Question: I was recently terminated from a job working for an attorney who had a real anger-management problem. I was there for 1-1/2 years, and have never seen anyone act so much like a bully. He has been in his own practice for three years, and I was his third “employee-victim.” I finally stood up to him in a tactful, respectful way, but he fired me anyway. I met with an employee-rights attorney who told me that, since I was an “at will” employee my boss can do “anything he wants.” I held my boss up to a higher standard because he was an attorney, but now I realized being fired was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. Any thoughts?
Nancy, Boca Raton, FL
Answer: Your employee-rights attorney is wrong to say that an “at will” employer can do “anything he wants.” “At will” means that either employer or employee can end the work relation anytime, and for any lawful reason, but it doesn’t mean that an employer can humiliate, harass or denigrate, employees.
While it doesn’t sound to me that your former boss broke any laws, or committed any crimes, I do think that you should consider helping him to control himself in the future by making his conduct known to his peers – that is, other attorneys in your city. That is what we call “motivation by reputation.” Consider sending a respectful letter to the Board of Trustees of the South Palm Beach Bar Association, located at 9858 Glades Road, Ste. 189, Boca Raton, FL 33434, that describes in detail how he treated you, and others who worked for him. Give specifics. Give examples. Give attorneys who know him a good idea of his real nature, his office personality, his true level of integrity. You might find a form to use, or the names of people to write to, at www.southpalmbeachbar.org. Hold him accountable in a way he might really care about. You must be honest, totally honest; if you exaggerate or tell falsehoods, he could have a claim against you.
By the way, I have written a newsletter entitled “12 Ways to Deal with the Boss From Hell.” To read it, simply [click here]. It might help if you ever experience this kind of misbehavior again. As an attorney, myself, I apologize to you for my Boca Raton colleague.
If you would like to obtain a “model” memo to help you report hostility or harassment by a manager [click here].
Hope this helps. And hope you’ll subscribe to our blog for more tips.
Best, Al Sklover
P.S.: If you would like to obtain a list of five or more experienced, “employee-side” employment attorneys in your city, just [click here]. Delivered by Email – Instantly!