update: my coworker put push pins on my chair

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose increasingly aggressive coworker had started leaving push pins on her chair? Here’s the update.

I took your advice and was very firm with my manager and the VP about my intolerance for the situation and I also went to HR myself demanding meetings, as per your advice. I was definitely being firm from the beginning but I made it way more obnoxious for them to ignore my concerns, and after several meetings with HR and my manager and the VP of our department, HR and the VP worked out a corrective action plan for the offender. She was not to speak to me or the rest of the team about anything related to the issues she caused and was generally told to not make idle conversation with me at all (since I told HR myself I want as little contact with her as humanly possible). She was also moved to the other side of the floor to sit directly in front of the VP’s office so he could keep an eye on her. She has had many run-ins with HR for leaving an hour or two earlier than she’s supposed to, so they figured this would kill two birds with one stone.

Anyway, another manager in my department (whom is EXTREMELY friendly and kind), lets call her “Jane,” had to work with her on a large high-level project which required them to have lots of meetings and contact with each other every day. After the first few meetings, Jane noticed that the offender was often not at her desk even though her meeting calendar was wide open. Since she was having trouble contacting her, she asked her about how she can get into contact with her when she’s not at her workspace so that they can resolve issues quickly. After that moment, the offender began to show Jane her true colors, as well. Jane started to receive some violent and strange actions from the offender – for example, coming to her enclosed office in the morning to find her chair knife-sliced and things on her desk broken (only other person in the office at that time was the offender), having pictures of her and her family stolen from her desk, and catching the offender in her enclosed office on several occasions with no reason for being there. The offender also continuously broke into my own managers enclosed office to steal the calendar from her wall (which my manager uses to remind her of her employees scheduled PTO).

A few more things occurred with me where the offender would creep into my cubicle when I was not around – however, Jane and another employee would question her every time and she eventually stopped doing that altogether. Often I would come in and all of my electronics (monitor, computer, phone, cell charger, keyboard) would all be unplugged and jerked around to different areas. The timing was always conveniently early in the morning when very few of us are here, but guess who always was one of those few – YOU GUESSED IT – the offender! Eventually, we have all learned to always put everything away and lock them in our drawers, even when we go to the bathroom, and most of us have started to come in 30-60 minutes early just to ensure she doesn’t mess with our things and often we try to make sure at least one person is over in our section at a time so we can guard each other’s things.

We all continued discussing these issues with HR (including the managers and the VP himself several times), especially as the offender recently has been constantly leaving for hours throughout the day AND leaving hours early without receiving approval or even informing anyone (and she has no PTO left), but they refused to fire her. She often found ways to explain things away (covering herself by saying she took a training to help her be a better employee, etc.) She is also a (*suspected*) FMLA time off abuser, who has sued previous companies for FMLA discrimination. Purely speculation, but we imagine she was most likely fired from these companies after she kept using unfounded excuses for leaving without approval. (Examples: saying she can’t work certain days of the week because of her “flare-ups” which are always conveniently Wednesday and Friday afternoons, constantly taking time off without having any time in her bank left, etc. just like she does here.) So basically, we got the inkling from the HR reps and their carefully-worded explanations for their inaction that they were expecting the offender may attempt to sue the company and they were trying to avoid it.

Luckily, however, as of THREE days ago, the offender RESIGNED!!!! WOOOO!!!! We are all very happy on this team now that we know the she is almost gone forever!

In the end, we were all extremely disappointed by how unsupportive our HR department is and by how much power HR reps have. The VP should have been able to remove the offender as soon as he felt so inclined with all the evidence of her violent behavior, yet, HR was able to block him every time.

Ultimately though, for now, we can all breathe a little better because she will no longer be able to terrorize us! (Now, if only we could warn her new company….)

Thanks for all the help, Alison!

{ 281 comments… read them below }

    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      SAME!

      Holy SHIT, OP. What is wrong with your company that they let this continue for so long????? I mean, this is seriously, seriously disturbing.

