Can An Employee Be Fired For Justifiably Raising His Voice When Upset?

A Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about an unfair accusation of harassment. 

A coworker of my husband’s came to our house to get free kittens out from under our deck, but she scared them so badly with a broom etc., that they disappeared. My husband took the carrier she was going to use back to work and she came to his work area to get it. He told her that it was stupid what she did and did yell at her but not crazy-like at all. She complained to the company that she can’t come on his floor “because she is scared” of him.  He had a meeting with the Corporate Diversity Dept. They heard his side of the story, that he did nothing but raise his voice. However, she says it was harassment. Will he be fired or disciplined? His work record is spotless and his boss went into the meeting after him and had nothing but good to say. Your thoughts?

Response:

The decision by your husband’s company will apparently be made by people higher than your husband’s boss. It doesn’t seem likely to me that he would be severely disciplined or dismissed, but it depends upon how angry your husband acted, what he said and the tone he used, if he has ever done that before, if he yelled first or if she did or if she ever yelled at all, and if there were witnesses who make statements one way or the other.

I’m certain your husband is thinking about it now and can see how he could have handled it differently. His excellent work reputation will certainly be in his favor, if the boss truly did say positive things and if his performance evaluations reflect that as well.

It seems most probable that he will receive a written warning, not about harassment or threatening actions but about discourteous or disruptive behavior. I also expect the co-worker will not have to go to his work area unless someone is with her, at least until things calm down.  However, the totality of the situation is what they will consider, and especially what their investigation discloses as to how severe the incident was and if it was the first time such a thing has happened.

Good luck to both of you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how things work out. I also hope the kittens are taken by someone who cares for them!

Tina Rowe