update on the bird phobia letter and the employee who won’t come back unless her coworker is fired

Remember the letter from the person dealing with a bird-phobic employee who pushed another employee in his effort to get away from a bird in the parking lot? The second employee was seriously injured and was refusing to come back unless the first employee was fired. Here’s the update.

There was a police investigation because Liz was injured by a vehicle. Both the police and the driver’s insurance company found Jack to be 100% at fault for what happened, based on multiple witness accounts that Jack had extended his arms back and then out when he pushed Liz and didn’t just lightly bump into her. Liz agreed it was Jack’s fault and not the driver. One of the mirrors on the vehicle was damaged when Liz was hit and Jack paid to have it repaired as a resolution with the driver, and everything between the driver and Jack has been settled. Jack has not been charged with anything. (It is still a possibility that he might be.)

HR and Jack had attempted to keep in contact with Liz after she got out of the hospital to see if there was any chance of her coming back but she never responded. Eventually both Jack and the company received a letter from a lawyer asking that they not contact Liz again. She never asked for money to pay her medical bills, didn’t file a workers comp. claim, and didn’t take any legal action against Jack.

The legal department and the outside legal counsel who HR got a second opinion from had told Jack and the company to prepare for a claim and other legal action and advised all to settle because Liz had a strong case. Her letter stated she had decided to not take action and just wanted to move on for her own well-being. She now has another job. Our company was not contacted for a reference or employment history. I don’t know if Liz told them what happened during the interview but our industry in this area is small and I know for sure she has now told her new job everything that happened.

After what happened, Jack told me he decided to take a break from therapy and look at his options. I was surprised and he volunteered that information without me asking. But since I am in a management position over him, I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to comment or tell him that.

His work is still excellent and he has had no disciplinary or work-related issues.

Note: Due to how out of hand the comments on the original letter got, all comments on this post will go through moderation, which means they may not post immediately.

{ 639 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager Post author

    As I noted above, I’m moderating all comments on this post. Things I’m not going to release from moderation:
    – speculation on the details of the situation that are presented as fact, as opposed to speculation (which comments on the original letter were rife with)
    – bias against or stigmatizing of people with mental illnesses
    – anything that strikes me as spectacularly unkind

    1. the other Emily

      Thanks Alison. We all appreciate this and all your hard work on this site :)

      Somewhere way down the OP posted an update (under the name Andrew N) for anyone who is interested.

    2. GrandBargain

      I’m sorry you had to moderate nearly 600 comments (so far) on this post. Seems like an awful amount of work.

    3. sstabeler

      Thank you- particularly since it seems this is one of those topics that is sufficiently polarising to have a major risk of insults flying.

  2. Susie

    So after Luz left the hospital, the company AND Jack called her multiple times, not to check how her recovery was going, not to see if she needed anything, not to offer to cover any of her bills, but to ask when she was coming back / or if she would change her mind? While she was still recovering from surgery. Wow. My jaw is on the floor. I can’t believe the gall.

    1. Rainy, PI

      I’m with you on this one. But at least the reaction validates Liz’s determination to GTFO, which is not a small thing in the wake of a decision to leave your job during a medical crisis.

      1. Annonymouse

        Especially since they’re having JACK (the one who caused this situation and she essentially said “Me or him. Choose.” To the company.) calling her repeatedly to ask when she is coming back.

        Not to apologise (though he tried that in the past.)

        Who the heck at the company thinks that’s a good idea? Taking .5 of a second to think about it means you would figure out Jack is the last person she wants to hear from, ever.

        I’m glad Liz has moved on because this work place has shown to be lacking something major: common sense and/or respect for its employees.

    2. jasper_red

      So much so that she had to get a lawyer to tell them to back off. Liz is well rid of this bunch. I don’t blame her at all for just choosing to move on instead of fighting a messy legal battle. I wish her all the best.

      1. paul

        I’m amazed she didn’t go after compensation for injuries TBH; unless she had *amazing* health insurance that probably cost her a pretty penny. I’d have done it simply because absorbing that cost would really hurt me financially.

        1. RKB

          Do we know for sure this takes place in the US? If it’s in Canada then she would’ve felt more secure leaving.

        2. Rainy, PI

          I had a friend who was very seriously injured by an acquaintance at a party held at a family member’s house in a way that was foreseeable and very nearly malicious, and they *had* to sue as a condition of their medical insurance company paying for their treatment, since the medical insurance company was going to basically make the homeowner’s insurance pay for the bulk of it. The lawyer was vocally sad that it had all happened among friends.

          This was the first thing I thought of too–I’m very surprised that Liz hasn’t been required to sue.

          1. Admin Assistant

            Yeah, this makes me think of that story that made the rounds in the US a year or two ago where a woman sued her young nephew/his family because he jumped on her too hard/hit her somehow at a family party, totally unintentionally, and ended up breaking her wrist in a way that affected her line of work. People were outraged that she was suing him, but it was more of a requirement from her insurance for the reasons you state above. Insurance is crazy. So I’m also surprised that Liz isn’t suing — I definitely think she should, in this case. She definitely should not be paying a dime out of pocket for this whole terrible situation.

            Does anyone else remember the story I’m referencing? I feel like I got some of the details wrong.

            1. Rainy, PI

              I remember it–I think there was also something where her nephew’s mum had just died, and she had not been part of the life insurance payout or estate, and there was a lot of speculation that she had just seen an opportunity to make some money because of the delay in the lawsuit. I believe it did come out later that she had to wait until her medical treatment was complete or reasonably advanced so that she knew what the total was going to be and that was why the delay.

            2. Gerber Daisy

              I do! I was actually trying to tell that story to my son last week in regards to how a story can be sensationalized and misconstrued when not all the facts are given(intentionally or not). Basically, telling him that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet and not jumping on the bandwagon before all the facts are known.

              1. Just Another Techie

                There was an even worse story I read about a few years ago where insurance forced a woman to sue herself! She had been driving and was found to be at-fault for a collision in which her husband died. Before his life insurance paid out, it had to sue her to get subrogration from her auto insurance. Absolutely awful all around.

              2. Mishsmom

                it is such a good example of sensationalizing a story. the McD’s hot coffee is another good one.

                1. Anonymous 40

                  Yes! I was about to say the same thing. That’s the classic example people like to use without knowing what they’re talking about.

                2. LSP

                  The woman with the coffee actually suffered serious burns, 2nd or 3rd degree, so in that case the sensationalism was all about her suing over something really petty, when, in fact, she had been badly injured.

                3. Temperance

                  @LSP: it was actually 3rd and 4th degree burns. The coffee was so hot that it fused her labia together.

                4. Anonymous 40

                  Another thing that gets lost in that case is that she originally asked McDonald’s for $20,000 as settlement on $18,000+ worth of expenses, and until the verdict they refused to settle for more than $800. She wasn’t seeking to profit from her injuries at all.

                5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  The other issue was that McDonald’s had received complaints about “too hot” coffee before, and their coffee had been served at temperatures way above food safety levels (particularly based on a prior settlement that had permanently injured the person that the coffee spilled on).

                  The woman who was injured was elderly, had 3rd and 4th degree burns, and had permanent nerve damage (including persistent and excruciating pain). I don’t even think she was the driver, but my memory fails me. If people had heard accurate information about what McDonald’s had done, they would have lost money from folks who may have thought they had been bad actors. By framing the story, they made the victim sound absurd, which allowed them to keep sales up.

                  Companies like to sensationalize these stories to make them sound insane so that they can then advance legislation that limits their liability (or the amount of damages a person can receive). It’s all to make people think that there are too many lawsuits or that there are more “frivolous lawsuits” than there really are.

                6. Kyrielle

                  @PCBH – she wasn’t, her younger male relative (son, nephew?) was. She was in the passenger seat, they were parked and not moving, and she was trying to get the lid off to add sugar or creamer or something. As you *do* with coffee, if you take it that way.

                7. kmb213

                  It seems like everyone commenting here is already well-versed on the Stella Liebeck/McDonald’s case, so you may have already seen it, but for those who haven’t, I’d highly recommend “Hot Coffee” on Netflix (and probably elsewhere, too, that’s just where I saw it). Very interesting look into the case!

                8. Anion

                  Yes. The coffee was heated to something like 210F, which is way hotter than it should safely be.

                  That poor woman. Not only was she seriously injured and suffered a great deal, but she was called an idiot and held up as an example of a frivolous lawsuit for a situation in which she was actually way kinder and more forgiving than she had to be.

              3. Ted Mosby

                Yes! Everyone go watch “Hot Coffee” if you haven’t. It’s amazing and goes way beyond that one story, talking more broadly about how businesses use money to influence the media and judicial system. One of my favorite documentaries ever!

                1. D.A.R.N.

                  That honestly sounds terrifying to me, that we’ve been mislead so many times to hate on the victims rather than the perpetrators :(

            3. BeautifulVoid

              I had a case at work once that I hope was because of similar reasons – Mom, Dad, and Teenage Daughter all lived in the same house, Mom and Dad were still married. Mom and Daughter were out running errands one day, and Mom accidentally rear ends someone while driving home, resulting in Daughter injuring her knee. Dad was suing Mom on behalf of the minor child (though she did turn 18 before being deposed). Even if it was for insurance reasons, the whole thing seemed really screwed up to me.

              1. Manders

                Yep, insurance law can create some incredibly weird situations. It helps if you think that people are making an insurance claim rather than suing a person.

                It’s true that there are people out there who sue others because they’re vindictive or trying to harass someone, but most people honestly don’t want to sue but don’t want to be bankrupted by medical bills either.

              2. sam

                yeah – years ago, my dad got into a bad car accident with a friend in the car. Car was totaled, friend’s arm was broken in, like, six places. My parents’ insurance basically wouldn’t pay out unless dad’s friend sued. So he did. It was the friendliest “lawsuit” you could ever possibly imagine.

                1. SebbyGrrl

                  Oh Vicki you just made my reading weekend!

                  I love industry specific blogs.sites like this!

                  Thank you!

              3. Brisvegan

                I’m a legal academic and former injury litigation lawyer.

                In my country we have mandatory third party injury insurance as part of our car registration scheme. It covers anyone injured by the actions of the driver of the car.

                I would urge a family member a claim/sue a to sue me in a hot minute if they were injured in a car accident and I would be seen to be at fault. I would happily make a claim against them if they were an at fault driver.

                It’s all about accessing the insurance. There does not have to be malice. The real defendant would be the insurance company.

              4. Need a New Name

                I’m pretty sure that happened to my grandparents twice (!). When I was about 10 I managed to slam my finger in a door in such a way that it severed the tip, and my parents’ insurance sued my grandparents as part of the process. My younger cousin managed to pull one of those giant coffee pots down off the counter as a baby and was burned all over, and his parents’ insurance sued again.

                My grandparents were not particularly careless people. Just bad luck!

          2. Phyllis B

            Years ago country singer Barbara Mandrell was in an auto accident, and her insurance company required her to sue the other driver before they would pay. There was a lot of uproar because “wealthy celebrity suing an honest working stiff.” She did a number of interviews trying to explain why, but I think it did some damage to her career for a while.

        3. Aveline

          Her insurance companies may still decide to go after him or the company.

          Just because she is not suing, doesn’t mean they are off the hook.

          Most insurance company policies – even healthcare – have subrogation rights and can go after the at fault party.

          1. Jessesgirl72

            I would say especially healthcare.

            My husband slipped in the tub and banged his arm badly enough that he went for X-rays.

            The major health insurance company we had at the time sent a letter asking if it were someone else’s fault. He responded back no. Then they sent another one demanding that he set up a time to talk with a lawyer about it. He ignored it, being busy at work during the hours they required the talk, until they sent a letter threatening to make us pay for the entire cost of the Urgent Care visit and X Ray if he didn’t talk to their legal department!

          2. Dare

            I just got through this with a car accident. The at fault party’s car insurance paid out for my injuries eventually. I had to wait until my treatment was complete to get it- on the theory that I wouldn’t come back for more money- hard paying out my copays etc pre settlement.
            A company on behalf of my health was waiting to take part of settlement to recoup their costs.
            Very messy.

        4. Trout 'Waver

          If you’ve been through trauma, the money is secondary. Being able to just completely close that chapter rather than litigate it is probably more valuable to her than the money she would get settling.

          1. Just

            I really only feel like that’s accurate if you have money to waste. For many people an ambulance ride to the emergency room, emergency surgery, and a four day hospital stay, including any medications and follow up appointments, would be ruinously expensive (depending on the insurance, copays, etc.)

            1. irritable vowel

              I think what is meant here is a settlement that’s above and beyond what would cover medical expenses.

        5. Cookie

          I’m also shocked she didn’t file a workers’ comp claim. She didn’t even need to, often if you tell the hospital you were injured on the job they send in the initial paperwork (although obviously it won’t go anywhere unless the injured worker is agrees). Medical bills and time off work would be very hard for most people to cover. Liz must be a superstar in her field to get another job so quickly, which makes it more surprising that the company didn’t try harder to retain her.

          1. Gadfly

            Doing so is not easy, worker’s comp claims are notorious for being undervalued, and they can cut off other options.

        6. Annonymouse

          I injured both my knees at my previous work in the course of my duties and was never offered/knew how to claim workers compensation.

          If not claiming it means I never have to be in contact with my abusive ass hat of an ex boss then I consider it well worth it.

          1. CDM

            Employers are legally required to post their workers comp insurance information in a place accessible to employees. And that information is available from the state workers comp bureau. In my state, it’s all online and goes back for years.

        7. Ol' Crow

          Sometimes when you are in an appalling situation, which I think this is, you just want to get away. I was in one of those, it had lawsuit all over it (verified by attorneys), and I would have won. Those that were at the heart of it truly deserved to be sued. But I wanted to be done with it and simply recover, didn’t want it at the forefront my life for a year so I walked away. It took quite a while to recover from the psychological aspect of it, but I did. The only part I regret is that the offenders are free to continue offending in their spectacular manner, but my mental health was far more important. I assume that Liz felt the same way.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Yeah. Wow. I’m hoping I just misread/misunderstood OP, but if this really was the approach, it boggles my mind. If I were Liz, I probably would also have sent a no-contact letter, too. At this point I don’t know if still offering to settle would help repair the company’s relationship with Liz. I would step back and let Liz rebuild her life.

      I’m really disturbed by how this played out but am struggling to articulate why. And I’m still super curious about how Jack’s coworkers are treating him. Has this all really just rolled on?

      1. Katie the Fed

        This is the part that really, really bothered me in the first letter too.

        Everyone had a lot to say to Liz about her coming back, but it doesn’t appear (based on the information provided) that anyone reached out with a “I’m so sorry this happened to you and here are some flowers and extra paid leave and a lasagna and a card that everyone in the office signed, and I hope so much that you feel better soon! We’re all thinking of you!”

        1. Banana Sandwich

          Yeah, that also struck a cord with me. I feel like companies are more worried about admitting guilt/fault then treating human people as human people.

        2. TootsNYC

          yeah, I’m wondering if that sort of thing is what the letter writer / OP just left out, bcs she was restricting her focus to job-related stuff?

          But it is noticeably missing.

          I hesitate to make a big assumption about why it’s missing, however.

        3. Stranger than fiction

          Yeah, I surprisingly missed this letter the first time around, but it looks like the Op and the Company kinda just threw their hands up re what Jack did after receiving the letter from Jacks therapist and Liz said she doesn’t want to come back.

        4. Kimberly

          They may have been prohibited by their lawyers because sympathy can be twisted into an admission of guilt. Our sunshine committee was told not to send flowers to a co-worker who fell off a ladder and broke her wrist. When we heard about it from the head of the committee, we said screw this, left campus after work and sent her flowers from us without naming the school. I think the school was trying to say she was at fault for being on the ladder in dress shoes. Thing was a couple of other people had been threatened with a write up for unprofessional dress for switching to gym shoes to climb a ladder. (I’m 5’11” and needed a ladder to reach the top of the bulletin boards). So I think they dropped it.

          I don’t know if they are pulling my leg but according to my Canadian cousins some provinces actually passed laws that saying I’m sorry did not constitute an admission of fault after an accident.

          1. Brisvegan

            Most Australian states have legislation that provides that an apology is not an admission of guilt for a personal injury case.

            Insurers lobbied for it. It protects their interests.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            In most States for almost all torts claims, you are not allowed to introduce evidence of an apology (which includes sending flowers) or an offer to settle as proof of liability. And from a stone-cold-cynical perspective, it’s often better to apologize—recent studies from the medical malpractice context indicate that an apology is more successful at preventing someone from suing than clamming up and fighting their claim.

            And based on OP’s update, below, I think Katie offered a bang on description of how I feel. At every moment in this situation, it seems like OP’s company treated Katie coldly and without compassion or empathy. This was a crappy situation, but honestly, I think they did everything wrong when it came to how they treated Liz. And that makes me feel really sad/demoralized/upset on Liz’s behalf.

          3. Kvothe

            Yeah saying you’re sorry doesn’t count for admitting fault in Canada because it’s so ingrained in our day to day language. Example: I might bang into a door and then say I’m sorry to the door because it’s such an automatic reflex. It’s also not uncommon for someone to say sorry when they’re not even the ones at fault.

        5. Christine D

          Decades ago my mother was staying at a hotel and in the shower when their hot water heater malfunctioned. She ended up with 2nd and 3rd degree burns on her back. She was out of work for a few weeks (she’s a nurse) and had some medical bills. A day after it happened the hotel called her and profusely apologized. They offered to pay her medical bills, lost wages, and give her a few grand as an apology (something like $1,500).

          Quite a few people were urging her to sue and telling her she could walk away with hundreds of thousands of dollars. She told them she wasn’t interested. That it was truly an accident, the hotel made a sincere apology, and they were making up for it. She said that the hotel did exactly what she thought was right and she would do the same.

          Sounds like poor Liz didn’t get that.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago

        My reading of they “attempted to keep in contact with Liz after she got out of the hospital” was that they were in touch while she was in the hospital for those obvious things like apologies and whatnot, but maybe that is too generous.

        1. Kris

          I had the same reading. I don’t think we can assume no one apologized to Liz. But I don’t fault Liz for wanting to put all of this behind her and move forward with her life. The whole episode sounds very traumatic.

        2. INFJ

          I don’t think it’s too generous. Just because the LW didn’t say it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

        3. Tuxedo Cat

          That’s how I interpreted it too, but with the lawyer telling them not to contact her, I think I must be wrong.

        4. the other Emily

          The OP, posting under the name Andrew N, confirmed that both Jack and the company only called to see if she would come back and that there was no checking in or apologies.

          1. Anna

            Well, Jack had already apologized and Liz had decided it wasn’t enough. There’s only so often one can say sorry.

          2. Anna

            In the first letter, there was discussion of both HR and Jack calling Liz to apologize. It’s not as if they skated right over it and got straight to asking her when she was coming back without seeing how she was actually doing.

            1. the other Emily

              But both Jack and the company repeatedly called her after she made her feelings clear because they wanted her to change her mind. To the point where she needed to get a lawyer involved. That’s the terrible part that makes the company and Jack look bad. There was no need for multiple calls after she told them she was not accepting the apology.

              1. Anna

                Yeah, but I’m not entirely ready to say that Liz was actually being harassed by Jack and/or the company. I’m not saying she didn’t feel like she had to get a lawyer, but I think Liz is probably feeling really raw about the whole situation and it’s entirely possible she felt the need to bring in a lawyer because she just couldn’t even. Like, it was easier and better for her mental health to have a lawyer tell them to stop contacting her, not that they were necessarily going overboard on getting in touch. I don’t know about Liz, but I feel like I would be hypersensitive to any contact from them, even if in most cases it wouldn’t be seen as an unreasonable amount of contact.

                1. the other Emily

                  OP said in a comment that the company AND Jack called Liz while she was at home recovering for the sole purpose of convincing her to come back to work. Not to check on her or apologize. And even when Liz made it clear and stopped responding they continued.

                  He posted under the name Andrew N.

                2. Helen

                  So what reason was there for Jack to call Liz multiple times to ask her to come back? The company and Jack overstepped big time.

                3. Susie

                  Jack and HR calling her repeatedly (as the OP said in his post in the comments) telling her to change her mind and stay at her job is unreasonable. Especially when she had made her feelings known before and stopped taking calls from them. They didn’t even ask her how she was doing for crying out loud!

      3. ZTwo

        I think the part that bugs me about how it played out is what the timeline was. We know that Jack disclosed his phobia to her, but not necessarily when in this process. Which means there may be a considerable amount of time (several weeks) where Liz just thought he coworker pushed her for no reason.

        I sincerely hope that wasn’t the case and this isn’t an easy situation to know how to handle in the moment or ongoing–it sounds like the OP was doing the best they could. But it does seem that possible that in taking care and consideration for how to handle this for Jack, some care and consideration for Liz may have been lost.

      4. Falling Diphthong

        I’m really disturbed by how this played out but am struggling to articulate why.

        I think it’s what Katie gets at–the company asking her over and over to come back and finish up work, rather than showering her with condolences and empathy. To the extent that she had to retain a lawyer to get them to stop harassing her. (Not sure of the legal definition of ‘harassment’ here, but context indicates that the company wasn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer. Or she wouldn’t be paying hundreds of dollars an hour to get a lawyer to say ‘no.’)

        Followed by the company bracing for the certain lawsuit and… nothing. Liz is moving on with her life. She has to pay both medical and legal expenses out of her own pocket, for an accident that Jack was at fault for and harassment that shouldn’t have continued after the first ‘no.’ I am deeply sad for her, but also respect that she saw that her long-term benefit was to not bury herself in a toxic situation trying to achieve ‘fair.’

        1. Lynxa

          Yeah, this is honestly one of the healthiest responses to a traumatic injury I’ve ever seen (and I did insurance defense for five years). Respect to Liz.

        2. Gadfly

          She has time on that– usually you have years to file suit for things like this. There are still LOTS of ways this can work out and most of them are in the hands of Liz and her insurance company right now.

          1. nonegiven

            She will probably need it to see what other long term consequences may crop up. If there is a suit it may not be filed until near the end of SOL.

        3. Ol' Crow

          Exactly – the OP tells us about injuries that sound pretty horrific, but in the end he’s really only concerned about getting Liz to complete her projects. On top of that, he’s more interested in retaining Jack than Liz, seems to have more sympathy for him. Or fear…
          This is one of those situations where it’d be great if OP would chime in.

    4. Jules

      I think it is possible there was more to the communication than just ‘are you coming back’, and that was all that was reported. Even if that was all, keep in mind there may have been ‘cover your legal liability’ limits to the communications.

      OP, thanks for the update, I hope Liz has a great life, and that Jack gets to the point of a life without fear.

      1. the other Emily

        They should not have kept trying. Especially having Jack do it as well as them. She made her feelings clear and they ignored it to the point a lawyer had to get involved.

        1. Temperance

          That piece really bothers me. I would like to know more about whether he was actually contrite, or whether he just also engaged in CYA action.

          If someone pushed me in front of a moving car, I would not want them to speak to me ever again, at a minimum. Liz was pushed with enough force that her arm broke and she damaged the mirror of the vehicle. I can’t imagine the force that he used to make that happen, and frankly, nor do I want to. I’m so sad thinking of Liz going through all of this with no recompense.

          1. Banana Sandwich

            Exactly. I mean, I understand that Jack as this mental thing that he *was* working to manage and it makes him spin out of control. But at the end of the day, he pushed a person in front a moving vehicle.

            Illness or no, there consequences to things like that.

          2. Salamander

            Yeah. I feel really bad for Liz, as well. I would absolutely not want any contact with someone who injured me. I hope she recovers quickly and that she’s surrounded by folks who have her back on this. And I hope she’s not suffering any further harm in the financial realm as a result of this incident which was clearly not her fault.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I agree. The description doesn’t make sense given how Liz responded, which makes me think that either there was not a sincere apology, or alternately, that they called her repeatedly about coming back. The latter is really inappropriate after the first call (although the frequency vis-a-vis timing matters, which we don’t know about, here).

        2. Lilo

          I have also received “come back and help us” calls from an employer after I left (with full notice) and I found it imtrusive and weird and that was just moving on from a slightly unpleasant workplace. For Liz, it would be much worse.

      2. Julie B.

        Agree with Jules. LW’s have to keep their emails to Alison somewhat succinct. There are details here that are probably missing.

      3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        Agreed. Maybe I’m being Pollyannaish, but it’s hard to imagine that those phone calls/whatever weren’t along the lines of “Just checking in, hope you’re doing well, we’re so sorry that this happened and want to do what we can to make sure that you can come back to work if you want to do so.”

        1. Katie the Fed

          At the risk of speculating, though, I have a hard time imagining someone going to the trouble of hiring a lawyer to send a cease and desist letter if they were only getting pleasant well-wishes.

          But of course we don’t know.

          1. Rookie Manager

            After a traffic accident I recieved a letter from the drivers mother (she had tracked me down through my college after police, hospital & lawyers didn’t give her my address). That letter was fully of apology and may have eased her guilt but was upsetting and traumatic for me to recieve. If she had continued to contact me I would have instructed my lawyer to makecher stop!

            1. neverjaunty

              I’m sure your lawyer appreciated that she sent that letter, but wow, what a terrible example of someone putting their own need to feel better about themselves over your well-being.

              1. Amy the Rev

                “Someone putting their own need to feel better about themselves over your well-being”

                hah that reminds me of my most recent breakup- got dumped and the guy reached out not even 24 hours later to say that he hoped my night had “ended with sweetness” (because when I left his place after getting dumped I mentioned my roommates were waiting for me with chocolate, etc)

                …ummmmmm…

                1. The OG Anonsie

                  I want to clip out that Bojack Horseman bit about not accepting apologies made to give the wrongdoer relief from their guilt and shower it on people who do stuff like this. “I’M NOT GIVING YOU CLOSURE.”

