After Medical leave Is Over???

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about unemployment benefits:

My medical leave, due to a hostile work environment, is coming to an end. Would I be able to collect unemployment benefits if I decide not to return? The background on my situation: I have worked over 10 years with my company and all my reviews have been excellent. After my coworker of 8 years retired, a new person was hired, and it became apparent, within 2 months, she was a bully. I really didn’t even realize what this type of behavior this was called until almost a year of enduring it. After I had taught her the all of the job responsibilities, she began to isolate me from incoming information that affected our jobs and refused to discuss any changes she made to our database. I became left out of the loop on all things concerning our job. We were the same level with the same job responsibilities.

I was part time, she was full time. The new co-worker could never keep up with the work and I was given more and more of her work by our boss to complete. The new co-worker refused to talk to me and never made eye contact. I went to my boss for help but she did nothing. I went to my boss’s boss and was told what I described was appalling but still nothing happen. When my co-worker verbally accused me of being threatening and harassing to her I went to my boss and said it was time to get HR and the Union involved.

I called the Union and they told me to call the boss’s boss and see if I should file a grievance. I was told to file my grievance. I presented proof in copies of e-mails and numerous written examples to HR and the boss’s boss with the Union rep observing and was told there would be an investigation. I was told, at the end of my meeting, my co-worker had filed a formal grievance against me for threatening and harrassing behaviour. I was stunned. I was interviewed for false claims my co-worker made against me. I couldn’t believe what they questioned me on it was so outlandish.

The Union rep agreed that all the bully co-worker’s complains were just in retaliation on my grievance. At the end of both “investigations” I was told both our grievances were unfounded, however, inappropriate actions did occur, and the company is taking appropriate action. It was noted that my inappropriate behaviour included rude and annoying behaviour such as asking questions repeatedly.cLet me say, after my meeting with the boss’s boss, before I filed a formal grievance, I requested to go to Employee Assistant Program (EAP) for counseling on how to handle this co-worker.

I was told by EAP to ask questions until I got the info I needed to perform my job. My questions pertained to changes to the program (new buttons, new functions for reports that were added to the database without my input) and that was the reason I asked questions. Both my co-worker and I were given a mandatory referral to the EAP to address inappropriate workplace behavior. After 7 months of going to counseling, which I found helpful, I was told by my counselor that the company was refusing to approve anymore sessions. I was told the company never inquired about my treatment, there was no communication between my company and EAP regarding me, ever.

The EAP counselor said from what I had been telling her that things were most likely not to get better. She told me to quit. Team building was suppose to take place as a result of both grievances but never did. I was told since two people were out on medical leave (one due to stress, one due to elective surgery) there was no team for team building. However, my co-worker and I are the only people who do the same job, and others working in the same area had nothing to do with our responsibilities so I didn’t understand this at all.

My boss left the company after assaulting her assistant. We were told if anyone spoke to family, friends or other co-workers about the boss who “resigned” it would be grounds for dismissal. Nothing changed between my co-worker and me. My co-worker continued to make up rules for me to follow which she did not follow and continued to be a gatekeeper of all information. The new boss was copied on all e-mails and in my opinion, became a bully by proxy. I asked verbally for reassignment but was told no. I do know of two cases in my company, due to hostile work environment, employees were transferred to different positions. I asked my current boss to help and she never did. She acknowledged a problem and asked me to be patient.

I ended up on medical leave as I became sick from all the stress. Now, as an older female worker, I feel my health will continue to suffer if I return and I fear not being able to find another job with the pay and benefits I presently have. I am very stressed and seeing a GP, psychiatrist, and therapist have been expensive. What advice do you have for me? I am just plain overwhelmed.

Signed, Leave’s Almost Up

Dear┬áLeave’s Almost Up:

You have suffered through a difficult ordeal, and the hope for it to end is quite uncertain. Most likely there is a legal answer to your question “Would I be able to collect unemployment benefits if I decide not to return?” that hinges on state/national labor law. Our site addresses communication-related matters, not legal. I suggest that you contract appropriate agencies and also consult a labor attorney to learn if indeed you have legal recourse. A legal route can be costly even if your attorney takes such cases on a contingency fee basis.

More than likely the prolonged process in which you have been engaged is the best that could have happened. It should have been able to resolve such a matter if management had the will to do so. I wouldn’t give up on pushing for an investigation of the investigation and this might work if your company feared a lawsuit or if the union became involved. Unions are not always helpful as you learned, but you might be able to go above your local to get the assistance that your local failed to provide.

I know these suggestions will probably strike you as little to nothing. I wish I might say more. Your counselors will have to advise as to whether your emotional health will permit you to once again insert and assert your self into this hostile environment. You will need to find strength though the support of family, friends and a healthy way of life; finding tranquility in reading, singing, dancing, tutoring, volunteering, etc. And with the skills you must have, I wouldn’t rule out seeking work elsewhere. There are some workplaces that are good for your psychological health. Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. I hope you can survive this unhappy time. I’m sure it not easy on you and those you love.

William Gorden