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When Your Employer Asks You to Keep Quiet about Harassment

In an earlier blog, we discussed what you can do when a client at work is harassing you. It's a difficult situation since the remedy for harassment from someone who has a business relationship with your employer is largely a financial decision.

That is, if a harassing client is driving off good employees, your employer may decide it's not worth it to keep them around. However, sometimes the opposite may be true: You may report harassing behavior to your boss, and they say they can't do anything and not to take it any higher up. What do you do?

In one case, a T-Mobile employee experienced that kind of reaction to harassment. When Angela Agganis got a new supervisor at the call center in Oakland, Maine, she noticed something was off right away. Her supervisor gave her unwelcome special attention and touched her in a non-sexual way, which led to shoulder massages at work, sometimes in front of other employees.

When she made clear the touching was not welcome, she was threatened indirectly with disciplinary action. Agganis later learned that her supervisor had lost his medical license for having sex with a patient and had also been fired from a different place of work for sexual harassment. So, she went to human resources to make a complaint.

The HR department at T-Mobile said they would begin an investigation, but only if Agganis signed a waiver saying she would never talk about the incident with anyone at work or she could be fired. Rather than sign, she quit.

A year later, the National Labor relations Board ruled that such gag orders were illegal, and repealed them in both Maine and South Carolina. After Agganis went public with her complaints with a lawsuit against T-Mobile, the supervisor was asked to resign, but it was too little too late.

"Human resources should not be a department that's designed to protect the company," said Agganis. "HR is supposed to be a department where employees can go for help and protection. And that's not the case."

If you have been the target of workplace harassment, discrimination or unfair termination, Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. represents clients in federal court and before the EEOC, MSPB and in state and union grievance hearings.

Our attorneys have more than 40 years dedicated to giving clients the attention, advice, support and empowerment they need to effectively meet their goals. We are committed to the principle that all persons shall have equal justice under the law. Call Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. at 304.523.8451 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

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