Walking out might lead to claims that you quit your job.
If you are being mistreated at work, it is more than understandable that one day, you may simply say “enough” and leave. This is particularly true if you are being sexually harassed, threatened, or verbally abused based on your race or ethnicity. Yet doing so could allow your employer to claim that you abandoned your job, and ultimately damage your ability to seek legal protections.
In some circumstances, employers might be looking for a reason to get rid of an employee that they view as a problem — perhaps because that employee was speaking up about the harassment that he or she was facing. Even if the employee just went home a few hours early or took a break to calm down, the employer might use that as an excuse to terminate his or her job. The worker might be accused of abandoning their position or quitting.
This leaves employees in the unenviable position of tolerating conditions that might be intolerable — or leaving and putting their jobs at risk. Yet according to an experienced employment lawyer, there are other options that can help employees protect their rights and their jobs at the same time.
First — and most importantly — if you feel unsafe while at work, you should call 911. This includes situations where you are being threatened by a coworker or a customer. This might not save your job, as your employer might still terminate your position for calling the police. However, it will not only protect you and prevent the situation from escalating, but it will create a record of what is happening. However, if you are being physically threatened and feel truly unsafe, you should leave immediately.
Second, if the conduct does not make you feel unsafe, put it in writing instead of placing a phone call or having an in-person conversation. Be specific in what you report. Rather than saying that you were bullied or harassed, be sure to note that the actions of your co-workers, supervisors or others were due to your membership in a protected category (race, age, national origin, disability, gender, etc). Again, this will help to create a record of what is occurring at your workplace.
Third, if you need to leave work, be sure to ask for permission — but do so in writing. Write an email explaining what occurred (i.e., that you were sexually harassed by a co-worker) and that you are asking to leave early to calm down or to get to safety. If you have written permission from a supervisor or someone in human resources, it will be more difficult for your employer to terminate your position later. If your supervisor tells you verbally that it is OK for you to leave, be sure to follow up with an email confirming what he or she said.
While these steps might not be enough to prevent your employer from firing you, they will help to document what is occurring and why you may feel the need to leave. According to a seasoned employment lawyer , they could also demonstrate that your termination was retaliation for speaking out about harassment or other behavior at work.
At PLBSH, we understand how difficult it can be to deal with harassment and threatening behavior at work. We work with our clients to help them formulate strategies to handle these situations to optimize their chances of protecting their jobs and obtaining justice. To learn more about how we can help and schedule a consultation, contact us today at (800) 435-7542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.