Terrorized by a Hostile Work Environment? 7 Essential Tips for 2020!

Source: Forensic Notes
If you’ve worked in a hostile work environment, you know the mental and physical toll it can take on you.

Perhaps, one of the reasons it takes such a toll is due to the feeling of helplessness to change the situation.

In this article we’ll discuss some tips and resources available to help you deal with a hostile work place and take control of a difficult situation.

Hostile work environment is any situation that makes a person feel constantly uncomfortable at their place of employment.

With potential consequences to both your physical and mental health – it is important to fight against hostile work environments.  Even if it means using the legal system.

However, in order for an employee to utilize the legal system, there must be proof of inappropriate conduct.

Situations that are considered a hostile workplace have been defined by various Federal Laws.  This includes the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  These laws describe inappropriate conduct in which a person is harassed or discriminated against due to:

  • race
  • religion
  • gender
  • national origin
  • age
  • disability.

Furthermore, the hostile environment must be pervasive and severe.  And to a level that deviates from the terms and conditions of a person’s employment.

It must create an environment that is abusive and not conducive for an employee to operate in, thereby affecting the quality of their work.

The test is generally would a reasonable person find the environment to be hostile or abusive?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) agency is responsible for investigating claims of this nature.

One important distinction to bear in mind is that the law is not meant to protect against simple teasing, brusque comments or isolated situations that are not serious.

In other words, if a boss is yelling at everyone (in an offensive manner) it may create a hostile space.

But this may not become problematic in the eyes of the law unless a particular person is singled out on one of the previously mentioned grounds.

Definition: What is a Hostile Work Environment?

Many employees believe that a lousy boss, a rude co-worker, or an unpleasant workplace constitutes as a hostile work environment. Others might believe it’s a lack of privileges, perks, and benefits.

However, in order for a workplace to be hostile, specific legal criteria must be met.

The definition of a hostile work environment is created when an employee feels uncomfortable or fearful in his or her work-space.  And this fear or discomfort is due an employer or coworker whose actions or behavior make doing their job impossible.

This includes; offensive behavior, intimidation or verbal or physical abuse.

The actions, communication, and behavior must be discriminatory in nature.

Workplace Bullying ≠ Hostile Work Environment

Workplace bullying DOES NOT constitute a hostile work environment.

Unfortunately for anyone being targeted by a workplace bully, the law in most parts of the U.S. says that behavior is perfectly legal.

As discussed above, the term “hostile work environment” only applies if the behavior is harassment or discrimination. And it’s the EEOC, the federal agency that regulates employers on this issue, that has set the boundaries.  According to the EEOC, harassment or discrimination is only happening if it’s “based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”

But here’s a few glimmers of hope.

First, your city may have it’s own laws prohibiting workplace bullying, so do a little research on that.

Second, it is quite possible that bullying could be considered workplace violence.

According to OSHA, the federal agency that regulates employers on this issue, it defines violence as ranging “from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide.”

Of course, realizing you are the target of violence at work is not good news.  But using this knowledge may help make your case to HR and get their attention if you use explain the issue in these terms.

Law Office of Bryan A. Chapman

Contact:

Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

(202) 508-1499

bchapman@baclaw.com

http://www.baclaw.com

NBC Local News: Dr. Angelique Simpson-Marcus, Principal Accused of Bullying, Out at Largo High

Dr. Angelique Simpson-Marcus, Principal Accused of Bullying, Out at Largo High

NBCWashington.com
Dr. Angelique Simpson-Marcus

Dr. Angelique Simpson-Marcus has left as principal of Largo High School, the school district confirms.

School officials would not comment on the terms of her departure.

In the past, News4 has reported Simpson-Marcus has had a history of bullying and heavy-handedness toward her co-workers.

Prince George’s County Board of Education settled two lawsuits against Simpson-Marcus in the past year. One white male teacher filed a case alleging reverse discrimination and won more than $500,000 in August, while a school secretary reached an undisclosed settlement with the school system the following month.

In October, Simpson-Marcus also threatened to forfeit the school varsity football team’s season if it didn’t start winning, according to one school parent.

Prince George’s County Council Member Mary Lehman had called for Simpson-Marcus’ removal in a letter to Schools Chief Kevin Maxwell sent in September.

The local NAACP said they received several complaints about Simpson-Marcus.

“A counselor at Largo High School came to our office complaining about harassment, hostile work environment,” said Bob Ross of the Prince George’s County NAACP.

Simpson-Marcus had been principal of Largo High School since 2007.

Washington Post: Maryland principal accused of bullying members of her staff

Maryland principal accused of bullying members of her staff

By Ovetta Wiggins September 12 at 7:43 PM 

When a Prince George’s County high school launched an anti-bullying campaign four years ago, students pledged to support anyone being harassed, to report instances of bullying and to treat others with respect.

But former Largo High School employees allege that while the students were learning how to create a friendly environment, one of the worst bullies was the school’s principal.

In interviews and in legal actions filed against Principal Angelique Simpson-Marcus, the former employees said that Simpson-Marcus routinely belittled and berated staff, derided teachers and secretaries and made inappropriate comments about white teachers. Simpson-Marcus, who is black, continues to run the 1,100-student school in Upper Marlboro.