              2. nonegiven

                If she had the lawyer’s name, sending any mail to the lawyer should have been what she did if she had to.

              3. Pommette

                That’s not necessarily true, though.

                Rookie Manager’s reaction to the letter is completely reasonable! And it’s one that many people would have.

                But it’s definitely not the only common reaction. A close friend was hit by a car while walking across a crosswalk. It was a bad accident, and it was traumatic. Years later, the thing that bothers her the most is the fact that the driver never reached out to apologize or to acknowledge the hurt that they caused. She would have loved to have received a letter.

                Apologies are a divisive issue, and it’s impossible to know how the potential recipient feels about them. The driver’s mother might have been trying to make herself feel better. She might also have been trying to make Rookie Manager feel better.

            2. Lady Russell's Turban

              Perhaps her intent was obvious from the contents of the letter but otherwise I would guess that she sent a letter of apology because her son had done harm to you and it is usually considered to be a good thing to apologize when one has harmed another person. You don’t know that it eased her guilt or that it was her intention to do so. She didn’t know that it would upset and traumatize you and also probably had no intention to do so. Had she not sent the letter, others in your situation would be writing “And no one even contacted me to apologize!”

              That said, if her son didn’t apologize he should have rather than leaving it up to Mom.

              1. Rookie Manager

                I honestly don’t think she intended to upset me, she was genuinely sorry about what her son had done and expressed guilt for what happened. But getting the letter brought everything back and did upset me.

                Part of the upset actually was that the son never did apologise. I heard from a friend of a friend he was annoyed I ‘lost him his licence’ (criminal and civil court found him 100% responsible) and he lied in court to get a more lenient sentence. Her apology and expression of guilt emphasised that his was lacking. If she hadn’t written that wouldn’t have been highlighted.

          2. Just Another Techie

            Yeah. And it’s so out of the ordinary for hiring a lawyer to send a C&D to be the very first thing the person does. I can only suppose Liz asked Jack and the company to stop pestering her first, and only when they ignored her wishes did she get a lawyer. (The one time I had need to have a lawyer draft a “stop harassing Techie” letter, the very first thing the lawyer asked me was “Have you clearly and unambiguously asked him to stop? If not, do that first.”)

            1. michelenyc

              I have a few friends that are lawyers and if I needed something like a C&D sent I know they would do it for me at no charge. She may have a friend that helped her out.

          3. JS

            Likely the same kind of person who would demand someone else be fired before she came back in a situation, while horribly unpleasant, that was an accident. Liz reactions seemed extreme the whole time (I am not saying there isnt backstory or bad history which would cause her to be) so I am not surprised she would hire a lawyer just to issue a cease letter (since most would consult a lawyer in this situation anyway if not to sue than to protect their employment rights in regards to references/defamation).

            1. AnonEMoose

              I really disagree that her reactions were “extreme.” From Liz’s point of view, she was pushed in front of (and hit by) a moving car. She was in physical pain (and may still be), and probably on some pretty strong substances to deal with that. And may still have been waiting to find out the true extent of her injuries and prognosis.

              Jack absolutely deserves consideration and compassion for his phobia. But if that’s the case, then Liz also deserves consideration and compassion for her pain and trauma.

              1. JS

                Extreme was the ultimatum which even Alison said “while Liz is absolutely entitled to be upset and angry and to refuse to continue working with Jack — you can’t let an employee dictate that another employee be fired.”

                1. Lablizard

                  Liz had already quit when she said that. She said what her condition was to retake the job. She wasn’t an employee dictating anything at that point.

                  Now, do I think a job seeker should ever do this? Definitely not! However, in this case, the company was chasing after her, so she was right to be explicit about her conditions.

                2. JS

                  LabLizard – Its implied in the original letter that Liz found out Jack wasnt getting fired then quit, assuming then she gave the ultimatum and OP mentioned when they called her to work she stuck to her guns. But I suppose it could be interpreted either way, I would be a bit surprised if she quit without telling anyone why or mentioning why until they called.

                3. sunny-dee

                  And I’m going to say it — Alison was WRONG. There are definitely times when I can dictate that someone must be fired for me to return to work — like if I reported a physical assault or if I reported (and corroborated) sexual harassment.

                  In this case, Liz was physically assaulted and seriously injured and Jack (from her perspective and, honestly, mine) seems to have zero care about it. “Like, whut, I have this phobia nobody knew about before now and like I was triggered. What do you expect from me?” is not an apology and not comforting. And he’s not even getting treatment for it, this phobia that is so horrible that HE PUSHED A WOMAN INTO A MOVING CAR.

                  If he truly has remorse and concern for Liz (or if the OP does), it has not been well communicated in these letters, and that’s kind of a factor.

                  I simply would not want to work or be around someone so emotionally unstable that they push me into a moving car. I think that falls into a legitimate “him or me” situation. The company chose him (inexplicably more afraid of him suing than her) and then badgered the woman into completing work for them since her projects are so important.

                  This is insane. Like … I am so upset on her behalf.

                4. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I actually stand by what I said originally; you can’t let employees dictate how you handle another employee. You need to decide what makes sense for the company as a whole, taking all the various interests and competing needs into account. If you do that, you might end up agreeing with the employee who’s asking for someone else to be fired, or you might not — but the decision needs to be made by someone above who’s looking at all those factors, not by a single employee making the demand (or request or what have you).

                  Now, I agree with you that of course you can dictate what needs to happen for you to be willing to return to work. But that’s a separate thing.

                5. sunny-dee

                  I see what you’re saying, Alison, but (and here’s the but) is that in some situations the outcome needs to be firing and / or severe punishment and independent third parties (meaning, a jury) would agree.

                  If I reported that my manager said I had to have sex with him or he would fire me or that he repeatedly groped me, and the response from upper management was “well, you need to just understand that boobs trigger him emotionally,” I wouldn’t just shrug. Yeah, I would quit, and then rational, disinterested third parties would award me tons of money because that is so obviously a situation where management should have intervened.

                  In this case, this man could still face criminal charges over his taking his arms out and intentionally and physically pushing a woman in front of a moving car, and the company has done absolutely nothing to punish his actions or provide adequate protection for her. And literally everyone who observes this situation is warning them that they are legally and financially liable for this.

                  I don’t think it’s fair to characterize this as “dictating their personnel policies” when this man could, conceivably, face jail time and substantial financial repercussions for his actions (she’s not pursuing that, but it’s something that could reasonable happen) — and someone who shows no remorse and is making no effort to avoid the situation in the future. Even the OP said that they asked what it would take to make her feel comfortable working there again, and I’m not going to fault her for saying “not being around the guy who could have killed me and doesn’t seem to care.” Or, to put it another way, that’s the kind of policy they shouldn’t have to have dictated to them.

                6. Ask a Manager Post author

                  And in those situations that you described, a sensible company would determine the person should be fired. But the company needs make their own personnel decisions, not let other people dictate what they do or don’t do.

                7. Case of the Mondays

                  Sunny – dee – most employers have a continuum of discipline too and you don’t get fired for your first instance of sexual harassment. You get sent to training, you get suspended or otherwise reprimanded and then you get a second chance.

                8. Case of the Mondays

                  Just want to be clear that I was responding to Sunny – Dee’s first comment. The replies were not yet here when I wrote.

                9. Lilo

                  I feel like this is a question of semantics. Sure they can’t let an employee dictate but they can certainly take it into account. I once was among a group of women who complained to management about a particular employee who kept touching us inappropriately. We had complained individually and nothing was done. Sure it was coercive to have a third of your retail in an office demanding something be done because we refused all shifts with him, but I would have walked if they let us continue being harassed. I don’t know if that we dictating to management, but it was making clear the extent of discomfort. I don’t think Liz did anything different. (Management did fire the guy in my case).

            2. Aveline

              I find this a unkind to Liz. After all we’ve read in the original letter and the update, it seems to be that the company and Jack were so callous to her that she likely felt she had very few options other than to go nuclear.

              I know a lot of otherwise mild-mannered people who would be “that sort of person” in this situation.

              I see no real sympathy for what she’s been through in the original post and in this update. In that situation, even a calm person would go ballistic.

              It really does come across as they cared more about Jack than her.

              1. Anna

                I think in this situation there is no winner on who gets more consideration because both people are in incredibly crappy places. It wouldn’t have been any more fair to fire Jack than it was to let Liz follow through on her decision to leave. This is a circumstance where there was literally no win-win outcome.

            3. Blue eagle

              The OP never said that Liz “demanded” that Jack be fired. Her original letter stated that Liz merely said that if Jack was not fired that she would not come back. That is different than “demanding” that he be fired. Please stop putting negative words in Liz’s mouth. Thank you.

              1. Belinda

                I felt this update really did clarify the timeline. I said down thread, it sounds very much to me like Liz quit, the company asked what it would take to retain her, she responded that she would not work with Jack, the company declined to fire Jack, so Liz moved on. It does seem very uncharitable to Liz to say she “demanded” anything.

              2. Roscoe

                So I said this the first time, and will repeat it. I don’t know the circumstances of the company. But it is one thing to demand to never have to work with someone, very different to demand they be fired. Saying, I never want to work with Jack again, maybe they transfer one of them, maybe one works remotely. That is acceptable. But she did ask that he be fired. To me that is more about punishing him than her feeling safe.

                1. kmb213

                  Not necessarily. As you said, we don’t know the circumstances of the company. It’s very possible that the nature of both Liz and Jack’s positions/skillsets means that it’s not possible for them to work for the same company without interacting. We just don’t know and it’s unfair to Liz to speculate otherwise.

                2. Roscoe

                  True, but for regardless of circumstance, she still said he should be fired. I’m not speculating on that. It is what is in the letter.

                3. Recruit-o-rama

                  She didn’t demand that he be fired, she resigned. They pursued her, she gave her terms, the declined and she moved on. The didn’t demand anything.

            4. Ada

              I don’t think it is extreme to not want to work with someone who physically pushed me in front of a moving vehicle — that moves beyond the realm of “accident” to me.

              1. DArcy

                Yes, and this is one of the points that was hotly debated in the response to the original letter — it wasn’t entirely clear whether Jack had merely knocked Liz off the sidewalk while fleeing in panic, or whether he had explicitly shoved her. The update letter does clarify that it was the latter, which reflects much more negatively on Jack.

              2. JS

                Your feelings are your own personal feelings. If you don’t want to work with them quit, the extreme reaction is her ultimatum. Once she realized Jack wasn’t going to be fired she should have just quit gracefully if she truly couldnt work with him. I feel as the employer was fair but yeah, Liz is out of line even given the circumstances.

                1. kmb213

                  Liz did “just quit gracefully,” though. It was only after she had quit and the company begged her to come back that she let them know she would only come back if Jack no longer worked there. It was at the company’s urging that she gave them her conditions for returning.

                2. Xay

                  Liz did quit and upon being asked repeatedly to return, sent a no contact letter. It doesn’t sound like Liz made any demands without the company (and Jack) initiating contact. What makes her out of line?

            5. paul

              That’s about the least charitable interpretation possible for Liz’s actions. She was significantly injured due to Jack’s phobia and I can’t fault her not wanting to work with him at all; and keep in mind the company approached her to ask what it would take to get her to come back. That’s an understandable answer in this case. The letter also reads like they had both HR and Jack contact her to try to get her to come back at least several times (the initial “what would it take” call, and subsequent call(s) she ignored).

              1. JS

                I don’t fault her for her reactions as she is entitled to her emotions. However, I think in regards to her professional “reactions” she shouldn’t have made the ultimatum. It’s not her place to say if Jack should be fired.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  You can interpret it either way, but we can’t know for sure how it played out so I suggest agreeing to disagree on that point and moving on.

                2. JS

                  “We have tried to get her to come back, but she refuses unless Jack is fired.” From the original letter so I don’t see where I’m twisting facts??

                3. JS

                  Gotcha, Alison. I am basing this on your advice in the previous letter of Liz not dictating Jack’s employment. Not whether she should have felt that way, which is why I said personal vs professional reaction. I am just trying to clear it up because my words werent clear on that the first time.

                4. Ask a Manager Post author

                  There are still a bunch of responses coming in to this, but I’m standing by the “you should agree to disagree” and think releasing a flood of them is counter to that. Wanted to explain for anyone wondering why theirs didn’t post.

                5. Chicklet

                  If they asked her “what would it take for you to come back,” I think it’s OK for her to say, “I won’t come back if Jack’s there.” She’s not demanding he should be fired; she’s not even saying he should be. She’s just saying, “If you want me back, this is what you’ll need to do. If you don’t want to do that, I’m fine with not coming back.”

                6. Gadfly

                  You should read the OP’s comments as Andrew N below. It clarifies that she quit, they contacted her after surgery but before being released to ask what it would take for her to come back, She replied-fire Jack. They said no, she said okay, bye, not returning.

                  Not an ultimatum, just a requirement for her to return. As she had already quit, I say it is even less problematic than someone saying they will leave if their SO’s ex or their high school bully gets hired.

                  An ultimatum is “you must fire Jack.” This was negotiation. They could take it or leave it, but those were her conditions to not quit.

                7. JS

                  Gadfly, its still an ultimatum, whether she said it before or after she quit. HR opened negotiation and the ultimatum for her returning was “fire Jack”. That’s literally the same thing either way you slice it. Ultimatum definition “a final demand or statement of terms, the rejection of which will result in retaliation or a breakdown in relations.” OP wrote that below but it doesn’t negate the fact in the original letter said “she quit after realizing Jack wouldnt be fired” she may not have told HR until after but it does make it look like she was upset about Jack not being fired/punished than her just being done with the company and deciding when they asked she didnt want to work with Jack anymore. I can agree to disagree on intent, like Alison suggested above but it doesn’t change the fact that she did give an ultimatum/demand. The words might be seen as harsh but, its what it is.

            6. BPT

              That’s a really unkind reading of Liz’s actions, and seems unwarranted to me. It seems that Liz was the only person who did nothing wrong this entire time. She was the victim of an accident where she was badly hurt and needed medical care. Her work kept calling her – the original letter didn’t say that those phone calls were to express sympathy (maybe they were), but only said that they were calling to get her to come back because she was in the middle of several projects, and only then Jack called to apologize in what seemed to be a CYA move to get her to come back.

              She said she would not work in the same place he does anymore and would only come back to work if he didn’t work there anymore. That’s perfectly fine of her to say, and may have been necessary for her mental health (which her work doesn’t seem to have been worried about at all from the evidence given). When they said they wouldn’t fire Jack, she found a new job. That’s exactly how it should have turned out – she stated her needs, when they couldn’t meet them, she moved on.

              THEN after all this, she doesn’t sue her workplace or Jack. That is VERY generous. Her reactions are not extreme, and seem to be overly generous to me.

              1. Falling Diphthong

                Liz recognized her personal boundaries, and what outside things she could and couldn’t affect. She didn’t want to work with Jack; the company insisted she return and work with Jack; she found a new job.

                And if she had done that merely because Jack had had an angry workplace meltdown over the basketball championships that in no way physically injured her, but just made her realize she didn’t want to have to work with him another day, that would also be okay.

              2. MuseumChick

                I agree BPT. I read the “Liz refuse to come back unless Jack is fried” as going something like this:

                HR: “What would it take for you to come back?”

                Liz: “Well, Jack would have to be gone. I simply cannot work with him.”

                This is kind of what I mean by the original letter and the update reading as very “pro-Jack”. The OP uses words like “demand” that hold a very negative feeling when that might not actually be the case.

                Liz got an extremely raw deal in all this. I hope that her new job is awesome and they value her more than her old job did.

              3. Anna

                I honestly don’t think we should expect letter writers to give a blow-by-blow of every step unless it’s really needed. It seems like we’re hunting for reasons why the company is so terrible by assuming they probably did not offer sympathy or try to find out how well Liz was doing, simply because the letter writer didn’t give a transcript of every phone call. It’s probably okay to assume that at least one phone call involved checking up on Liz’s well being; especially since we know from the first letter that at least one call did include an apology from Jack.

            7. Rainy, PI

              If you have not been hit by a car, you probably don’t understand what’s it’s like, which is okay, and if you have never been hit by a car I am very glad!

              I have been hit by a car, and I don’t think her reactions (which you are mischaracterizing here) are an extreme response at all. When I say it is pretty upsetting, I am speaking with extreme understatement.

            8. Liane

              “Likely the same kind of person who would demand someone else be fired before she came back in a situation, while horribly unpleasant, that was an accident. Liz reactions seemed extreme…”

              I don’t think that was warranted, JS. Your comment doesn’t use the words “drama” &/or “drama queen” in reference to Liz (which commenters on the original rightfully objected to) but it really isn’t any different.

              1. JS

                I wouldn’t call her a “drama queen” at all because I think “drama queen” is for people who have unfounded or minimal legitimate reason to be upset. Liz is in her right not to want to work with Jack. I said “extreme” because I feel the common reaction would be to see if there could be accommodations made so they did not have to work with Jack anymore or putting in a plan for safety instead Liz went straight to “him or me”. The reaction of wanting Jack fired seems more like a punishment than a reasonable accommodation, of no contact. However there is a lot of context needed here I will admit, I am basing this off of if Liz was happy at work and had a good relationship with Jack thus far, if she was unhappy or didn’t like Jack this could be her excuse to get out. Also the reaction of not wanting workers comp or any compensation from the job for her injuries which is a common thing most would pursue.

                1. TL -

                  Is there a common reaction to this situation? I can’t say as I know anyone who has been sent to the ER and then needed surgery, unintentionally or otherwise, by their coworker. I think her reaction is well within in the range of normal.

                2. JS

                  I think there is a common reaction for when someone hurts you and their intent was not malicious to forgive them, especially as this was a freak accident of sorts. In Liz’s case its more than reasonable she would want to ensure Jack could not harm her or others again and need a plan in place, not see him fired.

                3. Observer

                  No, it’s NOT a “common reaction” to forgive someone who hurt you that badly. *Especially* when that person doesn’t apologize till AFTER you’ve been in the hospital for several days and is apparently acting under the orders of an HR department that has already made it clear that the only thing they are interested in is in when you are coming back.

                  It’s a common *demand* we make of people. Some people acquiesce. Others go along on the surface, but don’t mean it AT ALL. And yet others won’t even pretend.

                  Furthermore, you can forgive someone without ever wanting to see them again. That’s actually QUITE common. When someone shoves you into the path of a car, it’s quite common to never want to see that person again. That’s not punitive. That’s self protection.

            9. Leenie

              I find this difficult to comprehend. After an update clearly describing the push (clarifying that – intention or ability to inform intent aside – it was definitely a push, and not a bump or glancing hit), and indicating that Liz isn’t even suing but just wants to move on with her life, how is anyone still characterizing Liz as demanding or unreasonable? The woman was terribly injured and is trying to leave this behind her.

            10. the other Emily

              OP posted under the name Andrew N and said that Liz quit and when HR asked what it would take to keep her, she said Jack getting fired. The company asked first according to the OP.

              The OP also said that both Jack and the company called her at home multiple times for the sole purpose of trying to get Liz to come back and at no point did they check how she was doing. Jack did not apologize until HR told him to.

              Liz cannot be blamed for wanting to move on and get out of there.

        2. jasper_red

          I can believe it, they were likely more concerned about protecting themselves than their employee in the hospital.

        3. the other Emily

          The OP, posting under the name Andrew N, confirmed both Jack and the company only called to see if she would come back and that there was no checking in or apologies. They only called to convince her not to quit.

      4. AMG

        I agree, but I think a lot of people react poorly when they’re in a tough situation. And this one is pretty ugly. I can’t imagine the wrestling with this that legal and HR had to do. I still don’t think they got it right.

        I really hope Jack continues some sort of therapy. His reaction is extreme enough to a common circumstance that this will continue to cause him problems if he doesn’t.

        Sending good thoughts to Liz, Jack, and everyone else involved. Yowza.

        1. JGray

          As someone who works in HR you need to understand that unless you work in HR you really can’t judge what they did or did not do right. Based on workers comp laws in the state the HR department has obligations in regards to return to work. So they probably had to contact Liz to a certain extent. I’m not saying that the communication wasn’t overboard or was completely in the vain of are you coming back to work but contact had to occur. There are also obligations to Jack in regards to his phobia. Its a very touch situation and not everything will come out sunshine & roses in the end.

          1. Trout 'Waver

            Of course you can judge HR by their actions even if you’ve never worked in HR. Regardless of their obligations to the company or workers’ comp, there is still a social obligation to at least not be rude to Liz. Which they apparently failed at spectacularly.

            1. JS

              I think its also important to remember that something we would consider to be a social courtesy or obligation can have legal implications and repercussions. HR is supposed to be supportive but what trumps that is neutrality in these sticky situations as their main priority is to minimize the legal liability of the company. Before Jack or Liz, HR is looking out for the company it’s their job. (I’m not saying it socially right, I’m just saying that is their function and they could be held liable or fired themselves if they mess that up).

    5. MuseumChick

      Susie, I agree. I’m pretty shocked by how the company treated this whole situation. Liz is lucky to be out of there.

      OP, something to consider: If this is a small industry, your entire handling of the situation will most likely spread pretty fast. As you say in the letter, Liz has probably filled in her new company on what happened. Consider how this might effect your company’s reputation in the long run.

      1. Salamander

        I agree. I think the company’s behavior has been shockingly bad. And it will get around.

      2. Lilo

        I am seconding the “small industry, you guys are likely to look bad” vibe. I am really not sure if there’s a darn thing that can be done now, though, but if Jack was writing in, I would tell him to stop job searching in another town. No one wants to be bird guy but realistically the story is interesting enough it’s going to get told.

    6. The OG Anonsie

      Seriously. I hope Liz is doing well where she is now, what a horrible series of events.

    7. Jessesgirl72

      Me too!

      I completely understand being cautious at a lawyer’s direction for fear of admitting liability, and of course, a company has to look out for its own interests (the employees want them to, in order to keep providing them with a job, even) but… the focus of the company and even the OP seems a little warped.

      If you have to be sent a cease and desist to get you to stop pressuring someone to come back, you probably should reconsider your processes..

    8. Turtle Candle

      Yes, I think that was a huge misstep. (I’m trying to put this as kindly as possible; bear with me.)

      She told them “no” (or rather, she told them “not unless you’re willing to do X” which they were unwilling or unable to do). That should have been the end of it. Continuing to ask her was… well, I’m trying to think of a less harsh way to put it, but it was wrong. After the initial “no,” had they felt absolutely required for some reason to ask again (I’m not sure what that would be, but let’s say there was some good reason), her silence should have been sufficient reinforcement to convince them to drop it. And if by “keep in contact” they mean more than one more request after her “no,” that’s even worse.

      I’m also not sure whether Jack reached out to her at the suggestion of the company or on his own decision, but that’s an even worse idea. She was sufficiently upset by the situation that she refused to work with him; I think it’s a relatively easy assumption that she didn’t want him to “keep in contact.” She doesn’t sound vindictive–it sounds like she could pursue a case against him and is choosing not to–but she definitely sounds like she doesn’t want to have anything to do with him, and that should be respected.

      Part of this, of course, depends on how those contacts went. If it was a lot of sympathy, offers of assistance, and well-wishes with a side of “and you have a place here if you ever want to come back,” that’s one thing. They still should have left her alone after the first “no,” but at least it’s well-meaning. If it’s more of a “but we reeeaaallly need you to help us wrap up this project,” then that’s much less understandable, and if that’s the case, it may indicate a need to rethink on a broader scale.

      1. fposte

        Yes, I can see a repeated query when there’s no obvious causal factor and people are trying to understand, but this was pretty clear cut. Her reaction was strong but not disproportionate to what happened to her, so I don’t see anything left to question. “Would you come back?” “No. You know why.” The end.

  3. Detective Amy Santiago

    It sounds like your company did everything they could to treat Liz and Jack well in the aftermath of such a horrible accident.

    I am a little concerned that Jack decided to take a break from therapy after this. Personally, I think I would be struggling to accept my role in the serious injury of a colleague and would need therapy more, but I do agree that it’s not your position to suggest that.

    Has there been a discussion of how to avoid something like this happening again in the future?

    1. Liz T

      I had the same reaction–I’m hoping this just means that Jack his determined his current therapist isn’t a good match, and that he’s looking for another therapist/treatment.

      1. The Final Pam

        That’s what I was thinking. In the original letter it sounded like Jack had been seeking treatment for years about this, and if he still has that level of an outburst then he and his therapist are probably not a great fit.

    2. LisaLee

      My interpretation was Jack was reexamining whether his current therapist/course of treatment was the best fit, not that he was quitting altogether.

      1. KellyK

        Yeah, that was how I took it too. I really hope he finds a therapist and treatment that work for him.

      2. Manders

        That was my assumption too. I sought out treatment a few years ago for one of the most common phobias, and I had to go through multiple therapists before I found someone who was the right fit for me. Phobia treatment is a complicated field and there are lots of different approaches. If I’d stuck with the first few therapists I spoke to I don’t think I would have made any meaningful progress, but I also don’t know if I would necessarily have noticed the lack of progress until I was exposed to my phobia trigger.

        (Can I also just say how lucky I am that my phobia was a thing I didn’t have to be exposed to every day? I do feel really bad for Jack that he had the bad luck of getting stuck with a phobia of something that he’s likely to see every day of his life.)

