Lynne Curry: Woman fired after revealing ex-boyfriend was stalking her

ManagementDecember 10, 2012 

Lynne Curry 2011

Q. When I told my supervisor my ex-boyfriend was stalking me, she seemed sympathetic. She asked lots of questions; when I said I didn't want to talk about the details, she insisted I "brief" her so she could evaluate what to do.

At the end of the day she called me into her office and told me she was sorry but she couldn't have this much drama in the office. She said she'd give me a letter of reference and a check for two week's pay. As I sat in stunned silence, she said she really felt for me but she couldn't risk violence to the other employees.

I don't know what to do. I only worked there six months and I need my job.

 

A. I'm sorry your personal tragedy became a work one. The Human Rights Commission may be able to help you. In October, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a fact sheet detailing an employer's responsibilities toward employees who experience domestic or dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.

According to the fact sheet, because the Civil Rights Act prohibits different treatment based on sex or sex-based stereotypes, an employer may be liable for terminating an employee "after learning she has been subjected to domestic violence, saying he fears the potential drama battered women bring to the workplace."

"If a male in your company had reported a female stalker" asks Anchorage HR consultant Rick Birdsall, "would he have been questioned and then terminated for drama? If 'probably not,' then you have a basis for alleging sex discrimination." Your supervisor's questions potentially also breached your right to privacy.

Further, according to the fact sheet, "if an employee who without accrued sick leave requests a schedule change or unpaid leave to get treatment for depression and anxiety due to stalking or a sexual assault and the employer denies the request because it 'applies leave and attendance policies the same way to all employees,' the employer may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act."

Attorney Brian Pedrow says employers need to make sure they've provided the "reasonable accommodation a victim of sexual abuse or harassment may need to perform his or her job effectively."

Finally, asks Birdsall, "Did you create drama by giving your co-workers all the details or by loud personal cell phone conversations?" If so, consider that before you move into your next job.

 

Q. I've had a LinkedIn account for two years. Three weeks ago, I resigned, leaving my former employer and starting a great new job. This morning, I tried to connect my LinkedIn account and got an error message.

I queried LinkedIn customer service and discovered my former employer replaced my photo and bio with the photo and bio of the man who took my job, using my password, which my secretary knew. She'd managed my updates.

Furious, I called my former boss. He said, "We paid for your time, so the LinkedIn is ours." When I shouted, "I did the work!" he said because I said I was using LinkedIn to help promote our company, he let me do it on paid work time, making it a company account.

I'm stunned. I invested hours of time into my LinkedIn. What can I do?

 

A. LinkedIn may be able to help you; however, you partially created this problem when you gave away your password. According to Anchorage HR consultant Rick Birdsall, by sharing your password, you showed you didn't expect full privacy. Your using your secretary to update your account supports your manager's contention that your account had at least a partial business purpose.

When Linda Eagle faced a similar situation, she sued her former employer under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for changing her LinkedIn name and photo. The Court dismissed Eagle's suit, ruling that employer's actions didn't show actual harm and that any damages were speculative.

Your best bet: See if LinkedIn can help -- and never again give out your password.

 

Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at lynne@thegrowthcompany.com. Follow Lynne on Twitter @lynnecurry10.

 

 

Anchorage Daily News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service