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My Boss is Harassing Clients and Employees

Dear Robin:

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.


This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Jenn

    Gee…. I wonder who this abusive female lawyer is… I bet her initials are J.S.

  2. Lisa Geyer

    Scared but Broke should read a few of Liz Ryan’s Human Workplace columns for additional advice on how to launch a stealth job search, deal with bully bosses, and boost her self esteem.

  3. Miserable

    Thank you for speaking up for those of us who work for abusive bosses. The job market where I work has recovered enough where I feel confident I can get out there and take this advice.

    I was worried about leaving after a short tenure, but the place I work has a very poor reputation and I’ve been told nobody will question why I only lasted as long as I did.

    Thank you again. What’s up with your Stockholm Syndrome post? When are you finishing that?

    1. Robin DesCamp

      Thank you for your comment, Miserable, and the email you sent me last night. We should meet.

      Regarding the Stockholm Syndrome blog, I’m still working on that one. It’s a very complicated story with new developments on a regular basis so I am not comfortable posting it yet. Stay tuned on that one.

      As for anyone else reading this now who has had similar experiences, please email me at Anything you tell me will be held in strict confidence and I will never write about it unless you ask me to – and even then I won’t use your name.

      Sometimes we all just need a place to vent. Let me be that place for you!

  4. Miserable

    You know she keeps a spreadsheet of everything you write and all your Facebook friends and commenters, right? Don’t you ever get worried? I’ve seen her destroy people’s lives for sport and tell clients to lie about or start domestic violence disputes. I’ve seen people lose their kids and their jobs. Be careful.

    1. Robin DesCamp

      Thank you for your concern. You are now the 112th person who has expressed as much to me. I live a very open life and I live it on my own terms. Secrets are what make us all vulnerable and I simply do not have any. While there may be unflattering things about me that are not generally well-known, I would have no issue with any of them coming to light.

      The thing is, you see, I just don’t give a fuck.

      I wage this battle for the hundreds of people who have written to me over the past 2+ years after being brutalized by lawyers in their divorce and the millions of others across our country who have suffered the same fate. I have nothing to lose, and even if I did, I don’t care. Saving future victims is more important to me than wondering if her sleazy private detective is looking into me or following me with a camera as I know he’s done for her in the past.

      I’m a pretty boring person, to tell you the truth. I spend most of my time writing, working out, and with my little family and group of friends. There isn’t much “there” there if she wants to threaten or embarrass me.

      So thank you for your concern but I’m not worried. An old, sick, out of shape has-been is no match for me. I think one can look at the few terrible lawyers remaining at her firm (with their various and sundry bar complaints and “Diversion Agreements”) and her recent threat to run for Portland City Council because Amanda Fritz didn’t kiss her ample ass to see that I have nothing about which to be concerned.

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