      1. Jerry Vandesic

        Exactly. The offender might have left, but the OP still works for a horribly managed company. Any reason to look for a new job has not gone away now that the offender has quit. I would suggest searching for a new job with a better employer.

        1. Suzy Q

          Right? Wasn’t this company or HR ever worried that these innocent and abused employees would sue them for hostile workplace environment?

          1. Yorick

            This isn’t a hostile workplace environment since it’s not based on a protected characteristic like race or gender

            1. Jadelyn

              No, but this is skating into workplace violence liability territory. That doesn’t have to be based on protected classes.

    2. HarvestKaleSlaw

      Yeah – so… you know what gets an employer sued? When employees beg you to protect them from workplace violence and threats of violence, and you do nothing, and then somebody gets hurt. That gets you sued to hell and back.

      OP, your company is lousy. I guess I hope that they stay afloat for the sake of you and your nice coworkers who need to make a living, but part of me wants to see these people go down in flames. FLAMES!

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw

        Also – sorry, still not over this – why is this an HR matter? Why is it, “oh dear, oh dear, can we fire her or not?” If she is stealing things and destroying property and setting traps to injure people, those are actual, literal crimes. Like, you know what solves this? A half-dozen cheap webcams around the office and then a call to the police. This person should have left the building in handcuffs crying about making bail, and the company should have pressed charges.

        1. Ashley

          I would have installed a webcam in my office myself if I found stuff broken. I probably would have told my boss I was filing a police report after the chair.

        2. Jadelyn

          It sounds like it became an HR matter in this case because of an open FMLA claim. In a case like that, it absolutely *is* HR’s responsibility to make sure the company doesn’t fire someone for taking job-protected time, or in a manner that could be construed as retaliatory, as the courts Really Do Not Like It when you do that sort of thing.

          Mind you, in this case they were overly timid and gave the employee wayyyyy too much free rein out of fear of legal action – an open FMLA claim doesn’t and shouldn’t give someone a pass to behave however they like, especially in a manner that endangers your other staff. It just means you need to document your decision to hell and back, which frankly should be happening anyway.

          But more generally speaking, HR should have visibility into and some voice (not necessarily the deciding vote, depending, but a voice) in terminations, to keep an eye on managers and make sure they’re not disproportionately firing people of a particular race/gender/etc., or firing people to cover up their own misconduct in HR-related areas like sexual harassment. HR serves many functions (at least, decent HR in a functional company does), and one of the big areas is labor law compliance. They can’t do that job if they are closed out of the room when the decisions that are governed by labor law are made.

          In this case, they abused that involvement to enable a violent bully, and that was Not Okay. I’m just addressing the question of “Why was this an HR matter at all?”

          1. Observer

            Let’s get real. No court is going to accept a claim that breaking people’s personal property, messing with their work equipment, knife slashing a chair and actively trying to hurt someone are merely “pretexts” for retaliation on FMLA leave. And that assumes that the employee can actually make the case that the leave was legit.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Seriously this. Hiding behind fear of being sued is dumb. If you employ people, you’re probably going to get sued at some point. Avoiding a lawsuit from someone who you have ample business reasons to fire by placing everyone else in danger is ridiculous.

        1. Stinky Socks

          Imagine the lawsuit(s) if Offender actually injured someone, while HR had ample documentation to fire her all the while?

        2. Jadelyn

          I hate how scared so many people end up being. The potential for being sued doesn’t mean you sit on your hands and pretend not to see anything happening. It means you document the actions and causes leading up to the thing you might get sued for. Which you should be doing anyway!

          I mean. We literally once fired a manager 2 days after he filed a worker’s comp claim. He claimed it was retaliation and threatened to sue. We were able to show that the performance issues we fired him for had been long-standing and addressed with him multiple times for months before the firing, and that the actual decision to fire was made the day before he filed the claim. When he threatened us with lawyers, our own lawyers brandished a stack of documentation with date-stamped emails showing when the decision was made. He backed down. So it’s not *impossible* even if the timing *looks* really bad – as long as you can document it appropriately.

