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Hostile Work Environment or Discrimination?

Montclair, NJ |

I work in HR for a big company, going on 6 years. I have been there the longest of 3 total employees plus 1 manager. We hired a black female 2 years ago who comes to work and complains, clips coupons, and basically does nothing. Recently, me and the other employee found out that newer employee (I'll call her X) got the FedEx account linked to her personal account. She also took a screenshot of my HR information with personal info on it and emailed it to her personal email. We went to our manager and explained all this and nothing was done. X went into the managers office and says she is being harassed and that all the good vacations are being taken purposely to bully her. (BTW my manager is black)..We have told her over and over that X does nothing but she refuses to fire her. Cant take it

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

Be careful about saying you "can't take it." You have very little power here. You do not have legal rights or powers to force your employer to fire this person. And since you have already made your complaints about her, and the employer has not fired her, it is unrealistic to expect the situation to change much in your favor.

Inter-personal conflicts are one of the most difficult challenges faced by employers and many of them will eventually just get tired of the hassle and fire both warring employees. And that is not unlawful.

Your post repeatedly specifies the races of the participants here and it seems that you consider that an operative dynamic in these circumstances. Based just on what you have posted here, you are probably not right about that, at least not within the framework of discrimination laws. The decisions of your manager and employer are not wrong or even suspect because of common race with the employee you do not get along with. Simply put, if we assume that your co-worker is worthless on the job and not meeting her employee obligations, that set of facts does not give you any legal options or rights. If we assume all that and further assume that your employer knows it, that set of facts, too, does not give you any legal power or options.

If what you have posted here is the universe of relevant circumstances, your choice is to find another job or find a way to get along with her -- or find a way to cope with the chronic discord. Under the law, what you have described is not a hostile work environment or actionable discrimination.

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6 comments

Asker

Posted

someone emailing themselves my personal info is ok?

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Posted

No, not OK -- not by a long shot. But it's not something that gives YOU legal power to force the employer to terminate that person. Wasn't getting her out of there your objective?

Asker

Posted

I just figured that someone having the work fedex account linked to their personal account....taking screenshots of employees benefits page and emailing it to their personal email....sitting at work clipping coupons all day...was pretty much grounds for something...i get along great with my boss but she keeps turning a blind eye and wants to lay her off and not fire her when the time is right...

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Posted

Let's be clear about our terms here: your co-worker has inarguably given your employer "grounds" to terminate her. But "grounds" is not "requirements." "Grounds" for termination leaves the matter one of choice for the employer. Your employer can fire her or can decide not to. On these facts you cannot force a specific decision or choice by the employer notwithstanding that there are "grounds."

Asker

Posted

so how is that not hostile for me? people are securing my personal info for god knows what and getting away with it?

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Posted

The law defines "hostile work environment"very narrowly much differently than the common meaning of the words and the legal definition does not apply to your description of your circumstances.

Posted

Normally I would tell you to go to HR to report the matter, but your situation is complicated given that you are already in HR. You have no ability to control whether the employee is going to be a hard worker or cut out coupons if the boss does not care about this. On the other hand, gaining access to your personal information and sending that to her personal email account is a violation of your privacy rights depending on what information was accessed. This is something that you have a right to take action on, but again it depends on what the personal information was. You should meet with an attorney in your area so he/she can explore your case more fully to see what you can do to at least protect yourself from any complaints that may get directed towards you. You may be able to force this issue with your boss, or go over the boss' head as to the taking of personal information, but you need to be very very careful about this. This is why seeing an attorney would be best before you do anything

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3 comments

Asker

Posted

Exactly. this has become my biggest concern. what is her motive here? my address, salary, ss # and other info is on there. i don't feel comfortable with her having this info. i honestly feel she is setting up some type of lawsuit herself because she wasn't given a performance raise like everyone else because she does nothing. and the fact that she linked her personal account to the work fedex account is crazy.

Arthur Ross Ehrlich

Arthur Ross Ehrlich

Posted

The fact that she accessed and sent this personal information to her private email is clearly a violation of legal and company rules. If you can clearly prove this, the company would be hard pressed to ignore this. But I still suggest you meet with an attorney first so it is presented in the most strategic way to avoid any retaliation against you

Asker

Posted

The manager loves me but she is doing nothing about this. She is basically turning a blind eye to it..

Posted

I would take a look at your employee handbook and go over your manager's head using the appropriate channels. There really is no legal claim here (or damages). There could be in the future, i.e. retaliation. Also keep in mind that "reverse" race discrimination is an actionable claim under federal law.

If you found this answer helpful, let me know by clicking the "Mark as Helpful" button at the bottom of this answer. This answer is provided for informational purposes only. This answer does not constitute legal advice and it does not create an attorney/client relationship. More importantly, the information contained in this answer should not be relied on as legal advice.

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