General chatter - anyone in HR or eeo compliance dept? Need advice

10-24-2008, 11:37 AM
Sorry, this is going to be long, but I didn't know where else to ask, as DH's company has limited options on getting advice-you either must file a formal complaint or just keep putting up with the harassment. There's no real option on just asking if this treatment is allowed or not and DH is fearful of retaliation. Here's the situation:
1) DH has been with the co. a long time (more than 20 years)-not a member of a minority (ie, he's white, middle-class, not handicapped, etc)
2) plant is going union, but no contract yet, but the union rep says they are "represented" whatever that means-DH did NOT instigate the unionization
3) DH is a hard worker-most of the others there are not (some actually sit with their feet on a desk 7 of their 8 hours on the job and if you knew what type of company this is, you would be outraged at where your $$$ are going)
4) DH is not a brown-noser, but most of the other people apparently are (refer to #3). When DH and another less qualified employee (who also has only 2 years with the co.) were up for the same promotion, the other employee, who had plowed the managers' driveways last winter, was given the job, with no explanation.

so, for the last 1 1/2 to 2 years, DH has been being harassed by 2 other employees and now his new manager has started in on it. But, none of it is racial, sexual, religious, or any other type that is specifically mentioned in the EEO guidelines. It's more like, DH tells his manager(M) that he has to go out to another building for a few hours and M says something like,"I guess prayers can be answered". Next day, DH tells M that he will be out in the plant for awhile; M replies, "Oh, that's all the farther you're going?" Next day, a trainer was in and DH mentioned that he would be gone the next time the trainer was to come. Trainer asks if he's taking early retirement (he's not nearly that old) and M replies, "Oh, if we could only be so lucky." These comments are ALWAYS made in front of groups of people.

A couple other incidents happened. In one, DH was given permission to do something by another manager. Another employee complained to DH's manager(M) and M got chewed out. In fact, M took a supposedly "pretend" swing at DH (supposedly along the lines of the NCIS slap on the head), but DH didn't really think it was just a joke.

Other employees(see 3 & 4 above) are given incentive gift cards for suggestions and DH's are turned down, but 2 months later, these other employees will present DH's idea and get a pat on the back and a gift card.

DH feels that they are trying to get him to leave as it's much more expensive to have a vested 20+year employee than several short-timers. DH has also caught his manager hiding behind equipment spying on him. Now, DH has nothing to fear being caught at because he works very hard every day and does not steal from the co. or anything bad. He's very much the odd man out there.

So, does any of this actually qualify as harassment, discrimination, or hostile workplace? I'm so worried about my DH-his stress is tremendous and he hates going to work and that's something that never happened before (in the other plants where he worked). But, we just don't know what his rights are and don't know if the union will help(unfortunately, his plant union rep is the one who kisses up the most, so he'd have to go over his head, which is frowned upon -union 'brotherhood' and all that).

Sorry this is so long. Thanks for any help you can give.

10-24-2008, 11:44 AM
Does his company offer any sort of Employee Assistance Program? They are usually administered by an outside company and are 100% anonymous.

10-24-2008, 11:54 AM
My husband was in HR, and ended up being fired for not doing work, that he was prevented from doing. They assigned the task before a company shut down, and he was told that he would not be allowed in the building during the shut down, and would be fired if he set foot on company premises (this was suddenly new, he'd always been able to get in the building before during shut downs, but he assumed some hazardous maintenance would be going on). He had asked for a laptop for months, but it was never in the budget. Within a few days of getting back, he was asked for the big project they had assigned him. Well, of course he didn't have it done, the project required weeks of work and access to both his computer and the factory machinery. They told him he had plenty of time (which would have been true only if he had access to the building he was told he didn't have).

My husband's employee reviews had always been excellent, and in fact even being fired he had never received a bad one. We contacted an attorney, and told them we believed the "real" reason was that he had applied for FLMA to take me to doctors appointments and such, as I was having a lot of terrible mystery health problems (which ultimately led to my being on disability). My husband was taking no sick leave or absences for himself, and would only be gone as long as necessary and would make up the time.

We contacted an attorney who said we had clear grounds to sue, but that in practicality, given the local courts past judgements, we probably had less than a 50/50 chance of a monetary judgement (he said at most, they'd probably make the company give him his job back, and then they'd find a bogus new reason to fire him, and this time document it).

A few months later, we learned the true reason he probably was fired. The company moved to Mexico, and had my husband still been employed there, the company would have had to pay extended severence/unemployment benefits (they found reasons to fire 2/3 of the staff before doing so).

My recommendation would be to contact an attorney who specializes in employer lawsuits.

Shannon in ATL
10-24-2008, 12:56 PM
Hi Ronni -
I am in HR and here are some definitions for you:

"Harassment: Conduct or actions, based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, military membership or veteran status, severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile, abusive or intimidating work environment for a reasonable person. State laws may further define harassment to include additional protections, such as sexual orientation, marital status, transsexualism or cross-dressing, political affiliation, criminal record, prior psychiatric treatment, occupation, citizenship status, personal appearance, "matriculation," tobacco use outside work, Appalachian origin, receipt of public assistance or dishonorable discharge from the military."

