Oh wait, did I mention that’s already happening? Well, not me personally, but the company I work for, because they can’t really sue me personally under the circumstances, otherwise, I feel sure they would. I am the face of the company around here, and get to be the deliverer of all the bad news. As well as the good news, but somehow, that doesn’t register.
So last week, the Assistant Director of Human Resources conducted a webinar on progressive discipline. In a phone conversation prior to the webinar, she told me that either I or my friend and counterpart Brenda could probably teach it ourselves, having had so much experience with the subject. Sadly.
In advance of the webinar, they sent out some written materials to review, and I was fascinated by the beginning of it, which discusses “at-will employment”. As the attorney for a company I used to work for used to say, that means you can fire anyone for any reason, except an illegal reason. In most cases, that means discrimination on the basis of any of the basic protected categories: age, sex, race, religion, or nationality. Just about all of those are very hard to prove these days. All it takes is one other example of someone your age, your sex, your race, your religion, or your nationality who is still employed to negate your claim.
States and the feds have expanded on or clarified those basic rights. You cannot, for example, fire a woman who gets pregnant or is pregant based on that alone. You cannot fire someone who is or becomes disabled, based on that alone. And when I say “based on that alone”, you better have your ducks in a row if you do it anyway. Because timing counts.
You cannot fire someone for bringing a complaint of sexual harassment or of being paid less for equal work. And you can’t be fired in retaliation for making those complaints. I’m completely in agreement with that.
So broadly speaking, it appears to me that there has been a shift in the focus. Because discrimination is so difficult to prove these days. Both of the ex-employees who are suing the company are doing so not on the basis of discrimination, but on the basis of our allegedly violating the Whistleblower law. In other words, they provided information which led to them being fired. This is such complete nonsense that I want to scream. This puts me between a rock and a hard place. I completely support the right of anyone to sue anyone for anything, but on the other hand, I just want them to go away and crawl back under their home rock. Immovable theory meets irresistable reality.
So the latest suit involves a guy who claims to have injured his wrist on the job. His worker’s compensation claim was denied. His unemployment claim was denied. In other words, lots of other people thought he was full of shit too. So now he’s suing us under, you guessed it, the Whistleblower Act. There is no mention of his wrist. He’s suing us because he says he complained repeatedly (to me, of course) about the air quality in his work environment, which I did nothing about, and he was fired for calling OSHA.
He called OSHA? First I heard of it. So the Assistant Director of HR asked me, Did you ever hear from OSHA? Arghh, I thought. He will not win this. But in the meantime, I have to answer questions from HR and talk to the lawyers. I am way too busy for this. NO! I said. I never heard from OSHA! What kind of idiot do you take me for? If I had heard from OSHA, you don’t think I would be burning up the phone lines between here and Corporate to let you know? You must be mistaking me for someone who plans to go it alone due to my superior intellect, as opposed to a person who plans to take you down with me if it comes to that.
Of course, I said nothing of the kind. I just thought it. My outrage is always tempered by self-protection.