    3. AndersonDarling

      It’s possible Jack is feeling that his current therapy isn’t making the progress he needs and that’s why he is taking a break to figure out his options. It is tough to find a regular therapist, so it must take loads of research to find someone who can handle this level of a phobia.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq

        Yes, this was my interpretation as well. As someone who has been there, a bad relationship with a therapist is, at worst, far worse than having no therapist at all. At best, it’s a neutral waste of time and (probably) money. I hope Jack is able to find the help he needs to keep moving forward on this.

    4. the other Emily

      They kept trying to contact her after she left the hospital to convince her not to quit. After she made her position clear. They didn’t stop Jack from doing it either. She had to get a lawyer involved to get them to stop. It doesn’t sound like they treated Liz well at all.

    5. BPT

      Well, I think the company could have definitely proactively paid her medical bills if they actually wanted to treat her well. (There may be legal implications with that, I don’t know). I wouldn’t say the company necessarily treated Liz badly, but they certainly didn’t treat her well.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        They could have. There are very limited legal ramifications in most states (I.e., communications apologizing or to cover her costs are often fine). In 99% of cases, you can’t introduce evidence of an apology or an offer to settle to prove the employer was at fault or legally responsible for her injuries.

      2. Decimus

        I was actually wondering if some of this is miscommunication and bungled attempts to do just that. It’s speculative, but I could see it going down like this:

        Company Lawyer: “She has a strong case if she sues us, so we should go forward with paying her pills now. It will look bad in front of a jury if we don’t.”

        Company (to Liz): Please send us your pills so we can pay them.
        Liz: I really just want to deal with this myself.
        Company: Send us your bills! Our lawyer says we need to pay them.
        Liz: I told you I want to deal with it myself. Stop calling!
        Company: We need to pay your medical bills! Please give them to us!
        Liz’ lawyer: Cease and desist.

        It could be completely different too. It’s really hard to say what the hell happened.

    6. animaniactoo

      I think that they may have meant well, but I don’t think the company has actually treated Liz well at all here, and they need to recognize how badly it sounds like they bungled this. In particular because it’s probably pervasive to some extent to how they think of and see all of their employees, in terms of what they get from them vs what they can do for them, and when it’s time for the employee’s needs to be primary no matter how bad it’s going to hurt the business.

    7. JS

      I think it depends, while he might just be pursuing other options, if he decided to break from therapy all together he may think the continued exposure might be having an adverse effect. Therapy is meant as a coping tool for recovery not a life-time sentence. It could be he is capable and has the tools to be functional without therapy for now but continuing therapy and having him exposed, thinking about the triggers is whats subconsciously triggering him more.

      1. TL -

        I think that you cannot draw the conclusion that he has the tools to be functional right now. It’s true that we don’t know any of the other details of his treatment/behavior but I think that this is a clear case of Jack not being able to function at the level needed right now.

        1. JS

          Not if the problem is his current therapy is having adverse reactions. He might be better off on his own in terms of treatment. Thats not saying hes not taking his own cognitive behavioral steps or measures.

          1. Lablizard

            I just hope that the company is working with him to accommodate his condition. If I remember correctly, it only came out after the accident, so I could see the need to look at his work conditions in light of the new information getting lost in the shuffle. There may not be anything that needs to change, but it certainly needs to be reviewed

    8. nonegiven

      People were saying in the comments on the original letter that if he had been in therapy as long as he said, he should have made more progress. Maybe he reads AAM, too.

  4. Newby

    Thank you for the update. This is a terrible situation, but I’m glad that Liz got another job and it sounds like she is moving on. Perhaps this was the best outcome possible.

    1. too many hats

      +1
      It’s such an awful situation for everyone involved. Thanks to OP for the update! The finding of it being 100% Jack’s fault is interesting, because the original post didn’t feel that way (at least how I read it – I had taken it that while he did have some responsibility in it, there was a sense of it being a freak accident that couldn’t have been prevented. Insurance-wise not exactly an “Act of God”, but not an at-fault accident).

      There is something about this update that makes my manager brain feel really uncomfortable, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Dealing with insurance companies and lawyers is never easy and tend to be stressful (even as the company as a third party technically). The discomfort seems to be related to the omg-what-would-I-have-done in that situation as the dual role of manager and HR?!

      I hope that the remaining things (possible charges) resolve quickly so that everyone involved can move on!

      1. Newby

        I think there is always the urge to try to fix things and make everything all better. Liz wouldn’t follow the script and let it go and that made her company uncomfortable. It sounds like Liz handled the situation in the best way possible for both her and the company. She wasn’t vindictive but she wasn’t a doormat either.

      2. Manders

        There’s sometimes a disconnect between who an insurance company finds 100% at fault and who might be at fault in a moral sense. Jack is legally at fault in the sense that neither Liz nor the driver of the car could have done anything to stop what happened; that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s guilty of criminal assault or that he doesn’t deserve sympathy for having a mental illness. Insurance law is weird and findings in insurance cases shouldn’t be taken as a moral judgment of anyone.

        1. JS

          +1 on this. I would actually not even use the term “responsible” since insurance companies don’t go by “responsibility” but “liability”. For example, my parents got into a car accident while merging lanes, the person behind them sped up at the last minute to keep them from merging. While the driver shouldn’t have sped up and is “responsible” for the accident insurance companies found my parents liable because they were the ones merging.

          1. DArcy

            The distinction between “responsibility” and “liability” is indeed important. My insurance found me “liable” for my car accident because I collided with a curb, even though it happened because I was evading another vehicle that skidded out of control on a wet road. He would have been liable if I didn’t evade and he actually hit me, but you’re always liable for a “single vehicle collision”.

    2. Jesmlet

      Yes, happy for Liz getting a new job, happy that Jack’s work hasn’t suffered, and happy to get more detail from OP about what actually happened so speculation can be put to rest. I’m still scratching my head a bit on some of HR’s actions but it seems like this was the most amicable way this could’ve ended up.

      1. Jessesgirl72

        The part the OP didn’t address, however, is whether or not this whole mess has had a negative impact on the rest of the department’s morale, and whether or not they have lost other good workers as a result.

        At this point, if I knew even half the details, I’d be looking for a new job- not because I don’t want to work with Jack, or think he deserves “punishment” but because of the pretty extreme focus the company had in protecting its own interests, with seemingly little actual concern or help for Liz.

        1. Jesmlet

          Yes, agree. My opinion of the company would have substantially dropped at this point. Maybe not to where I’d look for new work, but to the point where I wouldn’t trust them to give a crap about me and the second a situation came up where I’d need them to be on my side, I’d be looking for new employment.

        2. INFJ

          I think most employees won’t have a lot of behind-the-scenes information about how the company treated Liz (which even we don’t know all of from the letters). They’ll probably mostly just know about the accident and that she decided to not come back. I think it’s possible that this wouldn’t have much impact on morale for that reason.

        3. Falling Diphthong

          I don’t have the impression this company has a good read on its employees’ morale.

        4. EddieSherbert

          I am also very curious about the general moral in the office, and how Jack is being treated among his coworkers. At the very least, I’d be wary of him (and try to not get too close to him when we’re outside or near windows in case something triggers him…).

      1. em2mb

        I’d keep that in mind if I were the company. Eventually the statute of limitations will run out, but until then, I’d assume it was a possibility, even if Liz has said she won’t sue.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I would have, too, depending on the financial cost of medical care (or for ongoing care for other permanent injuries or mental health counseling).

        But if it didn’t hit me financially, I would have walked away, too. I wouldn’t want to have to keep reliving the experience or deal with the emotional drain.

        1. Carolyn

          This. I had a nasty fall on some ice in my apartment parking lot – it was several days after a storm and nothing had been done to clean up the ice in the parking lot. As I was getting into my car, I went down hard and messed my elbow up so badly it took 2 surgeries to fix it! I had no intention of suing anyone over this until the medical bills really started piling up. And it wasn’t only medical bills – my entire life was upended for about 2 years (not being able to use your dominant arm as a single adult is NOT conducive to adulting!) – I had to pay my neighbor’s teenager to help me clean, I ate A LOT of takeout because cooking was next to impossible and after a full day of work and then physical therapy 4 days a week, I was too exhausted from pain and running around to do anything anyway.

          But yeah … if I could have afforded to cover my medical care and expenses myself, I would not have sued. It was depressing and exhausting. I am a “mind over matter” kind of person and having to continually describe just how bad things were and how much pain I was in really messed with my head – I had tried so hard to stay positive and it was demoralizing to have to put optimism aside and focus on just how much I hurt and how limited my life became. I had to be examined by the defendant’s doctors and I haaaaated that – someone poking and prodding and asking questions to come to an opinion on your diagnosis and prognosis … that they don’t share with you – unnerving! Having to hear my own doctor say that he expects the best I can hope for is 80% recovery …

          The settlement made me financially whole, but the best feeling the day I got that check was realizing “I am DONE with this!” and for the rest of my life I can focus on the things I can do and not get dragged down thinking about what I can’t manage. Who needs full sensation in their pinkie and ring fingers anyway, right? LOL :)

          1. Katie the Fed

            Ugh. I’m just now getting started on my lawsuit after a bad accident and I’m not looking forward to any of this. I’m just now starting to come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to do some activities that I used to enjoy, and that I’ll be dealing with this for my life. It’s really traumatic, isn’t it?

            Glad you’re doing well enough now.

            1. I used to be Murphy

              My accident was 7 years ago and I still get pangs of “oh, right, can’t do that anymore” or “ah, yeah, I won’t be the one to teach my daughter how to skate because I can’t do that anymore.” It’s really traumatic for a long time. It’s pain every day.

              The legal process was awful, but getting that money was worth it to me in the end. It provided me with closure and the ability to move on with my life (and rebuild the savings I had to destroy to care for myself for months).

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Katie, I’m so sorry. I had an injury in my early 20s that, due to medical malpractice, resulted in a permanent injury that made it impossible to engage in one of my favorite hobbies/activities. It bummed me out for years, but I guess the good news is that I eventually moved past it? It really is awful/traumatic, though. I think people don’t realize how central certain activities are to their identity until it’s impossible to do them anymore.

          2. Jessesgirl72

            Would your mind have changed, though, even if you didn’t have expenses you needed to cover, if you knew the company was advised by two legal departments to settle, and you didn’t actually need to go through the court process?

            1. BPT

              I’m not Carolyn, but if I were in that situation I’d definitely take a settlement. I’m never going to turn down money like that, especially when something bad happened to me. It’s not just about whether you need the money (although most people do), it’s about making companies and businesses think twice about their actions and work harder to not be negligent.

          3. Allison

            Y’know, I’ve often heard criticisms that Americans are overly litigious, how we’ll sue over every injury, and how terrible it is that we take each other to court over every little thing. Reading this thread I’m realizing that yeah, we do sue a lot, because we have to, because medical care is expensive, insurance plans are complicated, insurance providers will do everything to get out of covering expenses, and sometimes the only way you can avoid going bankrupt over an injury is to sue the person who’s technically at fault, even if their negligence wasn’t malicious. Very few people enjoy getting a lawyer, going to court, and squeezing money out of their neighbors – but in many cases, it really is their only option.

            Another reason why our healthcare system is so awful.

            1. PlainJane

              And one other factor: companies themselves will do everything to get out of paying damages, even when insurance isn’t involved. The McDonald’s case mentioned upthread is an especially egregious example. My husband was party to something much less damaging: he ordered a margarita at a restaurant, and it had glass in it. He asked them to pay his medical bills (a few hundred dollars for an ER visit + pain meds–it was the late 80s), and they refused. So he got a lawyer and sued. For the lawyer to make enough (they get 1/3 and won’t take a case if they only make peanuts), he had to sue for pain and suffering to the tune of several thousand dollars. Had the restaurant done the right thing from the beginning, they would have saved money, and there would have been no lawyers involved.

        2. SL #2

          A friend of mine was hit by a car 3 years ago. She successfully sued, but everything from that just wrapped up and while there is a hefty chunk of money in her bank account now, she’s been dealing with PTSD on/off ever since because the lawsuit was forcing her to constantly revisit the memories of what happened. She’s still not sure if it was worth it.

    1. Episkey

      She is a much better person than I am — I would have at least filed a workman’s comp claim!

      1. Antilles

        She is a much better person than I am — I would have at least filed a workman’s comp claim!
        Paying medical bills out of your own pocket rather than a workman’s comp claim and/or repayment of medical bills is not Liz being a “better person”. It’s just her ignoring a benefit that she has both the legal and moral justification for.

        1. em2mb

          Workman’s comp claims can be tricky, though. I had a coworker at my last university break her foot while on campus. (A railing came unbolted while she was walking down the stairs.) She found out that worker’s comp – even though it was through the same university system – wouldn’t cover any of her regular doctors or the facilities she typically used for her routine medical care. In fact, filing for it made the situation worse because the workman’s comp came back and said she didn’t go the “right” hospital because she’d gone to one in-network in our health care plan, but that hospital was not in-network based on the worker’s comp. And because she’d filed for worker’s comp, insurance wouldn’t pay. It was a mess that took the better part of two years to resolve. Liz might’ve decided that it was just easier to use her insurance and be done with it.

          (Assuming this happened in the U.S., of course.)

          1. Alton

            Yes, worker’s comp can be very restrictive. You often have to go to physicians that they refer you to, and if you have continued problems or need another opinion, it can be a lengthy process to get a new referral. And if you can’t wait, you run the risk of not being covered or having to justify why you didn’t go to an approved doctor. It’s not always a simple solution.

        2. KellyK

          Yeah, that’s true. There’s nothing less good about taking a benefit that she’s owed or expecting the company to cover medical bills that should legally be their responsibility.

        3. gmg

          My mother, an RN, filed a worker’s comp claim in the 1980s because of a severe back injury sustained trying to turn a large patient in bed when no other hospital staff were available to help. My childhood memory of our family’s experience of this was that it was a very much not fun process and included a lot of attempts to shame Mom into “revealing” that she wasn’t really injured enough to qualify for the compensation. Liz may know someone else who went through that, and just not be up for months of the rep showing up to her house at random times trying to “catch her” doing stuff that the terms of the claim determined she would be too disabled to do, etc.

          1. PlainJane

            My husband had a workers comp claim about 10 years ago. Same deal–lots of shaming, and we even caught a detective following us around. Worse, workers comp had to approve every treatment, and they dragged their feet and left him in extreme pain for 3 months before they would authorize the surgery he needed. Had we been dealing with private insurance, he could have been treated immediately and likely had a much faster recovery. But once you say something is work-related, private insurance won’t pay, and you’re at the mercy of workers comp. It’s awful.

          2. Antilles

            Oh, I know and agree that filing for workman’s comp (or filing a lawsuit) is an aggravating, time-consuming, generally miserable process. If Liz decided that it wasn’t for her, then that’s her choice and is perfectly acceptable.
            My issue was with the phrasing of how Liz was a “better person than me”. Choosing to skip a benefit that you’re legally and morally allowed to take does not in any way make Liz a better person than someone (like Episkey or me) who *would* take such action to get their medical bills repaid.

    2. Jubilance

      Agreed! Especially with Jack being found to be at fault, and the company pestering her only to see if she would come back to work, not if she was ok or what they could do for her.

    3. AnotherAlison

      That’s what was the strangest part of this whole thing for me. First, Liz quit (which made sense, but seemed kind of extreme to give up one’s livelihood), and then didn’t seek any recovery of wages, medical bills, other damages, etc.

      Liz must have a lot more cash on hand than me, and a really great ability to do what is right for her mental health, even if it’s worse for her bank account.

      1. jasper_red

        Or maybe her partner is the primary breadwinner, so it was okay for them to lose her income while she found another job. That was my guess.

    4. Megan M.

      I really feel bad for Liz. I’m almost sad that she decided not to sue, or at least file a workman’s comp claim. She should be repaid for her injuries and the rather astonishing level of unwanted contact she apparently received from Jack and the company trying to get her to come back to her job. She had to send a cease and desist letter? Ouch.

    5. De Minimis

      I can understand how she might want to avoid the stress of legal action and focus on recovery. Any time you are tied up in a court case it’s a pretty miserable process no matter what side you’re on, and it pretty much consumes your life until it’s over with.

      I would not blame her though if she decided to pursue it later.

      1. Trillian

        She may have had previous personal experience of a court case, or watched someone she was close to being put though the wringer. Going to court could mean years of revisiting the trauma, continued contact with Jack and the company, and possibly having her treatment options dictated to her. She’s got enough to deal with already. I hope she has a good insurance package at the new place that’ll give her physio and any counselling she needs.

    6. Lilo

      She may still sue. If this only happened a few weeks ago she 100% has more time and may have to wait to determine to full costs (like physical therapy). Rushing to file a suit too quickly can be a huge mistake (doesn’t sound like there are evidence preservation issues).

      On the other hand, depending on more factors than we have here, a lawyer may have told her the only good defendant is Jack and she might not be able to recover enough from him to make it worthwhile.

      It is very very hard to speculate on a suit like this so early and with the info we have.

    7. kem110

      She still may. I have a sister that was hit by a car two years ago. In my state, you have two years to file and her lawyer advised her to wait out that time period and see how many medical bills she accrued during this time. It is possible that this is what Liz’s lawyer advised her to do since it seemed to be a serious situation.

      That said, the lack of empathy from the business side struck a chord with me. Liz is lucky to be out of there and I hope Jack gets the treatment he needs.

    8. hellcat

      For every penny she could get. I’m glad she’s been able to move on, but those bills sounded like no joke.

    9. Just Another Techie

      Filing a suit is hugely stressful and draining, and can be traumatic depending on the circumstances. If her insurance is paying for her medical care without a big hassle (and possibly also going after Jack/the employer/whoever fopayment without involving Liz) that might be best for Liz’s emotional health.

      For some people getting restitution via a court is a huge piece of closure, and for others it’s not. Neither way is wrong or has any kind of moral weight; we’re just all wired differently in how we respond emotionally to misfortune.

      1. Aveline

        “Filing a suit is hugely stressful and draining, and can be traumatic depending on the circumstances.”

        I always tell my clients that are gung-ho to get into the courtroom guns-blazing this: If you end up in front a judge, everyone loses.

        1. Tammy

          Yes, this. I have a friend who’s a lawyer-turned-mediator, and she describes litigation as “the global thermonuclear war of dispute resolution” for exactly that reason.

          Several years ago, I had a case where I was contemplating legal action (for pretty blatant discrimination by a government agency). I talked to a relative who’s a lawyer about what had happened, and asked her if I had a case. Her response was, “that’s not the right question. The question you should be asking is, how badly do you want to spend the next 5 years of your life in court while the government agency gambles that you’ll run out of money before they do?” I opted to preserve my sanity and my financial resources, and walked away.

          Win or lose, litigation is nearly always traumatic, and not something to undertake lightly. My $0.02.

    10. JS

      I don’t think it would have been in her best interests to sue. OP mentioned the industry was small. While the company would be liable to compensate her for any medical bills and wages during recovery (and should be paying for even without a suit!), in order to get a “pay out” she would have needed to essentially throw Jack under the bus for his phobia. People have different feelings about mental health but if I wanted to continue to work in the small industry in my current area I would not want the stigma of that following me around.

      I don’t feel like the company was insensitive towards Liz in anyway. It does seem like the “calls to see if she would come back” were more of concern and wanting to know if she OK” than “when can you return because your work is pilling up”. Liz hiring a lawyer seems to be a normal thing of someone that is in a accident would do to explore legal options. I wouldn’t read into that, especially due to her previous extreme actions of wanting Jack fired.

      1. gmg

        Obviously everyone’s reading of this is different, but I took a different view of those calls to see if Liz would come back, judging by this wording from the OP’s first post: “When Liz found out that Jack wasn’t going to be fired, she quit. Liz was working on a few projects, and without her there could be delays and extra costs incurred. We have tried to get her to come back, but she refuses unless Jack is fired.”

        I didn’t comment on that post, but I got the sense that this particular part of the OP’s account rubbed a lot of commenters the wrong way. It sounds very much like “when can you return because your work is piling up” to me. And the fact that the calls continued until Liz engaged legal services to get them to stop strongly reinforces my impression. HR was right to support Jack in a situation where a disability is involved. Yet nowhere does it seem to have occurred to anyone that they now had TWO disabled employees they needed to consider — Liz’s physical injury, plus the possibility of trauma stemming from this incident that would explain pretty well why she wouldn’t want to go back to work alongside Jack.

        1. JS

          This makes sense. I took it as, “this is why Liz is valuable to the company” or “the company wont run the same without Liz and here is why”.

          Good point on two disabled employees but I feel as in this case this isn’t something they would need to consider since Liz does not want to be employed there. I agree they would need to make concessions for her if she still continued to be employed for them. I think reasonable accomodation that the ADA requires would cover them making sure she didn’t have to contact/work with Jack but I think if that wasn’t possible in her current position or any feasible positions to transfer her to, her quitting or not being employed wouldn’t be a violation. But I would be curious as to what someone more knowledgeable on this had to say.

    11. Thinking Outside the Boss

      Lawsuits aren’t the be-all end-all conclusion that people think they are. I’m now a government attorney, but the only winners in a lawsuit are the attorneys.

      Liz could sue for physical injuries, emotional distress (pain and suffering), and if the employer knew about Jake’s outbursts, potential punitive damages. But if I remember correctly, the OP said that the event with Liz was the first they knew about Jake’s issues, so punitive damages appear to be off the table.

      In the U.S., physical injuries are going to be based on the cost of Liz’s medical bills. But if she went through insurance, the insurance company would place a lien on her recovery to reimburse their costs. The same would be true for workers’ compensation. Also, there are at least 12 states where if your medical bills don’t exceed a certain amount you can’t sue for emotional distress. Plus, most trial attorneys charge between 35% and 40% of your recovery as fees, and many attorneys require you to pay expert witness fees, photocopies costs, costs of trial exhibits, etc., on top of the 35-40%. And even if you get an emotional distress recovery, that’s taxable as income–it’s only physical injury awards that are tax free. If you sue a big money defendant, you might be able to get your attorneys’ fees reimbursed too. But if you settle the case, they generally don’t pay your attorneys’ fees.

      And the icing on the cake is that Jake is 100% responsible. If Jake is like most of us, he doesn’t have $100,000 in the bank ready to pay Liz. Even if Liz got a judgment against Jake, he could turn around tomorrow and file for bankruptcy.

      The only two parties that probably have money to pay Liz are the employer and if the employer doesn’t own their own facility, the owner of the property, neither one of which are responsible for Liz’s injuries.

      I can see why Liz walked away. And I’m happy to see that she has landed a new job.

  5. Insurance

    Just commenting on the insurance aspect of it:
    For the insurer and the company, for nothing to come out of this is a win. This could have gone in multiple ways through the insurer and into court.

    1. Bad Candidate

      I’d be surprised if her health insurance company doesn’t decide to subrogate against the company or Jack. Unless the plan is self funded.

      1. Aveline

        It’s not just them.

        If, for example, her state allows for spousal claims (e.g. loss of consortium), there are suits her partner/husband/wife might be able to bring.

        This isn’t my area of law, but it’s not as simple as “she isn’t suing.”

        She isn’t suing….yet. We also have no idea who else could either subrogate or bring their own independent claim.

        This would make an excellent law school hypothetical if it weren’t so tragic.

        1. Erin

          I have some experience with this. my mother was hit by a car, and didn’t press criminal charges. But pressed civil because her injuries were too much out of pocket. She had to get back surgery 6 months later and that caused her to be paralyzed from the waist down. She died from a blood clot from inactivity 3 weeks after her surgery. The doctors said she would’ve never needed the surgery if she hadn’t been in an accident. My father and I were able to change the lawsuit into wrongful death after her passing. She died 12 years ago yesterday. It was settled out of court.

          1. Aveline

            Well, I also thought about “God, what if Liz had died!” but I didn’t want to be morbid.

            Your example just shows exactly how badly this can go.

            I’m so, so sorry for what your family went through.

            1. Erin

              Thanks for the sympathies. I guess the point I was trying to make is that nobody knows how this is going to effect Liz and her family yet. She may have complications from this that don’t show up for months or years.

        1. Insurance

          Depends on funding; if the health insurance is self funded, they can choose to not subrogate. If the funding is fully insured and the insurer has footed the bill, the insurer will subrogate. With so many companies self insured to avoid taxation under the ACA, it’s really possible they might decide to not subrogate because Liz is no longer in contact.

          It sounds like this is a clean break; subrogation might not be a road the company chooses to go down.

  6. Isben Takes Tea

    Thanks for the update, OP. I hope you and your company can move forward from this debacle soon.

  7. Forrest

    I guess this is the “best” resolution. It’s still unfortunate that it happened at all and I’m not sure why Jack would take a break from therapy at this time. I’m even more confused on why he decided to tell you – doesn’t seem like a good judgment call on his part.

    But I hope everyone is…happy? Or at least at peace with what happened and the decisions made.

    1. Anna

      I think it’s more about reassessing how much his current therapy situation is benefitting him. This might have been the clarity he needed to see his therapist wasn’t steering him in the best direction.

    2. L.

      I’m also concerned about Jack withdrawing from therapy – the biggest reason to seek mental health treatment is your issues interfering with your life, and this incident definitely scrambled his entire life, not to mention Liz’s. Maybe he’s ashamed to discuss this incident even with his provider, or maybe the expense of therapy was a factor, or maybe to him this incident shows therapy isn’t working. Why he’d tell his boss, I have no idea, but in times of stress and struggle I think we’ve all at some point let our thoughts slip to the wrong person. I hope he keeps trying, if not therapy another alternative — you only get one life, and his condition appears to be a significant barrier to fully living that life.

      Good for Liz for successfully getting on with her life, even though she had every right/reason to sue. I’m not sure I would have done the same.

