Hostile workplace
May 14, 2018 8:00 PM   Subscribe

I work in a hostile environment, to the point where I think I need some sort of legal consult. Who do I go to?

Fwiw, the hostility is not related to gender/sex. Going to human resources is pointless. The employer is the state of New Mexico, USA.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Give the dearth of details, an employment lawyer should be your first stop.
posted by zug at 8:03 PM on May 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

"Hostile work environment" has both a specific legal meaning--in which case, you need an employment attorney--and a broader conversational meaning--in which case, you need coping mechanisms and a strategy to find a new job.

Very often, in the US, untenable work environments will not yield any sort of basis for legal relief but to find out if legal remedies are available to you, gather your documentation, write out your narrative of grievances, make a list of what you hope to get from legal action, and then call employment attorneys in your city. Ask what their consultation policy is; make appointments; then listen with an open mind to their assessment of whether or not the legal process will help you.

In any case, you need coping mechanisms and an exit strategy. even if legal action is possible and viable.
posted by crush at 8:12 PM on May 14, 2018 [13 favorites]

Any chance you would fall under one of the state employee unions in NM? Contacting someone through one of the unions, even if you aren’t covered yourself, may help give you some ideas about your rights and potential resources.
posted by forkisbetter at 8:17 PM on May 14, 2018

Have you seen the wiki guide on how to find a lawyer?
posted by mr_roboto at 9:00 PM on May 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

While also investigating the above, create a Google Doc from your personal account and share it with editing privileges to your work account. Document everything as best you can as far back as you can, then open it as needed to add new documentation. Write down everything. Dates, times, names, quotes, potential witnesses, every detail. Also share this doc with a trusted friend outside the company. Doing this can help on several levels: it’s journaling of a sort, and that is an outlet; any legal arrangement would demand it; any situation that goes terribly bad has that shared friend with a document. I’m sorry this is happening. Tell people about it. Talk to a therapist if you can. PTSD in the workplace is actually a thing. Good luck to you.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 11:22 PM on May 14, 2018

Please remember this extremely important piece of information from the excellent askamanager website: hostile workplace: it’s not what you think

She begins with: "If ever we needed a better name for a legal concept, “hostile workplace” is it. “Hostile workplace” law isn’t at all what it sounds like: It’s not about your boss or your coworkers creating a hostile environment for you by being jerks. To be illegal, jerky conduct must be based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information."
posted by jazh at 11:50 PM on May 14, 2018 [8 favorites]

If you are going to keep a log/journal, be very careful about not keeping it/accessing it in a way that would allow your employer to get a copy of the document if you one day end up in a lawsuit or other dispute with them. For example, if you access it from your work computer you can wind up with a cached version on your work hard drive - or if you email it through your work email it can wind up on the company's email server forever and ever.

Generally, whatever you do with your employer's computer is not private and can be viewed/used by your employer - including used against you in a lawsuit.
posted by Mid at 5:22 AM on May 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

To second what Mid is saying: do not use a Google doc-ESPECIALLY not one you access on a work computer-to document your experiences. Use something more secure.
posted by crush at 6:11 AM on May 15, 2018

crush's advice is excellent. I have two suggestions to stick on top. First, be succinct/specific/dispassionate when you are describing your situation to a lawyer. I do some employment stuff (on the company side) at my job, and I have heard/investigated a lot of "hostile work environment" complaints. In the first couple of paragraphs, you can get a sense of whether the person is stressed about their job/unhappy in their role/angry at their boss, or whether there's some actionable stuff happening. The more specific you can be with dates, speakers, documents, etc., the better your chances to get a lawyer to take you seriously.

Second, be honest about your own performance. I don't mean to suggest at all that you are responsible for anything you are going through, but I have had more than one instance where someone makes a list of complaints, and during the investigation we learn that they were in the middle of some issue of their own. (One had been struggling with attendance and no-shows, one had missed a key deadline and gotten reprimanded a few days earlier, one had stolen a boat (that's a long story)). None of those things mean that an employer gets a free pass to do unlawful things, of course, but when a complainant leaves that side of things out it can really damage the narrative when it comes up in response.

Good luck.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:21 AM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

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