Hostile Enviroment Created By Co-worker

Question:

Since July of last year, I found out that my husband was having an affair with my co-worker who was also my friend. She was calling and texting my husband all day while at work and continued to have an affair behind my back with my husband. When I found out, it created a sticky situation at work because we work in the same office. Of course we did not talk to one another longer, and employees began to inquire to why. I discussed with my boss what had happened because of the situation. I was also eight month’s pregnant when I found out of the affair. I asked her to stop contacting my husband, but she continued to do so, while at work all day.

My boss said there was noting she could do because she could not fire her, since she would get stuck paying unemployment. She told me to ignore her and work. I continued to do so, even though it was hard. My husband and I were trying to make it work still, since we do have four kids together. I ignored her and continued to do my job, and ended up on anti-depressants because of the situation to get through my day.

The last few months she has become really hostile, due to my husband ignoring her. She continues to try and call and email him while at work. I have expressed myself numerous times to my bosses. They continue to say they can do nothing about it and ignore her. She has thrown charts at me in front of patients. When she calls to intercom and asks for my other co-worker and I say sorry she is not here, she says, “Ugh, great,” and slams the phone down. She rolls her eyes and makes verbal comments towards me. She has been very impolite and is making so difficult where I cannot work. She is causing me to be an emotional wreck.

I told my supervisor that something had to be done, because I cannot take it. I said that our boss needs to make some kind of decision because she is now creating a hostile environment to work in. I have been there six years and she has been there two years. Then the following Monday I was not at work because of my mother. My mother had been sick also with cancer this whole time. That Wednesday she died. When I came back two weeks later, I decided to resign since I could handle the hostile work environment no more, and with my mother passing, the added stress was unhealthy.

My boss told me to go ahead and go, and she thought it was for the best and agreed that one of us had to go. She told me she would pay me two weeks’ severance pay and to collect my belongings. My boss had been training the girl, who had an affair, the entire time for x-ray which was my position. When I was on maternity leave, then out on vacation to see family before my mom died and when I was burying my mother, they pulled her for x-ray. She is not even licensed, and the entire time they were training her for my position. She caused me to be emotional and yes I cried every now and then. My boss said she did not agree with what she has done and is sorry.

I filed for unemployment and now they are contesting it. Do I have a right to it? Since I did try to resolve this matter numerous times. The co-worker would use the company computer and phone to contact my husband all day long. Even when I was finally gone, she sent him “I love you” email cards, and still is continuing to try and ruin my marriage. She is doing all this while on company time. The employer could have done something and looked at the phone logs and email and let her go because she was using company time to ruin a family. I just don’t know what else to have done. It was making me very sick and emotional and I knew enough was enough. It has now been a year since they started talking.

What rights do I have if any and do I have a right to get unemployment? I would of got another job first, but the co-worker told me that she was looking for another job and promised she was not trying to ruin my life at work as well and understood how hard it was on me. It had been six months since she said that. They were training her for my job. It was like they were waiting for me to have enough and go.

Signed,

Not Resigned To This


Answer:

Dear Not Resigned To This:

Yours indeed is an unhappy story. The description you provide that led up to your resignation reveals you were and are under great stress; a co-worker ex-friend’s affair with your husband, her incivility toward you making your job difficult, a boss who failed to deal with that problem, your four children and a pregnancy, your mother’s death, and trying to keep your marriage together. Such an agenda could tax the best of us. Now you are out of work and unemployment is contested. Your situation is complex. Most of all now for the sake of your health and family, you need to look realistically at what you can and need to do. You can survive this. Others have, but it will not be a walk in the park or will result from just thinking positively or from wishful thinking. You need support, but ultimately, coping likely will fall on your own shoulders. So with this in mind, without becoming a basket-case victim, seek emotional support from wherever you can get it to deal with these many stresses; from a counselor, sister/brother, friends, church or community. Also, you need support from your husband and hopefully you and he can behave lovingly to each other so that your marriage can survive. He bears some measure of responsibility for allowing this affair to go on, and hopefully he is serious about it being ended and wanting to make your marriage survive. You and he will need to do your best not to talk the affair to death or nag about it. But ending it must be genuine if your marriage is to survive. If not, he must realize that should this affair result in divorce, he still will be responsible for child support. On top of all this, since you resigned, now you need professional advice about unemployment compensation.

Our site advises on communication related matters. We don’t provide legal advice. But since unemployment is being contested, you need to speak with an attorney who specializes in unemployment matters? You should be able to find that kind of attorney in the yellow pages, or call any attorney to be directed to one that might. Most attorneys provide a free consultation to learn if you have a case, and some will represent you on a contingent fee basis; if you win then a fee will be due. Should you take this route it is wise to carefully get in plain English a contract for fees.

To the best of your recollection, prepare a log of what transpired: the sequence with dates as to the affair, the instances of hostile actions of this co-worker, the times you reported the actions of your co-worker and the response of your supervisor, and failure to deal with it, your emotional depression turning to medication, your mother’s death and absence from work, the training of that co-worker for your job rather than providing help to you at difficult time. In addition contact your local and state department of labor to learn what is the law for unemployment after a resignation. An attorney should advise if a hostile environment such as you encountered and an employer’s failure to address that can constitute a cause for a remedy. Once you learn if anything can be done legally, you will know if all that you can do is to put this behind you and to learn what if anything you can from it. If you make a reasonable effort to get unemployment and do not, you will best not obsess it about all that has happened. You can and must learn to put this all in perspective and allow the past to be past. So I’m sure you know that those around you, although they want to be sympathetic, want to see the bright side of you and not only endlessly hear about your troubles. You have professional training and have skills that others don’t in a field that needs your expertise. So fortunately you have blessings to count. And you undoubtedly are wiser now with these unique experiences with a husband’s straying and a co-worker’s hostility, and six years on the job. My associate Tina Lewis Rowe might add to my advice. I will ask her if she wishes to change or add to what I am sending you. Just reading some other Q&As posted that she answered might help to find some of the strength and wisdom you need at this time. Each of us must look out for ourselves and most of us are responsible for looking out for others. You are. That’s what I mean by WEGO. If and when you find time, please let us know how you work through all of this. Follow Up . . . When I wrote you I had not yet gotten the advice of an attorney. Although we do not give legal advice, I sometimes forward a question to an attorney. Bonnie Jordan in Florida is one such individual. She concurs with my advice sent to you. Here’s what she advises: Since laws regarding unemployment may vary from state to state as do labor laws, I would certainly consult with an employment/labor law attorney as to what rights you have that may have been violated by your employer. This is more than simply a denial of unemployment benefits. Due to the creation of the hostile workplace enviornment and the damage that it has caused, you may have a cause of action against both the employer and the employee. I would certainly at least meet with an attorney to assess the situation. Good luck.

William Gorden