Was notified 2 days ago that a co-worker initiated an unsubstantiated harassment claim against me for comments she felt was inappropriate, not sexual, just inappropriate. Was pulled into upper management office and threatened with my job without any investigation or evidence to support her claim. Was a case of her word against mine although I received a letter from my boss telling me that if it happened again I would be terminated, or if I retaliated against it I would be terminated. What is ironic is that everyone in this company tells dirty jokes in meetings, personal settings like break rooms, and even my CEO starts the day off by calling us is mother F@#$ers. Is this type of reprimand legal?
Employment / Labor Attorney
Washington is an at-will employment state, and as such employees can be subjected to adverse employment actions (termination or discipline) for any reason or no reason at all. You can actually be terminated from employment even over a mistaken belief that you did something wrong, provided the dismissal is not discriminatory. Once an employee reports co-worker harrassment to an employer, the employer is then on "notice" that the incident occurred and likely the employer was trying to protect himself by issuing a reprimand to you. Were they to ignore the problem it could create legal liability for them down the road. My suggestion is to keep it professional with the reporting employee and only talk about work. That way the chances of this happening again are reduced.
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Elder Law Attorney
I agree with the other attorney that has answered this question. I only add more here because you should really consider whether you would tell a judge at a traffic hearing, "but everyone else was speeding, too! How can I get a ticket when none of them were pulled over?" That defense doesn't fly except for two situations: (a) if you are a public employee, you are entitled to the same discipline that others have received in the same circumstances, if your prior disciplinary records is also the same; or (b) if you have reason to believe that you are being targeted for different treatment because of your own legally protected status (such as your race, disability, prior whistle-blowing, etc.) Such circumstances are VERY rare, so I tend to believe that the first answer you received probably applies. If you still have doubts, consult counsel.
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1 lawyer agrees