Can A Boss Tell Coworkers You Are A Drug Addict?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being hassled about drug addiction: My fiancé is also a recovering drug addict. Her boss is hearing rumors about her and is confronting her in front of coworkers and customers inside the restaurant causing my fiancé to cry and feel very embarrassed.

My fiancé works at a restaurant. Her boss is constantly demeaning her in front of coworkers and customers. My fiancé is also a recovering drug addict. Her boss is hearing rumors about her and is confronting her in front of coworkers and customers inside the restaurant causing my fiancé to cry and feel very embarrassed. She loves her job. But she hates going to work because of constant demeaning. Her boss also asked for the name and number of the doctor she is going to for help in front of the entire kitchen staff. My fiancé told her that there isn’t a need to talk about that in front of everyone;  it made her boss mad so she repeated it very loud when customers walked in.

My fiancé excused her self and went out back and cried.I am tired of my fiancé calling me from work and crying cause this lady is constantly putting her down and making her feel like she is worthless. Her boss knows she is a recovering drug addict; she is trying to make her go take a urine analysis. She is willing to do it, but she feels everyone else should have to take one too. She never signed a drug and alcohol consent form or any kind of contract. She feels discriminated against or singled out. My fiancé has been there for 3 years. She makes very good money. We have a son together if we didn’t NEED the money she would quit. I want to know if there is any legal action we can take. We live in PA if that makes a difference.

Signed, Embarrassed To Tears

Dear Embarrassed To Tears:

Your fiancé is fortunate to have your concern for her. Our site doesn’t provide legal advice, but this description of her boss’ behavior suggests consultation with an attorney. However you should realize that seeking a legal resolution to stop her boss’s demeaning behavior might risk her job. Guest respondent Dan Kearney, a Human Resources Manager, writes: “I suggest you contact an attorney that specializes in harassment. If you don’t know one then, call the American Bar Association and they will give you a list of attorneys in your vicinity that have experience with this issue. Good luck and keep us informed as to its progress.”

Advise your fiancé to avoid gossip about disliking her boss’s behavior and that she is consulting an attorney. She, with your help, should prepare a log of the incidents in which her boss demeaned her such as those you mentioned. To the best she can recall, these incidents should described as to what provoked them, the exact “put down” language the boss spoke, when, where, and who witnessed each incident and how she reacted; embarrassed and made her cry.

Note, as you did, that your “fiancé told her [boss] that there isn’t a need to talk about that in front of everyone; it made her boss mad so she repeated it very loud when customers walked in. My fiancé excused her self and went out back and cried.” Also include the incident that her boss requested her doctor’s name and number. Such a log could help an attorney determine what to advise. Keep a copy this log in a safe place. And don’t disclose it to any one but an attorney.

Urge your fiancé to hang in there and have the courage to do her best work despite her boss’s behavior. She as a human being has the right to request that her boss not demean her. She might even hold up her hand with a stop sign gesture at the moment of its happening, and ask her boss to not belittle her, such as, “Alice, please speak to me politely. I work better when you do.”

Finally, it is obvious that hating to go to work fills her thoughts and can obsess her. Hopefully you can provide support and help her find some recreation activity that can balance good against the bad of her workday. We have often said the work is hard enough and should not be made harder with demeaning and discriminatory behavior. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS; apparently that is in short supply where your fiancé works.

Dan Kearney & Wm. Gorden