      1. Doe-Eyed

        I can’t help but wonder what kind of liability this may expose the employer to. This is unlikely to happen again because it’s such a freak accident, but if something less serious were to happen (like say, Jack getting startled and falling into someone), how would this affect their liability now that a.) they know this is a possibility and b.) he has disclosed to his manager that he is no longer pursuing therapy to help manage it?

  8. Mustache Cat

    Frankly I’m astonished by everything in this letter, in good ways and bad ways.

    It’s great that Liz was able to move on, and I’m happy for her. But I confess I don’t understand why Jack decided to take a break from therapy at this juncture–but presumably he had…reasons? (?)

    Thanks for the update, OP!

    1. Anna

      I don’t know a lot of people who would continue to see a therapist if they had come to realize whatever plan they were on didn’t seem to be working. Most of the folk I know who start to have doubts about their therapy decide to take a break to get an idea of what they really do need to get out of it and what sort of therapist might be better suited for their situation.

      1. Whats In A Name

        Yup. Been there. $150 is a lot of money to pay for an hour of chit chat and no noticeable improvement, which might be what Jack is realizing. I took the statement to indicate he is exploring other ideas/therapists and sometimes it takes time to reevaluate what it is you need to work on and find a new therapist who you click with.

    2. Amy

      What Anna said. He’s likely trying to evaluate what led up to this, and is reevaluating his approach based on that. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if changing therapists/treatment methods was part of that; ‘taking a break’ could well mean “I’m not seeing my old therapist because clearly that wasn’t working, and I’m still working on finding a new one.”

  9. Addison

    Wow! I was really interested in seeing how this played out since the comments on the last letter ended up being such a cluster. I’m glad the issue was able to be resolved relatively civilly and that there hasn’t been too much in the way of drama. I think I probably would have done the same thing as Liz, really — while I think she would be within her rights to seek damages/press charges (if not against the company then at least against Jack as an individual), I would rather just get away from it and try to get my life back in order as quickly as possible rather than drag it out with fights and claims and tons of paperwork. Hopefully her medical expenses aren’t too high/she has decent insurance, because I could see myself wanting to be compensated for at *least* that, but…

    I hope Jack is able to get the help he needs with his issue.

    1. Salamander

      Thing is, it may not be up to her. I know that any time I’ve shown up in the ER with some dumb injury I’ve done to myself with power tools, my health insurance company wants to know how and where it happened, and they try to determine if there’s another responsible party. Her health insurance company may indeed pay for her injuries…but it may go after the company and/or Jack if they have been determined to be at fault, and it sounds like they have by the auto insurance folks. I don’t think they’ll ultimately be able to dodge all financial responsibility on this and sweep it under the rug. This is not gonna just go away.

  10. Sadsack

    I don’t understand what is meant by taking a break from therapy and looking at his options. Therapy options or job options? It sounds like he definitely needs to continue therapy after this incident.

    1. BuildMeUp

      It seems like this incident might have been a wake up call for Jack that showed him he isn’t as in control of his phobia as he thought he was, and he may be looking for a more effective therapist or looking into different types of therapy that might work better for him.

    2. jasper_red

      So I would assume (there goes that word LOL) that he’s looking at other options for treating his condition, whatever they may be. Maybe he realized the therapist he was seeing wasn’t working for him? Alternatively, maybe he’s just focusing his energy on job hunting for now, and he plans to resume therapy either. I hope (and don’t necessarily believe) it’s just a “well I guess therapy doesn’t work, oh well!” type of thing.

    3. Spoonie

      I’m hoping he’s just reevaluating his choice in therapist. I agree that taking a complete break from therapy may not be the wisest move, but maybe finding a different course of treatment would be beneficial.

      If I were Jack, I’d imagine it’s jarring when you think you’ve improved but instead realize your phobia is still to the point where you react in ways that can be harmful (both to self and others). From that standpoint, I understand wanting to take a break and reevaluate my options.

      1. KellyK

        That’s what I’m hoping too. It makes sense to stop seeing the current therapist if it isn’t helping, and it takes time both to find someone else and to get on their schedule (and deal with insurance hoopla). So, a break is going to happen for logistical reasons. It might also be that he needs some time to research and reevaluate his options for therapy.

    4. tigerlily

      The way it’s written is unclear, but I’m reading it as treatment options. I believe in the original letter, OP said Jack has been in therapy for something like two years, so maybe he looking into OTHER treatment options since after two years with his current therapist this type of incident was still able to occur. Contextually, it doesn’t make sense for taking a break from therapy to be followed by looking at job options.

      That’s just my interpretation, though…

  11. Managed Chaos

    I’m glad that Liz was able to move on, and it seems to be as painlessly as possible – no litigation, etc. I’m wondering if Jack took a break from therapy because he felt it wasn’t working. I wonder what other options he’s exploring.

  12. Katie the Fed

    Huh. That’s quite a resolution. Liz probably still has a year or two to file a claim, so I wouldn’t rule it out yet. But it looks like everyone got off pretty easy for this. Glad Liz is doing better.

    It might be worth a discussion with the lawyers about liability if Jack does something like this again, especially since he’s decided to stop treatment for this phobia (and that you, as a company representative, are aware of this). That would seem to increase the likelihood of something happening again.

    1. Rainy, PI

      I agree with this. At the very least probably Jack should voluntarily keep a reasonable distance from other people while outdoors just to attempt to make it impossible for this to happen again.

      1. Aveline

        I wonder if he could do some of his work from home. If so, that may be better for him in order to get some distance.

  13. Myrin

    OP, I commend you for sending this very factual, down-to-earth update on an issue that seems to have caused quite the emotional turbulence on this site. And as much as there was heated back-and-forth filled with hypotheticals and caveats in the comments, I was very interested to find out how the actual, real-life situation would eventually be resolved; it seemed like one of these instances where no one would come out the winner (which, going from this update, seems to indeed have been the case).

  14. KTMGee

    Did the company ever offer to pay Liz’s medical bills? It feels very passive to me, to wait until something is brought to the company than to proactively provide that, when it happened as the result of a workplace injury.

    1. CBH

      I’m just guessing, but maybe there is a legal reason the company hasn’t straight out offered. Even though Jack was found to be at fault, I’m thinking that since the company kept Jack as an employee and everything else seem to be “against” Liz (her injuries, she left the job), paying might be seem as admitting additional fault. I’m not a lawyer so this is just a guess. I’m with you though that the company not paying seems a little passive.

    2. Lily in NYC

      I’m confused by that part of the letter – does this company not provide health insurance? Maybe she doesn’t really have any bills.

      1. That Would Be a Good Band Name

        Even with insurance, you generally have costs associated with a hospital stay. Deductibles, coninsurance, etc. I’d say it’s incredibly unlikely that she didn’t have any cost out of pocket.

      2. TL -

        She had surgery and a hospital stay, but her health insurance would’ve covered it until usually the end of the month in which she left. (Or maybe she was on her spouse’s or parent’s plan and her employment didn’t matter.)

        1. Zombii

          >> her health insurance would’ve covered it until usually the end of the month in which she left.

          How common is this? Everywhere I’ve worked cuts you off midnight of the day you separate from the company (so you can’t try to “screw them” by scheduling costly medical appointments/procedures you’re “not entitled to” even though the insurance is in effect paid 60 days in advance—you sign up and have to pay the premiums for 2 months before you’re eligible to use any of the benefits).

          1. Rainy, PI

            My employer does this. You also only get coverage on the 1st of the month at hire, so we prefer to hire people on the 1st so they are covered immediately.

    3. Admin Assistant

      I’m trying to imagine a situation where a company would ever proactively offer to pay an employee’s medical bills, at least in a case as nuanced as this. Don’t get me wrong, I think Jack is totally at fault here, but I would think it would take something super cut & dry, like, a CEO operating a crane on his own building’s construction site and dropping a pile of lumber on an employee to get a company to reach out and offer to pay without being asked?

      1. KellyK

        It probably depends on the company. In a publicly traded company with stockholders, I’m sure you’re right. But I can easily picture the company I work for, which is small and prides itself on hiring good people and keeping them happy, offering spontaneously to make things right for an employee. (And I just realized as I typed that how rare such companies are.)

    4. JS

      Well Liz wont return their calls checking in on her so how are they going to do that? I took them contacting her in order to figure out her plan and how she wants to proceed in either collecting workers comp, getting the employer to pay, filing a legal suit,etc. However she decided to respond by attorney and not directly saying she wasnt going to pursue any actions.

      1. TL -

        You can call the hospital (or health insurance, I imagine) and ask to pay any bills associated with Liz; you can contact Liz’s attorney and say you want to pay bills and can this all be handled by attorneys; you can send Liz an email/letter/ect.., with the name of a lawyer/finance department for her to contact so she can have her bills paid.
        There were a lot of avenues for the company to explore that weren’t continually bother someone who is not responding.

      2. BPT

        It seems like she did talk to them several times – she had to let them know that she wouldn’t be coming back if Jack still worked there, and she did answer the phone when Jack called (even if she was very unhappy about it), so it’s not like they had no contact with her at all. I’m guessing that when she said she couldn’t work at the same place as Jack and they said they weren’t going to fire him, she thought that was the end of the conversation.

    5. Ashley

      I am actually surprised they didn’t have to under workers comp. If Liz’s insurance finds out this happened on company time they may try and get restitution from the company’s workers comp policy themselves.

      1. Natalie

        It says she didn’t file a workers comp claim. It’s possible her insurance company doesn’t know it happened at work, either – people don’t always fill out forms accurately.

        1. nonegiven

          I remember speculation after the original letter. It may have happened on a public sidewalk or in a common parking lot, not actually at work, which may have made it not fall under workman’s comp in some states. Also, the other things people have pointed out that may make WC not the best thing for her recovery.

          There is time for legal action and right away is probably not the best time.

          I recall my mother getting whiplash from an accident. The other driver’s insurance kept pressuring her to sign papers. She waited until she was sure her medical problems were clearing up before she agreed to a settlement.

  15. the other Emily

    I’m floored that Jack would try to contact Liz to ask if she would reconsider quitting her job. If I was her he would be the last person I wanted to hear from.

      1. the other Emily

        Not even then. He had no place to tell her to come back to work, especially after she made her feelings clear. And for him and the company to keep trying while she was still recovering from surgery? The company and Jack dropped the ball and don’t come across well.

        1. Anna

          I don’t see it quite as harassing as that. I think it’s more likely they were follow up calls to make sure she was doing all right. Considering how upset Liz was to begin with, it doesn’t surprise me that she saw it more harassing than not, but I’m not sure it was actually as insistent as we’re interpreting it to be.

          1. Lablizard

            The calls from HR would be follow up, but I wouldn’t think Jack had any reason to call her after the apology? That bit seemed a bit tone deaf

            1. Anna

              It may well have been, or it may have been a ham-handed attempt by HR to get Liz and Jack on at least speaking terms. We don’t know enough about the phone calls to really determine what it was. After all, HR sat in on the call with Jack the first time when he apologized. This could be more of that.

              1. Lablizard

                The LW posted an update under the name Andrew N that details the content of the calls. Personally, I would be livid if I was Liz

        2. Lumos

          If I recall correctly from the original post Jack had apologized to Liz with HR on the phone. I can fully understand Liz telling them to stop contacting her, or telling them where to stuff it even, but if I were Jack I would be incredibly mortified and maybe still trying to find a way to fix the situation, or hoping that there is a way to fix it if I just apologize or offer something enough. I don’t think this is a situation where there was even a possible happy ending for all, but I can see how the aftermath may have played out.

      2. Belinda

        There was quite a spirited debate here earlier this week about a bully reaching out to apologize to her victim, and I think the general consensus among the commentariat was, “No, don’t do that.”

        You can want very much to apologize, but totally sincere about it, and in the end, it’s the person you’ve hurt who chooses whether to hear or accept it.

        1. ThatGirl

          To be fair, that discussion was in the context of the OP potentially hoping to work at her victim’s company in the future. I personally think there is a time and place for a simple apology with no expectations of further contact.

        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          I think there is a substantial difference between a “bully” (someone who tormented another person over an extended period of time, with the explicit intent of harming them) and someone who was involved in an accident; and between someone who is no longer a part of your life reaches out out of the blue, and someone who is a daily part of your life apologizing for something that happened recently.

          1. em2mb

            I would definitely agree with that, though I think the last part of what Belinda said is most salient – Jack doesn’t get to decide if Liz hears his apology, Liz does.

            I think it’s also possible that Liz doesn’t see this as an accident, or she might understand intellectually that Jack didn’t have control over his behavior, but she still feels very hurt. I can’t imagine how confusing the aftermath must’ve been for Liz. Thanks, OP, for letting us know she’s doing OK, or perhaps as well as can be expected.

        3. Jesmlet

          I think it was well within Jack’s right to call once and apologize, and if Liz doesn’t want to hear it, she just ignores the call and deletes the voicemail. Any time after that is harassment.

        4. Falling Diphthong

          I was reminded of that discussion, and the difficulty in trying to empathize with the other person’s mindset: “They are gloating and demanding I abase myself with a sufficiently groveling apology” vs “They are emotionally battered and want to not hear from me, ever again, about anything.” If you’re stuck on the first you keep trying to figure out the one magic dance move that they will accept so you get what you want, and there is no magic dance move.

          1. Desdemona

            This comment has just shed new light onto a relationship I thought I already understood perfectly well. I have a sister with a bullying streak, and all my life, she’d step beyond my limits, and I’d distance myself from her. She’d apologize, and I’d take her back. Finally, after one of our cycles, she made some comment about how I was such a grudge holder, and always made her eat worms after a fight. At the time, I took her words to my own heart, and didn’t even require the apology anymore, just accepted that her bullying came from a place of love. After that, her treatment of me got even worse. It took many more years for me to finally put her out of my life (“grudge-holder,” don’t you know), and by the time I did, I had forgotten the worm-eating accusation. What you’ve said is exactly what she was doing: looking for the formula that would get me to relent. It’s no wonder her apologies never led to any lasting change in her behavior; the whole time, she had just been looking for the key to manipulate me.

      3. The Cosmic Avenger

        No, in my opinion the only appropriate query to make before a two-way dialogue is established is “Are you OK?” or “How are you doing?” When it’s still a one-way conversation where one person is at fault or wants to apologize, the query shouldn’t be about information that the asker needs or would be helped by, it should be solely about the wronged party. That’s the best I can do at the moment to describe why this sounds tone deaf.

      4. Rainy, PI

        In that position, at some point I might be able to entertain a sincere apology, but it would be a while, if ever. I’m talking years, tbh. PTSD is a thing.

      5. Sabine the Very Mean

        Trauma, real trauma, can sometimes mean just the sound of the person’s voice brings the victim back to the scene of the accident. My former bff was involved in a cycling accident where she was almost killed and it was the fault of a member of her cycling team. He bent over backwards trying to fund-raise and make it up somehow and she would go into severe panic, almost like a shock, if she saw his face even years after intense trauma therapy. Could be similar.

  16. Purplesaurus

    I feel bad for both parties, even with this outcome. I hope Jack can get the help he needs, because his phobia has proven to be a danger to others. And I’m glad Liz found a way to deal with what happened to her and found another job, though the entire thing seemed a no-win situation for anyone.

  17. Michelle

    Thanks for the update! I’m glad to hear Liz has moved on and has another job. I hope the best for Jack as well.

  18. (different) Rebecca

    I think it’s possible that “a break from therapy to consider his options” may mean an attempt to find a different type of therapy. Like, if this was talk therapy, and he is thinking about CBT, that sort of thing. Sadly, therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all, and if it’s not working, then it’s not the right fit and he should indeed try to find a better one.

    1. Bekx

      That’s how I read it. I have a phobia of bees, and from my research the only therapy that helps is exposure therapy….and…well..that’s not something I feel ready to tackle yet. Jack may be researching his options and/or a different therapist.

      1. AndersonDarling

        He may be considering the expense of seeing a doctor outside his insurance plan, or maybe even admitting himself for immersive therapy.

      2. Going anon for mental illness talk

        For what it’s worth, exposure isn’t necessarily the only therapy out there that can help with phobias. It’s one of the more common ones, but there really isn’t any single therapy that works for everyone. (Exposure therapy has never worked for me; DBT helped a lot more.) It’s worth talking to professionals and trying different things, even if you don’t feel able/willing to try exposure therapy.

    2. Muriel Heslop

      I am hopeful he is exploring therapy options, too. As someone who spent over two decades battling a paralyzing bird phobia myself, it took a lot of time and more than one avenue to find something that worked.

      1. Aveline

        The truth is that with phobias and PTSD and other similar issues, there is no one therapy that works for everyone. For some people, there is no therapy that works.

        I hope Jack finds something that works. If he can’t, I hope he finds an employer who will make accommodations (e.g., work at home).

  19. animaniactoo

    Oof. The clear description of the push sounds more like a shove, and it’s much worse than originally presented *although* it is “understandable” if you get that Jack was reacting like he was fleeing from gunshots because in his head, that’s the amount of danger he was dealing with.

    I think it would be a good idea to respond to the lawyer with an offer to pay for Liz’ medical bills and some counseling if she would like. Arranged strictly through the lawyer, with no direct contact to Liz, and no strings on the offer like she has to see a counselor of your choosing or have them pre-approved by your company or anything along those lines.

    Because it’s clear that she wants all of this out of her life, but if she’s chosen to deal with whatever financial fallout on her own because she had the funds or it wasn’t that much or whatever then it would still be good to take that off her plate. If the lawyer gets back to you and says “thanks but no thanks” then that’s fine, but I feel that since you have this avenue, it’s an attempt you should still try to make.

    1. Relly

      I just want to +1 all of this. Presumably Liz went no contact because she didn’t have the emotional space to deal with it — that doesn’t mean she’s rolling in cash. It’s a workplace injury, as someone mentioned above.

    2. JS

      +1 On this just because I think it would protect them from future litigation if Liz went left and decided before time-limitations were up to sue. This way they could settle for the costs or make a civil judge see that they attempted to make good and pay on any medical bills and that way wouldn’t look negligent or uncaring if Liz tacked on other “emotional” items to the list to sue over.

        1. animaniactoo

          I said it on the original post and I’ll say it again. If Liz does not have some form of PTSD herself from this incident, I’ll eat my hat.

          I think you’d have to be either a spectacularly balanced person or spectacularly unbalanced not to experience emotional whiplash from walking along with your co-worker who you’ve known for awhile and is a reasonable human and then suddenly feeling their hands on your back as they push you into the path of a moving vehicle. From the feelings (probable) of horror/disbelief/fear as you recognize that you’re about to be hit by this car and can’t avoid it and (as far as you know in that moment) your previously perfectly sane and normal co-worker has caused this injury to happen to you and OMG here comes the car and OMG this hurts this hurts this hurts, my arm isn’t right, what’s wrong with my arm, can this be fixed? Even more unbelievably he’s over there just standing there, waiting to see what’s happening. He’s not trying to help, he’s not trying to get help… he’s just watching. Why is he watching? WTF? Why did he DO this?

          To not hold onto that and internalize that over a series of days before you find out that it’s because they have a phobia, or be able to so easily release all the previous thoughts/feelings. Because at that point, it’s settled in for the longhaul. Emotional memory isn’t overcome by a simple explanation, there’s a lot more that has to be done to untangle it.

          To not have questions that circle in your brain (Why would he walk so close to me if this might be a problem? Why didn’t he tell me? What if I’d been walking behind him? What if the car hit me harder? Is it really just his phobia? Did he have some grudge underneath that made him push me harder?*) To not continually relive the moment as your mind works to cope with it and rationalize it and get you back to some semblance of “normal”.

          *Note: I am not saying that Jack did or probably did or ANYTHING LIKE THAT and in fact will say that it sounds like it’s pretty unlikely here. Only that this is a question that might occur to Liz in her grappling with her own emotional reactions, and if it did, she’d have to go through the process of trying to figure that out and come up with an answer to that question herself that she would actually trust to be true. And when there are no objective facts that she can rely on for an answer to a question like that, well… unanswered questions can haunt you even after you decide you’re not going to concern yourself with them anymore.

          1. fposte

            PTSD is an interesting thing; it doesn’t happen to the majority of people who suffer trauma. Things that make it likelier include history of trauma, other life stressors, poor coping skills, genetic inclination, certain personality types, brain structure; then some of it depends on what happens during and after the event.

            1. animaniactoo

              How complex the situation/trauma is, is also a strong factor. This was pretty complex, to say the least.

              I could be wrong, I might end up eating my hat. That’d be okay. It’s still a significantly emotional event, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of PTSD, which was a lot of what I was trying to get across in response to the “emotional” quotes above.

            2. Jesmlet

              Yes, exactly. We really have no way of knowing whether or not Liz is suffering from PTSD but odds are actually against it (I think it’s something like 20% do after traumatic events). IANAL but I don’t think one absolutely needs a diagnosis in order to successfully sue for emotional distress (it definitely helps though)

            3. TootsNYC

              literal shock waves, too, can make it much worse, I think recent research has revealed.
              (hence its old name, “shell shock,” and also why it’s so strong for soldiers near IEDs)

  20. Bekx

    Regarding the break from therapy…I’m hoping it means to look at different options.

    I have melissophobia, or the fear of bees. What happened to Jack/Liz is a real concern. I get extremely panicked if one flies near me. I feel for Jack (and obviously Liz), and I can imagine that if I were in his shoes this would set my therapy progress back immensely.

  21. Thomas E

    There are multiple types of therapy for phobias and it’s clear that the one he was in wasn’t working.

    It makes sense to try something different.

    Personally, my own phobias actually responded best to medication than therapy.

  22. Katie the Fed

    OP – if you’re around and willing to answer questions –

    Has Jack ever shown any remorse? That was the part of the first letter that really tripped me up – it didn’t seem like he was remorseful from the limited information provided. Here there’s no mention of it either. I’m just genuinely curious.

    1. MuseumChick

      This is a good point. I guess two things struck about about the original letter and the update. 1) I got the sense that Jack hadn’t shown any real remorse. This could just be something that neither letter covered but I find it strong that the letter writer would say something like “I spoke to Jack and he feel absolutely terrible about what happened.” 2) The over all tone of both letters (this was discussed in the comments of the first letter) come off very “pro-Jack”. It makes me wonder what the letter writer’s relationship to Jack and Liz is like.

      OP, if you are willing, could you give more details about Jack’s reaction to all this?

      1. Cat

        I guess it isn’t surprising to me that the letters wouldn’t mention that. It seems fairly unrelated to the core issue to me. And while I suspect Jack does feel terrible, I question how productive focusing on that is – it’s an accident, things happen, his remorse isn’t going to make Liz feel better or the situation not to have happened.

        Anyway, the fact that Jack was in touch with Liz was exactly what a lot of people thought was missing in the last letter and again, suggests remorse to me.

        1. Rainy, PI

          Or ass-covering. Or defensiveness. Or deflection. Or denial that it was “that bad”.

          I mean, it could be almost anything.

      2. Belinda

        I also felt the first letter was very pro-Jack. My reading was, “My priority is Jack because he’s a good worker, but if possible, I’d like to retain Liz as well.”

        I know one of the things I thought when I read the first letter was how much my own reaction to a similar situation at my own workplace would’ve been influenced by previous interactions with coworkers and who was Jack/Liz in that scenario.

      3. Aveline

        Ditto

        The original letter and this one both bother me for being totally pro-Jack and completely unsympathetic to what Liz was going through.

        The details in the update only serve to reinforce my belief that the company and the individuals involved must have made Liz feel like she wasn’t even important to them except for the fear of being sued and as a worker bee.

        In that type of situation, I can see where she felt it was a zero-sum game between her and Jack. It does seem that way to me reading this.

        They chose Jack. They have to own that now.

        1. TootsNYC

          made Liz feel like she wasn’t even important to them except for the fear of being sued and as a worker bee.

          I agree. And I totally can see that Liz might, in the face of that, literally say, “You have to fire Jack if you want me to come back.

          animaniactoo‘s long description above of what Liz’s reactions might have been (esp. w/ Jack literally shoving her into the car, not just pushing her out of the way as he ran, and then standing there doing nothing after) was very striking to me.

          If I’d been Liz, I might well have said, literally, “fire Jack.” “Prove that you have my back by firing him.”

          It might not have been “I can’t work with him”; it might well have been, “Here’s the hoop, Company. Jump through it. Prove I matter.”

          And I totally do NOT blame her.

      4. JS

        I don’t feel like the first letter was necessarily “pro” Jack. I got from it that it was neutral, that they wanted to help both Jack and Liz and keep them as employees. However they weren’t going to be held hostage to any ultimatums and ultimately “sided” with Jack due to that. I don’t get the feeling that if Liz had asked for all bills and recovery paid for and to be transferred off the team, or had special accommodations made where she wasn’t working with Jack, that this wouldn’t have been provided for her.

    2. Maxwell Edison

      Same here. It’s not clear to me if Jack or the company ever extended anything by way of apology to Liz. The concerns mainly have been whether Liz will come back to work and whether she’ll sue. The whole thing is so detached and emotionless.

      1. Scion

        The original letter makes it very clear that Jack/the company called Liz to apologize:
        Jack called her with HR present to apologize

        Now, whether or not it was a sincere apology is another matter.

        1. Maxwell Edison

          Considering everything else we’ve learned, I’m thinking it was fairly low on the Sincere-O-Meter.

    3. Andy

      me too! It’s like he (and this was just my impression so I might be reading too much) has come to the point that he accepted his phobia as an illness and there it is and there it’ll stay. it’s an illness and therefore ‘not his fault’ in his mind and therefore less apology but more explanation is in order…but no one wants to hear that noise right out of surgery, y’all.

