Question: My HR Director has given her husband, who is a registered sex offender, an ID to our company where there are women working alone at night. He is not an employee and can come and go as he pleases with this ID.
She is very cold to all of us, and hires only her friends and puts them in high positions.
HR does ID and criminal checks on all of us, yet gives her husband an ID to come and go as he pleases when he has a record.
Do I have a case to make a complaint? To get her fired?
Los Angeles, California
Answer: Dear Aaron: There is no question about it: you have a right to a safe workplace, and so do your co-workers. Here are my thoughts:
1. Every employee has a right to a safe workplace, and to be free from potential or likely harm. Both state and federal laws make it quite clear that every employee has a right to a safe workplace, and our societal standards for what constitutes a “safe workplace” are getting higher and higher each day, as we read more and more about unfortunate events of workplace violence. Employees are increasingly aware of these legal rights, and so are increasingly exercising them, as they well should.
2. For this reason, every employee has a right to (i) report, (ii) complain of, and (iii) demand protection from known, likely and potential workplace risks to their well-being. And, not only does an employee have the right to report known or likely dangers to workplace safety, but it has become almost a moral – if not legal – obligation to do so, just as it would be for an employee to report (a) chemical spills, (b) fires, and (c) collapsing roofs, at work.
I might suggest that you first look over your Employee Handbook, HR Manual or company policies to determine how such a complaint should be addressed, for following proper procedure can often help in such matters.
At the same time, I would caution you against making any such complaint by use of spoken words. No matter what, even if you are required to report and complain of such matters by spoken word, or a telephone hotline, I strongly urge you to use, also, email, for in using an email (a) what you expressed, (b) how you expressed it, (c) who you expressed it to, and (d) when you expressed it, are all a matter of record.
3. However, every person must be careful about saying or writing things about others that just might be false, because that could be defamation. When an employee reports what he or she believes to be facts about a person who they believe has shown a likelihood to be violent to another person, great care must be taken in doing so. That is because false statements of fact about another person that are injurious to that person’s reputation constitute defamation, and can result in legal accountability.
Imagine, just for a moment, how you would feel if someone reported to your boss that you, or your brother or sister, was a convicted criminal, or perhaps even a registered sex offender – and it was false. Imagine that it actually was a person with a similarly sounding name, but people still refused to associate with you, and as a result of what was said or written, you were asked to no longer pray at your Church, Mosque or Synagogue. Wow, that would really hurt, wouldn’t it?
Well, the law provides that, in such a case, you could sue the person who made the false statement about you, and a jury might award you a lot of money for your losses, your pain, and your humiliation.
I strongly suggest using words like “I am not certain, but this is what I have heard,” or “I am not accusing him of being a sex offender, but I have heard it said by others.” If you don’t have direct proof of a person’s prior bad acts, then you should be open and honest about that, for both his and your best interests. The key here is to be precise and careful in your words whenever you accuse someone of something.
To assist people in your circumstances, we offer a Model Letter entitled “Insisting on Protections from Workplace Violence” you might use it as a model for your own letter or memo insisting that something be done to eliminate the apparent danger of the purported sex offender in your midst. To obtain a copy, just [click here].
We also offer a Model Letter entitled “Anonymous Complaint about Bully Boss” which while it is intended to help you get protection of a different type, can quite easily be adapted to be used to anonymously insist on protection from potential workplace violence, including the purported sex offender in your midst. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this Model Letter, simply [click here].
4. I don’t think you can safely, effectively – or wisely – use this very real problem at your workplace as a device to have the HR Director fired, either to settle old slights or to “get even.” The problem is the potential for sexual attack, not to necessarily get someone fired. If it is your primary intention to get the HR Director fired, there is a good chance that this could actually backfire on you, as actions taken to hurt others often hurt ourselves more.
Sure, the HR Director might just get fired after your reporting the problem, but my own experience is such that a person in your situation would be wise to examine his or her true motives in the matter, and decide what to do from there. “Knives” can cut the person attacked, but they can also cut “the attacker.”
Aaron, I hope this is of assistance to you in understanding the problem, its potential solutions, and the assistance that we have made available to you.
My best to you,
P.S.: One of our most popular “Ideal Packages” of forms, letters and checklists is entitled “Ideal PIP Response Package” consisting of two Model Responses (first and second), and three Model Letters seeking support from others, as well as our 152-Point Guide and Checklist for a PIP. To obtain a complete set, just [click here.]
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