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Workplace violence and retaliation

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What is the name of your state? Texas

I worked at my company for almost 4 years. I had "exceptional" yearly evaluations and never had any disciplinary issues.
Last year, our company was at risk for getting shut down. I was promoted to a new position created under a long-time friend as part of the administration team overseeing the project to save the company. My friend/supervisor had notoriously well-known anger issues and outbursts, and everyone always brushed it off due to the stressors of the job. After a year of verbal abuse, my ADHD symptoms got worse, my productivity declined which in turn made the abuse towards me worsen. It got so bad that my supervisor threatened to punch me in the face because someone who was trying to fax me a document, accidentally dialed his office number and I couldn't get it to stop ringing.
I snapped and reported it to HR. Because he was my friend, I requested that he get remedial leadership or stress management training instead of harsher discipline.
I was effectively told my claim was unsubstantiated, removed from my position (attempted to demote me), and told we were to stay away from each other "for my safety". I reported several incidents where he would go out of his way to cross paths with me or try to intimidate me, and it was obvious admin was protecting him for the interest of saving the company.
About a month later, with witnesses around, I asked my old supervisor a work related question since I could not get in contact with my new boss. Later that evening, my ex-friend/boss texted me and started an ongoing argument that ended in him blackmailing me and threatening my professional licensure if I told anyone about our conversations or reported him again. Fearing for my safety, I did report him the next day. I submitted the hundreds of texts to HR, placed on paid leave for 2 weeks pending investigation. I was told Corporate was still investigating, but I allowed to return to work the day after my ex-boss abruptly quit.
Two weeks after that, I was called into admin unexpectedly fired for "not reporting the first incident in good faith" for deleting a discriminatory message the ex-boss wrote, although it didn't alter the context of the rest of the messages, and also for initiating contact with him when I asked my job-related question and responded to his texts thereafter. I was never given any disciplinary actions or paperwork leading up to or when I was terminated, almost everything was verbal. Would I possibly have grounds for a retaliation case?
 
I also should mention, the day after I was told my initial claim was an unsubstantiated "he said, she said" argument, I gave HR several pages of 6 month old texts that corroborated my claims of his worsening and threatening behavior. In those texts I discussed needing reasonable accommodations for my ADHD behaviors he was upset with. My boss stated "I can just slap you in the face next time if that helps [you stop doing and saying stupid things]" instead of other cues I requested.
HR said she gave them to Corporate but later said because I did not report those in a timely manner, they won't utilize them as evidence against him and I was not allowed to submit any more old texts thereafter.
 

commentator

Senior Member
So this was last year, and your last experience with them (your firing) happened "about a month later..." so exactly how long ago were you fired? Did you apply for unemployment insurance? Was there a claim for unemployment benefits that you filed and that was adjudicated?
 

quincy

Senior Member
An investigation showed you contacted and communicated with your old supervisor after being told by your employer to avoid all contact?
 
So this was last year, and your last experience with them (your firing) happened "about a month later..." so exactly how long ago were you fired? Did you apply for unemployment insurance? Was there a claim for unemployment benefits that you filed and that was adjudicated?
I began working in that position since 2018. The original complaint to HR happened on Oct 10 2019, I was placed on paid suspension for a week, returned to work on Oct 17. I started having panic attacks at work shortly after I returned due to being forced out of my administrative salary position and told I had to choose an hourly wage role on the floor, despite verbalizing legitimate concerns of exposing my license and myself to retaliation by my ex-supervisor. I was given little documentation or time to make an informed decision.
Because of my uncontrollable panic attacks, I was allowed to take off on the 22nd to see my doctor, and was placed on medical/mental health leave from Oct 22-29 due to exacerbation of my ADHD and anxiety disorders as well as diagnosed with "situational PTSD". When I returned I was given a new job description on Oct. 31 that was comparable to the position I was removed from, as well as ADA/reasonable accommodation paperwork for my doctor and me to fill out.

Nov. 1 was when I had a question regarding the audits I was conducting. I could not get ahold of my supervisor and he left for the day. Since the audits directly go to my ex-supervisor, I asked him my question (to what copies/supportive documentation he needed), making sure witnesses were around to hear what was said, and I left to finish my work. Later that evening, my ex-supervisor texted me on my way home. We argued via text all that weekend, which was mostly harmless until he started threatening to blackmail me on the 3rd and report my license making false claims that directly related to the work I was doing. To protect myself, I reported the threats and what happened on the 4th. I was placed on paid leave again from the 5th until Nov 22nd. I was told to come in on Nov. 21st to sign the acknowledgement and agreement for my ADA accommodations. HR stated the investigation was submitted to Corporate for review, but my supervisor assured me I was protected from the threats that were made and I could resume work on the 22nd. My ex-supervisor resigned abruptly on Nov. 21st.