      1. Salamander

        This. I feel like the company bent over backwards to protect Jack in this situation when he isn’t the harmed party. Looks like the victim of the incident is out in the cold. The optics are terrible, and I’d frankly want to avoid doing business with them.

  23. Buffy Summers

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but when OP says Jack decided to take a break from therapy, does that mean that he will no longer be in therapy for his bird phobia? That seems like a very weird choice to make, especially when his phobia caused him to seriously injure another person. Wouldn’t that cause a bit of alarm in OP? It certainly would me, but I understand that it’s not something you’d necessarily want to fire someone over, but I would be concerned about it happening again.
    I do think Liz also had a very strange reaction to the whole thing. I get being angry, furious even, at first, but just ceasing communications? Not filing a worker’s comp claim? I know I’d certainly need the money for the surgery and hospital stay.

    1. Observer

      It’s actually a very understandable reaction – especially since no one seems to have put in any effort to make Liz feel better, or to insure that she doing well, etc.

      Sometimes taking a financial hit is necessary for your mental health.

      1. Anon today...and tomorrow

        “Sometimes taking a financial hit is necessary for your mental health.”

        Yes. I’ve done this myself – not to the tune of thousands of dollars brought on by hospital stays and surgery – but sometimes writing off money you know you’re owed helps. It’s weird and hard to explain, but it really is true.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          Absolutely. The reverse is people who stay in a toxic job (or other situation) because they are not about to back down, because that would be like admitting defeat and letting the horrible employer win.

          1. Seal

            My late father had this mindset. In fact, that was exactly what he told me when I finally left a terribly toxic job after sticking it out for far too many years; that by leaving, I had let my former employer win. In reality, the exact opposite was true. Although being unemployed and underemployed for almost a year was tough at times, leaving that place was the best thing I ever did for myself. My former employer offered free tuition for college classes, which allowed me to earn an additional degree before I left. Between that and the years of experience and institutional knowledge I took with me, I was eventually able to land a much better job that lead to an actual career and my self-confidence soared. In the end, the person who “won” was ME.

            I hope for Liz’s sake that taking no action against the company or Jack is helping her recover mentally and physically. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all that matters.

    2. Anna

      I think the break from therapy means he’s probably evaluating if the therapy was working and if he needs to look closer at different options.

      I do agree that Liz’s reaction is a bit weird. It’s possible in her head she saw it as on purpose and deliberate and that’s why she’s feeling so strongly about it. I don’t know.

      1. HRChick

        Or there is some kind of residual trauma. I mean, it’s not like he just accidently bumped her. He shoved her into a car causing her serious injury. Then, it was some time before she was informed that it was due to his phobia.

        I got into a car accident that was all my fault and I took a long time to get comfortable. Can’t imagine what it feels like to be shoved violently and hurt that way. I understand the phobia thing, but I think people are WAY to easy to dismiss what Liz has gone through.

      2. Manders

        I’ve worked with some people who had recent accidents and were still on strong painkillers. Their behavior could be pretty weird for the few weeks after an injury. Dealing with a complicated job situation, possible legal proceedings, and medical bills at the same time is very hard when you’re sober–and on some painkillers, you’re absolutely not going to be clear-headed enough to be tactful while you try to cope with it all.

        HR should have known better than to keep pushing Liz for the answer they wanted while she was recovering from surgery.

    3. LoiraSafada

      I think those of us that have experienced a toxic workplace aren’t at all surprised by her actions. This was handled in a totally bumbling and unprofessional manner by her former employer, and ‘Jack’ doesn’t seem remorseful in the slightest. I wouldn’t want these people contacting me at all. If anything, the communication they did choose to have and what those communications contained likely made the entire situation seem worse for Liz. It comes across as the company wanting to smooth things over and absolve themselves of any culpability rather than actually expressing concern for her well-being and ability to manage the financial fallout of the situation.

      1. Aveline

        In the original comments, people were all upset that Liz made it a zero sum game and demanded Jack be fired.

        After reading this update, I can see why she felt pushed into that position.

        The entire response of the company was 100% tone deaf. She must have felt like they didn’t care about her at all and only cared about CYA and Jack.

        1. Recruit-o-rama

          I was very surprised that people took it as Liz “demanding” anything at all. She decided she could not work with Jack so she resigned without any demand. The company pursued her and she told them that the only way she could work there would be if Jack didn’t work there. She didn’t demand anything at all. She moved on. She’s the most professional of the entire group.

          1. Aveline

            I think we all fill in gaps in information based upon our own experiences and biases.

            I read Liz as being the reasonable one. That doesn’t make Jack bad or the villain.

      2. Salamander

        Yep. They really circled the wagons around Jack, didn’t they?

        I really got irritated by the idea that Liz should not be compelled to forgive and forget, to be a nice girl and rug-sweep to make Jack and the company more comfortable. It gets dangerously close to victim-silencing, and I am not cool with that.

        1. Relly

          This bothered me, as well, and I think it’s one of the reasons I reacted strongly to this letter previously. I’ve experienced too much “person X apologized, therefore it’s over, and you’re Not Allowed to still be upset about it” in my life.

          My sympathy for Liz doesn’t hinge on her bring a saint. She’s been through something awful. She doesn’t stop being a victim here even if she was cranky on the phone or didn’t handle this like Mother Theresa. (I don’t think she was cranky. Just saying.)

        2. paul

          Agreed. I don’t place a lot of moral blame on Jack–phobias suck, I know, trust me. But given the fact that A: they asked her what it would take to get her back (and that was her answer, not an unsolicited ultimatum) and that B: she was *also* traumatized here, I saw a fair number of post essentially asking her not act like someone that was just recently very injured by the coworker.

  24. Lablizard

    This seems like it was the best possible outcome for your company, especially on the monetary front (e.g. no worker’s comp claim, no lawsuit). I do wish HR and Jack had heard Liz’s “no” and stopped trying to contact her, but at least the lawyer’s letter put an end to that. I am happy to hear she has a new job and has moved on.

    If I were Jack’s manager, I would consider, if possible, restricting Jack’s work activities to only working onsite or requiring travel to be solo until Jack feels he has a better handle on his phobia. This situation could have had a much worse outcome for the company, Jack, and Liz.

  25. Augusta Sugarbean

    I was surprised and he volunteered that information without me asking. But since I am in a management position over him, I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to comment or tell him that.

    So if I understand things correctly, a company can’t generally ask staff about medical issues. But since the employee volunteered this information and his condition caused a serious workplace incident, can the manager say something like “okay, but what measures are in place to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again?”

    1. Aveline

      Exactly. One would hope that HR and the legal team are addressing this.

      I don’t think it’s on OPs head to proactively raise the issue with them, but in her shoes I’d be concerned about it happening again.

      The two things that really got to me in the original letter and comments were the astounding lack of empathy for Liz and the complete absence of an understanding that there needed to a plan in place to prevent this from happening again.

    2. KellyK

      Yeah, that seems reasonable. They’re not entitled to the details of his therapy, and they certainly don’t get a vote in what treatment options he pursues, but I do think it’s their obligation to make sure this isn’t repeated. It might be as simple as asking him to keep more space between himself and others while outdoors.

  26. Belinda

    I don’t know if Liz told them what happened during the interview but our industry in this area is small and I know for sure she has now told her new job everything that happened.

    I’m curious as to whether OP is concerned about how this incident might impact one of their recruiting/retention efforts. It’s a small industry, word gets around. I didn’t weigh in on the original letter, but if I had been one of the coworkers who witnessed this awful event, I think I would be a little uneasy about how it was handled because it seemed Liz took the full brunt of the consequences.

    1. INeedANap

      Yes, I would also be wondering what larger effects this is going to have on the company. I know that, had I heard this story, I would probably choose not to apply for the company if I had any choice about it – like, if I was about to be evicted because I had no money and I was utterly desperate for work, maybe, but otherwise no way. I would not want to be an employee there. I also know that, as a hypothetical employee, I would be very uneasy working around Jack. I’m not trying to blame him or be unfair, but he *was* the cause of a significant and traumatic injury to another co-worker. I know I would personally be wondering about whether or not he was in control of himself and be wondering what types of situations could potentially trigger another reaction in him that could result in injury to myself or another co-worker.

      I would also wonder if this story was going to get around to the clients. I can’t see any way this whole situation wouldn’t reflect poorly on the company. I don’t necessarily think that is fair or unfair – just that the situation is bizarre and tragic and I don’t feel like this is a good resolution for the person who was injured from an outsider’s perspective. I would probably not want to do business with a company that had this kind of… well scandal is the wrong word, but maybe gossip.

      1. Hanna

        I would be really interested in knowing how some of the other employees reacted to this situation and to the outcome. I can’t say with absolute certainty how I’d react, of course, but I strongly suspect that I’d be hesitant to stand near Jack outside or at the tops of staircases, visit client sites with him, etc. I would be quite surprised if everything was hunky-dory at the company after this event.

    2. Red Stapler

      I agree, it looks awful that the company took a wait and see position which ultimately means they offered Liz no compensation at all. I’d think twice about working for that company if I heard about this situation.

  27. Amber Rose

    Some extra details here that weren’t in the original letter make me uneasy. Jack may be excellent with work but I’d be keeping a close eye on him. I don’t know if I can call this the best ending, but I’m glad that Liz is moving on.

    1. Flurtisho

      Some mention of safegaurds being implemented to prevent this happening again would make this a more satisfying ending for me. The vibe the company is giving is that they want to act like nothing happened- in neither letter has the manager said anything about prevention.

    2. oldbiddy

      I am wondering if Liz has friends/contacts at her new company and they stepped in to help her out of a bad situation. I am also glad she is moving on.

  28. Still haven't created I name I like myself here yet

    I’m glad topics like this will now be subject to stricter moderation. I contemplated ending my readership of this site due to the original post along with the bully one from a few days ago due to how ugly the comments were.

    With that being said I’m glad that Liz has moved on from this traumatic experience she had. I hope Jack resumes or finds new therapy options to better manage his condition. I currently use CBT and I fight hard to manage my avoidance tendencies when I can. I spent 2 years being agoraphobic and had struggled returning to the workforce because of it The only phobias I haven’t resolved yet are buzzing insects and driving but with those I am taking my time with so I understand where he’s coming from.

    1. lurking and such today

      Good luck treating your phobias! A childhood friend had a ketchup (surprisingly not blood) phobia (I can’t even pronounce it) 20+ years. It’s a phobia that garners very little if any empathy. They were witness to a family member’s homicide at a very young age and it took therapist #6 to make the connection (very painful process). 25 years later and she finally can enjoy fries with ketchup without getting light headed/panic attack/passing out.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq

      I’ve been shaken as well by the tone of comments on both of those posts. It is comforting to know that Alison is aware of the issues and being proactive about it. I’m also trying to take a little more care myself and duck out of comment threads early if they look to be going to a rough place, as hard as that might be given how much downtime I’ve got right now. I can only imagine that the bird post was even tougher to read if you’ve struggled with phobias interfering with work yourself. Honestly, I just wish everyone the best, in the end.

      1. annnnon

        could someone explain the problem with the bully posts? I read it when there were maybe 500 comments and didn’t see anything particularly rough or antagonistic. did it take a turn?

        1. Sylvia

          People came down very hard on the OP without much evidence, generally based on their experience of being bullied.

          1. Aveline

            Yes, but on the other hand, there were a lot of people saying that it was in no way bullying and that the “victim” was being a drama queen. This was also traumatizing to people who were bullied and dismissive of their experience.

            The entire thread was polarized. I do not think it was one side or the other that was worse. We were all reading it through our own lens.

            Thing is, once we veer off of strict offering advice to the OP, you do get into personal filters and perception. People on both sides of that issue were reading it through their own POV and being unkind to those with different POVs.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq

              I think that any time a situation can be broken down into “sides” there’s a real potential for ugliness. It’s the blue/gold dress problem: given incomplete information, our brains are prone to latch onto (sometimes invisible) areas of recognition and interpret everything according to that filter. Reality is seldom so black and while.

            2. Falling Diphthong

              I really dislike accusations of drama llama based on third-, fourth-, fifth-hand accounts of someone’s reaction. There’s all sorts of context obviously missing. (And more than once I’ve seen some sort of follow-up casually toss in a detail that makes the initial strong reaction seem rational and what normal people with boundaries and limits do.)

        2. Still haven't created I name I like myself here yet

          I found there was alot of mentions of people passively [so even if they didn’t mean it that way] saying the OP deserves what they got coming to them, karma, revenge is a dish served cold, blah blah blah where the focus was less on giving the op advice on the issue she asked about and more about projecting their past experiences on the op and condemning them.

          When people like myself tried to point this out, I got nothing but nasty replies and u found it very triggering for me to have to be subjected to that. That type of conduct discourages letter writers and commenters who may have a different view of things. That was what I had also experienced with the original version of this post. Mental illness is a very complicated topic so it’s hard for some people to be able to speak on the subject without taking it to a place [myself included] the biggest thing I was taught was that it’s ok to be mentally ill and that doesn’t make me a monster, but I also have to accept that my illness can and will affect other people too so I need to always be mindful of that.

          And I will tell you it’s not easy to always keep that in check. That’s the battle jack might be having.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq

            That was my issue as well. There was a great deal of shadenfreude that swerved into fat-shaming and classism and ableism (in particular with respect to drug addiction) and ended up feeling like a giant pile-on. I also felt that there was a fairly pervasive lack of empathy toward the OP, especially once it became more clear what had happened in high school. It’s easy to build a narrative where we are the good guy and other people are bad guys, but I think it’s far more complex than that, and seeing so many people failing to address that kind of hurt my heart.

            And I agree, the bird post had a similarly combative tone to it as well: either Jack is the villain and Liz is the hero/victim, or vice versa. As it turns out, very few situations are that cut and dry.

            1. Jesmlet

              I think this is a good lesson for everyone to remember, both here and in their own lives. Nothing is ever black and white and everyone should try playing devil’s advocate whenever they feel strongly about something and acknowledge the merit of the opposing point of view. We can feel bad for both Liz and Jack, and feel bad for both OP and the person OP bullied. We should never rejoice at someone else’s suffering or trivialize someone else’s feelings in pursuit of winning an argument.

            2. Halpful

              MegaMoose, I think you hit the nail on the head here with ‘Schadenfreude’. When something hits a nerve, it can be very tempting to set up a narrative that gives you an excuse to dump all those feelings on someone else. Righteous anger, schadenfreude, bigotry, contempt… they’re much more comfortable to the wielder than insecurity, fear, and vulnerability.

              It takes a lot more energy to hold that in and process it and figure out what’s really bothering you and what would actually be useful to say. And when you don’t have the spoons for that, choosing to say nothing is really hard too. I made an ass of myself on another site recently because some part of me wanted to say *something* more than it wanted to say something *useful*.

              I wonder, would it be useful for Alison to ban schadenfreude? Would it even be enforceable? The first rule is already “be kind”, which you’d think would cover that, but even in this heavily-moderated post I’ve skimmed past some posts that felt icky.

              Last week I might have argued against it – having to always police my own tone is its own kind of icky – but having seen the consequences of indulging those feelings, I’m much less impressed by their arguments.

              1. fposte

                I think if somebody could invent a righteous indignation filter it would save the whole internet.

              1. MegaMoose, Esq

                Well, I don’t know about “clear clear”, but the OP did show up and give a lot more information about what happened. I forget the user name they ended up with, but if you search for Alison’s “Ask A Manager” comments I know she replied to at least one of them. I’m going to not try and paraphrase here because that way lies dragons.

              2. Gadfly

                Lots of scattered replies. Some of which are a little contradictory. So even if you find them all it is still a mess.

        3. Clever Name

          There were tons and tons of “I was bullied and I’d do the same in this position” type of posts. I find myself scrolling past the dozens of similar comments in some threads. I understand everyone wants to get their 2 cents in, but after a while, it’s repetitive and doesn’t really add anything to the conversation.

          1. voyager1

            I am glad to see an update to this original letter, sounds like Liz is moving on.

            I agree with many others, the bully thread comments were horrid. I thought the shameing of the OP in the loud sex letter was bad last year, but that bully thread was off the charts. I hope going forward that the topic of bullying doesn’t come up again.

            One thing I have noticed, when LW’s give little or vague details commenters fill in with their own, many times incorrectly.

              1. TrainerGirl

                If I’m not mistaken, I think the OP in that letter was on a business trip and heard her coworker in the next room having, as OP referred to it, “loud drunken sex”. The OP was writing for advice on whether to say something to the coworker, and I think the letter had a bit of pearl-clutching indignation.

  29. Anon-J

    Liz might be taking the high road by not personally filing a civil suit or even a workers’ comp claim but I don’t think Jack or the company (most likely the company) are out of the woods yet. First, the company should have immediately notified their workers’ comp insurer of the incident. I suspect it will yet get back around to them when Liz’s health insurance company moves to subrogate the claim for her medical expenses that are actually a result of a work related injury. I can almost guarantee they will find out and do just that.

    And depending on how good Liz’s health insurance is, she may have a change of heart on filing a claim when the bills start rolling in. She should certainly seek to have her out of pocket expenses covered even if she does not pursue other damages.

    1. em2mb

      That was my thought, too. I doubt all the medical bills are settled yet. It’s almost May, and I’m still getting about one bill a week I need to respond to from a hospitalization in early October. There are so many different steps in the back-and-forth over who pays, who bills, who settles that unless this happened a year or two ago, it’s hard for me to imagine it’s over.

    2. paul

      If the health insurance is offered through the employer, would the insurance company still seek subrogation? I don’t know how all that works but it seems it’d be awkward to be suing your own client (since the company presumably helps pay for insurance).

      1. Natalie

        Workers comp and health insurance are frequently provided by different companies. The companies may battle it out with each other, no matter who’s paying the premiums.

    3. Kimberly R

      I was wondering the same thing about Liz’s medical insurance. If they do refuse to pay (and from my experience with insurances, it seems likely), she may have to come back to Jack or the company to pay for the thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, in medical bills. I would want a clean break too, but not at that expense.

    4. Aveline

      Saying “I won’t sue” is not the same as a settlement agreement. She can sue as long as the statute of limitations hasn’t run.

      It also doesn’t prevent any of her insurers or providers from going after Jack or the company directly.

      They are not out of the woods until some agreements are signed or the statute runs.

    5. Construction Safety

      Yeah, when we have an event which will definitely result in a medical and/or indemnity claim, we can have a claim number before the victim is treated. We’ll also send a supervisor level employee with the victim to ensure prompt attention and all the company’s info is properly transmitted to the treating facility.
      OTOH, a company which doesn’t have regular contact with their WC carrier, may not even know how to start a claim.

    6. CDM

      Legally, this is a work comp claim, it occurred on company time and in the course of company business.

      Assuming this is in the US, I can pretty much guarantee the health insurance carrier will figure out it is a work related injury – especially since there was a police investigation – and deny (further) payment.

      The OP says “Liz didn’t file a work comp claim”. It is not Liz’s responsibility though it is her right to file. It is the responsibility of the employer to file the claim within 7 days of the injury. The employer is subject to fines and sanctions from the state for failing to do so.

      The work comp carrier is going to be very unhappy with employer when they find out about this because the employer has impaired the insurance company’s right to manage the treatment and the return to work. And the comp carrier will report the injury to the state.

      1. Hanna

        It seems like the employer is significantly underestimating the effect that this incident may have on them.

      2. Retail HR Guy

        You are assuming quite a lot here that you can’t know.

        Workers’ Comp is very state specific, and very little of what you are stating here applies to all states. For example, sometimes it is absolutely up to the employee whether or not they want to file a claim (the employer’s and health insurer’s preferences be damned). In other states it is the responsibility of the attending physician and not the employer to initiate a claim. What’s more, in many states the parking lot would not be considered the workplace and workers’ comp wouldn’t apply here. There is also not always a “right to manage the treatment and the return to work” for insurance companies; any sort of directing medical care is forbidden in some states.

        A lot of this is company-specific, too. You don’t even know whether this company has a workers’ comp insurance carrier or an independent health insurance carrier. They could be self-insured on one or the other or both, which could give the company the power to do things like, say, just tell the health insurance plan TPA to accept the claim and not subrogate it.

        1. Gyrfalcon

          Retail HR Guy, thank you for explaining that this varies by state, and some of the ways it can vary.

          In my state, whenever I have had an accident and gone to the hospital or ER, I have been asked there about whether it occurred at work. And if there’s been any kind of time off work as a result, HR has been proactive about checking with me also.

          So I was surprised by the statements here that Liz could choose not to go through worker’s comp (although I now gather from you that we still don’t know for sure what her state’s regulations are and what will happen.)

          In any case, you have inspired me to find out more about how worker’s comp works in my state, and what choices (if any) or obligations I have if I have a workplace accident.

          1. nonegiven

            I remember one story where a truck driver had parked for the night, I am assuming he didn’t realize he was on a train track. He and his SO were in the sleeper, not sleeping. After the lawyers got finished the judge ruled he was at work and WC did cover his injuries.

        2. CDM

          In most states a parking lot injury *before* or *after* work (and some states, during lunch) is not a work camp claim. Returning to the office after a business meeting is always work related. Any injury incurred in the course of doing business falls under work comp, coverage is not limited to the business office location. Coverage isn’t even limited to the state the employer is located in.

          If what you are saying were true, drivers, salespersons, delivery persons, repair persons, building tradespersons, would have zero coverage for any work they perform after they exit the office doors.

          In fact, injuries sustained in non-work activities (such as vigorous sex) while on a business trip are covered by work comp, this is settled case law.

          Being self-insured for workers comp does not absolve the company from complying with state work comp laws. Except in a Texas, but they are always an outlier. It’s clear from the posts that the company isn’t small enough to fall under the statutory exemptions from work comp coverage for very small businesses.

          I can only find reference to two states that allow an employee to opt out of filing a work comp claim, KY and IL, and IL only allows illegally employed minors to opt out, thus preserving their right to sue the employer. I’m not sure if you are confusing that with the right of officers of corporations and members of LLCs who have the right to opt out of work comp coverage from the companies they have an ownership interest in, on an annual basis, but not to opt out of individual claims.

          While some states may mandate that doctors report work comp claims (how is the doctor supposed to get the reporting information if the employer isn’t cooperative?), it is always part of the insurance contract between the carrier and the insured that the insured has the responsibility of timely reporting of claims. The only reference I could find about doctors reporting work comp claims was Utah, where doctors are required to submit a report to the state within 7 days of first treatment, while the employer is required to submit the claim to the work comp carrier within 7 days of the injury. Most states have standardized reporting forms for doctors to fill out about the injury, but that isn’t the same as initially reporting the claim to the carrier.

          Requiring a doctor to chase down policy information to report claims is a huge waste of their time, and doctors have lobbyists. I don’t see smart lawmakers letting that get out of committee.

          1. Teapots Inc HR

            Do you work in insurance or are you posturing for the thread? What you’re stating isn’t accurate via your google search.

    7. Anna

      I wish if she didn’t sue, she would have at least gone for workman’s comp. She absolutely deserves that at a minimum. This could be one of those situations where right now she feels so righteously angry she’s not making many logical decisions for her future.

  30. Engineer Woman

    Thanks for the update and best of luck to all involved, including the OP.
    Good to learn that Liz was able to get out of this company and find a new job as it wasn’t good for her to remain when HR and Jack seemed to be overstepping to continue contact when she clearly didn’t want any.

  31. Katniss

    Poor Liz. It’s great that she has a new job, and I hope she enjoys it and recovers fully from her injuries. I can’t imagine how traumatic that experience was for her.

  32. annalisa karenina

    I’m glad Liz found another job. I’m assuming Jack will be looking for treatment options that will be more successful. I wish him the best as well. Thanks for the update!

  33. JamToday

    I have nothing useful or insightful to add, just that this is one of the weirdest workplace scenarios I’ve ever read about.

  34. Temperance

    I have to say that I find this update really upsetting. I still think that the company should have offered Liz a severance, and offered to cover her medical bills, rather than immediately engaging in CYA action. I’m glad that she’s moved on with her life and has a new job, but I still think she is due compensation, even if she doesn’t emotionally want to take the step of filing a claim.

    I also think, as Jack’s manager, you should probably have a conversation with him regarding his choice to forego therapy at this time, and set up a safety plan in case he needs to do work travel to outside meetings again.

    1. Esperanza

      I am also upset by this update. Liz probably would have accepted compensation if they had handled this completely differently from the beginning — and now she’s getting nothing because she finds it too traumatizing to even deal with these people.

    2. AMG

      It seems to me that this is a discussion that you or HR should have. Encountering a bird isn’t exactly uncommon, and now there’s a precedent. I’m not a llama, but what if something were to happen again? Unlikely, I know, but like I said, it’s not like it’s a unicorn phobia. Where can you go without seeing anbird nearby at some point? What if that overlaps with work?

      1. Temperance

        After the original letter went up, I took a walk at lunch and consciously tried to count birds in the area. There were just so many – dozens on my block, even. I’m near a park, but still.

        I think it’s really bizarre and frankly irresponsible of the company not to try to work with Jack on this, if they’re intent on keeping him around. I understand the deep shame and stigma surrounding mental illness, but we now know that he actively pushed a woman in front of a moving car and that he is taking a break from treatment, which is obviously his choice to make. IDK, this whole situation is so off to me.

        1. Tuxedo Cat

          I’m stuck on this one too. I feel for the parties involved, I know that workplaces can’t demand treatment, and I understand that therapy/treatment isn’t one-size-fits-all.