The Board of Education defends Simpson-Marcus as an effective school leader, a school system spokeswoman said.

The alleged ill treatment at the school has resulted in multiple lawsuits against the Prince George’s school system. One discrimination case was decided last month when a U.S. District Court jury awarded a former English teacher $350,000. Another lawsuit is slated to begin Tuesday and a third is pending.

Several black teachers said they were told by Simpson-Marcus not to associate with the white teacher, Jon Everhart. When they did, they said, they also became targets.

“She was pushing for the kids to be kind to one another and I just thought, ‘How could you say that?’ and, ‘You are a bully?” said Venida Marshall, a former English teacher who is black and is one of 10 employees who made allegations of harassment in a 2010 lawsuit against the school system. She refused to adhere to Simpson-Marcus’s order not to have lunch with Everhart. “I thought it was a travesty,” she said.

A judge instructed plaintiffs in the joint 2010 lawsuit to file separate cases, said Bryan Chapman, Everhart’s attorney, who filed the joint lawsuit. Many of those cases were dismissed because employees did not file timely Equal Employment Opportunity complaints or because their complains were not based on discrimination; two of the remaining cases are scheduled for trial.

Simpson-Marcus declined this week to comment on the allegations, referring questions to Keesha Bullock, a school system spokeswoman. Bullock said the Board of Education has filed a motion to set aside the verdict in Everhart’s case.

In court papers, the school system calls Everhart a “failure as a teacher,” explaining that he was fired for a “legitimate non-retaliatory reason.”

“We believe the allegations against Ms. Simpson-Marcus are false, and to that end the Board of Education is vigorously defending against them in court,” Bullock wrote in an e-mail. “Ms. Simpson-Marcus has made great contributions to Largo High School and the education community in the D.C.-area for almost 10 years. Some of the best successes at Largo High School occurred under her leadership.”

Later this month, the school system heads back to court to defend against the 2010 allegations, which also focus on claims that the Largo High principal harassed staff members.

Several former employees said they were upset to learn that the principal remains at the school despite the jury’s findings in Everhart’s case. Simpson-Marcus started her seventh year as principal when school opened for classes two weeks ago.

Tracy Allison, a secretary who worked in Simpson-Marcus’s office, said she was harassed because she showed respect to Everhart, who the principal allegedly called “poor white trash,” and to another white teacher who Simpson-Marcus referred to as “Bozo.”

According to Allison’s lawsuit — which is scheduled to be heard beginning Tuesday — Simpson-Marcus retaliated against her by calling her “chicken head, bird, hood rat and ghetto.”

After Allison complained to Simpson-Marcus’s supervisor, the harassment continued, causing Allison stress and panic attacks, according to the lawsuit. She transferred to another school in August 2010.

In his lawsuit, Everhart alleged that Simpson-Marcus, who was working as a physical education teacher at the school in 2003, told students that “the only reason a white man teaches in PG County is that they can’t get a job elsewhere.”

He filed a discrimination claim against Simpson-Marcus to the teachers’ union. He said she then targeted him, telling him if she ever became principal, he would be the first person she would fire. When she returned to the school in 2007 as the principal, Everhart said Simpson-Marcus told his students and their parents that he “was a bad teacher . . . poor white trash . . . and would be fired,” according to his lawsuit.

Before Simpson-Marcus became principal, Everhart received stellar evaluations, according to his lawsuit. After she took over, his performance evaluations were unsatisfactory.

The jury ruled in Everhart’s favor on the discrimination claim but it sided with the county school board on Everhart’s claim of a hostile work environment. Everhart’s attorney has requested a partial new trial regarding the finding on the hostile work environment claim.

Simpson-Marcus said in a previous interview that the allegations are baseless. She declined to comment on the reason for Everhart’s termination, but said the complaints of ill treatment and retaliation were “unfounded.”

“I never said any of those things,” Simpson-Marcus said in an interview after the court decision in August. “I don’t use that kind of language.”

Some of Everhart’s former colleagues said Simpson-Marcus transferred Everhart to an unruly ninth-grade class and told the students that if he failed them their grades would be changed.

Bullock said she could not comment on specific allegations made against the principal because “our policy is to not comment on any ongoing or pending litigation.”

Vallie Dean, a former business education teacher, said the principal liked to embarrass Everhart.

“She would get on the [school-wide public address] system and say, ‘Mr. Everhart, report to Principal Simpson-Marcus’s office,’ ” Dean said. She said students in her class would laugh and talk about how Everhart, who was once named the school’s Teacher of the Year, was going to be fired.

Dean said she and others complained to supervisors but they received no help.

“She would say, ‘I’m the principal of Largo High School,’ ” Dean said. “It was like she had carte blanche to do whatever she wanted to whoever she wanted without any consequences.”

Meanwhile, those who came to Everhart’s defense said they were ostracized.

“I was just sad,” Marshall said. “People wouldn’t sit next to me. I had to wind up accepting my colleagues didn’t want to be targets, too.”