this girl for two weeks and decided that she was the one... But she was moving to N.C. in the middle of May which only put him in a depression again. My husband reccomended lots of options like its less that 10 hours drive. If you want to get all of your time in by thursday afternoons and spend long weekends going to see her that would be ok.

    Or keep you job here untill you find a job there and move if you want to. Or if you just cant wait and you need to do this to make yourself happy as your brother I will give you a few thousand dollars to get there and start your life somewhere new.

    Aparently none of these were options to him.... I don't know why, but will not try to understand. He just continued to cause conflict here and no matter how he was asked to complete his tasks he would do it the way he felt. My husband expressed his frustration explaining that he did not ask him do do it this way to be difficult just because he has done all of these thing in the past and knows how to instruct someone to do it so that they are sucessful.

    It seems that no matter what was asked of him he would work on the task but always doing it the opposite way. If my husband had asked him to do something a certain way he would explain why he didn't do it that way and why he tought is was better his way. This had been going on for monthes leading usp to the separation.

    One additional piece of info is that our company joined PA drug-free workplace and we were going to adopt a mandatory drug testing program for all employees. Which everyone was notified of about 5 days before this employee quit. This is important because as his use of substane was admitted he continued to tell us he could quit anytime and everytime would say I just need 30 days. He always failed.
  6. #6
    swike79 is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    5
    On the date of the separation, my husbands brother was unable to complete a task on time for a deadline. The real frustration was because he had again decided that my husbands direction on how it should be done was not correct. He wanted to do it his way which took so much time that as the end of the day was approacing I called my husband and said that he would need to come because this project was not going to be done.

    Upon his arival he was very disappointed to see what had gone on all day. He started asking why aren't you doing what I asked.... His brother said Im going to go home now and tomorrow I will go back to the other project that I was working on yesterday.

    My husband said no that he didn't get to pick where he was going to work that this job was the priority. There were more words exhanged and his brother started saying "so am I fired? Fire me then!"

    My husband said no you are not fired you want me to fire you so you can collect UC and move to N.C. with that girl. And I will not do that I have already given you alot of options for that situation. Then he said well I wont be around for log and I m done I quit.

    So it was over he was leaving but then came the frustation between two brothers. While they never touched one another there were alot of nasty words exchanged. They were nose to nose.

    He is claiming that the hostile work environment was as a result of repeated bouts of abuse verbally and physically by his brother. These things just never happened. This was the worst it ever was and this was after he quit. All the fighting in the few min after he quit had nothing to do with work and everything to do with his life choices. It was the culmination of all the frustration of the last dozen or more years of trying so hard to help him, help himself and having it all thrown in your face. How we always try to help and support him and that he tells us how he is going to change and never does. He of course thinks we are crazy. My husband did say good go home and smoke, get high. Thats how he always dealt with conflict "And pray about it...."

    I did not tell you earlier but we had encouraged his brother to get help from a church that some of his friends attended. There was a time when finding god helped my husband deal with his past and we were at our witts end with his brother since he has such an addictive nature we hoped he would become addicted to something that would acutally help him. He probably should not have said that but again to brothers having it out.

    This is the other thing that he is claiming that he was being picked on for religous beliefs. Which is crazy since we are of the same religion.

    Alot of this probably does not matter.... Much of it has nothing to do with work environment, and everything to do with a very troubled young man that is looking to blame his older brother for his failures. He is ofcourse being supported and gets his drive from the mother who believes if she just keeps loving him and supporting him he will get better.

    AHHHHHHHHHHH! There it is ... our story.... sorry for the lenght.

    I do not want to go down the road of spilling all this on to the table at the hearing. We will want to take the high road and do only what is necessary. With a game plan I think we can, but guidance will be helpful.

    One additional question, Since they already ruled he was ineligable, does that make this case a bit easier for us? How often is a decision reversed?

    One part that really stinks is that his "mother" thinks we are wrong and at fault so she is certainly pushing him to follow thru. I know he was not capable for writing the letter that he enclosed and I suspect it was her.

    He claims to have a witness to present. Not sure who that could be.

    Our current employee who is retired military, has two children and witnessed much of the last 16 months is upset by the accusations against us and is willing to testify at the hearing.

    I was also wondering if I should have any character witnessed. We are just not abusive people. There are many people who know the specific situation of the two brothers and how my husband is always trying to help his younger brother.

