September 14th, 2013

Let’s Talk with Kalola: Bully Crosses the Line


Dear Kalola,

I was the assistant to a manager of a large department in a department store. I had nothing but good reviews, got along great with my boss and with her boss. One day her boss was promoted and her replacement moved in from another store. He had formerly been the manager of our department before my boss. He came in being mean to me and my boss.

I have lupus and a seizure disorder.  The new boss was advised by HR not to put me under fluorescent lights for prolonged periods because I had notes from my doctors.  He would make me stand at the registers all day or until I'd have a seizure, even though it wasn't my job. Once he grabbed my arm so hard he left bruises just because I said "hi' to one of the associates. He would time me in the mornings, set impossible limits on my crossing the building doing tasks.

My lupus flared from all the exposure to stress and lights and I had difficulty walking. He would trap me in his office and scream at me and spit in my face. He would make me move heavy boxes, once I had to move 80 cases of cosmetic gifts down a flight of stairs. I became so sick I could hardly walk or think. I would spend my lunch breaks alone crying in my car.

I went to HR every few days. They would talk to him and he would retaliate for me talking to them. I even went to corporate HR, they finally moved me, but cut my pay. HR ended up standing up for him to protect their company.

After I was moved he still found ways to harass me. My coworkers were afraid to be friends with me for fear they would become a target by association. My doctors took me out on medical leave and I've been out since. I'm told there are no anti-bullying laws where I live so there is nothing I can do. He has done this to others and is doing it to more people now. I do wish I had filed assault charges when he grabbed me.

CS


Dear CS,


Thank you for writing in and sharing your workplace experiences.  What the bully did to you is unconscionable.  Grabbing your arm and leaving a bruise, and spitting on you are harmful, offensive acts.  No supervisor or co-worker should be touching your person.  The bully crossed the line.

 

U.S. Legal Dictionary brief definition of "assault and battery":   "Assault and battery is the combination of the crimes of threat (called "assault") and actual beating (called "battery")."   For a more detailed definition go to: http://definitions.uslegal.com/a/assault-and-battery/

Forcing you to stay in a room while the boss berates you, screams at you, and spits on you is unacceptable. The act of spitting on you, grabbing you so hard that a bruise was left could be called "assault and battery."

You submitted letters from your doctors to the employer requesting accommodation due to your medical disabilities.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that the employer must provide reasonable accommodation to a worker with a disability unless doing so is too expensive or an undue hardship on the employer.

 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, or the Rehabilitation Act for federal workers.  "Disability discrimination occurs when a covered employer treats a qualified individual with a disability who is an employee or applicant unfavorable because she/he has a disability." The EEOC states that "it is illegal to harass an applicant or employee because he/she has a disability, had a disability in the past, or is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he/she does not have such an impairment)."  For more information, go to the EEOC website.  You can also call the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000, and talk to an EEOC representative about what happened to you on the job.  Do not wait to call as there are strict deadlines should you decide to file a complaint.

The human resources department (HR) reports to the employer and management.  One of HR's main functions is to deal with the management of workers within the organization.  Not all HR offices are bad, but seldom do we hear good things about them.  Workers often believe that HR exists to help the workers.  The worker goes to HR seeking help or advice.  If the worker is making a complaint, as soon as the worker leaves HR, HR is on the telephone to the workers' supervisor or manager.  HR puts the issue(s) back on the manager or supervisor to take care of the matter.  Instead of helping, HR often only makes the matter worse.  The supervisor or manager is then left to take care of the matter, and seldom will this be to the worker's benefit.

 

Should the bully continue to harass you while you are at home recuperating, call the police and file a police report.  If he leaves messages on your phone don't erase or delete any messages or texts that you receive from him.  If he e-mails you, save those e-mails.  A police report, messages or texts left on your phone, and e-mails are documentation—save it to prove that the bully is harassing you.  If he continues to harass you outside of the workplace, you can also file for a criminal protective order or restraining order.

Your doctors did the right thing by pulling you off the job.  Your health and well being come first.   No one should be treated the way you were treated on the job.  And, as Dr. Ruth Namie says, "Work shouldn't hurt."

"Our prime purpose in life is to help others.  And, if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them." ... Dalai Lama

 

Sincerely,

Kalola

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