          1. LovecraftInDC

            For some smaller places, I think it’s about access to lawyers. I work for a large company. We’ve got a massive team of lawyers. We can (legally) fire somebody and know that we already have people on staff who will handle any lawsuits that may arise. Further, those lawyers can help us draft policies and give opinions on what is or isn’t legal. But smaller businesses who don’t have a lawyer on staff both a) don’t know their rights and b) worry that it would be cheaper to just deal with the problem employee than to have to pay defending themselves in a lawsuit.

            Having said that, this is INCREDIBLY egregious. I think I would have had her out the door the first time anything was corroborated. The fact that she was skipping work and leaving early would just be the icing on the cake.

      3. Magenta Sky

        Sometimes, you’re gonna get sued no matter what you do.

        It’s best to pick the side that’s going to win.

        As much of a problem as a psycho coworker is, in this case, HR is a bigger problem.

      4. pope suburban

        Yeeeees. I worked for a deeply, deeply dysfunctional company, and we had an employee who was creating concerns about our safety. He was explosive, he had threatened other employees, he said inappropriate things about clients (and, worse, clients’ teenaged children) that made me deeply uneasy about sending him unsupervised into people’s homes, he stole thousands of dollars (I proved this, with receipts), and when he finally did start being disciplined for his tardiness (Yes, the tardiness and absenteeism, not the theft or rage) he brought a cudgel to his meeting with his supervisor. I fought the CEO hard on this, because the guy needed to go, and it was really hairy toward the end. I started carrying pepper spray and I had to call my husband to come meet me when I locked up more than once. I am endlessly grateful that he finally did get let go, and that the destructive spiral he was in carried him away from our workplace. If someone had been hurt, it would have been terrible. I want everyone in this story to stay safe, but I also want them to do it by getting far, far away from an employer that clearly does not give a damn for their safety. This is just awful.

        1. Northgirl

          Holy Mother of Fork! I had to google cudgel (English is not my first language) and I did not expect this!

        2. Jadelyn

          He…brought a weapon to a disciplinary meeting with his supervisor. And was not fired on the spot???? What the actual hell?

          1. pope suburban

            I really, really wish I knew. Part of it was definitely that the CEO was terribly conflict-averse, so he didn’t like ever having to discipline anyone. Which would have been one thing if he would have let anyone else discipline employees, but he didn’t. This particular person wasn’t even a good employee, is what really baffles me even now. He had a poor attitude, he stole a lot, he committed wage theft, his work was subpar, and he had openly told me that he had cheated on his professional licensure exam (I told the old owners of the business; new guy overruled them and did nothing about it) in order to finally secure a pass. I mean, he wasn’t even charismatic or talented! I tried to figure it out in the moment and I was stumped, and distance from the situation gave me no clarity. That was the workplace of evil bees in the extreme, though, so I can only attribute it to that.

            1. pope suburban

              Okay, having reflected a little bit, it was definitely in part because his immediate supervisor was a high-school friend, and there was definitely some misplaced loyalty there. They’d grown up in a not-great LA suburb together, so there was a sense of obligation to help one another out of those circumstances. Not that his supervisor was a peach; he was also an absentee nightmare with a controlling streak, but nothing outside the normal parameters of ineffective managers we read about here. He wasn’t violent or especially theft-y, though, which…well, the fact that I’m qualifying that at all says a lot about the company. Supervisor *was* capable of being charismatic, though, and had bamboozled the new CEO into thinking that he was the only person with his skillset (Which was not true overall, though he was one of very few people who would do it for that far below market rate, so…). This meant he got to pretty much do whatever he wanted, and run his department full of friends and relatives like a frat house if he so chose. While I still can’t grasp the specific, granular reasons why this was tolerated, overall it’s one person who can b.s. well and another person who does not have the general social or professional skills to identify or handle trouble. It got out of hand in all kinds of ways, which I can only blame on the bees.

