Falsely Accused of Threats

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about suspended for making threats:

I have been suspended from work due to making threats, but I have not yet been told what I suppose to have said. I have a pretty good idea of what was turned in to HR. I believe the threat in question is I made a comment that I couldn’t stand someone. This someone is my boss and I have had past problems with him.

Just last year I went to HR for the second time on him and I believe this case was not handled the right way. The conclusion of sexual harassment was it was a he said she said kinda thing. I was told then I would be permanently moved from this supervisor and it’s been a year since this claim. I have not been moved to date. I feel this workplace violence case is an act of getting back at me due to turning him in for sexual harassment. What can I do?

Signed, Seeking Protection

Dear Seeking Protection:

You will need to seek an attorney’s advice about whether any aspect of this falls into the category of retaliation. You might ask for a free consultation so you can explain to the attorney or a paralegal the overall situation. Given what you have mentioned, it doesn’t seem there would be an easy way to claim that the accusation is retaliation. For one thing, someone had to report what you said–and I doubt you said it to your boss, so that means one of your coworkers thought you were making threatening remarks. An employer must do something about that, so it couldn’t be ignored. You haven’t yet been found to have committed a rules violation, so there is not yet any injury to you (discipline, loss of pay, etc.)

If the company (those higher than your boss) finds that you did, in fact, violate a rule about making threats, it wouldn’t be a defense for you that you felt harassed a year ago.So, it seems you will need to wait for this investigation to be done. Probably the other witnesses will say that you did not make an actual threat, you just said you didn’t like your boss. When you are cleared of those internal charges you could ask to be moved from under the supervision of your current boss, as it was promised you’d be able to do. You could use as justification that as long as you work there anything you say will be twisted by other employees or the boss to sound worse than it was meant.I’m sure this is a frightening time.

I hope it resolves quickly and you can move forward. It’s a reminder that when it comes to negative statements at work, most people are very sensitive to anything that sounds like a threat and they will—and should—report it. Or, if it doesn’t really sound like a threat to them, but they figure they can use it to get to someone, they will. The solution is to not talk about the people you especially dislike. Best wishes to you with this matter. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.