          At the same time, I’m wondering how this office can handle this issue. Even Jack doesn’t go out of the office for work meetings, has there been any discussion about entering and exiting the work place? I know it hasn’t happened before, but it happened once and birds are common. It could happen again. I don’t know if Jack has figured out ways to reasonably prevent this from happening, but it’s a worthwhile conversation to have…

        2. Hannah

          I don’t disagree with you, but I would just note that the original letter did say the bird flew away, so I think the bird taking flight towards him was probably the trigger. While it is still a risk to happen anytime, just to be fair, that is probably not an everyday occurrence.

      2. Lablizard

        When I first read the letter I wondered how it would have played out if it was a stranger walking down the sidewalk who was pushed, not a coworker. To me, now that the company knows about Jack’s phobia, they need to sit down and discuss with him what a reasonable accommodation looks like.

    3. C in the Hood

      This…has the company implemented a safety plan? (Is Jack now exempt from off-site meetings, for example?) If I were one of the current co-workers, I would be concerned about this.
      At this point, reaching out to Liz is off the table. The only thing you can do is make any necessary legal preparations, just in case she changes her mind about suing.

      1. Fuzzywuzzy

        I was going to ask this. Is there a plan for keeping this (or something even worse – what if they’d been crossing a bridge and he’d pushed her off the bridge?) from happening again? If I were one of Jack’s coworkers I’d be sympathetic to his phobia but quite honestly worried about being outside with him. And now that his phobia is a known quality, surely the company makes itself more liable if it something does happen and nothing has been done to mitigate the danger to Jack’s co-workers. There has to be something that can be done to keep people safer without impacting Jack or his coworkers negatively, be it Jack not traveling with coworkers or teleconferencing into off-site meetings.

    4. Marisol

      I agree on both points. And I am kind of shocked that the manager isn’t being more proactive. He says, “but since I am in a management position over him, I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to comment or tell him that. [i.e. therapy]”

      Dude, your employee caused a coworker to suffer a major injury, and it could well happen again–the danger has not abated as far as we know–and you don’t think it is appropriate to talk about??? I understand not wanting to discuss the particulars of therapy, but this matter is still not resolved and strategy needs to be discussed. YOU NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS.

      1. Rainy, PI

        “The quality of his work hasn’t suffered”, which is great, but I have a hard time believing the quality of his relationships with his coworkers hasn’t suffered.

        1. Marisol

          You’d think there would be some fallout in that respect. This scenario has an unsettling, Stepford-esque vibe to me, like things are just getting sweeped under the carpet.

    5. Jessie the First (or second)

      Agree with the first paragraph. That she never asked and/or demanded the company reimburse her this does not mean the company shouldn’t have proactively *offered* to cover her bills. I’m not a fan at all of how this has played out.

      For the 2nd para, they should not question Jack about his therapy choices; that’s not their business and it is intrusive. But as they are now fully aware of his phobia, an actual discussion where they address whether accommodations are a good idea and what that would look like seem to be in order here.

    6. only acting normal

      The OP can absolutely set up a safety plan, but initiating a conversation to discuss Jack’s treatment choices is not the place of a manager or HR – that’s between Jack and his doctor(s) same as any medical condition.

      I’m uncomfortable with all the judgement BTL (albeit some well meaning) about what treatment Jack is seeking or not. Jack has an irrational reaction in a very specific situation, that doesn’t mean he isn’t fully able to make rational decisions the rest of the time, including about his own medical treatment. It’s part of the ongoing stigma attached to mental illness that you can never know your own mind – and there’s a deeply unpleasant history of forced procedures as a result.

  35. Gandalf the Nude

    I still feel so bad for everyone involved. I hope Jack finds a new therapist that actually helps him. It sounds like the last one was not very effective and may have even been exacerbating his issues. And considering his diagnosis and treatment was a mitigating factor in the debate over his employment and that folks are concerned he could cause harm again, it makes sense that he’d want to let OP know now that he’s between therapists rather than having to admit it if another incident occurs.

    He and the company really should have left Liz be, though. She made it pretty clear that no amount of apologizing was going to change her mind. (I’m taking it as a given that there were apologies offered because that what most people would do and it seems uncharitable to assume they weren’t just because it wasn’t mentioned explicitly.) We have to accept it when another person’s discomfort outweighs our guilt, and the radio silence should have signaled that well enough to give up the fight.

  36. stacdc

    I can’t help but wonder if Liz is waiting until she’s no longer in need of treatment. She may still be under the care of a physician and filing a lawsuit at this stage would be premature when she may not know her long-term medical expenses or needs.

    I am disappointed with the company for not handling this with more sensitivity toward Liz.

    1. jasper_red

      Yeah that’s a good point. The only time I had to go through a lawyer to get medical expenses paid out (after a car accident in which I was not at fault) he filed at the end, after my treatment was finished. So I wouldn’t count it out either.

    2. AnonEMoose

      I tend to agree with this. I also wonder if Jack is not so much taking a break from therapy as evaluating his options. Actually, I wonder if he might be seeking some kind of post-trauma care, too. No way to know, but that seems like a reasonable step for him to take.

      What happened to Liz is undoubtedly traumatic…but knowing that he (however inadvertently) caused her injuries, dealing with the police investigation, etc., seems like it might be pretty traumatic for Jack, too. No way of knowing if he is doing that, but I hope that both he and Liz are getting whatever care they may need or want.

      And I agree that, at least based on the information we have, Liz was not treated well by the company. I’m very glad for her that she’s found a new position, and I hope she’s doing well, and healing well.

  37. Observer

    OP, as others have said, you still don’t know what will happen from the financial aspect.

    But, I am concerned about the situation with Jack. You are right that you can’t tell him what to do about therapy. But, you really do need to do something, because if something were to happen, you would be on the hook. And, it’s also likely to affect your reputation.

    Talk to the HR experts you already called in about what your next steps need to be. Whether it’s making sure that Jack is not out an about with people, or insisting that he comes up with SOME plan to deal with his phobia or a combination, you need to do something to minimize the risk he poses. The point here is not to push him to continue his current therapy, but to make it clear that he needs to put in the work to at least not create these kinds of situations. It’s not going to happen overnight, but he needs to start.

  38. Winger

    I must say it’s disappointing to me that Liz appears not to be pursuing the options available to her. It’s not as though it will be a long drawn out court battle – the company would settle immediately for something and Liz would be made whole. It’s nice that she is able to move on but I always believe people ought to exercise their options when things like this happen. I’ve had a couple friends who have been in similar situations (not so dramatic) and I couldn’t help but be puzzled that neither of them pursued any kind of legal action, which they were both totally entitled to and which would have worked out in their favor.

      1. em2mb

        My knee jerk reaction when I read the letter was, “Oh my God, oh my God, I would be so traumatized if that happened to me, I could never go back to that employer again, sue Jack for all he’s worth … ” You get the idea.

        But then I remembered how the lengthy legal battle after my grandparents died in a car accident that wasn’t their fault. There was a liability cap, and at the end of the day, my mother and uncle got just a little more than what it took to cover their legal fees. If Liz did not need someone else to cover her medical bills, she’s probably saved herself a lot of suffering.

        1. Turtle Candle

          Yes. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Liz wants to put this behind her as much as possible–which is much more difficult if you spend that time embroiled in a lengthy legal battle. I’ve had times where I walked away from a potential ‘victory’ because it would have forced me to dwell on something unpleasant for longer than necessary, and it just wasn’t worth it. (And none of those were as intense and exhausting as legal matters, even.)

        2. Jaguar

          There’s also something to be said for just not being litigious minded. It’s not obvious to me that western society has benefited from how willing people are to sue one another and I certainly think more of a person for declining the option to seek restitution.

          1. Katie the Fed

            I don’t really think that’s fair. Not everyone is looking for an easy pay day. I won’t tell you my tale of woe but I do think you’re sweeping with a really broad brush there.

            1. Jaguar

              I’m not disparaging the right of people to seek restitution and I’m certainly not trying to argue against the rule of law. People sue other people and that’s their right. I don’t take a dimmer view of them for having done that. However, if people have been wronged and choose not to exercise their right to restitution before the law, I think that’s pretty obviously admirable and I gain quite a bit of admiration for the person for making that choice.

              1. Katie the Fed

                I don’t think it’s obviously admirable at all. Should I take leave without pay when I have a baby because I was forced to burn 2 months of accrued leave to recover from an accident that wasn’t my fault? Should I mortgage my family’s future because I refuse to seek reimbursement for the significant medical expenses I incurred?

                1. Jaguar

                  Again, I don’t think poorly of people for seeking restitution. The option is there, it’s good that it’s there as it’s the underpinning of the rule of law, and it enables people to enforce the protections they have a right to. I do not and would not think poorly of someone for seeking restitution.

                  That said, I do want to take the moment to admire Liz for deciding not to seek restitution that she quite obviously would be entitled to. The comment I was originally responding to was one saying “sue Jack for all he’s worth” with the caveat that the law can be arduous so it’s understandable if they don’t. I want to suggest that being wronged and choosing not to seek restitution despite that is pretty obviously worthy of admiration (it’s not obvious this is why Liz didn’t, but it’s the crux of what I was responding to). If you can’t make that decision, fine. If making that decision would incur hardship, then I wouldn’t want someone to do so. But facing a tragedy perpetrated upon you and deciding to accept it is, to me, pretty obviously worthy of admiration. If that’s the case with Liz (and we can’t know that), I think it’s worth bringing up when speculating on her motives for not suing, especially in the case where it isn’t obviously malice.

                2. LBK

                  You’ve said repeatedly that it’s obvious that this is worthy of admiration but it seems pretty clear that others (and I) don’t think it’s obvious. I’m struggling to understand why you think that’s admirable; is it because you see it as taking the high road or being the bigger person?

                3. Katie the Fed

                  Jaguar, you keep saying “obviously” when none of what you’re saying is obvious at all. You’ve been very clear on your opinion that it’s admirable of people to eat the expenses incurred by someone else’s negligence, but I don’t think that’s an obvious conclusion at all.

                  I think if you ever found yourself in a situation like this you’d feel very, very differently.

                  Alison – sorry for taking this off track. I’ll leave it alone now.

                4. esra

                  @Jaguar I guess I’m finding it pretty confusing as to why that’s admirable. Why is it more admirable to not exercise a right? I’m not sure I agree that unnecessary suffering is in any way something that would make you a better person.

              2. Browser

                If you are calling people giving up their legal rights “admirable,” you are clearly implying that people who exercise their legal rights are not admirable and you think less of them.

          2. Aveline

            I think this is entirely unfair. The perception of people being “sue happy” and the reality are very different.

            The general public thinks people are filing suits right and left. That’s not the case.

            For a case of this nature to see a courtroom, it has to be pretty severe.

            Only the high-dollar, high-damage makes it into court.

            The real issue in western societies is NOT the ability of people to sue willy-nilly but the fact that those without $$$ or with low dollar claims really can’t get justice.

            I volunteer for my local legal aid (and am on the board). I do several hundred hours of pro bono a year. It’s heart-wrenching.

            But there is something worse: It’s telling Grandma Jones that we can’t help her b/c she makes $100 too much per month. That’s telling her she can’t get justice against her slum landlord b/c we can’t take her case and it’s not worth the risk for a private attorney to take on. (Not because of the fees, but because of the malpractice exposure. A lot of attorneys would work for reduced fees or work pro bono if they were not exposing themselves to being sued).

            There’s a real justice gap in the US and UK (and I’d presume a lot of other countries) for people too poor for attorneys and too well-off for legal aid.

              1. Aveline

                Yes, but you did say

                “…obvious to me that western society has benefited from how willing people are to sue one another”

                I’m addressing that. I’m saying you are wrong on your perception of how often that occurs and the outcome.

                I’m saying that form experience.

                You may not have meant to come across as someone who thinks people are too litigious, but you did. And I’m obviously not the only person who felt that way.

                1. Jaguar

                  Yeah, that was misphrased on my part. I was intending to speak more to the cultural attitudes towards lawsuits in the west more than the actual reality of how often it occurs. In other words, the difference between saying “you should sue!” versus how often people actually do. You might still disagree with that, but I have the impression that when people encourage others to sue, they’re motivated either by a sense of injustice that needs to be corrected or a sense of a victim and a villain which I think is often (including this case) a really dangerous way of viewing complicated issues.

                  There may be many more benign reasons for Liz not seeking legal restitution in this situation including not wanting to go through the legal hassle or even being too traumatized by the incident to be able to endure any length of legal battle over it, which would be truly tragic. But it’s also possible that she feels no need to correct an injustice or even that she doesn’t see it as something needing correction at all. If that’s the case, I think it’s pretty clearly worthy of admiration.

                2. Jessie the First (or second)

                  “You might still disagree with that, but I have the impression that when people encourage others to sue, they’re motivated either by a sense of injustice that needs to be corrected or a sense of a victim and a villain”

                  Well sure, even on these boards, an appeal to “is this legal? Can they do that? Is this harassment?” as if civil courts can and will Solve All the Problems. However, that’s just talk. When it comes down to actually suing, it simply doesn’t happen nearly as much as the talk of it happens. There is not a rush to the courthouse steps to solve injustice, and so I don’t see why it’s admirable for any particular person to not solve an injustice that way. Most people don’t solve problems that way. It’s …. admiring someone for solving a non-problem.

                  It’s not *not* admirable that she isn’t suing. It just is what it is.

                3. Aveline

                  Jaguar

                  I’m sorry that I’m late to reply to you as I was out at a party last night to fundraise for legal aid.

                  Thank you for clearing this up.

                  I’m grateful both you and the other posters addressed this and that the conversation remained civil and in the spirit of exchange.

          3. animaniactoo

            Fwiw, it’s having developed this kind of opinion myself (after having been indoctrinated into it by all the “crazy lawsuit!” stories that caused me *not* to sue over something that I absolutely should have.

            In part, because the damage didn’t seem so bad. It was survivable, life happens, blah blah. Yeah, well, 20 years down the line, I still have a plate in my ankle that aches if I bang it up against something sharp (more so than if I did it on the other side where there’s just bone), and a far better understanding that torn ligaments never actually fully heal.

            I no longer think more of a person for declining to seek restitution. I think they should be reasonable and try to work it out without lawyers if possible, and then with lawyers but without courts if it feels like there needs to be formal and clear agreement about responsibility, intention, acceptance, etc. But if that doesn’t work? Eh. Do what you gotta do. There’s a reason civil action exists.

          4. Hrovitnir

            Well. This isn’t really a “western” thing: are there any western countries other than the US that see suing as a response to this sort of thing? A lot of it clearly comes from the privatised healthcare system, since in the US you can be absolutely ruined by a serious accident, but even so the idea of suing someone just… doesn’t come up that much in my experience. (Potentially people should do it more in cases like medical malpractice here, but I’m glad it’s not an automatic response.)

            1. Katie the Fed

              I should point out that a lot of times even though you’re suing a person, you’re really going after their insurance. Insurance companies will try hard to not pay out, so sometimes you need a lawyer to force a resolution.

        3. Jessesgirl72

          Personal liability lawyers are very practiced at setting their fees to just a tiny bit below the amount their clients are likely to recover.

          The fact that your mother and uncle experienced this was not by happenstance.

          1. em2mb

            Honestly, they sued not for the payout, but to keep the person who caused my grandparents’ deaths from getting it (because he and his girlfriend were also injured in the accident). My mom and uncle succeeded. I don’t know if that’s “right,” but I think they felt vindicated in doing it.

          2. MegaMoose, Esq

            Litigation is plenty expensive, and some plaintiff’s attorneys are no heroes, but I’m pretty sure that the majority work on contingency.

            1. Jessesgirl72

              They do. And that contingency amount is set to take the largest chunk allowed (some jurisdictions cap it) from what the client will get, and they only take cases they are pretty sure they are going to win.

              I’m not saying they are even wrong to do so- it just is.

              1. Jessie the First (or second)

                One-third is a common contingency percentage, so I think you are engaging in some hyperbole here.

                1. Case of the Mondays

                  Well it is one third to the lawyer AND you have to pay back health insurance. The latter is what takes a lot of money away from the plaintiff. If health insurance paid their bills, all they end up with at the end of the day is pain and suffering. So, 20k in medicals, a 35k settlement, 11,666 to attys, maybe health insurance paid a reduced contracted rate of 15k and they agree to take off 1/3 to share in legal fees so they get 10k, that means 22-23k of the 35k is gone and the plaintiff gets $12k. That’s the nature of the system. It is not unethical.

                2. MegaMoose, Esq

                  Oh, litigation is definitely not a sure-fire money making option. I think Jessie the First (or second) and I were just pushing back on the idea that the reason personal injury plaintiffs don’t end up with much is because their attorneys take 90% of the award or whatever.

                3. CDM

                  33% is the common attorney contingency, but Case is also correct about repaying medical bills out of the settlement and the attorney also getting paid contingency out of that. (In many jurisdictions) Let’s see if I can make it a bit clearer.

                  Case’s hypothetical $15k in medical bills is more likely to settle for $45k than $35k.

                  The attorney gets $15k contingency off the top.
                  The attorney pays back $10k in medical bills, and keeps $5k contingency
                  Injured person gets $15k, attorney gets $20k

                  I spent one slow afternoon in the claims department in my college intern years going through 20 closed auto bodily injury claims and doing the math before I filed them. The attorney got more money than the injured person every single time once the contingency for medical bills was factored in.

                  If anyone happens to be in PA, the state $1M in extraordinary medical benefits on the auto policy is not subrogateable, so if you happen to be injured by someone with liability limits insufficient to cover your damages, having that coverage to pay your medical bills rather than your health insurance works to your benefit.

      2. Aveline

        In this case, if she sues Jack and the company gets involved, she’ll have to deal with former coworkers and her former bosses being on “team Jack” and trying to work against her interests.

        After the trauma she’s already been through, why would she want to go through more?

      3. Winger

        They can be lengthy and exhausting, that’s true. However, I am very much inclined to agree with the letter writer: “The legal department and the outside legal counsel who HR got a second opinion from had told Jack and the company to prepare for a claim and other legal action and advised all to settle because Liz had a strong case.”

        This has far, far less of a chance of turning into something lengthy and exhausting, and Liz must have known it – at least, I hope she did. I am disappointed that she evidently threw up her hands and said “ahhh this will be too much trouble” based only on an unlikely assumption that this will somehow become a huge court battle.

        Ultimately we don’t know why she did what she did. I just think it’s unfortunate when people don’t take advantage of their options based on a vague sense that its not worth it.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          We don’t know that she didn’t sue because of an assumption regarding whether this would be a huge court battle.

          Litigation is exhausting. It takes a lot of your brain space, emotional energy, and time, and it also requires having to revisit what happened over. and over. and over again.

          Given everything on Liz’s plate right now (recovering from a severe injury, having to find a new job, having to try to make payments on a plan for medical care, dealing with any PTSD or related fall out, dealing with OP’s company’s callous hounding, etc.), the thought of having to find an attorney and file suit is just one more thing on a whole mountain of crap things she’s carrying right now. And that’s if she even knows that she doesn’t have to pay an attorney up front, which is especially relevant given her current financial situation.

          It’s entirely possible that she just doesn’t have it in her right now to deal. And that’s ok. We shouldn’t assume that she hasn’t sued because she thought she would lose.

    1. AnotherAlison

      Hope not too O/T, but I had a potential medical malpractice case that I didn’t pursue at all. Never even crossed my mind, but a few years later, I realized that I really should have done something and actually regretted that I didn’t. My dentist was putting veneers on a front tooth that had a root canal and the matching tooth on the other side, and when he started to grind down my real teeth, he started on a tooth that was NOT getting a veneer. Anyway, he gave me 4 nice veneers instead of 2 and only charged me for 2, but I realized later, I should not have paid anything and I probably could have sued him.

      At the time, I was a little traumatized by that whole incident, plus the preceding root canal was also traumatic (I had a high potential of losing a front tooth completely at <35, without ever even having a cavity before). It seemed like as long as my face was going to look okay, and I wasn't out of pocket more money than I was planning on, I was not worried about fault.

      I hope that Liz clears her head so that she can evaluate fully before it's too late.

  39. Bend & Snap

    It says a lot that Liz just wanted to peace out without any financial help.

    The company dodged a bullet but it doesn’t sound like anyone has learned anything. I’m appalled by this outcome. Jack got off easy and management didn’t have to have any tough conversations or go out of its way to help make things right.

    I’d seriously be rethinking my employment if I worked there.

    1. Bess

      Yeah…

      It feels like the original letter was “is there a way to get Liz to come back” when, given further details, that’s the least of the company’s worries. I’m so curious about how other coworkers have reacted, how the company can avoid future liability if anything like this should happen again, PLUS their reputation externally.

  40. Margaret

    Since I see a few comments on this here, I’d like to note that declaring opinions on a stranger’s need for therapy (or the failure of therapy they have received) based solely on their behavior is a form of mental health stigmatization.

    1. AMG

      I don’t understand this, genuinely. To say that Jack is out of balance with his phobia and Thur it’s hurting him as well as others seems like more of a fact. Why is that harmful? It’s obviously a bad situation. ???

      1. Amy

        That kind of discussion is generally best left between the patient and their doctors; as someone not involved in that, we really don’t have the information (or the background–most of us aren’t mental health professionals) to know what’s going on with Jack medically.

        Mental health is still heavily stigmatized. A lot of people are scared of people with mental illness (even compared to a person with similar symptoms from a non-mental-illness cause). A lot of others see people with mental illness as incompetent or incapable of functioning in the world. Speculating on someone’s mental illness (both whether they have one and how well controlled it might be) brings the force of that stigma on that person, whether that was the intent or not. Hence, it’s stigmatizing.

        Of course there are some cases that are more clear-cut than others. For example, in this case, we know that Jack has a phobia, and experienced symptoms at the time of this incident. But even the most obvious-seeming cases sometimes turn out differently than you’d expect. Hence it being generally better to stay out of it and not speculate.

    2. paul

      Hard disagree when someone else’s mental health has caused other people major physical harm. If a person’s mental health issues cause them to be a threat to other people’s health (and his did), then yes, they need help. That isn’t stigmatizing mental issues. It’s valuing the well-being of everyone a person interacts with.

      1. Anonymous for mental illness

        +1. I think I’m using the same name here that I did in the original post? At any rate, I agree, as someone with a severe mental illness.

        People with disclosed mental illnesses aren’t the only ones whose wellbeing needs to be prioritized. Others around them – who may or may not have their own issues, which they may or may not disclose – need empathy and care, too.

      2. Mints

        Yeah, it seems opposite to me – the main thing we should judge people on is behavior. If somebody has bipolar or schizophrenia or one of the other more stigmatized disorders, but is managing it well and I don’t know about it – that’s great, I don’t need to know about how much maintenance it requires. But he harmed her, that’s pretty clear something needs to be done, even if I’m avoiding armchair prescriptions.

        1. Margaret

          But that’s part of the stigma–that’s there’s a one-to-one correlation between treatment and the management of mental illness, and that you can tell based on someone’s behavior whether or not their illness is “under control.” We can ask that someone not harm others, and enforce that boundary, without making assumptions about the need for medical intervention (just as we would if we didn’t know this person had a mental illness).

          1. Mints

            I’m not arguing for a specific intervention (cbt, meds, whatever) but I am saying (regarding Jack specifically), it’s not under control. Jack himself says this. I’m not saying that it’s been a failure or that I expect every therapy session to be +1 mental health or whatever.
            Like if I used to have severe deathly allergies that required hospitalization ~1x month and then my allergist got me down to a whole year with no reactions, but then I went into anaphylactic shock again, I can say my allergies are not under control even if they’ve been improving.

    3. KellyK

      That makes sense. I’m not certain where the line is with this discussion, because we’re privy to more than just the behavior. We know that the bird phobia is an issue he’s been in treatment for and that he’s currently taking a break from therapy to evaluate his options. That is, I think the moderated discussion on this second post is different than the comments you often see about “Politician X did awful thing Y, therefore they must have mental health issue Z and need treatment Q.”

      Not being mental health professionals (and even for commenters who are, not being *his* mental health professional with detailed knowledge of his history), we can’t know how successful his previous therapy has been or what other options he might have. We can surmise that it needs improvement because a problem happened, but you’re totally right that we can’t declare it a failure. Therapy doesn’t necessarily fix everything, people respond to treatment differently, and brains are complicated.

    4. Trout 'Waver

      I disagree in this instance (and I have had a mental illness in the past). If your illness negatively affects the health of other people, then by definition your own mental illness is not well controlled. There is nothing stigmatizing about saying that.

      Speculating that someone is a danger is stigmatizing. When they actually do hurt someone, then it becomes a matter of fact.

    5. Bye Academia

      I agree that it’s not good to be making a judgement about what specific treatment someone needs as an observer.

      However, it is reasonable for the OP to be concerned about this situation happening again. I don’t think it is wrong of her to wonder what steps – therapy or otherwise – Jack is taking to minimize the possibility of a similar panic response to another bird in the presence of coworkers. It’s not just about Jack’s mental health, but also about everyone’s safety. They should be working together on a plan moving forward. Whether that involves a different treatment for Jack, separate travel from coworkers, etc., something needs to change.

      I am saying all this as someone with anxiety. It’s its own form of mental health stigmatization not to hold people accountable for their behaviors, whatever the cause. Mental health struggles do not absolve people from the way their actions affect others.

      1. Amy

        I hope HR at OP’s company has worked with (or is continuing to work with) Jack to resolve any concerns they might have about safety and the possibility of future reactions. That’s really something that should fall under the coverage of accommodations needed, not just something you casually discuss with your manager.

      2. Just Another Techie

        Yes. Being infantilized as a poor dear who just can’t control herself has been very damaging to me personally and to other people with the same mental health diagnoses I have.