      5. Observer

        so… you know what gets an employer sued? When employees beg you to protect them from workplace violence and threats of violence, and you do nothing, and then somebody gets hurt. That gets you sued to hell and back.

        Yup! And, unlike a baseless FMLA interference suite, something like this is likely to get into the news, and even if it doesn’t word spreads and it WILL damage your reputation. Because it’s SOOOOO stupid that anyone looking at this is going to have to question your judgement.

        If I were involved in hiring and I found out that you worked in HR for a company that did something so utterly ridiculous it would be a MAJOR black mark against you.

    3. AFPM

      The chair KNIFE SLASHING got me. I was expecting immediate termination after that, but then there was more! Good God, OP. How do you explain away KNIFE SLASHING A CHAIR?! Does she just keep a knife sharp enough to slash through upholstery in her desk?! Can we have an end of year “Worst HR Department?”

          1. Serafina

            I worked with someone who popped their gum a lot. I doubt I was the only one in that store who hummed Cell Block Tango a lot.

            1. SageMercurius

              Off topic: bonus points to anyone who can rewrite the whole song to have an office/AAM theme XD

              ‘It’s not illegal
              It’s not illegal…

              I saw one based on Disney villains a while back…

              With regard to the actual post, thank goodness that’s over!

      1. Random Thought

        Yep. HOW COULD THEY NOT FIRE THE OFFENDER AFTER THAT?! This is an insane update. LW, I would consider looking for a new job even with the offender gone, because there is something off about your employer!

      2. Kate R

        RIGHT?!?! Like, I read that thinking that would be the end. She’d be fired. But NO, there was more! It’s nice that the offender resigned, but honestly, I was hoping it would end with the OP and her coworkers all resigning. This HR department sucks. Also, I know this pales in comparison to like the knife-slicing and push-pins, but unplugging all of OP’s electronics made my ears flare up too. Booting up a computer from an improper shutdown is the worst. Hopefully the OP was saving her work, but it still takes forever to boot up. That in itself would be enough to make me quit a job.

        1. Pebbles

          In my job, it can literally take a few days to reproduce an issue where I’m trying to debug the code. Add to that a customer that typically wants their data RIGHT NOW, and I would make it my top priority to get her gone. You’re right that it isn’t much of a problem alongside ALL THE OTHER THINGS, but try dealing with the aftermath that the company might lose out on a $$$$ job when your computer unexpectedly goes down, the customer doesn’t want to wait for you to get back to where you were before so you can fix the original problem. We have a backup UPS on each of our computers for a reason.

          1. Kate R

            Ugh, yes, this too. I had a UPS at my old job because I was running computer simulations for days. Sadly, I found out the hard way that the UPS has one side that’s just a surge protector and the other is the surge+battery. I work for a software company now, so again, while I understand that knife-slicing a chair is REALLY bad, I also read unplugging OP’s computer as a BIG DEAL.

            1. SusanIvanova

              I discovered the awesomeness of UPS and reliable power systems when I came back after a month out for a broken ankle to find my computer still stopped at the same breakpoint from when I’d left the Friday before it happened.

        2. Observer

          Yeah, messing with people’s computers is a firing offense right there. Even when you’re trying to be helpful, like the know it all intern who was trying to force their colleague to use their keyboard “better”. Never mind this.

          Which is to say, OP, there are a LOT of unresolved problems at your workplace. You now two two very important things about your employer, to be precise. Firstly, they don’t give a flip about your safety. They also do not care to make sure you actually have the tools you need to do your job.

          Unless there are REALLY strong countervailing reasons, I’d be looking for a new job.

      3. my two cents

        right?! like, the scissors in my desk are barely sharp enough to catch an errant clothing thread, and here’s this person slashing a chair! A CHAIR!

      4. JanetM

        For what it’s worth, I have a box-cutter in my desk that’s plenty sharp enough to slash upholstery. And I have it because in my previous position as an admin assistant, I had to open boxes several times a week. (My husband bought it for me, so it’s my property, and so I took it with me when I moved positions. I did leave the other box cutter behind.)

