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All too common examples of workplace bullying and retaliation


A recent NPR story provides some all too common examples of retaliation and bullying in the workplace:

[T]here are those, like Lorraine Segal, whose cases never result in a [legal] filing. Segal gave up her tenured professorship at a community college teaching English after years of targeting by other faculty members.

"I was different, I was the only Jewish lesbian," she says. "I was extremely competent and good at what I did. And I stood up for other people who were targets as well."

Segal, who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif., says her vocal objections made her unpopular. She says her fellow faculty and administrators kept information from her, denied her classroom space and wrote a scathing review based on anonymous comments.

"And I refused to sign off on their evaluation," she says, instead seeking legal counsel and fighting to get the review rewritten, over a year later.

Ms. Segal sought legal help for the workplace bullying and retaliation, trying to address in a very practical way some of its adverse effects, for example, the "scathing" performance review. She clearly wanted that review revised to reflect her truth, or, at least, to include her point of view.

The next person mentioned in the story, however, was fired after being bullied and requesting help from a higher-up. She did not seek legal help.

"I hear a lot of people say, 'I was a whistleblower, and I was bullied as a result of that,' " says Catherine Mattice, who founded Civility Partners, a consultancy focused on changing hostile work culture.

In a previous job, Mattice herself faced an office nemesis, who demeaned and berated her and others. Her work suffered; she posted notes to herself saying "Get Up" on her alarm clock. After begging the company president to intervene, he told her to leave — immediately.

"So he watched me pack my things and I left that day," Mattice says. "Was I retaliated against? Maybe. Should I have seen an employment attorney? Probably."

If you are in a position like Mattice, before packing up your things consider contacting an employment lawyer to help talk you through possible options.

Doorways Employment Law specializes in employment law counseling, strategic advice and representation to individuals and businesses across Massachusetts, including with respect to performance reviews, performance improvement plans, and planning for reasonable accommodations, taking family medical leave, or separation from employment. Contact Doorways Employment Law for an employment law consultation.

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