Suing A Bully Boss

[This is Part I of an excerpt from Janice Harper’s new book, Mobbed! A Survival Guide to Adult Bullying and Mobbing. Harper advises against suing — but if you find yourself in that situation she offers advice that may well help you understand what’s happening to you. Part II will continue with how to prepare. These are just excerpts, her book goes into much greater detail on internal & external investigations, coping tactics, new ways to understand what’s happening to you and much much more. Let us know if it helped you… ]

Lawyers and Lawsuits

Harper Mobbing & workplace bullyingThe minute you file a lawsuit against an employer, you’ve already lost.  It’s that bad.  But before it even gets to that point, you have to find a lawyer.  And before you start looking, know this: your employer will not be intimidated by your lawyer.  Your employer will lawyer up and let their lawyers take over.  And that means war.

Once a lawyer contacts your employer on your behalf, all employees will immediately be alerted not to speak about your case to you or anybody.  And that means that they are not to talk to you about acting as your witness or providing any statements.  It means if they haven’t already shunned you, they will start doing so.  And it means that your employer will begin talking with your coworkers about the testimony they have against you—this is the time when all employees are expected to team up with the boss and demonstrate that they are team players, loyal to the organization.  Those “small betrayals” that came earlier in the casual meetings with your boss and coworkers, will now blossom into full-scale attacks against you.

Your coworkers will also be alerted that they are to turn over any and all emails to you, from you, or about you, as well as any other correspondence you have shared.  And as I’ve said previously, not only is that very inconvenient, but it exposes their own gossip and badmouthing to their bosses.  They will be furious with you—and the more what they have to turn over to the bosses will embarrass them, the greater their aggression against you will be—to not only punish you but to mitigate any damage they might suffer from whatever the contents of those emails reveal.  The fastest way to mend a damaged relationship with the boss you once called a fascist asshole in an email, is to help that boss gun down the person that you sent it to—the one now suing your employer.

So it’s usually not a good idea to hire a lawyer just to scare the employer into behaving.  That’s likely to backfire.  But there are still good reasons to consult an attorney.  An attorney can tell you whether you have a case against your employer or not.  In many instances, employees who have been wronged and treated badly are stunned to discover they have no legal cause of action against their employer.  It’s not against the law for your employer to treat you like crap, scream at you, insult you publicly, and heap a ton of work on you at the last minute.  Just as long as your employer treats everybody badly, they’re protected.

They’re also protected if they treat only people with red hair badly, or only people who dress in polyester.  Just as long as they do not discriminate based on membership in a protected class, they’re protected.

But they may still be sued if they breach your contract or otherwise violate civil or federal laws.  There are a number of civil causes of action which may pertain to your case, and they include not just breach of contract, but slander, libel, civil conspiracy and others.  The only effective way you can know if you have a civil claim against your employer, is to consult one or more attorneys—which means finding an attorney, presenting your case to the attorney, and considering what steps you would like the attorney to take.

First, be sure you look for an employment lawyer who specializes in representing plaintiffs.  Check your local (county and state) bar associations for lawyer referrals, and/or Google “employment lawyers.”  Then review the website.  Read the “About Us” section.  If they say they do defense work, it means they represent the employers.  They defend against cases like yours.  While they might sometimes take a plaintiff’s case, chances are they won’t be interested in yours because it won’t be as lucrative as those hourly fees, and if they take your case, they can never represent your employer because they’d have a conflict of interest.  An employment lawyer specializing in defense does not want to burn bridges with any employers in the community.  So find an employment lawyer who represents plaintiffs.

Second, read over the attorney bio’s.  Where did they go to law school?  What types of cases have they tried?  What kinds of settlements have they received (if posted).  Do they take pro bono work?  That means service for free, and many attorneys devote a certain number of hours each year to pro bono work.  Unless you are utterly broke and you have a compelling case, however, chances are you’ll have to tap the savings account, pull out your credit card, or take out a home equity loan to pay for legal advice.

Do not assume your lawyer will take your case for a contingency fee.  Attorneys only take cases on contingency if they are willing to go to court.  No attorney worth a damn is going to agree to a contingency fee on an out-of-court settlement that does not involve a formal lawsuit.  To get to the point of a hefty settlement, they will have to file a lawsuit, and as you’ll learn in a few minutes, once filed, what follows is pretty much out of your control and drags on for ages.  So just know, if you consult an attorney about a workplace issue, you are going to have to pay some money up front, at least in the early stages.

Third, go to the county and state bar association websites and check if there have been any professional actions taken against the attorney, such as a suspension, rebuke, or disbarment.  It’s not likely that there have been, but it’s always possible.  Google the attorneys name and see what comes up.  Avoid attorneys who have been sued multiple times, faced ethics inquiries, or are notorious ambulance chasers.

Finally, many attorneys now request that you submit your queries via their website.  They tell you to concisely state the facts of your case and an attorney will get back to you.  Be careful!  At this point, you do not know whether they have a conflict of interest or not.  The bigger your employer and/or the smaller your town, the greater the chances that someone in their firm has worked for the employer, is married to someone who works for them, or has represented some of their employees who are now witnesses against you.  Until you know for certain that there is no conflict of interest, anything you tell a potential attorney, however “confidential” it should be, can potentially get back to them.