      5. OP

        Their response for that one was – “Well maybe it was an accident….and since there are no cameras allowed in the workspaces, there will never be a way to prove it.” Every time something new happened even if we saw it with our own eyes the response was always “well there’s no way to prove what you saw or say you saw”. Ridiculous!!!

        1. Shoes on My Cat

          Wow!!!! So if a person witnesses a murder, it’s good enough for the police & the courts to lock up the perp, but in your company, witness testimony is not good enough for a ……chair fatality? THAT is nuts!

    4. AKchic

      Seriously. I think I may have to go down to the basement to collect my jaw. I may need a pilot to help me go collect my floating eyebrows.

      1. Kyrielle

        I didn’t know before today that I needed strings attached to my eyebrows. Too bad, they’d have made fun kites, they climbed reallllllly fast.

        1. IDon’tRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

          Reading stories like this on AAM ensures that I will never have to pluck or wax my eyebrows again as long as I live.

    5. OlympiasEpiriot

      Um, I’ve returned to this because I’m still rather surprised (to say the least) that law enforcement wasn’t contacted by the firm, at the very least about “vandalism”.

      And, I wonder, did they do a full background check on this person when they were hired? So glad this office doesn’t have a mascot.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood

      I had a thumbtack put on my chair once, in high school. When I told the teacher where I found the tack, he immediately cornered the students I had already gone to him several times before about bullying — without waiting for the rest of the class to be dismissed. None of us could hear a word he said, but no one could miss the change in their posture. They never bothered me again.
      OP’s company could take a lesson from a high school chemistry teacher.

    7. Jo

      My jaw hit the floor of the train I am currently on and I’m scrambling about to find it under the seats.

    8. Jo

      And it’s not just my jaw that’s missing. I’m going to have to get eyebrows tattooed on after mine shot off the top of my head.

  1. ArtK

    I’m glad she resigned, but you should leave that company. They’re incompetent. First tacks and then slashing furniture in someone’s office. Stealing things? She should have been walked out the door then and there. Fear of being sued is no excuse for letting a clearly dangerous and unstable person continue to work there.

    1. Lady Phoenix

      I would not have been surprised if the woman escalated to assaulting or seriously tampering someone’s stuff to cause a big injury…

      And how big that lawsuit would be in comparison…

    2. Paloma Pigeon

      Yeah, it sounds like ample documentation to protect the company against a frivolous lawsuit from multiple employees.

    3. EPLawyer

      If you have to take steps to always have someone on guard to keep her from destroying things, she needs to be gone. Let her sue for FMLA violations. First of all, she has to be ON FMLA or requested it for that to be viable. Also she can still be let go for reasons not related to her leave — like its unsafe for literally everyone else in the office. So she sues. You say she was let go for being a danger to the entire office. Not case over, but yeah, not exactly a slam dunk for her either.

    4. Psyche

      Yeah. Fear of being sued should not prevent them from firing a VIOLENT employee. I could see being hesitant if the only complaint was the time off. But she literally broke things, threatened people and created unsafe situations. Let her sue!

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Absolutely agree. They’re dangerous.

      Boohoo you may be sued. Sue away, I’m more concerned with my employees not being in danger. A slashed chair…I can’t.

    6. Leela

      Not a better option necessarily but a more entertaining one: OP and everyone else sues the company for creating a dangerous workplace, let them see how that lawsuit compares to an FMLA lawsuit and decide then which one is better.

      1. hayling

        I know! This is such clearly antisocial behavior. I understand they were worried about being sued, but they shouldn’t have let that stand in the way of protecting everyone else from her!

        1. Works in IT

          This is not anti social behavior. I have an anti social coworker who works from home every day he can, and is polite when he has to come in for a few hours, and we get along perfectly well. This is violent and hostile.

