Except for the part about knowing about it for a long time, this is a good way to handle the problem. The behavior was not legal harassment. It was poor management practice and also violated the company policy on workplace civility, a policy that is in almost all employment handbooks.
Now, let’s explore his superiors knowing about this problem for a long time, but not acting. HR had repeatedly brought the problem to managements’ attention, but they ignored it. It was only when the company’s employment attorney became concerned that I was called in.
In my 35 plus years providing conflict resolution services to organizations, I’ve seen employees regularly mistreated in a manner similar to this case. And I’ve also seen employers regularly doing nothing.
However, now the consequences of doing nothing are about to get more serious. There is a movement afoot to legislate against this type of behavior. The New York State Senate recently passed the “Healthy Workplace Act,” which states that an employee subject to an abusive workplace environment can sue for damages. Some examples of prohibited behavior are:
- Repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults and epithets
- Verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating or humiliating
- The gratuitous sabotage or undermining of an employee's work performance
In my opinion, almost all the current laws protecting employees at the workplace occurred because employers do not take action to stop problems. And then when new legislation ensues, like the legislation mentioned above, employers complain about government creating a bad business environment and the costs of subsequent litigation.
So employers, take proper action before the above becomes the new workplace reality. Most employees just want to be productive, have good colleagues to work alongside and be treated reasonably. Make sure that happens.
For a full exploration on this subject, see attorney Michael Fox’s blog: http://employerslawyer.blogspot.com/
For further information on California law and this subject, see Jeff Polsky at: