Fleas In The Office

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about pests at work: we are itching and scratching even if they haven’t already spread to our office.

There was a rumour regarding fleas in the workplace a week or two ago and like so many things here it only got ignored. Now the sightings have been confirmed by multiple sources and the placebo effect has already hit my department and we are itching and scratching even if they haven’t already spread to our office. Is there any UK/English law that states the infestation has to be cleared up before it is a safe working environment. Personally I am not allowed pets at home and until some sort of legal action or workers strike is threatened nothing will get done about this. In short, do I have any rights not to work in a flea infested environment?

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Can HR Ask Me This?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about personal sexual question:

If I have ever had sex with a co-worker? I am being investigated for this and have never fraternized with anyone. I work for a government entity.

Signed, Never

Dear Never:

HR is responsible for knowing what is going on that could impair the work of a workplace. When brought a complaint, Human Resources investigates. Can they ask if you have had sex with a co-worker? Apparently, HR asked and you don’t think they should have. Our site responds to questions pertaining to workplace communication with the exception of legal and medical matters. Your question implies there’s a legal answer to whether HR should or shouldn’t speak to you about sex with a coworker. There might be.

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Vague Written Warning

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about using profanity:

I received a written warning for using profanity. This incident happened a year ago when I had a different manager (who has since left the company). My former mgr and I discussed this incident and not only did she feel no action was necessary, in that same interview she delivered a steller performance review and pay increase. Now this incident is being brought up by my new mgr in a written warning along with 2 other vague incidents where dates, people, specific comments were not addressed. I have been with this medical company over 9 years and have never been written up before. Is it necessary for my mgr to give specifics? How would you handle a written response?

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Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about warning procedure:

Can a Supervisor issue a verbal warning before they have started their working day after witnessing unacceptable behaviour and does the employee have to sign an acceptance of the warning.

Signed, Can and Have To

Dear Can and Have To:

To ask, can a supervisor issue a warning and does an employee have to sign indicates you are thinking in terms of what is the rule, regulation and/or law. I know of no laws pertaining to giving and getting warnings. Our site addresses workplace communication, not legal matters; therefore, this should not be interpreted as legal advice. To the best of my knowledge, a warning can be given at any time when someone in authority, such as a supervisor, sees something that is unsafe, wrong in procedure, or defective in product, service or interpersonal relationship. An employee warned in writing is expected to sign it to indicate she/he has seen it. Also an employee warned can then submit a response to that warning. The importance of a warning is not so much if it has been given at a wrong time as is its message to an employee that wrong behavior needs to be stopped, prevented, and/or make right. A warning should be seen as an opportunity to clarify procedures that are unacceptable.

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Timeline for Removal Of Discipline Records

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about write-up records:

Is there a timeline when a write-up gets dismissed, in California law?

Signed, Seeking Answers

Dear Seeking Answers:

I’m sorry, but we are not attorneys and do not specialize in employment law. You can check with the California Department of Labor about this. Their website may provide some answers.However, I would doubt that there is any such law or regulation. In most states such matters are left to employers. If a company is unionized there are sometimes agreements about such matters. Usually the nature of the infraction is used by employers to decide about a timeline. Some employers maintain everything forever while others remove the records for very minor infractions in a year or two. Best wishes to you as you seek answers to your work concerns.

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Two Write-Ups

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about write-ups:

Is it illegal to get two write-ups in one day for the same incident?

Signed, More Than I Want

Dear More Than I Want:

Our site addresses communication issues, not legal; however, I doubt that you will find any law about how many write-ups you can be given in one day. An organization’s system of discipline is its own business and hopefully is designed to correct wrong, ineffective and/or unsafe practices. You can consult your Human Resources Department to learn if getting two write-ups for the same misstep is in keeping with its regulations/practices.Rather than to see your two write-ups for the same thing as being done wrong wouldn’t it be smart to see them as doubly emphasizing that what was or wasn’t done is not acceptable.

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Tampering with a drink

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about report of tampering with one’s drink:

How should I handle a situation where an employee reported that someone had put some hand sanitizer in her glass of water? Her straw and the drink tasted like hand sanitizer which she also kept on her desk. She has an idea who might have done it.

Signed, Very Concerned

Dear Very Concerned:

My response may be a bit more than you were asking for, but this is such a serious matter that I want to make sure you know how strong your reaction should be. Putting hand-sanitizer or anything else in something someone will eat or drink is not just the action of a mean-spirited person, it is criminal in most states. The employee whose drink was tampered with would probably need to be the one to make the criminal complaint, but it certainly would be merited, if it is illegal in your state.

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Falsely Accuse of Racism

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about accused of racial discrimination:

Can an employee get fired when he gets falsely accused by a customer? He has been with the same company for 18 years with nothing in his file. But now he’s getting accused of racial discrimination from a customer. And now he is under investigation from his company. If they have no evidence, he can’t get demoted or fired just because he is being accused?

Signed, Worried 

Dear Worried:

It sounds as though this is happening to a friend of yours or perhaps a spouse or family member. I’m sure this is a stressful time. Hopefully the investigation will show that nothing wrong occurred or that they can’t prove anything wrong occurred, and the problem will go away. His long time with the company should help.The truth is that an organization can demote or fire someone for any reason or for no reason.

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What is the Requirement for a Final Warning

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about warnings:

Can a written warning be given with a member of staff present who was also involved in same incident? (For example, the training assistant manager who was also supposedly given a written warning). Also, can this be done without any paper work or investigation done first, nor any previous warnings?

Signed, Feeling Jumped On

Dear Feeling Jumped On:

Any issue about internal disciplinary action has to be viewed on a case by case basis. However, generally there are no legal requirements about internal discipline. If you work for a union that has a contract, there may be requirement based on that, but it doesn’t sound as though that is the case. So, unfortunately, it appears that you will need to deal with the situation as it stands. I don’t know the situation you’re considering, but let me see if I can answer your questions in a general sense:

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Accused of a Racial Comment. What Now?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about racial comment:

I am on suspension pending investigation because I have been accused of making a racial comment

Signed, Worried

Dear Worried:

I can imagine how upsetting this is, especially if you feel you did not make a comment that could be considered racial or if the comment you made was not something you would usually say. At least there will be an investigation of the situation–some workplaces don’t provide that. If you have information or witnesses that you think can help your cause, make sure the people investigating your situation know about it. If you did, in fact, make a statement that was racial, perhaps you can offer an explanation about the context in which it was said. Or, the company may take into account your work history and lack of prior complaints. You might also be able to provide witnesses to the situation.

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