          1. fposte

            In lay use, we mean “antisocial” where professionals would use “asocial.” The psychological use of “antisocial behavior” is a whole ‘nother can of worms. See also: antisocial personality disorder in the US, and ASBO in the UK.

            1. Gumby

              I know what an ASBO is entirely because of Sherlock. Though the show did not fill me with confidence that those require any sort of actual investigation or concern for due process, etc. other than “hey, you are in the area where a property crime was committed, let’s send you through the legal system.”

      1. Michaela Westen

        I would keep my office door locked and when I had to leave my office, have my phone in my hand with the 9 and 1 already pressed.
        If she was actually, physically threatening me, *no one* could keep me from calling the police!

    1. irene adler

      Bet she’d be out of there in seconds had she done these things to the head of HR or CEO of the company.

    2. JM in England

      Yes, why was she not fired? Have worked at place that would fire you for breathing out of turn…….

    3. Jo

      It makes you wonder what she would have had to do to get fired. If she burnt the place down they’d probably still have kept her on.

    1. Roja

      Right? Very easy solution. Set up cameras for the off hours, catch them in the act, and then poof, any possible resulting lawsuit would be easily won by the company.

      1. Bees in my Socks

        $75. Wildlife camera. Takes pics when motion occurs. Bam. Done. Cost not an issue.

        This is ridiculous and the safety and wellbeing of every other employee was at risk by letting this lunatic continue their rampage. Ridiculous.

        1. Karyn

          Right? My parents have one of those backyard motion cameras that logs all the stuff it records (which is usually deer at 2am, lol) but the app gives them an *immediate* notification – so they could even do some recon and have someone in the office in the AM with the notifications set up, and then catch her IN THE ACT!

      2. irene adler

        I’m betting that some arm chair legal “expert” went all “but we can’t have cameras in the work area. Think of the law suits we’d have to field” and they nixed the camera idea.

        I think I’d put up very visible “smile you are on camera” signs in certain cubicles and see if that affects the Offender’s behavior (assuring cubicle resident about the lack of actual camera).

            1. irene adler

              (Hit Submit too soon!)
              Although I can just see someone arguing that it’s an invasion of their privacy.

          1. pony tailed wonder

            We deal with customer privacy issues where I work. I assume other offices might have to as well.

        1. MatKnifeNinja

          She is such a nut, she’d give you a beat down in the parking structure and blame it on some medical condition.

          “The sign triggered me.”

        2. mark132

          It’s so bizarre, I know security where I work actually has put stealth cameras in certain areas where there were complaints. Think of a camera that looks like a sprinkler fitting etc.

        3. OP

          Ding ding ding!! We tried doing the camera thing and we were informed very strongly by HR that cameras in the workspace areas are strictly prohibited. We have cameras all over the outside of the building and in the elevator areas but no where else.

    2. Triplestep

      Can’t know for sure, but this certainly seems like a large enough company that they’d already have security cameras. No one should have needed to come in an hour early, Geeze Louise!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        Probably only in certain areas or after hours. That’s typical for larger places who don’t want their staff to feel like they’re being babysat by the nanny cams.

        1. Just Employed Here

          I’d be pretty happy to be babysat by nanny cams if I worked there and it would cut down on the furnitute slashing and other vandalism…

          With all the weird stuff this person was getting up to + all the unapproved time off, she can’t have been getting a lot of work done, either.

        2. OP

          Yup, precisely! We have cameras all over the outside of the building, in the parking areas, and inside in the elevator areas, but apparently cameras in the workspaces is absolutely not allowed…even temporarily.

          1. Glitsy Gus

            What if you “accidentally forgot” your own personal, motion-activated camera on your desk when you left one night? And huh, fancy that it turned on when Tacky crept into your cube before standard office hours? I mean, I do get the privacy thing, I wouldn’t want cameras on me while I’m sitting at my desk either, but there has to be some kind of halfway point for situations where employee safety is in question.

            It really sounds like you have an overly reaction-based HR department. I’m glad Tacky is leaving, but I just wonder what will happen the next time someone starts doing something dumb.

