“Should I file a complaint with HR, or just resign?”

Question: Hi, I have worked for a local county government for nearly 8 years. My supervisor and I have never really gotten along and she has always tried to make things difficult for me. 

I was recently diagnosed with a chronic medical condition which required a few meetings with the ADA (“Americans with Disabilities Act”) Compliance Office. Since then, my supervisor has treated me even more badly. She recently told me that my position may not be right for me and I should consider looking for another job. I have talked with her supervisor and she has refused to intervene. 

Should I go to Human Resources and file a complaint? Or is it time to move on? Any advice would be much appreciated.

Sacramento, California

Answer: Dear Lea: While the information about your situation that I have to work with is limited, I think there are several reasons you should do BOTH (i) file a Complaint with Human Resources AND (ii) start the process of moving on. Here are my best thoughts:    

 1. First, your health and what affects your health need to be your primary “compasses” in what to do. As the saying goes, “If you have your health, you have everything.” I would not at all doubt that your stress at work may contribute to your chronic medical condition. Let’s just say this: it sure won’t help it. Lots of things related to work and finances give us stress, including (a) being without a job, (b) looking for a job, (c) people at work who intentionally make your life miserable, and (d) those in authority who refuse to intervene when it is their job to intervene. Which ones are more stressful to you only you know for sure, but I think reducing unnecessary stress, to the degree you have control over your stress, ought to be one of your primary “compasses” you use to determine your next direction and the steps to take in that direction. 

2. Second, it seems pretty clear that your supervisor is reacting negatively to your disabling condition, and that is nothing less than (a) a violation of Federal (and State) law, and (b) a violation of your company’s policies. I cannot expect any supervisor to be happy to hear that one of his or her employees may need either an accommodation for health reasons, or time off to see doctors or the ADA Compliance Office. As a supervisor myself, I know that if one employee cannot do the work, for any reason, I have to find another employee to do the work, or do it myself. That’s only human. 

However, an employee with a disabling medical condition must – by federal and state law – be accommodated to a reasonable degree, and must NOT be treated negatively because of it, or because he or she has asked for an accommodation. We are fortunate to live in such a humane society that would pass such laws; we should never be afraid to exercise our legal rights. And, too, supervisors who “come down on” employees who visit the ADA Compliance office cannot then tell them, on that basis, to “look elsewhere” for employment.    

3. Your supervisor’s supervisor is shamelessly avoiding her own duties to you, as well. I am eternally perplexed by people who seek positions of responsibility, only to shirk those responsibilities when given to them. Your supervisor’s supervisor should have intervened, or had HR intervene. That, too – not acting when a seemingly valid concern has been raised about violation of a federal workplace law – is, itself, capable of being described as a violation. 

4. Please consider replacing important communication “by your lips” with communications “by your fingers.” Lea, I don’t mean this as a criticism, but only as a caution: all important communications at work should, if possible, not be spoken, but instead be emailed. You have “spoken” with your Supervisor, and you have “spoken” with your Supervisor’s Supervisor. They may forget (or mischaracterize) what you said, when you said it, how you said it, and even the tone of your voice when you said it. I love emails, for they provide a clear record of all these things. No one should fear the truth, and emails are always on the side of the truth.   

5. Filing a Written Complaint with Human Resources should give you (a) a degree of protection from further bad treatment, (b) leverage to obtain more time to look for a better job, (c) a possible transfer, and (d) perhaps a severance package of sorts. By filing a Written Complaint with HR, you put your employer, your supervisor and your supervisor’s supervisor all on notice that you will no longer sit back and tolerate what has been happening: a violation of law. Your health is important. Unnecessary stress is harmful to it, and reasonable accommodations to any disability are required by law. In this way, you will make yourself somewhat protected from further bad treatment, because your supervisor will know that she is “being watched.” 

Also, of great importance, if you file a written Complaint, that will greatly increase your chances of  being given more time to find a new job, being permitted to transfer, or even receive a severance package. 

If you would like to obtain a Model Letter that you can adapt and use to file a Formal Request for a Disability Accommodation under the ADA (Disability) Retaliation, just [click here.]  

6. Filing A Written Claim with HR will also discourage your Supervisor from treating others in this way, now and in the future. Another probable effect of your filing a written Complaint with Human Resources is that your Supervisor will probably not be so arrogant as to treat other people this same way. While it may sound altruistic, some might even say idealistic, you may, in your own way, be helping to “repair the world.” If your supervisor does act more humanely to others, it will just prove what my mother taught me as a young child: “Accountability encourages responsibility.” 

If you would like to file a complaint of illegal Retaliation for your meeting with ADA Compliance, and would like a Model Letter to do so, simply [click here.] 

7. Lastly, should you decide to resign, please consider the many advantages of submitting an “Involuntary Resignation.” As you may or may not know, we have “invented” a concept we call “Involuntary Resignation.” Sound sort of oxymoronic? Well, as you now well know, not all resignations are entirely “voluntary,” and making a record that your resignation is “involuntary,” right in the resignation letter, itself, preserves your (a) possible right to collect unemployment, (b) possible legal rights and claims, (c) possible reason to collect severance, and (d) your better ability to answer people, in the future, who ask why you resigned without first having a new job. If you’re interested in this concept, please review my article [click here], and my video [click here] on the subject of “Involuntary Resignation.”   

If you would like to obtain a Model Involuntary Resignation for your adaptation and use, simply [click here.] 

Lea, you are somewhat between a “rock” (your health concerns) and a “hard place” (your supervisor.) I hope these thoughts are helpful to you in finding a “way out” of your predicament. Thanks for writing in. I will say a prayer for improvement in your health.      

My best to you,
Al Sklover

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2013 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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