"Discrimination: Any policy or action taken related to recruiting, hiring, promotion, pay or training practices that result in an unfair disadvantage to either an individual or group of individuals who are considered part of a protected class."

"Hostile environment harassment: Sexual or other discriminatory conduct that is so severe and pervasive that it interferes with an individualís ability to perform the job, creates an intimidating, offensive, threatening or humiliating work environment or causes a situation where a personís psychological well-being is adversely affected."

For the conduct to be 'officially' harassment or discrimination the person must be a member of a protected class. Hostile environment is a little more gray - some make the case that you must be in a protected class to qualify for that as well, some do not.

You mention that your DH is a long term veteran of the company. In this situation, I would look for disparate treatment between your DH and other people who are younger. It could be a manifestation of age discrimination, whether intentional or not. Look for promotion of people less qualified over DH who are younger, document conversations and incidents with dates, times, witnesses and all details. Look at other promotions in the company and see if they follow the same pattern. Do other older employees get the same treatment or is it just him? If it is just him, the case can be made for a personal disagreement between him and supervisors.

Hostile environment is hard to prove, but there is some precedent of it. If the other workers are the same approximate age and racial background as your DH it is even harder to prove. Not to discourage you at all, but it would make it almost impossible for him to continue working at this job if he pressed a claim for this publicly. I agree with kaplods, he should speak to an employment lawyer before doing anything. The EAP idea is good as well. Also, are there any open door policies in place for filing grievances, or anonymous grievance reporting options?

10-24-2008, 01:17 PM
My suggestion is that your DH write everything down on paper. Dates, times, what was said and who said it. Otherwise it will be your word against his. Document everything. File a complaint against the manager. There should be an employee rights manual. Ask your husband to be given one from the HR Dept. He should not be fired if he file a complaint. If he is fired then he may have a lawsuit. Look up the U.S. Labor Laws and they will tell you what you should do. Unfortunately, I went through something similar and the employment lawyer wanted me to pay him up front after I got fired. So, I went online and looked up the U.S. Labor Laws and did the legwork myself. I submitted a complaint against the employer to the U.S. Labor Board based on FMLA discrimination and I won. I didn't sue for money because I wound up getting all of my unemployment benefits (I was out of work for 5 months) and got my job back. They did not have just cause for firing me even if NJ is an at will state. The outcome was that the manager who fired me, still kept his job but he left me alone. I did not have anymore problems out of him. Oh and I agreed when I came back not to sue my employer or speak about the situation to anyone within the organization. They didn't admit any wrongdoing, but they rescinded the second write up that was given to me and by that time I didn't care because the first write up had already expired.

Hat Trick
10-24-2008, 01:47 PM
Not an HR person or anything, just agreeing w/the 'document everything' info. I'd go one step further and I'd wire myself w/a mic. and video and record everything. CYA to the max -- can't hurt. Good luck.

Shannon in ATL
10-24-2008, 02:57 PM
Check your state laws before mic-ing or carrying a tape recorder - some states require both parties to be aware of recorded conversations for it to be admissible as evidence, some only require that one party know. Using a recorded statement to try to solicit some response from the company when it is illegally obtained can be prosecuted in some states also.

Good luck.

10-24-2008, 03:15 PM
Yeah I wouldn't start trying to record anything with recording devices. I would suggest trying to go to an HR person within the company if possible. You could also try asking for advice from the state. Perhaps google equal opportunity employment and employment issues related to your state.

10-24-2008, 03:26 PM
Oh and I looked since you are in Iowa, there is a civil rights commission that would apply towards your husband:

What is discrimination?

The "Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965" prohibits discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, credit, public accommodations and education. Discrimination, or different treatment, is illegal if based on race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, physical disability, mental disability, retaliation (because of filing a previous discrimination complaint, participating in an investigation of a discrimination complaint, or having opposed discriminatory conduct), age (in employment and credit), familial status (in housing and credit) or marital status (in credit).

Since they are going union, he maybe should talk to the union about his concerns as well. If contacting the Iowa state civil rights commission, your husband could explain the situation and they may be able to direct him elsewhere if they can't help him directly.

Shannon in ATL
10-24-2008, 03:47 PM
I didn't even think to look up the state from the location in the stats... D'oh...

The "Iowa Civil Rights Act" protects a lot more things than some states. The civil rights commission is definitely the way to go, in my opinion. Union rep is not a bad idea either.

10-24-2008, 08:28 PM
I like to add that to protect yourself any correspondence via email to DH regarding HR matters should be forwarded to your home for safe-keeping... or a hard copy made immed. Its amazing how fast email's can disappear off an employer's computers.. without a trace... or at least that is what they will tell you... Actually most networks can dig out just about anything...

10-25-2008, 06:39 PM
Thank you all for the good advice. We'll be checking into all the suggestions, as this has truly gone on for long enough. I knew I'd find people with the knowledge to lead us in the right direction if I posted on 3fc. This really is the best bunch of chicks (and roosters) I've ever met! :)