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can an aggressive colleague sue?

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zonker

Junior Member
What is the name of your state?What is the name of your state? Pennsylvania

I work in a university environment as a faculty member. For the past 7 years, a faculty member (with tenure) has failed to produce the quality and quantity of work required by handbook agreement. Whenever she is approached by our colleagues, the department chair, or the dean about her failure to produce she behaves in a VERY verbally aggressive manner and also sends follow-up emails that serve to pour gasoline on the flames. Aggression is her best manipulation tool. I would clearly define her as a serial bully who suffers from serious professional jealousy. By the way, we do not have handbook language that can be used by any of us to charge her with anything, and she is VERY slick at lying and covering her tracks.

That said, for years we have all stood firm against her aggression and, without workplace harrassment laws available (she is not engaging in any discriminatory acts, just horrible to everyone) it seems like trending water with periods of near drowning occuring. Because we have stood firm, she has stepped up her aggressive actions and now is stating that she is "working with the university diversity office on a harrassment suit" against one of my colleagues. She said that she has a civil harrassment suit started and the diversity office is assisting her. My questions are: 1) Does Pennsylvania have laws for workplace harrassment (non-discriminatory) and 2) Can the university diversity office assist her with this?

I am hoping that she has finally reached the end of her rope and is merely using this as a last -ditch fabricated fear tactic. The upper levels of administration are no longer taking her seriously and she has exhausted everyone's patience. Our hope is that she will just leave. Any answers to my questions above would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
 


BelizeBreeze

Senior Member
and the question I have is why have you and your colleagues not filed a formal Verbally Hostile Workplace complaint with the school administration under Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (act) (43 P. S. § 957(o)),

If you want a little background then read
Ivory v. Radio One
 

zonker

Junior Member
Thanks very much for the information. What I find is that that case and others supported by the PHRA all relate to discrimination of some sort (gender, sexual, handicapping conditions, etc.). This is just plain ongoing mean-spirited behavior to colleagues...does it still apply? There is no cursing or blatently derogatory statements, rather unending lack of civility and total uncooperative behaviors in all matters of work. We have asked administration for remedy and are at the grievance level which has apparently hit a brick wall because no one seems to have the "authority" to take action against a nasty, yet tenured, faculty member.
 

BelizeBreeze

Senior Member
zonker said:
Thanks very much for the information. What I find is that that case and others supported by the PHRA all relate to discrimination of some sort (gender, sexual, handicapping conditions, etc.). This is just plain ongoing mean-spirited behavior to colleagues...does it still apply? There is no cursing or blatently derogatory statements, rather unending lack of civility and total uncooperative behaviors in all matters of work. We have asked administration for remedy and are at the grievance level which has apparently hit a brick wall because no one seems to have the "authority" to take action against a nasty, yet tenured, faculty member.
the act also covers Verbally Hostile Workplace.
 

cbg

I'm a Northern Girl
I haven't read the Act in question but if it covers non-discriminatory verbal "harassment" it's about the only law in the country that does.
 

zonker

Junior Member
I finished reading the act last night and it seems to me that it covers only discriminatory verbal harrassment. If my reading is accurate, than her use of our diversity office to assist her with a civil suit (in order to "punish" a colleague who has challenged her agression [without being discriminatory]) should go nowhere. I can think logically, but not legally, and appreciate the wisdom and knowledge you all have.
 

BelizeBreeze

Senior Member
cbg said:
I haven't read the Act in question but if it covers non-discriminatory verbal "harassment" it's about the only law in the country that does.
The act has been upheld in the Illinois Supreme court to also include verbal harassment of such a nature to cause a hostile work environment.
 

Beth3

Senior Member
verbal harassment of such a nature to cause a hostile work environment. But based on what, Belize. A co-worker who is just an abusive "equal opportunity" jerk? Or a co-worker who is verbally harassing someone because of his/her membership in a protected class?
 

cbg

I'm a Northern Girl
Considering that the legal definition of a hostile work environment specifies that either sexual harassment or illegal discrimination under Title VII (and related laws) must be happening, I think the conclusion is obvious.
 

BelizeBreeze

Senior Member
James Leggett and Linda Leggett v. Philadelphia Management; PHRC Case No. 199927632 (H-8017) and PHRC Case No. 199927633 (H-8018) (Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, November 23, 2004)

This case involved verbal harassment so pervasive and regular that the complainant was constructively discharged.

The filing of an original complaint need not be shown to have merit for a subsequent complaint of retaliation in violation of the act.

The POINT is to file a complaint based on the act and let the school deal with this person. Then, if she or the school takes ANY action of a retalitory nature (including continued harassment) there IS basis in the act for suit.
 

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