I work for the largest auto manufacturer in the USA. I am a die maker of 28 years. I work with another group called mechanical devices. Our jobs sometimes are such that we need to work side by side to fix the problem…troubleshooting a production line. As it is, one die maker (DM) and one mechanical device (MD) person is assigned to each production line. I have had literally hundreds of MD persons over the years, but I have not had a male who is so hostile as my current one. I have followed the Company guidelines and have now asked for a formal review/discipline to begin. The Co. has not followed through again as it has been three weeks since they stated that they would have a “round table” talk with us along with proper representatives. This man is a loose cannon and I am afraid that he will have a “bad day” and take a steel pipe or something and strike me with it. Steel is everywhere and I can’t guard myself 100% every day. Who do I get in touch with for some free legal representation against the Company and this individual? I am clearly working in a hostile work environment. Please help me. Now my male foreman is picking on ANYTHING technical he can to punish me for trying to file a claim against the MD. I am looking forward to your response!
Dear Die Maker:
Dear Die Maker: Your question asked about free legal representation, but there are several issues you will want to clarify for yourself before you consider that option. Thus, I will give you some other thoughts, even though you didn’t specifically ask for them. Legal representation for a civil lawsuit would be appropriate if you have suffered harm in some way, but you do not indicate you have at this point. You are upset and fearful, but that may not reach the level of harm that would indicate your employer owes you damages. Neither does it sound as though there are criminal charges that could be filed against the other employee. You say your foreman is picking on issues out of anger; but if you have in fact made errors this would tend to mitigate his actions. And, you would have to prove or at least clearly indicate that your complaint and the foreman’s actions were linked. You do not indicate specific harassment issues that have harmed your ability to work or that have cost you money. It may be there are many things along those lines, but you will need to have good documentation to clearly show it.If you feel you want to speak to an attorney you could call almost any attorney who deals in work related issues and ask for a free consultation. That way they could at least tell you whether you have a need for an attorney at this point. I do not think that is indicated, but I don’t have the details of the events and the harm you can say you have suffered over it. That is a key issue. I realize you may think it is hopeless at this point, but you should send another letter, this time directly to managers and HR. Or, you may want to talk to HR directly and tell them you want to make another complaint but you do not think it will help to send it to the foreman. You may have already documented the behavior that you think indicates the potential for violence by the MD. Write down what was said and how it was said or what was done that leads you to believe the MD might harm you. Note when it happened if you can recall the date and time. If there were witnesses, give their names. Write how you felt about it at the time, to indicate your fear for your safety. Also write what led up to the situation and what you did in response to it at the time as well as later. If your real concern is not physical harm, but rather the emotional impact of the rudeness, anger or resentment shown by the other employee, document those actions and your feelings about them as well, also giving witnesses to the events if there were any. Whatever the facts of the case, put in your letter the impact this has on work or the potential impact it could have. Your job is a key one in the industry, so you should certainly be able to show the harm to work that could result if this continues and you are distracted by it day after day. If you have the first letter you sent, enclose that in this second letter. Then, in your letter state that you feel you have been retaliated against about this. State why and when. If your complaint was made verbally, mention in this letter whom you talked to and when and that no action was taken. If, in the meantime, the MD has done more things that alarm you, mention those to indicate that you need immediate help.In the letter state what you want to have happen to make things better; and that will be something you need to think about as well Here are some things for you to ask yourself and be prepared to answer: *If the MD is disciplined but still works with you, that will probably only make things worse, so do you want to work with someone else? *Do you want to have a mediator help the two of you work through a conflict? If so, you will have to acknowledge some things you might be able to do to help smooth out the situation. If you think you are blameless and the MD is the problem, there is nothing to mediate. *What rules has the employee broken? If so, state those in your letter. If not, there may be no disciplinary case so the issue for the supervisor will be to mediate the conflict in some way.*Are there others around you during your work? If you were isolated that would increase your need for a new work partner. If others are around, you should surely have witnesses who could support you. Some things you might want to consider as well: *Has this person worked with others before you? Do you know what those experiences were like? If there is a history or problems with him, that would support your case. *Have you had problems with MDs before or have any complained about you, even though things were maybe not this bad? That might indicate that your supervisor is not sympathetic to the issue because of past situations. *Can you think of any other reason your foreman would resent you making a complaint? You mention the male-female issue, but there would need to be clear evidence this was gender related. Could it be the foreman simply does not see it your way? Is there a chance you could talk to the foreman and ask for his thoughts, why things have not been going well and what you can do to help make it better?*You are undoubtedly unionized, have you talked to your union steward about this? Perhaps that approach would be helpful. *You have an employee assistance program. Consider talking to them about getting help to solve this workplace issue. *Go higher in the HR section if needed. Or contact the legal department and tell them you think a liability situation is developing. Whatever you do be sure and send the letter soon, clarifying the situation so that anyone reading it could see why you are concerned. Rather than say the MD is hostile, say what he says and does how it makes you feel. Rather than only say you think he might be violent, be specific about the look on his face or tone of voice or actions that lead you to believe violence might be his next step. Saying someone is a loose cannon is one thing, showing the facts that prove that are something else. Anger, resentment and rudeness are not pleasant and should be stopped by a supervisor, but they are not illegal behaviors or even unusual. Nor do they make a work environment hostile under the law—that is a term related to sexual harassment and it appears that is not the issue here. I mention all of that to say you need to be very, very specific about what concerns you, what you want to have stopped and what you will have to do if it continues. At the end of the letter say that you cannot keep working this way and need a definite response about what will be done to improve the situation. If you have not heard back in a day or two, send the same letter higher until you reach as high as you can go. This is not a light matter to corporate America and I do not think it will be ignored at every level if you state your case clearly and are trying to find a solution and are not contributing to the problem yourself. In the meantime, consider if you have any chance for success in talking to the MD about your concerns. There is surely some underlying issue that is creating this much tension. If you have not had the problem before and he has not had the problem before, it is the dynamic of the two of you creating this one. That may be why the company has not taken action yet; they may feel there is shared responsibility for it. Spend some time analyzing when the flare-ups occur and what role you and he both play in that. If there are ways you could modify your own actions, you will want to do that as a good faith effort. Whether or not he should act better, you can only control your own actions. Consider, the next time there is an angry exchange, just stopping it and saying, “Look, I don’t want us to keep going like this where we are in the middle of an argument all the time. Can we agree to at least talk nicely to each other and just get through the day? Could we talk about what is causing this problem between us?” You may have another way to express it, but it sounds as though communication needs to take place. I hope these suggestions will help you develop some plans of action for dealing with this problem. I agree with you that something needs to take place to stop the situation from getting worse. What that something is may require some close analysis of the whole picture. Best wishes with this!Considering the broad implications of working relations is thinking WEGO.
Tina Lewis Rowe