    We waorked for one client on a project from before, during and after the accident where my husbands brother broke his neck. (HIS BROTHER CLAIMS THE ABUSE BEGAN BEFORE THE ACCIDENT). But that sice the accident he is more fragile and cannot withstand it as well. This client was (a builder) was on site daily and would be able to attest to how we are not abusive. He could not come but might write a letter? Is that something to consider, or might it be necessary?

    Allright Ill stop...

    Thanks in advance.
  7. #7
    commentator is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    4,793
    Okay, thank you for the entire life story of your problem employee and your entire family. As you said, and as you know, very little of this is relevent. Let's see if we can pick out a few relevent facts and move forward here.

    In the hearing, your representative and your brother in law will be sworn in. Neither of you, incidentally, will be able to bring in a whole family full of people to "help present" your case. If you have someone who is a witness, which would certainly be a good idea, they will be asked to sit outside or stay off the telephone line until their turn to speak. A letter from someone you worked with many montho or years ago saying you were not abusive is not going to carry any weight. The person you spoke of who was there at the time of the quitting incident, and who had worked with you and your brother in law for a while before would be a nice addition to your evidence. His part will be very brief, I assure you. The hearing officer would like to get this resolved in a very reasonble amount of time, not two or three days, or even hours.

    Since he is the one appealing, your brother in law will be asked to present his case. He will speak until he is finished without interruptions. (Unless he begins to run on with irrelevant information, at which point the officer will stop him.) He may lie. What a surprise! Your representative in the hearing will not be allowed to comment or question anything that the person says. He may want to take notes.

    If you are getting this, I am suggesting that your husband may need to be the one who represents your company. I don't care if you are the chief cook and bottlewasher and person who does all the paperwork, this is my reason. Women like yourself (i'm guilty too!) tend to talk too much, throw in too many extraneous comments, give too much information, and we have already established that you have a tendency to do this. Its a known fact that the less said, just the facts ma'am are the best way to win a hearing of this type. You don't want to go in and piss off the hearing officer by throwing in so much stuff that they can't get a fix on the relevant case at hand and even worse, may have to tell you to shut up.

    What your brother in law is going to try to claim is that he was off work due to an injury, and when he came back, you all mistreated him in an effort to get rid of him because he was "injured." It is actually in your favor that he is claiming you abused and mis-used him even before his injury. The question that arises, of course, is why did he not move on and find another job, why did he put up with this unbearable abuse all this time? You don't say it, you just let the hearing officer notice it. It might be a good question to ask in the Q&A section of the hearing, we'll talk more about that later.

    THe only information you need to present is: how long the employee worked for you. How many records of disciplinary action you had against him, how you have retained him for a long time even though his work was unsatisfactory. How you tried, in many ways, on many occasions, to get him to improve his performance because you did not want to get rid of him. If you don't have, and I'm pretty sure you don't have, signed disciplinary statements where he was told that his job was unsatisfactory or that he was doing something wrong which could result in his being terminated, try to sit down with a calendar and create an informal records of how many times, just in the last few months, that your husband, his supervisor, has spoken to him and explained to him that his work was not satisfactory and that he needed to change his behavior.

    Try to keep those times limited to his work performance if possible. There is also the side problem of attendance, the side problem of attitude, the side problem that you were going to begin drug testing and were quite sure he was going to fail drug tests. But don't cloud up the water with hundreds of side issues. This is the "kitchen sink" argument, and sometimes it makes it harder to show that you were NOT harrassing the poor guy in a hostile way in an effort to get rid of him.

    What the adjudicator will be looking for is not the entertaining life story of a troubled relationship, but "here is a client who says he was forced to quit a job based on how badly he was treated. Okay, does he have any proof of this? Do these people appear to have been mistreating this person with the intention of getting rid of him?" And they'd like to do it quickly, with as little probing as possible.

    After the claimant speaks, your side will have their time to present your case.

    Describe briefly the problems you had with him in the last 6 months. Don't go back through recorded history since they were born, okay? We do not give a rats's patooty whether or not he calls another woman mommy or that he caused a car wreck that hurt your husband. You may mention briefly that he has told people he felt he was about to get a big settlement soon and would no longer need to work. You may mention briefly that you are aware he has a new girlfriend and that he had been telling people on the worksite that he wanted to move to another state with her. (This is hearsay, and probably wouldn't be allowed in a regular court room, but it may slide by in an unemployment hearing.) What you're establishing is that your former employee wanted to stop working for you for many reasons, not that you were harrassing him and making the job impossible for him.