After I returned to work, there were was no discussion regarding the incidents or mention of disciplinary action until Dec. 2nd when I was called into administration and told I was being terminated effective immediately.
I filed for unemployment but was denied benefits due to being fired for "misconduct" on Dec 23rd. I submitted request for an appeal on Dec. 27th and currently that is still pending.
I also initiated a complaint to the EEOC regarding the demotion retaliation on Oct. 23rd and updated it to add my termination. I have an appointment to speak with the EEOC in person on Jan 28
 
An investigation showed you contacted and communicated with your old supervisor after being told by your employer to avoid all contact?
I admitted to HR, my supervisor, and the CEO outright that I initiated contact with him and that it was for a job-related question he directly oversaw. My supervisor had left for the day, I was not able to get in touch with him via phone or text, and there were no other administrators in the building at the time (it was a Friday evening).
We were told "for my safety" we both had to "stay in our little circles. He stay in his, I stay in mine". I made 2 around complaints previously of how my ex-supervisor would go out of his way to cross paths with me and even cut through the department I was sitting in to intentionally brush against me as a power/intimidating move. I was laughed at by the CEO and told "you guys are going to run into each other every once in a while and you just need to get over it."
Later in the afternoon on Nov. 4 after I reported my threats and my fears of retaliation, I showed HR that my ex-supervisor was actively texting me and stating that he found out about me reporting him. He texted me a second time as I showed her the messages as well.
 

commentator

Senior Member
So you were fired specifically for the call you made to him, right? Having been told not to, specifically told by your employers to stay away from him, avoid him, etc. you called him up. You had previously complained "2 around times" (more than two, then?) about him crossing paths with you, bumping into you, etc. And then you called him. Yes, sure, about a work related question. It had to be settled right then. There was absolutely no one else you could have contacted.

In dealings with workplace situations in my past, we would often run into the situation where someone had done something like this. We had a phrase for it, "irresistibly compelled" from a time when someone explained their actions as, "I was irresistibly compelled to punch him in the face" It sounds as though your employer was dealing with this employee and your workplace issues, after all, eventually, they were initiating action to get him fired too.

But because you were irresistibly compelled to give him a call which you can in no way justify as the right or necessary thing to do, you were terminated. You directly disobeyed an instruction from your supervisors. They took advantage of this chance to get rid of someone who was making a lot of waves, creating a lot of drama in the workplace, taking up a lot of otherwise productive time dwelling on this situation.

So exactly what is your question for us? Under what statute, what labor law do you think you can be relieved in an EEOC complaint? Do you feel that ADA will apply in your case?
 
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cbg

I'm a Northern Girl
Two weeks after that, I was called into admin unexpectedly fired ..." for deleting a discriminatory message the ex-boss wrote, although it didn't alter the context of the rest of the messages,
And in doing so, deleted evidence that they could have used in building a case against him. That wouldn't have made me very happy either.
 
So you were fired specifically for the call you made to him, right? Having been told not to, specifically told by your employers to stay away from him, avoid him, etc. you called him up. You had previously complained "2 around times" (more than two, then?) about him crossing paths with you, bumping into you, etc. And then you called him. Yes, sure, about a work related question. It had to be settled right then. There was absolutely no one else you could have contacted.

It sounds as though your employer was dealing with this employee and your workplace issues, after all, eventually, they were initiating action to get him fired too.

But because you were irresistibly compelled to give him a call which you can in no way justify as the right or necessary thing to do, you were terminated. You directly disobeyed an instruction from your supervisors. They took advantage of this chance to get rid of someone who was making a lot of waves, creating a lot of drama in the workplace, taking up a lot of otherwise productive time dwelling on this situation.
I didn't call my ex-supervisor; he was the only administrator still present in the building. I tried calling and texting my supervisor, couldn't get ahold of him, so I went to his office hoping he was still there. My ex-supervisor's office was two doors down and my ex-supervisor was the only one who hadn't left for the weekend. A couple of people were with him in his office chatting, I knocked on the open door, stood at the doorway asked my question, got my answer and went back to my task.
There wasn't anyone else I could ask because the audits/ audit tools used were designed by and for my ex-supervisor. Although I was moved to report to someone else, I was assigned tasks /reports that I turned into my new supervisor but would go directly from him to my ex-supervisor.