        It’s not our place to speculate on what treatment jack should or should not get, but it is absolutely appropriate for his management or HR to discuss safety plans with him and how he’s going to prevent another accident like this one.

    6. Mustache Cat

      Well, this is a workplace advice column and Jack has, in his workplace, to someone who’s in the management chain above him, disclosed that he is not continuing therapy for an issue that has caused serious bodily harm to a coworker, which opens him personally, and his workplace, up to serious liability issues.

      And you know, I see the point you’re making but this is hardly based solely on his behavior. It’s based on the very serious consequences that his behavior has had.

    7. Margaret

      A few points in response (numbered for ease of reading):
      1) my initial comment was directed to commenters on this letter, not the letter writer;
      2) my comment was not intended to excuse or lessen the harm caused by Jack, and it is entirely possible to hold Jack 100% responsible without opining on his need for therapy
      3) We know that Jack has a mental health problem (bird phobia) that contributed to his harming someone. We know that he has sought therapy to treat this problem in the past. What we can’t, and shouldn’t, assume is that this means his therapy “failed” (treatment is not linear and successful treatment doesn’t necessarily mean never having a problem again) or that he obviously needs therapy to address this problem (we are not his doctor). KellyK makes some good points to this end. The role that his mental illness played in this event is something we can only speculate on, and the inclination to lay this on a mental illness run amok plays on stereotypes about mental illness. Even if we take as given that his mental illness is “not well controlled,” or “out of balance”–which assumes, without any evidence, that he hasn’t already pursued appropriate treatment–it is not for us to say that therapy is the answer.

      1. Anonymous 40

        The role that his mental illness played in this event is something we can only speculate on, and the inclination to lay this on a mental illness run amok plays on stereotypes about mental illness.

        It’s not speculation at all – it’s the explanation Jack himself gave for what happened.

        1. Jesmlet

          Yeah I was with Margaret until this sentence. I worked in the mental health field for a few years before I ditched it for a job I could pay rent with, so I get avoiding stigma but I think the role Jack’s mental illness had in this event is fairly cut and dry. We still shouldn’t speculate on what’s the best course of action and whether or not he needs therapy. Like KellyK said, “We can surmise that it needs improvement because a problem happened, but you’re totally right that we can’t declare it a failure.”

          1. Trout 'Waver

            If you’re saying you can’t call Jack’s illness poorly controlled (or his treatment a failure), then it implies that all people with mental illnesses could potentially injure someone in the same way. Which is even more stigmatizing than saying that Jack’s illness isn’t well controlled in this case. As someone who has worked very hard and made many sacrifices to overcome a mental illness, this really bothers me.

            I don’t have any animosity for Jack, and I feel compassionate and sympathy for people who struggle with and don’t overcome their illnesses. But let’s please recognize that some people do recover from mental illnesses. And for some people, it is a hard-won triumph.

          2. Margaret

            You’re right. It was a poorly worded statement on my part. I certainly was not intending to say that we can’t know if his phobia played a role in this event at all–we know that his phobia caused his reaction. I guess what I was getting at was that it’s not clear to me whether the reaction was because of an inadequately-treated or poorly-managed phobia (as opposed to a phobia that is managed but might be unexpectedly triggered at times).

            I also do not wish to imply that people with mental illness cannot be held to a certain standard of behavior, or that people can never be expected to overcome mental illnesses–I apologize for doing so. My point was that to insist that he obviously needs therapy, or that his therapy is failing, is to ignore that treatment and recovery in the context of (mental) illness can take many forms and paths.

      2. Anonymous 40

        Thought about this a little more, and here’s what bothers me:

        Jack said he pushed Liz because his ornithophobia caused him to panic. When commenters here say he pushed Liz because of his phobia, they’re taking Jack’s word for it. Calling comments based on Jack’s own statement “speculation” suggests we shouldn’t take his word for the effect of his condition. It takes away his ability to speak for himself and replaces it with someone else speaking for him, implying he can’t speak for himself because of his mental illness. It silences Jack in a conversation about his problem. I absolutely, 100% understand that’s not what you’re trying to do. I just think in trying to advocate against stigma you’ve accidentally crossed into something equally problematic.

        1. Margaret

          You’re right. (That’s why I acknowledged that we know the phobia contributed–maybe I should have said “caused his reaction.”) I was trying to explain my concern specifically about assessing his need for therapy, and feeling like people were rushing to judge him, and thus perhaps erring too much on the side of ‘we don’t know what Jack needs’ in that regard. Jack really isn’t in this conversation at all, so I’m just trying to discourage jumping into the “what mental health treatment Jack needs” discussion–since it’s ultimately not really relevant or productive.

  41. Turtle Candle

    If I’m interpreting ‘back and then out’ correctly, it was an active push rather than a more passive elbowing-her-out-of-the-way-while-fleeing. That can still be a response to being triggered to unthinking panic by phobia, but it also makes Liz’s trauma over it even more understandable; I’d have a much harder time going back to work with someone who had actually pushed me into the path of a car (even if it wasn’t, in the end, something under their conscious control) than to someone who had bumped or elbowed me. And violence can be extremely traumatic all by itself, even without intent to harm–plenty of people are traumatized by car accidents even where the cause of the accident is ultimately not any particular person’s fault.

    I said in the first post that my feeling was that it was simultaneously not Jack’s fault for having a phobia-related panic trigger, and that it was totally reasonable for Liz to feel like she never wanted to interact with him again, and I still feel that way. (Although I do think Jack/the company should have backed off on asking her if she’d come back much faster; one “no” should have been enough.) It sucks all around.

  42. NCIS Crazy Town

    I’m surprised Liz didn’t pursue a case against Jack but I also come from a family of lawyers who, when I read this story to them, said right away that Liz had a very strong case. Thanks for the update.

    1. Naruto

      Even if she has a strong case to make Jack (or the company) liable for her damages, it’s not clear here what those damages are. Is she on the hook for medical bills, or will insurance cover that? How much are her medical bills? Litigation is expensive, and it frequently isn’t worth it (even if the attorney will take the case on a contingent basis) for small dollar figures.

      That said, she probably has some time still before she actually needs to sue, so all we can really say is that she hasn’t sued yet.

  43. apparently not the only fashion designer here

    It’s unfortunate that this letter doesn’t have a King Solomon answer, like many were suggesting on the last post. I’m glad I’m not in charge of sorting this one out, because it’s going to be difficult for both sides to be appeased. (not to say that it’s not also very difficult for the last post as well, but at least that one has an easier-to-swallow middle ground, I don’t see that for this letter.)

  44. kate

    I wonder if the company has been providing support to the coworkers that witnessed this? I once saw a complete stranger get hit by a car and I still have some serious anxiety/ptsd symptoms sometimes years later. i can’t imagine how upsetting it would be if it was someone i worked with every day.

    1. Spoonie

      I also wonder about the driver. To be toodling along and just suddenly see someone be pushed into your vehicle? There’s literally no way I can think of to avoid that.

  45. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs

    1) Thank you, OP, for being willing to give an update after what happened in the first post.

    2) Thank you, Alison, for being willing to sort through all the comments on this one, after how wild the first post became.

    I’m glad Liz seems to be in a better place, and I agree with the others regarding Jack’s statement of quitting therapy–you might want to check w/HR or Legal about liability issues now that you’ve been notified he’s no longer in therapy. It might be nothing, but you’d hate to be wrong after an incident like this.

  46. Lynn

    Everything about this update makes me uncomfortable. (1) The description no longer makes it sound like Liz was knocked into traffic incidental to Jack fleeing the bird. Instead, it sounds like she was actually shoved into harms way, and that also seems to be how law enforcement saw it. (2) It seems Liz was only contacted to badger her into returning to work, to the point she had to have a lawyer intervene. (3) OP seems unconcerned about the optics of this on the company in an admittedly small industry. (4) Jack seriously harmed a co-worker and responded by stopping therapy, but the OP makes no mention of steps made to protect other employees. (5) Liz feels so unsupported that she did not want her medical bills paid or even a reference, which certainly raises the possibility that she was treated even more poorly than suggested by the letters.

    It’s a terrible situation all around, but the OP seems to have done nothing to improve it, which is concerning.

    1. jasper_red

      Honestly with the update I wouldn’t trust this company to give me a good reference. And if she is going to sue them later (obviously we can’t know that) it makes sense not to use them. I agree with you that the whole update just makes it even worse. It doesn’t cast the company in a good light at all.

    2. TootsNYC

      (3) OP seems unconcerned about the optics of this on the company in an admittedly small industry.

      I think this is unfair. and I think it’s the kind of “OP blaming” that is threatening the comments section lately.

      1. em2mb

        I think saying the OP is unconcerned with the optics may be reading too much into the letter, but I certainly think knowing this happened in a small industry makes the letter that much more interesting. If it were my small industry, I would be somewhat concerned with each subsequent retelling of the incident because we all know how that goes.

        I would be very interested in seeing an update with a longer tail than this one, a year or so after this has all played out and the dust has finally settled.

      2. Lynn

        I’m not saying there’s a great deal OP could do. I am saying the OP seems to have given no thought to how the company looks, as if they believe the situation was well handled.

        1. Trout 'Waver

          I wouldn’t impute motive here. The OP gave us the facts with no analysis, which is perfectly acceptable (and preferable imho).

      3. Liz T

        Especially since the OP literally said “It’s a small industry and I bet she’s telling people about this.” That is signifying that the OP is concerned about the optics.

        1. Steph

          That is the part of the update that actually bothered me the most. The biggest concern regarding Liz I get is that she might be telling people about this incident.

          If something like this happened to me, at work — I would hope that I wouldn’t demand the other person be fired. But, if I couldn’t see myself working with that person anymore and decided to leave, I would hope the company would not pester me to come back and finish up projects. Especially when the incident would have left me in the hospital (and away from my family/children) for almost a whole week.

          We are probably not seeing the whole picture, but it is also bothersome that there isn’t mention of the company making sure Liz was OK in terms of anything outside what she could provide to this company. It feels wrong. We are all more than just what we do for work. I am glad that Liz stood up for her own well-being.

  47. Elizabeth West

    I feel terrible for the driver; they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m really glad they didn’t get into any trouble.

    HR definitely blew it IMO; Jack should not have been involved in asking Liz to come back, and they should have let it drop when they didn’t get any response. The company needs to remain alert to the possibility that she could still file a claim, however. I don’t know what the statute of limitations is on an incident like this in the OP’s jurisdiction. Regardless of what she decides, I hope Liz’s new job and coworkers are awesome.

    As for Jack–well, sadly I think this is going to follow him for a while. If it were me, I’d probably try to find a different form of therapy, because clearly what he had at the time wasn’t doing the trick. I imagine he knows that and is doing so; it’s probably difficult to go back to that therapist after such a spectacular failure. Phobias are treatable, but people’s responses vary with different approaches. I hope he finds something that helps him not only with his phobia but also the guilt that’s sure to come from this incident (maybe not now, but later).

    1. Manders

      I agree completely. The fact that HR was repeatedly contacting Liz about whether she was coming back until Liz *asked a lawyer to write a letter making them stop* is just such a huge red flag. I don’t know how much power OP has over HR’s behavior, but this might be a good time to do some major debriefing about how this was handled and what went so badly wrong in HR.

      I also agree with you that Jack is going to have a hard time in the near future, both with finding a more effective form of therapy and dealing with the aftermath of this incident. I don’t think he should be run out of town on a rail, but if I were him I’d be doing some soul searching about whether it’s a good idea to stay long-term at a company where multiple people witnessed the incident and then HR fumbled the response this badly.

      1. LoiraSafada

        I’m actually not sure that he’s fully appreciating the gravity of the situation precisely BECAUSE they fumbled the response and it sounds like he has faced zero consequences. He left a coworker jobless and severely injured and the worst thing that happened to him was receiving a cease and desist for being obnoxious toward the victim while still being praised for being good at his job. That’s not exactly something that inspires one to soul-search.

        1. Amy

          I don’t think we know nearly enough about Jack’s perspective on this to speculate about what he thinks or feels about it. We know from the last letter that he apologized (with HR listening in). We know from this letter that he continued to contact Liz and that he’s reevaluating his approach to therapy (no details except that he’s not seeing his old therapist right now).

          From that, I could paint a picture of an inveterate asshole, who apologized because HR told him to and showed up to make sure he did what he was told, continued to pester Liz out of sheer pigheadedness (and maybe because his boss told him to pester her into coming back), and is totally dropping any kind of treatment despite being an active danger to others.

          Or, I could equally envision a compassionate person overwhelmed by the circumstances, who sincerely wanted to apologize and let HR listen in at their request, continued to contact Liz to try and check on her and see if there was anything he could do to help (and maybe didn’t even know his company was also pestering her, and maybe didn’t understand that she wanted him to stop until he got that letter, who knows), and realized his current therapy isn’t working and is trying to figure out what to try next.

          Probably neither of those is accurate. The fact that I can take the little scraps we know, and spin either one with an equal amount of support for it, makes me think we shouldn’t be speculating on his reaction here. We don’t have nearly enough information to try.

        2. JoJo

          I know a guy who got suspended without pay for four days because he threw an M&M at a co-worker. Jack not facing any consequences at all for severely injuring another co-worker is just bizarre to me. I’m not saying that he should be thrown in jail or fired, but come on, you’d think he’d be written up at the very least.

    2. AnotherAlison

      Regarding the driver, I couldn’t help but think how this whole thing was just fractions of a second away from a minor dispute between Liz and Jack, with her being angry at getting shoved, but perhaps not seriously hurt, versus what it actually became. Bad luck for Liz!

      1. LCL

        When I was a new driver, a person on a bicycle hit a pavement obstacle, fell off her bike and onto the hood of my car and rolled underneath it. Thankfully I was driving very slow and I was able to stop. If I had been there 1 second sooner I would have ran her over. It’s stil terribly upsetting to think about, though it ended OK.

    3. Belinda

      I feel like the letter really clarified the timeline for me. I know there was a lot of discussion after the last letter whether Liz framed it as “him or me,” but now it sounds like she quit after the incident and only then did the company come back and ask what it would take to retain her. She gave an honest answer, they declined to fire Jack, she moved on.

      I agree with Elizabeth West that this is going to follow Jack. I’m not sure I can actually blame him for keeping his head low and not coming across as very apologetic. He probably knows word gets around in a small industry, and his chances are much worse than Liz’s of finding employment after such an incident.

    4. The Supreme Troll

      I agree with you; definitely wishing the best for the driver. Being caught up in this must have left him with some trauma unfortunately.

    5. kmb213

      This is the first comment I’ve seen about the driver, and I was very concerned for him/her, as well! I’m sure my personal experience colors this, as I unavoidably hit a dog once (the dog ran out in front of me on a country road where the speed limit was 50 mph; I was actually driving below the speed limit, but there’s no conceivable way I could have fully stopped without hitting the dog). Luckily, the dog just broke a leg and wound up being OK and the owner actually profusely apologized to me for letting her dog get loose, but I still felt (and feel, to this day) horrible about it! Though I’m sure the driver knows on an intellectual level he/she is not at fault, it can be hard to let go of any feelings of guilt!

  48. CatCat

    The company’s handling of things with respect to Liz is probably going to hurt the company’s reputation.

    Not that the company needed to cave to her demands, but it got to the point where she got a C&D from an attorney after Jack and HR kept calling her about coming back, and it doesn’t seem the company has proactively done anything to actually help Liz where reasonable like medical bills or severance or just not having the person who hurt her calling her.

    1. MuseumChick

      I agree. Word travels so fast in a small industry and the optics of this are just so terrible I can’t see it not hurting the company’s reputation. If I were one of Liz’s new co-workers and hard this story, I would write of this company as anywhere I would want to work.

  49. Jessesgirl72

    Considering the Liz has had to get a lawyer to send a cease and desist note, and knowing that the company is willing to give her a generous settlement, is it wrong to hope that Liz or a friend is an AAM reader, and she will now reconsider her decision to not seek a settlement?

    I am glad that Jack is exploring new therapy options (I assume that is what Jack and the OP meant) It’s so hard, from the inside, to recognize when your therapist isn’t helping you, and it was unfortunate for everyone that something this dramatic had to happen for him to see that he needed different/better treatment.

    1. Relly

      Hell, I’m wishing we could start a gofundme for Liz ourselves, to help with the five year payment plan (!!) I know I’d kick in.

    2. the other Emily

      The company was told by lawyers to settle because Liz had a strong case when they thought she was going to sue or make a claim.

      As per a comment by the OP under the name Andrew N at no time did the company offer to assist Liz financially or help with her bills. They only called her to badger her about coming back to work.

      The company would only settle to avoid losing more money in court. They have done everything they could to avoid paying Liz and she is being treated terribly. She had to get a lawyer involved and has made her feelings clear. The company and Jack need to let her move on.

  50. Noah

    I don’t know why people are so surprised Jack is taking a break from therapy. He has a debilitating fear of birds that was obviously not being successfully controlled by his existing therapy situation. I see no reason he should continue to see the same therapist. Presumably, he’ll find another one more suited to his needs and start up again when he feels ready.

  51. Stellaaaaa

    I’d still be on the lookout for Liz to sue. All OP said was that Liz simply has not sued yet and doesn’t plan to at this time. If I’m reading this correctly, the company’s legal team seems to think that Liz might sue further down the line, possibly when she has a full tally on her medical expenses. OP has a habit of believing whichever version of a story requires less action from him – Liz’s lawyer sent a letter stating that Liz won’t be suing in this moment. His company got a second opinion and those lawyers told him to prepare for a lawsuit eventually but he’s clinging to the verbiage in the letter, which was written by a lawyer and not Liz. She might be planning on suing Jack. Don’t rest on your laurels – do what your lawyers are telling you to do.

  52. Celeste

    Thanks for the update. This one really stays with you. I have thought about Liz and her injury a lot. I take it she has good physical healing since she’s working someplace new. It sounds like she is doing all she can for her mental health; sometimes not pursuing what you might be legally owed is the best way to heal yourself. These cases can take a toll, and if you don’t strictly have to go through one, I believe it’s healthier not to. I think she did the right thing to get the no-contact letter. Sometimes when people want to make that contact, it’s so they can receive absolution, or attention, or something else that is for their benefit. It’s fine to want that, but they shouldn’t be able to compel someone to give it to them.

  53. I GOTS TO KNOW!

    OP, I am sorry you lost a valued employee over this, but I am glad you didn’t fire Jack over his (admittedly not great) reaction that occurred due to his phobia. I do hope this has meant you have a plan in place for him for being near windows or outside so that this incident cannot be repeated even on a small scale in the future

  54. Chickaletta

    Well, this was quite the story so I’m glad there was an update to it. I feel like I have closure now :). I hope that Liz does too, and that the OP and Jack also find closure in their own ways.

  55. Sylvia

    Thank you for the update. I hope that they’re both doing well and I’m glad to hear Liz has moved on to a new job.

  56. Amy

    I’m glad to hear that Liz has been able to find a different job and move on. I hope she likes her new job and that she’s healing well.

    I’m also glad to hear that Jack is doing OK at work. I hope his future efforts to find a therapeutic approach that works for him go well.

    I’m not so glad to hear that the company pestered Liz so constantly that she needed a letter from a lawyer to get them to leave her alone. That’s bad behavior, no matter who you are or what the circumstances might be. I hope the company develops a more compassionate approach to handling bad circumstances in the future.

  57. PizzaDog

    Good for Liz for taking care of herself right now. The audacity of it escalating to the point of her needing a lawyer to get everyone off her back is mindboggling.

    And hopefully Jack will look into alternate/alternative treatments. Shame it had to come to this for him to see that it wasn’t working at all, but he needs to take care of himself too.

    1. Falling Diphthong

      Yes, I was relieved at the part where Jack was rethinking his treatment. Just because you’re in therapy doesn’t mean it’s automatically well-matched and effective.

  58. Bea

    Liz is amazing to go through so much and then the only time she involved a lawyer was to tell everyone to leave her alone. I’m glad she’s working somewhere and hope they take better care of her than her former employer did.

    I know that I would have went all out legally dragging every single person who was responsible through the mud if I landed in the hospital and nobody seemed to care about my well being just that I come back to work to grind it out next to the person who pushed me and caused brutal damages.

    This has a happy ending because Liz is hopefully doing much better physically and employed. I was scared she quit and would struggle to find work.

  59. BTownGirl

    This whole situation is just wretched for everyone involved – that I think we can all agree on. As someone who has dealt with anxiety for most of their adult life, something like this happening is pretty much my worst nightmare. While I don’t want to speculate, I go on the assumption that most people are decent and that Jack is more likely than not both devastated and humiliated by what happened. By the same token, I’m sure Liz isn’t trying to be difficult/unreasonable and she had an utterly terrifying experience. This whole situation reads to me like a Worst Case Scenario and, unfortunately, sometimes when something terrible happens there really is no perfect outcome that makes everyone whole. The consequence of that being that Liz quit her job when she’d done absolutely nothing wrong and had a traumatic experience is just awful, but this was an awful situation from the get-go and I really feel for the OP and everyone involved.

    1. Blue eagle

      this is my favorite comment out of all of the comments with the initial letter and this update.

  60. The Supreme Troll

    OP, I do not know if this has already been mentioned in the comments, but if for whatever reason Liz’s new job doesn’t work out for her, I hope that you can take the high road and give her the most positive reference if she does indeed reach back out to you. Of course, provided if the work she put in earned that. But please do not hold this situation against her. Like others, I do not think that Jack ever intentionally intended to harm Liz. However, his actions brought big consequences to Liz that she didn’t deserve and have probably bothered her for some time.

  61. Chriama

    Man, I don’t know how I feel about this. I’m happy that Liz seems to be moving on with her life and recovery is at least far enough along that she can go back to work.

    But I’m still unsatisfied about Jack and the company. And maybe that’s the petty, vindictive side of me. OP was roasted really hard in the original comments so I’m happy they were willing to come back, and I suspect that part of the tone I don’t like in this letter is OP trying to keep things factual and guarded so the commentariat here has nothing to latch on to.

    Still, I kind of feel like not enough was done to make things up to Liz. Maybe in the HR communication there was something about apologies and reparations and promising she wouldn’t have to work with Jack anymore, but I didn’t grasp that. And while I understand a company not offering to pay the medical bills when they’re still concerned she might sue, I’m not hearing anything about reassurances to her or even any sort of graceful send-off.

    Then again, I know there’s been a lot of speculation and reading into things, so I might just have to live with my curiosity unsatisfied. The best thing for me is that Liz appears to be moving on with her life. Good for her.

  62. DinoRex

    The original letter really stuck with me and I am glad there was an update. I’m surprised that Jack has not yet been charged. While I understand he has a phobia, the fact that witnesses saw him actually push Liz is pretty bad. I wonder what he might be charged with, if at all. I hope he continues to get help and that something like this never happens again.

    1. Jessesgirl72

      Even though the investigation found him liable, whether or not someone gets charged is usually at the discretion of the prosecutor. The decided very loud and heated split in the comments pretty much illustrates the prosecutor’s dilemma.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)

        Liability is a civil law issue, in terms of who is at fault in an accident. That has approximately zero to do with whether any criminal charges could possibly be filed, or would ever be filed even if they could be. We do not know NEARLY enough to speculate about that.

    2. Holly

      It doesn’t sound like police were called to the scene and it seems doubtful that anyone reported this to police, so it’s not surprising at all that he’s not been charged. And if there was a police report, who knows if a prosecutor would deem this worthy of prosecuting. Prosecutors have the unique duty to seek justice, not merely to convict – which is different from a criminal defense attorney’s duty to zealously advocate for their client and his/her rights. It’s unclear justice would be served by convicting Jack of a crime. Not to mention that, depending on the jurisdiction, he might have a very good insanity defense.

      1. Helen

        The very first sentence of the update reads: ‘There was a police investigation because Liz was injured by a vehicle’.

        So the police did investigate and do a report. I don’t know what the charges would be if any, but OP mentions it is a possibility and Jack could still face charges.

        1. Holly

          Oops. Don’t know how I missed the first sentence. That said – police don’t really determine “fault,” at least “fault” in the sense of insurance – they just write down what witnesses said and anything they observe. If there were to be an actual legal case, civil or criminal, a jury would determine if Jack was liable/guilty, not the police. It’s unclear if the police actually investigated a potential battery by Jack, or if they were just investigating Liz being hit by a vehicle. It’s further unclear if the police showed up to the scene, or if they conducted interviews hours or even days later. It seems like it may be the latter since the LW tells us the police investigation was “because Liz was injured by a vehicle.”

  63. Annonymice

    I’ll try my best to respect Alison’s request but her behaviour reminds me of someone who has been abused, or threatened. To go from wanting a person fired to not even suing/wanting anything to do with it all. Moreso when I learned she was pushed, not knocked. And then that Jack was constantly calling her – were his phone calls monitored?

    I’m not saying to go down this line of thought, but for all the people saying that the victim’s actions are extremely odd, please remember we don’t know everything that went on before or after the event. Heck, even the OP’s company will not know everything. Only what they are told.

    1. BTownGirl

      I think that it’s a pretty big leap to suggest that he possibly pushed her deliberately and is now abusing her, considering there’s nothing to suggest that there were issues between them prior to this. Maybe he just felt awful about the situation (like any of us would) and didn’t want to see her leave her job on top of everything else she was dealing with.

      1. Tuxedo Cat

        I interpreted the original comment that Liz experienced abuse in her life but not from Jack. That could explain her actions even more, but again, we don’t know. And regardless, being shoved in front of a moving car and experiencing that injury, I think it’s enough for Liz to feel as she does.

