HR mgr quits due to mgr discriminating against direct reports. She sends nasty degrading emails to staff and peers re issues and creates a hostile environment on co-worker behavior. tries to get staff fired citing harrassment or insubordination when none exists. Opens mail not addressed to her containing confidential information (payroll or labor dept mail) opening up privacy violation potential. Harasses staff with personal comments in public about their relationship with other staff and provides conflicting direction to reprimand them about later. When staff complain the exec director allows this mgr to “confront” the staff in his office which results in staff leaving due to retaliation and verbal abuse. Mgr fires staff on whim and no notice to HR to issue paycheck within legal time frame 72 hours. Fired developmentally disabled person without using policy process of warnings. HR mgr wants to file hostile work environment and prof reputation at stake if employees file claim during tenure. Wants 4 yrs lost wages
Everyone has heard this term "hostile work environment." It comes out of the law of employment discrimination. It arose out of gender discrimination cases, and refers to a work environment so permeated with catcalls, cheesecake posters, sexually charged horsing around, etc., as to completely alter the conditions of employment depending upon what gender you belong to.
Similarly, a racially "hostile work environment" refers to a racially charged atmosphere, where the terms and conditions of employment are different depending upon what race you belong to.
Garden-variety hostility in a work environment does not constitute a "hostile work environment" in a sense that gives rise to employment discrimination claims. The law does not entitle workers to a workplace that is free of hostility--that's the misconception that many people have. The law entitles workers to a workplace where they are not being discriminated against on the basis of sex, race, national origin, disability, in Vermont sexual orientation, age, or religion. What you describe is an obnoxious manager who behaves abusively towards everyone under her charge. This doesn't give rise to an employment discrimination claim as the law understands it. Employers are not required to treat their workers fairly or wisely; they are free to treat them unfairly and unwisely, so long as they do not run afoul of the law by engaging in unlawful discrimination or other unlawful conduct.
But there may be facts or circumstances not discussed in your post which would be significant to a lawyer evaluating whether the HR manager had any viable claims of any sort against employer. For example, it is possible that the HR manager might be able to obtain unemployment compensation despite the fact that she quit. A lawyer will ask many questions in an effort to evaluate whether some type of viable employment claims exist. Be sure to bring any employee manual that may exist to your appointment, and expect to pay the lawyer for his or her time.
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