Boss Expects Me To Carpool and Clean Houses With A Person Who Threatened Me. What Can I Do?

Question:

I clean houses for a living and my boss recently hired a person to help me, as the houses are large. This person has showed up to work visibly high and smelling of alcohol on multiple occasions. I have reported this, as well as many other issues to my boss, to no avail. Tonight I asked this co-worker to stop doing illegal things in my car as we carpool, as a result this co-worker began threatening me, calling me names, and chasing me down a hallway shouting, all while I was on the phone with our boss. However, despite all this, my boss still refuses to fire them and still expects me to carpool with them. Do I have any options other than finding a new job? Also, if it makes a difference, my boss is the owner of the company.

Response:

What a terrible situation your employer has placed you in! I don’t think there is any way to make this better, as long as your coworker continues to do the things you mentioned and as long as your boss refuses to dismiss the employee. Apparently your employer needs people to clean and he doesn’t care how that person treats you or what that person does, as long as she shows up to clean. But your safety, in and out of the car, has been jeopardized and will continue to be, as long as this person continues her unsafe, threatening and illegal actions.

I realize work is not easy to find, but perhaps there are other cleaning companies who would be thrilled to have an experienced employee who is dependable and obeys internal rules as well as obeying the law. You should certainly not jeopardize your life, getting into the car with someone who could either drive unsafely or do or say things to you while you’re trying to drive.

 I was particularly concerned about the description of her chasing you down a hallway, calling your names and threatening you! That should never, ever happen again—and should not have happened the first time without an immediate reaction by your boss. If you ever again feel that threatened, I hope you will call 911 and get to a place where you can lock yourself in.

 There is also the issue that a person who is high or hung over can’t be depended upon to do work well. I’m surprised your boss would want to jeopardize his business in that way!

 Consider calling your boss and telling him that you do not want to quit but you can’t continue to work without an absolute promise and assurance that the behavior you have described will never happen again. Either the boss will have to find a way to change the employee’s action or dismiss the employee. It’s a shame it comes down to that, but you can bet your boss wouldn’t want to carpool with her!

 If you don’t want to threaten to quit or actually quit, you may be able to communicate with the employee by phone, prior to work, so you don’t have to face her anger, if she’s unwilling to be cooperative. You could tell her how frightened you were and say that you can’t come to work and have her ride in your car, unless there is a major change in her actions and attitude toward you. Honestly, I don’t know how you could ever trust her, even if she said she wouldn’t act that way again.

 Something else to think about is, if she is driving while under the influence of something, you should call the police, to try to prevent a tragedy for her or for the innocent people in other cars. Your employer places himself in a tremendous liability risk, if he knows she may be driving unsafely but does nothing about it.

I’m sorry I don’t have many positive recommendations for you! But, I think you can logically see that when it comes to dealing with someone who is under the influence and also out of control, the only way to be safe is not to be around them. I hope your employer can see that as well.

Please let us know what you are able to do to keep yourself safe. You may be able to get your boss to help. You may be able to get the employee to improve. Or, you may only be able to look for a workplace where your safety is a priority.

 Best wishes to you.

 Tina Rowe
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