My complaint to the EEOC was two-fold: demotion/ retaliation and later termination.
My ex-supervisor and I had been friends for years before this, and he knew I had ADHD and anxiety issues, which were usually well controlled. He yelled at me almost on a daily basis for "saying/doing stupid sh*t" which he blamed for his reasons of getting so angry/throwing things/acting out, and then later apologize. I always tried to work through it with him and compromise, but that ended up causing the cycle of my symptoms worsening and him getting angrier.
The event that caused me to finally report to HR he walked over, stood in front of me, blocked me from leaving the office, told me to "sit the f*** down". When I refused to do so, he stood inches from my face and said "I could punch you in the f****** face" (although he argues he said "you make me want to punch you in the f****** face", and that it doesn't constitute a threat because he never raised a fist or swung at me).
After I returned on Oct. 17, I was never told that either of us were reprimanded "it was just an unsubstantiated he said, she said of two friends fighting". I was removed from my salary position in administration and was told I had to "choose another option" because I could not keep my current one "for my safety". When I asked what my options were, I was told "that's for you to decide", without actually giving me any choices at the time. The CEO tried to persuade me into considering a (demotion) working in a floor position (working at an hourly wage) or if I wanted my former role I could "get lucky and get hired somewhere else with your lack of experience in that role". I explained that I've never worked on the floor in the 3+ years of my employment at that facility and was worried about my professional license being exposed and at risk to retaliation by my ex-supervisor if I did transition to that role.
The next day on the 18th I had a meeting with my new supervisor and HR regarding position options. They stated there weren't really any positions available for me to transition to with my current schedule; they "were scrambling to find things for me to do". They offered me a position to work double-shift weekends on the floor. I asked why I couldn't just go back to my original hired position working in the data center and was told simply that I couldnt, despite that I've never had any issues working there and there was an open job posting for it on the company website.
They told me I had a week (up to the 24th) to accept the position they were offering, but in order to do so I needed to email HR and my current supervisor that I "wanted and accept the job". I asked for a copy the job descriptions of my former positions as well as the one being offered so that I could make an informed decision. My job title was already moved in our employee system. The abrupt changes, lack of explanations, and the underlying hostility I received were causing me to start having uncontrollable panic attacks at work.
After multiple requests in email and in person, HR never gave me the job descriptions I requested. My supervisor eventually printed me an old version of the job description for the floor position on the 21st. I tried to explain to my supervisor that the schedule I worked was originally created as a reasonable accommodation and it would be very difficult for me to work the early morning schedule they wanted me to take due to my medication regimen. I started crying and had a panic attack in his office before I could finish explaining. I eventually was able to ask if I could have the next day off to see my doctor. He said that he would have to make sure it was okay with HR first (which had never happened before) but he didn't see a problem with it.
I went to my doctor the next day on the 22nd and was placed on medical/mental health leave until the 29th. I filed the inquiry for the EEOC complaint on the 23rd.

When I returned on the 29th, I asked about the position and was told "don't worry about it, that offer is off the table now, just continue doing what you were doing". I told them I made the EEOC complaint, and was told that was in my rights but they thanked me for letting them know.
On the 31st, I was called in to administration and given my new job description of "administrative personnel" that had similar job duties to what I was doing under my ex-supervisor, as well as ADA/reason accommodation paperwork for my doctor and me to fill out by the 15th. The CEO said this position the plan for me all along, but I just did not give them ample time to create it. I apologized for the trouble my anxiety caused and thanked them for working with me both in person and in email.
On Nov. 4th the CEO, HR, and my supervisor were in the office when I reported the threats and admitted my part of initiating contact and why. The CEO verbalized his disappointment of me speaking to him, but nothing more was said about it until I was terminated on Dec. 2nd.

There was no indication that my employer was initiating to get my ex-supervisor fired. HR understandably told me since the beginning that they could not discuss other employee's outcomes. I do know he was suspended for a few days in October to investigate the initial complaint, but was allowed to return to work before I was, and he continued to work while I was on paid suspension for the second complaint in November.
He claimed in those texts during the November arguement that he was on final written warning, had to attend mandatory anger management classes as well as some other things, but I found out he also had a tendency to lie. He also said he knew better than to reach out to me first, but that he missed me... and then later blackmailed me by threatening to falsely report my license to the board by claiming I was practiced outside of my licensure or falsified documentation in the audits I was conducting if I told anyone about our conversation.

On Nov 21st, I had to return to work to sign some paperwork acknowledging that the company agreed to my reasonable accommodations I had to formally request (I've always had my accommodations met informally prior to all of this) before I was cleared to return to work on Nov 22. My ex-supervisor saw me as I waited outside HR's office. A few hours later after seeing him in the hallway, my ex-supervisor texted me and notified me that he quit/ walked out. He stated that part of his final warning was that he would have been terminated if he was reported talking to me, and that he only said what he did to keep me from reporting him to HR again.

Nothing else was said regarding any of the incidents or my ex-supervisor after I returned to work on Nov 22nd until I was fired on Dec. 2nd.