  64. Andrew N (the OP)

    Good afternoon. Thanks for printing my update Alison (I am the OP – Alison can verify that my name is the same as on the emails I sent her) I appreciate the input from Alison and everyone. I tried to keep my letter short and to the point, but I’m posting once to clarify some things that I see being discussed.

    Liz did not demand that Jack be fired. She quit and when HR wanted to know what it would take for her to come back she said firing Jack. This was right after her surgery before she was discharged. HR declined so Liz said she would not return. She only told HR she wanted him fired because they asked first.

    I had no input or say in the company or Jack calling Liz at home. There was no checking in or asking how she was. They did want to convince her to come back and that was it.

    At no point did the company offers Liz financial assistance. According to her lawyer she is on a 5 year payment plan with the hospital and rehab center for her bills.

    Jack is taking a break from therapy, meaning he is not seeing a therapist and has no plans to see any professional in the future. As I said in my letter I did not feel it was appropriate for me to lecture him on his choice.

    I am sure Jack is embarrassed and mortified. The only apology he made was when HR asked him to call. A letter of apology was included to the driver as part of the settlement.

    That’s all I have to say. Thank you.

    1. Browser

      Thank you for the clarification, specifically these points:

      – Liz did not demand that Jack be fired. […] She only told HR she wanted him fired because they asked first.
      – There was no checking in or asking how she was. They did want to convince her to come back and that was it.
      – The only apology [Jack] made was when HR asked him to call.

        1. Anon today...and tomorrow

          Yes. My original opinion on the situation and on Liz and Jack remain unchanged. I find the update to be that much more disappointing with these updates

          1. Naruto

            I’m even more disappointed now from an ethical perspective with HR and Jack (not Liz) — but in addition, this seems really dumb on their part.

            “Hey we want you to come back, how can we make that happen, by the way I’m not at all interested in your health or recovery or well-being” is a message that would almost never be effective, but that’s precisely the message they sent by failing to even ask how she was doing.

            1. Lablizard

              If I was Liz, I would be so enraged that HR and Jack should be counting their blessings that I was maintaining radio silence.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        In theory, yes, but people ask for that a bunch and I don’t want it to be a thing people expect (because often I’m too busy or not seeing it in time for it to make a difference).

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I’m swamped today and am streamlining as much as I can. You know that point where if someone asks you to do one more thing, you will explode in a cloud of smoke? That.

    2. Lablizard

      Thank you for the update and so sorry you are stuck in the middle of what sounds like a pretty horrible situation.

    3. mf

      FWIW, I think you handled this situation as best you could. I don’t agree with how your company has handled it, but everything that’s happened doesn’t reflect badly on YOU personally.

      1. Tuxedo Cat

        Without knowing more about the company, he might want to consider new opportunities sooner than later.

        I’m not blaming the OP (and thank you for updating the update) because it sounds like his hands are genuinely tied in this situation. However, I could see people associating the OP with how this handled even if he had nothing to do with the decisions.

      2. Lilo

        I also think OP should consider finding another job. A place with HR that cad is not a place you want to stick around in. I may just be reading into it, but I get a slight whiff of cronyism based on how this was all handled.

    4. Ennigaldi

      Thanks for the clarification, OP. Sounds like everyone, HR in particular, is still focusing on protecting Jack from any consequences. Liz ain’t coming back!

    5. Observer

      Your company’s HR is incredibly bad. If I were in your shoes I think I would seriously be thinking about how much longer I want to stay there, and start planning an exit.

      What you should do at the moment is go to HR and point out that they NEED to have a discussion with Jack. They can’t tell him that he needs to be seeing a specific therapist. But they DO need to talk to him about what accommodations he needs and about what he is planning to do about his ongoing behavior.

      Please do this and document it, because the next time something happens (and there is likely to be a next time no matter what happens with Jack, when you have an HR that is so careless of the safety and well being of staff) the victim(s) may not decide to let you and the company off easy. If you can show that you tried to make sure that appropriate measures were taken, that should help to protect you.

      As it is, mud sticks and I suspect that your reputation may have taken a hit along with the hit your company’s reputation has undoubtedly taken.

      1. Em

        This was my thought too- the legal quagmire of having an employee with a disability who has already caused an accident due to said disability and has now dropped treatment for it. Where does that leave the company in terms of accommodations? If another employee or customer gets hurt as a result of Jack’s disability, I would have to imagine the previous incident with Jack can and will be used against him and the company in any potential lawsuit. Heck, even if Liz decides to eventually sue, it’s not going to look good for the company when the facts revealed by OP here of how Jack and HR handled this are then revealed in court. I feel like HR needs to work with Jack to insure that he is doing *something* to prevent another incident, or the company could get dragged down with him. I don’t think it’s really OP’s job to do that, though. The company should already know better.

    6. MuseumChick

      OP, thank you the additional details. After everything in the comment section in the last thread it must be a bit intimidating to enter the fray here.

      It sounds like you, personally, did not have much (or any) direct hand in the company’s choices on how to handle this situation. All I can say is 1) I really think your company mishandled it in the extreme. 2) Echoing Alison below, your company needs to enter and interactive process with Jack for accommodations. 3) Your company’s reputation will most likely take a hit from this. Anyone who works with Liz in the field going forward will be told this story (Her version: A male co-worker pushed me in front of a car, I broke my arm and was in the hospital for days. My company refused to fire or even discipline the co-worker.”) will be very weary of working of your company.

    7. animaniactoo

      OP, thank you for clarifying those points.

      From what you’ve said here, it sounds like Liz is far better off out of the company and putting it in her rearview mirror and I hope her new job is better for her. I’m guessing that you initially wrote to Alison because you felt stuck and pressured yourself to try and “solve” the situation by your company in a way that wasn’t going to happen (Liz coming back). If there’s any possibility that you could advocate within the company for Liz getting some assistance from the company (even partial assistance), rather than them waiting for her to ask, I would urge you to do so.

    8. No, please

      Man. What a mess. And I feel pretty bad for Liz. She’s stuck with the debt and permanent injuries, mental or physical.

    9. Katie the Fed

      “There was no checking in or asking how she was. They did want to convince her to come back and that was it.”

      That’s kind of what I suspected. I know you had nothing to do with this, Andrew, but wow did your company mishandle that. I think an ounce of compassion would have gone a long, long way here.

      By comparison, when I was in the hospital for several weeks, my boss visited me 4 times. He brought his kids and family to come meet me too, and the kids drew me pictures and we hung out. Several coworkers came by and brought random things – magazines, a plant, a card from my team, a stuffed version of my dog, etc. Another made some food for my husband.

      I realize we’re a tight knit bunch, but I can’t tell you how touched I was by all of it. I will never, ever forget the people who took the time to visit and check on me.

      1. No, please

        Yes! I had 3 jobs when my dad suddenly died from an aneurysm. One of the jobs was a franchisee owned place. I had worked there for three years. I had shopped for cakes and cards for co-workers birthdays, wedding and baby showers when directed to do so by my manager with the petty cash. When my dad died all I got was a phone call about coming back to work. No card, flowers or verbal condolences. At that point I had been there longer than all the other employees. But my manager didn’t think I could use kind words or a card? I gave this example as a reason to quit in my exit interview. I was met with excuses and no apology.
        All this to say that kind words and compassion go a long way!

    10. Case of the Mondays

      Before we all pile on Jack, I can sort of understand his break from therapy. His therapy did not work. He still pushed someone in front of a car. Why keep wasting time and money doing something that is yielding zero results.

      1. Nottingham

        As someone who has been through therapy, I can understand Jack taking a break for right now. His phobia has likely been exacerbated by this incident, and it may well have set him back several steps. Therapy for phobias does work, but it’s often a slow, rocky process full of plateaus and setbacks.

        From the company’s perspective, there’s nothing you can do to make someone go to therapy. Coercion is counterproductive and even ‘gentle interventions’ can be harmful (and possible discriminatory under local disability rights laws, depending on the specific circumstances).

        In these *very specific and individual* circumstances, where the company knows that Jack’s reactions to phobia triggers can be instant and extreme, I think that it might be reasonable for the company to ask Jack if he feels he’s safe to drive – especially if he’s ever driving coworkers.

      2. EddieSherbert

        Then you find something you haven’t tried before and keep trying. This is honestly the most disturbing part of the update(s) for me because it really seems like Jack needs help. And I hope he realizes that ASAP.

    11. Steph

      Thank you for being so candid with your updates, OP!

      Honestly… if I was a coworker of Liz, I would be actively looking for another job right now. A company that is not interested in checking in and seeing how an employee is doing that was seriously injured while working seems like not a company I’d want to work for. I know not everyone has the luxury of much job mobility, but there are so many things wrong in this situation.

      Not on the same level at all, but after a fellow coworker who was retiring within a year or two was laid off suddenly at my last job (after working there for 10+ years), I seriously started looking at recruiter emails / job opportunities. I don’t want to work somewhere that isn’t going to treat people decently.

      1. Lilo

        It’s amazing how one really bad personnel decision can cause a huge group to flee. My spouse was part of a mass exodus (about 10) from a company that started 4 months ago when a close coworker of his was horribly mistreated by a manager (I don’t want to be even kind of specific because another coworker/friend is still in the process of fleeing) and the upper management and HR did nothing. This included almost everyone in their division who had been in their “future leaders” special management fast track program. Fortunately they all found better jobs, including harassed coworker.

    12. Mustache Cat

      Andrew N, can I just say that I appreciate your style of writing? It’s possibly caused some confusion here because that’s not the usual way advice-seekers write in to this column, but I really appreciate how straightforward and to-the-point you are.

    13. LizB

      Thank you for clarifying so many of our questions. It sounds like you’ve done everything you can, and your company and Jack are just determined to handle this in the shittiest, least kind way possible. No wonder Liz wants no more communication from them. If I was another employee at this company and I knew the details of this situation, I would be looking for another job — not because I think Jack is likely to cause another accident, but because if an accident did happen, I know the company would handle it terribly.

    14. JS

      Thank you for this update!

      -I still stand by my original point of Liz shouldn’t have given the ultimatum if she knew Jack was not going to be fired. But if she didn’t learn that until the HR call (which is different that whats in the original letter) than that is fair that she mentioned the reason why she would not be returning.

      -HR hasnt offered to pay for her medical bills is ridiculous. I’d also be curious as to why Liz isn’t applying for worker’s comp? She isn’t rich like others speculated if she is on a payment plan and why she wouldn’t even ask the company to pay doesn’t make sense either. I guess she just wants a clean break but she shouldn’t have to be making payments if they are going to be a burden to her in this case.

      -One lingering question still is if HR is regulating Jack’s contact with Liz? Was he not allowed to contact her before the HR call? Is he calling her to come back on his own or pressure from HR? I can’t imagine someone who is mortified over what they did to be so tone deaf and call the victim and badger them to come back even when they don’t want to and when you are the reason? I still feel like more context was needed as the way its being handled by HR as seems very emotionally detached and legal based (but then not really because they legally are liable for her bills!).

      -Also thank you OP for not lecturing him on his choice. Therapy might not be the best treatment for him but there are other holistic methods or medications that he can take. Its not your place to question which treatment he takes but making sure he has a plan in place to prevent this from happening again isn’t unreasonable to ask and would actually be something I would encourage you to do.

      As a sidenote I think the company’s reputation will suffer more for not paying her medical bills more than not wanting to fire Jack. Although both of them together make the situation look far worse and them to be the unreasonable ones and not Liz to an outsider. They could have covered themselves from a lot of scrutiny by paying her medical bills which seems like a no brainer from a personal, professional and legal standpoint.

      1. Hekko

        Perhaps this is not the first time the HR showed just how horribly they treat employees and Liz said she wanted them to fire Jack just to get them off her back, knowing well it wouldn’t happen? It certainly sounds like she just wants to be clear and away from the company.

    15. Detective Amy Santiago

      Wow… I’m flabbergasted that no one reached out to apologize or offer sympathies or help or whatever in the wake of Liz’s accident. That definitely changes my opinion of how the company handled this (HR, not you).

      I agree that it’s not appropriate for you to lecture Jack, but I do think it’s perfectly acceptable for you to ask Jack how he intends to prevent another accident from occurring. In fact, I’d say you’re obligated to ask that and formulate a plan for the safety of the rest of your staff.

      I am so sorry that you’re stuck in the middle of this.

    16. Anonymonster

      Wow. Thanks for the clarification. Reality is much worse than our speculations. I am personally disgusted by the behavior of your company.

      Are you looking for work elsewhere? I would be.

    17. Dot Warner

      Andrew, thanks for the update! I really appreciate you coming back to clarify this stuff. One thing you didn’t mention that I’m curious about is: how are Jack and Liz’s coworkers reacting to all this?

  65. DCompliance

    Alison, could you comment on your thoughts about Jack saying he stopped his therapy? Should OP report this to HR? Thanks.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      HR should be thinking about what kind of accommodations need to be in place, period. They can’t require specific treatment; they need to have an interactive process with him to determine what accommodations are needed in general. So “Jack stopped his therapy” isn’t the issue here (and it would be inappropriate for them to fixate on that); their look at the situation needs to be broader than that.

  66. stacdc

    The fact that she retained a lawyer to put a C&D on the communication suggests she may be engaging with them on litigation at a future date. OP – thank you for posting a message in the comments, I’m sure there’s strong agreement we hope to hear more as this develops.

  67. Kyrielle

    I feel even worse for Liz with this one. Did Jack mean to hurt her? I’m going to go with ‘no, phobia’ – although short of being a mind reader, I can’t prove that.

    But his actions were significantly more forceful than the best-case reading of the last letter allowed for, and I can _easily_ see how Liz ended up at I Will Not Work With Him and then to be repeatedly asked to come back….

    Thank you for the update, OP. It sounds like, at this point, there is really not a whole lot that your company can do, so rehashing what they should have done is not useful.

    I hope Jack is able to get more-effective help for his phobia; that Liz is able to heal and does well at her new job; and that you and your company are able to move forward on your project, and in general.

  68. Ennigaldi

    I’m really concerned that OP’s update above that “she only told HR she wanted him fired because they asked first” directly contradicts the original letter, which said that “When Liz found out that Jack wasn’t going to be fired, she quit.” From the update, she wasn’t “demanding” anything, that was just her condition (when pressed) to return to the job? Where is your role in all this, OP?

    1. Joshua

      I think the two stories can work together well. Liz was probably not as focused on work when she was dealing with all her medical treatment, and initially after the incident she probably wasn’t speaking with the company about her timeline to get back. (“I’ll deal with that when the doctor gives me an ETA.”) When she finally came around to speaking with HR about her employment situation, her announcement of her decision to quit/not come back if Jack stays could have happened all within the same conversation, or at least within a very short period. It makes a lot of sense that the OP, not even being a party to the call and then writing in about it to AAM, would not be 100% exact in the timing of Liz’s and HR’s statements.

    2. MicroManagered

      Nah. I think the former is perhaps a poor choice of wording on OP’s part and the latter is a reasonable clarification.

  69. No, please

    Actually, after the update from OP, I’m more upset than ever about this letter. It feels like no matter what Jack did, for any reason, Liz would still be out in the cold. Meaning if Jack had injured Liz without a phobia as part of the reason, the company would still just say “oh well.” I hope I’m wrong. I just have a gross feeling about this whole deal. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

    1. Dot Warner

      I agree; both the updates and OP’s clarification in the comments show that the company was extremely callous towards Liz. Good on her for leaving!

  70. TL -

    So maybe this is my reading but it definitely seems like the OP (and maybe that’s just a reflection of his company’s attitude) has a “Jack is the golden child and Liz is the red-headed stepchild” attitude.
    Because I could actually see this taking place in a similar way in my last job, where there was a clear golden child and there was a red-headed stepchild (who varied; as the stepchild employee always ended up leaving), right down to the bugging them to come back to work to finish the projects.

    If so, OP, I would really examine your workplace; I don’t think there’s a lens I can look at it where it doesn’t sound deeply dysfunctional.

    1. Lilo

      Yeah I get that vibe too. The OP mentions that Liz is essential to projects but seems annoyed by it almost, certainly doesn’t acknowledge. The fact that she got hired somewhere else so quickly suggests she is probably pretty talented.

    2. KT

      Agreed. The handling of this situation, and the extent to which HR seems to be going to protect Jack (to the detriment of Liz in some cases) makes me wonder if Jack is either some sort of superstar or a friend/relative of someone higher up. And even then it still bothers me as to why they would be so anti-Liz. Other than not firing Jack there’s no reason they have to be on one side or the other.

      I also have to wonder if someone had knowledge that Jack’s phobia could be a danger to others. While no one could predict such disastrous consequences it’s possible that someone knew the possibility existed. Otherwise I don’t see why they would be so focused on CYA and not even attempt to make amends with Liz by having offered to cover her expenses.

      1. BTownGirl

        I mean, who would ever expect a bird phobia to cause an accident? My best friend is terrified of dogs, but I would never worry about her accidentally pushing me into the street to get away from one at the exact moment a car was coming. This was a horrible accident and accidents can happen to anyone. I have to wonder if many of these comments would have a different tone if Jack didn’t have an anxiety disorder and bumped into Liz because he was looking at his phone and didn’t see her in time, or some other random thing.

        1. Lizzle

          If he was looking at his phone or otherwise distracted and therefore hit her with the level of forced described (damaged a slow-moving car, broke her arm in two places), I think most people would be both outraged and extremely suspicious. I know I would have a LOT less sympathy for Jack in that situation. Like, fire that man yesterday level of sympathy.

          1. BTownGirl

            I don’t know, one of my former coworkers was texting, tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and fell with so much force that she broke a tooth. What I’m trying to get at here is that accidents happen. I really don’t get why anyone would be “suspicious”, aka think that someone who has zero previous issues with a coworker or anyone else would all of a sudden decide to shove them into the street. I could understand being outraged at the thoughtlessness, absolutely, but the rest is a little too far into Lifetime Movie territory when we’re talking about someone with no history of trying to harm anyone.

          2. Lilo

            As a coworker, if something that injuring happened to a fellow worker, I would want to know that my employer is doing things to keep that from happening to me. There doesn’t seem to be any indication they have and that is super concerning. Someone tripping is one thing (although if it were due to a hazardous condition like a bad step you would bet it should be fixed) but this is entirely another. In fact a workplace would probably be even more liable if another coworker gets injured by Jack at this point – they have clear notice of a hazard. I am surprised their legal counsel isn’t screaming at them to mitigate.

  71. Audiophile

    My first job after graduating from college was working with special needs students. I was regularly injured through the course of this job. One injury was particularly bad and I went to urgent care, I received a call from Big Boss several hours later inquiring if I was returning to complete the rest of the day. I politely stated I would be in the next day.

    While it wasn’t anyone’s fault, it certainly wasn’t lost on me after that conversation, that there was very little regard for my well being.

  72. ann perkins

    Really interested to know what the OP & company will do to ensure this does not happen again. I know it was a freak accident and the odds of it happening again are pretty slim, but after re-reading the original letter and now the update, I’m wondering if this was mishandled.

    1. Sarah

      I agree, and given the company’s/HR’s response here, it seems like the issue goes far beyond the (probably low) chance of Jack accidentally injuring someone else as a result of his phobia. It seems likely to me that this company would not handle any workplace injury thoughtfully and humanely, and there are tons of random ways people can get injured in a workplace, even an office job.

  73. Mimmy

    Thank you, Andrew, for your update in the lead post and for the clarifications in your subsequent post in the comments. I applaud Liz for taking the high road and just wanting to move on her with her life and continued healing. I also think your company could’ve handled this better, but it sounds like it was a complicated situation, so it’s hard to judge without knowing all parties personally.

  74. A Girl Has No Name

    This…has been such a disheartening series of posts (from the original, to the update, to the LW’s comment).
    I appreciate the comments urging folks to be compassionate towards Jack, since his reaction was out of his control. But I’ve really been saddened by the comments painting Liz as unreasonable (both in the original post and even some in this one, though not as many). It’s possible to see both sides of this, and not make Liz into a villain simply because what Jack did was out of his control.

    I cannot imagine how mentally, emotionally, and physically traumatizing this must have been (and continues to be) for Liz. Jack seems to be the golden child at this organization (certainly from HR’s perspective, and I do get that sense a bit from the LW too), while Liz appears to simply be another cog in wheel. No one cares if she’s okay, just that she needs to get her work done. So yeah, it makes sense that she beat it out of there. I hope she finds a stable situation at her new job where employees are more than just cogs. And I hope The LW realizes that this is not a healthy dynamic between employee & employer, and considers looking for opportunities outside of this company to find a healthier high-functioning team to work with, and one that doesn’t have a completely dysfunctional HR group.

  75. valereee

    My biggest concern is, whether or not Jack continues to work on his mental health, how is the company going to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future. If your dog bites someone, it doesn’t mean you have to put the dog down, but it does mean you need to take steps to prevent it ever happening again. Knowing that you have an employee who can’t be relied on to behave reasonably in the presence of birds means you can never again allow Jack to be anywhere near other people if a bird might be nearby. Literally they should be thinking about things like, “How do we ensure that Jack is always entering and leaving the building alone? What is the procedure if if a bird gets into the building one day? Does Jack need to avoid windows in case there’s a bird on the windowsill? Are images of birds a problem, or only actual birds? What about the new intern whose name is Birdie?” Okay, that last one’s a joke. But really, how do they prevent this EVER happening again?

  76. Erin

    This was one of the most fascinating posts I’ve seen on here. Thank you so much for providing an update.

    I’m shocked Liz did not pursue legal action. I suppose she just wants this to all be overwith.

    For Jack’s part, it appears he’s done everything he could to rectify the situation, including taking a step back from therapy which clearly isn’t as successful as he was hoping.

    I want to say if I was in Liz’s position I would forgive Jack and come back to work. But – and I know this sounds like a cop out response – I really don’t think I’d truly know what I’d do unless it actually happened to me. I want to say I’d be understanding and forgiving. But that’s a very tough call to make.

    1. Lizzle

      With what we know at this point, even if I could forgive Jack I would never want to set foot in that company again. His actions were (presumably) accidental; theirs are in my opinion egregious. How could you not get her worker’s comp without waiting to be sued? How could you badger her to come back to work on her projects rather than attempting to first do the right thing by your injured employee? Just a horrifying showing from HR and, by extension, management.

      1. Umvue

        Yeah, this is my take, too. Ignoring the Jack can of worms, this was a huge, weird cluster, it didn’t have to be, and it’s probably going to be all over town now.

  77. Old Admin

    Stepping away from any personal opinions on this, I am struggling with a different question:
    Does a US company have some sort of legal obligation to protect its employees?
    I know this sounds totally inflammatory, but I don’t meant it that way. Rather, I am thinking of various European countries that have laws in that direction. Any idea?

    1. Bye Academia

      Yes, to some extent. If you google OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) you can see more about the regulations that are in place. But, as is typical in the US, many employers focus on doing the absolute minimum to absolve themselves from legal liability rather than concerning themselves with the actual health and safety of their employees.

    2. Kathleen Adams

      Well, sure. There are all kinds of laws about that. I guess I’m not sure exactly what kinds of protection you have in mind.

  78. DinoRex

    I wonder if Jack has been treated differently by his coworkers after they found out about the incident.

  79. I tend to Disagree

    Alison, I’d love to know what your take is on all of this. Should the company have sent the apology? Should they have taken measures to support Liz more? It just seems like they chose a side and stayed there where they possibly could have mediated (I know she outright quit, but maybe when she asked Jack be fired they could have guaranteed that she wouldn’t have to work with him?). It smacks of favoritism.

  80. Mildred Lathbury

    I’m very surprised the company didn’t offer a settlement to Liz. She may be saying *now* that she wants to put it behind her, but the window for her to pursue a lawsuit is still open. Why would the company leave that option open? A settlement offer wouldn’t cause her any distress, it would show good faith on the part of the company, and also relieve them of the fear of a possible future suit. Something here makes no sense at all.

  81. Bess

    Golly Moses.

    This update and Andrew N’s clarifications in comments are just kind of frightening to me (not blaming the OP for the situation).

    An employee is pushed by another employee (due to a phobia, but actively pushed nonetheless) into a moving vehicle resulting in injuries that require a hospital stay and a FIVE YEAR PAYMENT PLAN to handle the bills. HR only calls her to get her back to work. She says she can’t work with Jack anymore. They continue to call her to come back in spite of this very understandable response. They do not ask about her well being or offer to handle her bills, which must be huge. She has to get a lawyer to get them to stop asking her to come back and work with the person who injured her.

    I would leave this company lickety-split after witnessing this treatment of Liz, and I would tell the story far and wide.

  82. JoJo

    I wonder if the reason Liz hasn’t sued yet is because she was job hunting and didn’t want to seem like a troublesome employee. It wouldn’t surprise me if she files a lawsuit after she settles in at the new job.

    1. Gazebo Slayer

      Ooh, excellent point! It’s true that some employers won’t hire someone who has sued a previous employer, no matter how much they were in the right. It has a (likely intentional) chilling effect on lawsuits that really should be pursued, and allows awful employers (like Liz’s) to get away with bad behavior.

  83. Lisa

    I just want to throw this out there, as someone who deals with a mental illness that sometimes is tough for people in my life; having a phobia is not an excuse to hurt someone. If he simply fled in panic that’s one thing, but actually shoving someone to get past them isn’t OK. Jack needs to own his shit.

    And on a more meta note, I’m kind of disturbed by the whole vein of comments that read “oh, Jack is Mentally Ill, therefore he had no control over his actions.” That’s simply not the case. Mentally ill people retain agency except in the most extreme cases (like paranoid schizophrenia). Physically attacking people is not an unavoidable or excusable reaction to a trigger.

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