I work in a small law firm and I’ve only been here a short time but I already hate it. My only question for you is: do I have a whistleblower claim?
The boss is totally out of line all the time and I think she is harassing both employees and clients. Can I quit and get unemployment?
Scared but Broke
Dear Scared but Broke:
You said your only question was about a whistleblower claim and then you asked me about unemployment. That’s two questions.
Normally I would berate you mercilessly but I am sympathetic to your position and believe the last thing you need is more abuse being shoveled your way.
The Juicy Details
Readers, here are just a few things that were reported to me by Scared but Broke.
- In front of a prominent client, the boss made a crude joke about a male employee’s penis.
- Sexually harassing a male legal assistant by asking if he had a banana in his pocket in front of several other employees and a client, making her guilty of not only sexual harassment but lame and unfunny sexual harassment at that. Come on boss, you can do better!
- Withholding the lunch if an employee was late to a meeting for any reason and even just a minute late. If someone later snuck them lunch the boss would begin screaming and lecturing everyone for hours.
From the day our letter writer began working at the firm, the boss tried to dress her (and all the other women) in her terrible and too-big clothing as if they were her own personal Barbie Doll.
The boss also made the women (but not the men!) wear certain outfits, stockings, and jewelry.
She demanded this employee (and all the other women) wear her hair in a certain way and told her in front of others that her hairstyle was “offensive” and her earlobes were “too big for her head.”
The boss repeatedly referred to employees as “pieces of shit,” “fucking idiots,” and “morons.”
When a lawyer resigned to take a job at a non-insane firm, she was falsely (and with not one shred of proof) accused of stealing from the firm.
Repeated throwing of objects, smashing of things, and screaming fits.
- Using a private investigator to follow and investigate opposing parties, critics, and former employees.
The boss took extreme interest in her employees’ sex lives. She publicly suggested to a young male partner that his wife should be on top of him during sex to increase her chances of getting pregnant with his demon sperm. The boss also commented on a young male associate’s penis size and suggested he should “sleep around” to more to get more clients.
Believe it or not, there’s more.
A lot more. But time and space are limited so I’ll stop there to address Scared but Broke’s two questions.
Answers and Advice
Do I have a whistleblower claim?
I’m not your lawyer and I won’t be giving you legal advice. Please see my disclaimer here: Don’t Even Go There ‘Cause I Ain’t Yer Lawyer.
That being said, I will note generally that whistleblower statutes tend to address an employee’s reporting of something, usually illegal behavior. If being an unmitigated asshole were illegal, this boss would have been arrested long ago, along with her sycophantic mini-me’s and Donald Trump.
Some of her behavior may be illegal, some may not, but a whistleblower claim would arise if you were fired for reporting or threatening to report illegal behavior. For example, if she fired you after you told her you were going to report her tax fraud to the IRS. I don’t think that is the case here.
For a good analysis of these types of claims in Oregon, click here: Whistleblowing in Oregon.
Can I quit and get unemployment?
Again, I’m not your lawyer and will not give you legal advice.
What I can tell you is that in Oregon, you have a pretty high hurdle to jump over if you want to collect unemployment benefits after voluntarily leaving a job. The general rule is you have to have “good cause” to quit, meaning the situation has to be so fucking awful that no reasonable person could stay.
Does this work environment qualify? Unfortunately, while I may opine that it does, that decision is not up to me (even though it should be). That will be decided by an employee of your state employment agency and they may not be as wise as I am.
You put yourself at a real disadvantage in the job market when you enter it unemployed. Try to stick with it as best you can while you conduct a vigorous job search. Consider this your opportunity to learn how to deal with horrible people and come out ahead.
Also, please take notes. Lots of notes. I think you know where to send them.
Lastly, we need to chat about your mindset. You need to exercise some personal responsibility here, my friend.
Your two questions to me were based upon the premise, “what can I get?”
Shift your thinking to “what can I do to improve my life and move on from this hideous job and boss?”
So she’s an abusive bitch…so what?
You told me that most of the employees feel exactly as you do and you all regularly get together after work hours to drink and complain about what a bullying tyrant you work for. Sorry for subjecting you to another abusive bitch, but that’s chicken shit behavior that will do nothing to improve your lot in life.
You made a bad choice when you took that job, but every day you stay without looking for another is compounding that lousy choice and fostering a victim mentality that will not assist you in your personal and professional development.
In other words, quit your whining and get out there. Find another job, leave this one as honorably as you can, and tell your coworkers to do the same.
If everyone stands up and says, “enough is enough,” soon there will be nobody left to abuse. But if you all continue to take this shit and bitch about it to each other, nothing will change and you will remain exactly where you are: at a third-rate has-been law firm with a massive PR problem and a narcissistic bully at the helm of her stinking, sinking ship.