So exactly what is your question for us? Under what statute, what labor law do you think you can be relieved in an EEOC complaint? Do you feel that ADA will apply in your case?
Essentially, yes; I am asking if my case holds water. My ex-supervisor blamed me, my ADHD, and my anxiety issues, for his anger outbursts including the one which I subsequently reported him to HR for. He stated that "if you just stopped doing and saying stupid s*** and did what I told you to do, this would have never happened".
During the year I worked under him, I repeatedly asked for explanations, a different (less volatile) way of speaking/reprimanding me, or even so much as allowing me time to work on the behaviors that annoyed him or he didn't approve of. I never tried to make waves and tried to work it out and accommodate to his needs in person and via texts, as a friend and as an employee. Some of the other administrators I've worked under even offered to talk to him on my behalf at times. The supervisor I transferred to was one of his closest friends and was aware of everything going on before and after things came to a head.
I would have never been transferred, or (unbeknownst to me) eventually terminated if I didn't report this in the first place.
 
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And in doing so, deleted evidence that they could have used in building a case against him. That wouldn't have made me very happy either.
Understandable. During that termination meeting with HR when she noted that I said in November's texts that I "edited [the October texts] to protect [ex-supervisor] from discrimination". I admitted I did, told her what the message stated, and offered to show/give her the originals on the spot. She declined to see them and jotted something down on her memo pad before continuing what she was saying.

The texts in question were actually from the night before that led up to the incident in October. I included them in my statement to HR to show my ex-supervisor's ongoing and escalating anger issues that led up to his outburst, but at the same time I still wanted to protect my friend at the time.
The texts went like this:


Him: I'm asking, please, do your legal s*** then help me out s little. Please do not do anything else unless I ask you to. Please! Can we do that?

Me: whatever you need, I'll do

Him: Thank you. Hopefully we'll have a better day tomorrow.
Him: I'm sorry I lose my temper so much but I am speechless in shock about how often the same kind of thing comes up
Him: But I know that's no excuse for the way I act when I'm mad I'm sorry
Deleted: [Him: I love you ****** I really do. And I guess that's why I get so upset. It's not just an employee not doing what they're supposed to do it's you doing this to me I think I'm hurt more than that most of the time]

Me: Alright
I'm not saying what I did today or didn't do was right, but the way you talk to me is not okay.
Me: I know you've already apologized, but please work on your anger towards me. That's all I ask and I will work on me.

Him: I think its hurt more than mad most of the time.

Me: I apologize for hurting you.

Him: I know hun

Me: Please work on controlling it

Him: ok. Please work on not making me do it
 
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commentator

Senior Member
Do I think your case holds water? No. There just aren't any laws against all this churning and what went on in your former workplace, from the sound of things. And what you are doing is obviously going over and over and over it. In adjudicating your unemployment one would attempt to shorten, abbreviate, condense and pare down exactly what happened. And when you do that, there's not much of a "case" of any kind here. Just lots of time passed and loads of workplace drama and I said/he said, which went on and on and on. I don 't see any real case that the EEOC would take any interest in. Have you discussed this issue with any labor attorneys in a free consult? That's always an option.

My question is what, in the absence of a settlement, are you going to do for the rest of your life, since this job is over, probably without great references? Rather than obsessing about what has happened to you in the past, my advice would be to move on.
 

cbg

I'm a Northern Girl
Let's just say that you haven't convinced me that there's any nexus between your AHDH and your termination. And without that nexus, there's nothing illegal in your termination.
 
Do I think your case holds water? No. There just aren't any laws against all this churning and what went on in your former workplace, from the sound of things. And what you are doing is obviously going over and over and over it. In adjudicating your unemployment one would attempt to shorten, abbreviate, condense and pare down exactly what happened. And when you do that, there's not much of a "case" of any kind here. Just lots of time passed and loads of workplace drama and I said/he said, which went on and on and on. I don 't see any real case that the EEOC would take any interest in. Have you discussed this issue with any labor attorneys in a free consult? That's always an option.

My question is what, in the absence of a settlement, are you going to do for the rest of your life, since this job is over, probably without great references? Rather than obsessing about what has happened to you in the past, my advice would be to move on.
I apologize, since I've never gone through anything like this before, it's very difficult for me to understand what exactly you were looking for... I wasn't trying to waste your time. I was just trying to explain the event clearly, not "churn" it over and over.
And no, I haven't discussed this with any attorney, that's why I came here looking for some guidance.

Also, I wasn't looking for a large settlement to retire on, if that's what you're implying. I was originally going to drop the EEOC complaint after I received a comparable job, but all the drama happened and I kept it open. It would just be nice to recover some of my wages that were lost, through EEOC or unemployment since no one was hiring over the holidays.
Despite what happened, I still had great references at the company from other supervisors and have moved on. I only stayed at that job and endured what I did to help my (former) friend and help save the company.

I really do appreciate your time and advice.... Thank you for your feedback!
 
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