    Describe what occurred on the day he quit, downplaying the physical confrontation and the family history/old laundry that may have gotten washed. Make it very plain that he was not fired, that he was the one who drove the whole process of his leaving. Be brief, be factual, and emphasize that you went above and beyond the ordinary in trying to retain this employee and help him improve his performance of the job you had given him. But don't wave the flag and present yourselves as smarmy saints who were putting up with this ne'er do well family member in spite of his obvious defectiveness, and we're just good old tax payin' citizens, blah blah blah. Just be factual.

    At this point, the witness would also be asked exactly what he saw on the day of the quitting, what was said to the employee and how he behaved.

    Then first the claimant and then your side will be asked if they have any questions for the other party. If something is glaringly false in his testimony, you may want to ask a question about that or to use this time to clarify something he said. Remember, either asking or answering, be brief. The hearing officer may want to ask a few questions of either of you. Listen carefully to their questions and answer briefly and factually.

    The hearing will end and you will be notified in a short time how the decision is going to go. Sometimes, appeals go in favor of the claimant, sometimes they go in favor of the employer. It appears that in the first decision, the claimant was not determined to have had a valid misconduct reason to quit the job. We hope that he cannot produce fresh and meaningful evidence in the hearing that he had such a reason. You just go in and tell what happened from your point of view and hope for the best. I can't and no one here can provide you with complete assurance that the hearing will go one way or another.

    One additional thing I would like to caution you about. DO NOT try to write down everything and then enter this document into the hearing. It is not called a "writing" it is a HEARING. Do not take a bunch of paperwork, including a letter or a canned speech into the hearing and try to read it off. A hearing is a much more fluid piece of action. DO NOT quote unemployment law to the hearing officer. Do not think you are Perry Mason and can holler out "I Object! Irrelevant!" in some dramatic fashion. The hearing officer already knows all the unemployment law they need to know. They will ask questions if they need to hear certain specifics.
    Last edited by commentator; 07-19-2012 at 09:01 AM.
  8. #8
    swike79 is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    5
    This is exactly what I needed. I completely understand and only aired the sheets here on your site. We do not intend to do this at the hearing.

    I understand that only one of us will do the talking and I agree it should be my husband. Your information is fantastic because it will guide him in his focus to stick to the issues at hand and not get tangled in the other unrelevent stuff.

    Good point about the letter from someone. We will not bother with that.

    We can certainly create something of a recent account of problems with the employee leading up to his quit.


    Thank you for your comments. This information will be very helpful.
  9. #9
    commentator is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    4,793
    One quick question. Is this a telephone hearing or an in-person hearing? If it is an in person hearing, you will not be allowed into the hearing room if you are not going to be the speaker. You and your witness will sit outside until asked to come in and make statements. Good luck to you, let us know how it comes out.
  10. #10
    swike79 is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    5
    We do not know yet. It is not scheduled we were just notified of the appeal expect to know any day. I was thinking in person. We appealed a uc claim a long time ago and was in person

Similar Threads

  1. Cut back on hours and hostile environment - reopen unemployment benefits?
    By jobjob8 in forum Hiring, Firing & Wrongful Termination
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 10-14-2011, 11:24 AM
  2. Hostile, threatening environment...but I'm a 'contractor', not employee.
    By Chugga in forum Job Discrimination and Harassment
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 01-03-2011, 09:40 PM
  3. Hostile Work Environment
    By empmess in forum Job Discrimination and Harassment
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 12-08-2002, 08:38 PM
  4. hostile work environment
    By 1tm315 in forum Hiring, Firing & Wrongful Termination
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 11-14-2000, 01:03 PM
  5. Hostile Work Environment/Bullying/Work Trauma
    By rubybil@aol.com in forum Hiring, Firing & Wrongful Termination
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 08-03-2000, 11:44 AM

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

© 1995-2012 Advice Company, All Rights Reserved

FreeAdvice® has been providing millions of consumers with outstanding advice, free, since 1995. While not a substitute for personal advice from a licensed professional, it is available AS IS, subject to our Disclaimer and Terms & Conditions Of Use.