So just write, “I work for Company X and have a potential discrimination action against them.  I do not want to discuss the facts of the case over the internet.  Do you have a conflict of interest that would prevent you from representing me?  If not, may I consult with you by phone or in person about my case?”  If you call the law office, present your case in the same basic way—don’t reveal the facts of your case or the strategies you are contemplating over the telephone, until you are confident there is no conflict of interest.

If the attorneys do have a potential conflict of interest, you have revealed very little.  If they don’t, the attorney(s) will know that you are rational, cautious, and have a potential case.  They will probably agree to meet with you—but before you do, be sure you are clear on whether or not the consultation is free (it usually is, though the meeting will be from ½ to 1 hour and no more), or if there is a fee.

When you meet with the attorney, do not bring all your evidence.  Do not ramble.  Do not rage.  Even if doing all three is what comes naturally—you are most likely devastated, furious and scared if you’ve gotten that far, and if you are being mobbed, you’re all the more scared and mad and wounded.  But you must be prepared. [End of Part I]

5 thoughts on “Suing A Bully Boss

  1. I was fired by a bully for unjust cause. There is another person who walked and stayed because I needed a job. I am 65 years old and have perfect work record. I just feel she can get with anything till someone stops her. The place I worked was [redacted].


  2. I was laid off by a bully for something that wasn’t even my fault and they told the UE that I was fired for making mistakes (after a year and a half of working there). I did not know I was fired, I simply figured that they did not have enough work to keep me (age 59) and another person (age 28), so I was the most logical to let go. The 28 year old wanted more money and it could not be justified unless she was doing the set of books that I was doing……They never hired anyone to replace me, just gave her my books. I was called every foul name in the book


  3. Something like the above happened at the Kensington Golf and Country Club, reported by Fox 4 of Southwest Florida. A security boss for Kent Security was using wooden paddles and a “Wall of Shame” to intimidate the guards. The guards were in fear that if they complained, they’d get fired.


  4. I’ve been with this company for almost two years,but the past six to seven months have been nothing short of pure hell for me . It all started with one of my leads and I being busted by my wife sending inappropriate text messages to each other. Without a doubt it abruptly came to a screeching halt! I put somewhat of a wedge between us at that point and every since that point she has done just about everything she could to make my work experience miserable. Doing things like screwing around with my schedule, adding more to my workload,and even talkin negatively about me to other associates. It got so bad to the point that I had to get HR involved ,bad move. Things got even worse . I had to basically bypass management and go to HR due to the buddy system between her and management . Since that time I’ve had to go to management quite a few times anyway but to no avail. They’d listen to what I had to say but nothing ever happens. Recently I had an incident with another associate in which I overheard him calling another associate and myself dumbasses. So instead of being combative with him I went to management for assistance,again to no avail. But I was sure to get something in writing from one of my supervisors stating we had this conversation. It wasn’t even two weeks later that the very same guy just walked in one morning and greeted me by shooting me the bird ,with both hands . Once again I went to management. Still continue to this day to have issues with this guy. The only thing I got was my Operations manager telling me to always carry myself in a professional manner. About a week ago the same guy and one of my other leads got suspended for one of them clocking the other one in because the lead was running late for work Somehow he convinced the lead that I told management about it but I had nothing to do with it . The supervisor reviewed the cameras and saw what happened . Upon the lead’s return to work he told another guy that if he found out I had anything to do with him getting suspended that he was going to kick my ass. Our shift starts at six am. Between six am and nine am. the lead said nothing to me. That was until we got to our nine am staff meeting. One of the other guys went to ask one of the supervisors a question pertaining to the suspension that took place earlier in the week because a lot of people didn’t like the fact that they only got suspended due to the fact the lastime this happened the two associates were fired on the spot . But because a lead was involves this time around ,some felt like he got special treatment. Before he could get his question out the lead jumped up in front of about twenty other associates ,two supervisors,and our operations manager and told him to shut his fucking mouth ! Then he goes on to say that he would see him outside off of the clock ,then said you too! Referring to me. I quickly jumped up and asked why was I being pulled into this when I was just sitting there minding my business and not bothering anyone.Manangement said and did nothing . At the point I became furious and told all three managers in front of everybody that they were wrong for standing idle while one of their leads just stood up and threatened us right in front of them and the entire staff. I also went on to let them know that I felt that I didn’t feel safe and they I was clocking out and going home for the day. Later that afternoon I got a call from my Operations manager saying that the lead was suspended pending and investigation ,and unfortunately so was I. I couldn’t believey ears ! I ask why was I suspended and he said workplace violence. He then proceeded to say that I was the one who threaten the lead! With all of the witnesses in the room my Operations manager had the nerve to lie on me. It’s been a week now and I’ve yet to return to work . I never said anything g to my lead other than when HE threatened me and the other guy. But I’ve been a marked man around there for months feel like that’s just their way of trying to get me out the door . Fortunately other associates have came forward and have provided statements to HR to clear my name . But it’s sad that an operations manager would stoop so low. I know I ticked them off when I called them out for not doing their job in front of everybody but it’s management’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace for its employees. I guess my question is what can I do at this point ?


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