            1. JSPA

              That sounds iffy, but leaving skype running, on the other hand…when all it’s aimed to pick up is you, at your computer…seems doable.

          2. Amberlyn

            I very recently reread the saga of the stolen spicy food and my knee-jerk reaction to this was, “… any chance she’s carrying on with an HR decision maker?”

    3. TootsNYC

      yeah, I wondered if they were saying, “oh dear, we can’t prove it’s her, what if someone is trying to frame her?”
      But the solution to that is pretty easy!

      I knew of a company who brought in someone to dust for fingerprints after a prank, so I don’t understand why they wouldn’t just set up a few cameras in the hallways. They don’t need permission.

      In fact, circulating a “sign this to say you’ve been notified that being recorded in the offices is a condition of your employment” form might have warned her off. But it would have been easy-peasy to do, and would probably have made everybody else in the office feel better.

      1. female peter gibbons

        My company set up webcams and discovered the janitor/cleaning lady clearly stealing and eating food on camera. Pretty easy to fire someone after that.

  2. Lady Phoenix

    Sweet Bloody Mary, that has awful! How could they NOT fire her after her manager’s KNIFED UP CHAIR.

    Woman was antoxic pest, but a pox on HR and VP for not doing a thing. If they were so worried about a lawsuit from a well known liar was bad, how about one fron someone who got INJURED from this liar would have been.

    1. PB

      Ditto everything, especially your second paragraph. OP, I’m glad you’re rid of this person, but your HR sucks!

      1. starsaphire

        Yeah. This is a big red flag, OP. I’d honestly suggest polishing up your resume – this is pretty frightening.

        I am so, so sorry that someone at your work was making you feel physically unsafe, and that your company refused to protect you. That is just downright awful.

          1. Autumnheart

            Hopefully the scary person’s new company will have some guts around firing disturbed and violent employees, and won’t let her engage in theft, property destruction and threats with impunity.

        1. OhGee

          Ditto. My last workplace had a staff member who was nearly this awful to colleagues. It took several years for her to be fired and…they hired someone else who ended up exhibiting awful behavior and had to fire them, too. In both cases, the boss later admitted they’d seen red flags during the hiring process and HIRED THEM ANYWAY. This could easily happen again.

  3. Roja

    What the actual…the only words I have are those that are wholly NSFW.

    I am beyond appalled, horrified, shocked, insert every synonym you can think of, that this person was vandalizing the office, stealing things, and threatening people and HR blocked her firing not once but repeatedly! OP used the word unsupportive and I think we can all agree that’s the understatement of the century.

  4. AdAgencyChick

    This person is looney tunes. Glad she’s gone, but boy, OP, those are some management issues at your company.

  5. CR

    Holy hell, god help the people around her if she escalates to physical violence with that knife (!!!). She does not sound well. I hope she gets help.

  6. WellRed

    Your company is lucky she didn’t cause enough harm to anyone that THEY turned around and sued the company instead. I will never understand how an HR department overrules execs in situations where the solution is sooo obvious. LW, please know that this is way out of bounds, the hours not worked were the LEAST of it, and the fact that you all had to do things like “stand guard” has me worried this has been normalized for you and your coworkers.
    Here’s to a safer and saner 2019 for you and your coworkers.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I’m pro “fire them and let them try.” In all my years, I’ve seen one case and it cost us a few thousand dollars to go away. I will pay a garbage settlement to save the business and decent humans working there from this crazy nonsense.

  7. Crystal

    I always wonder with companies like this who are so worried about being sued, what happens if your employee turns around and sues or gets hurt or WORSE? Why are you assuming it won’t happen the other way?

    1. Gazebo Slayer

      It’s also very much the sort of problem you always see with organizations that subscribe to Geek Social Fallacy #1: Ostracizers Are Evil. By refusing to exclude anyone, no matter how badly behaved they are, you are in effect actually excluding all the decent people they drive away.

  8. Knitting Cat Lady

    Just to recap:

    Your company refused to fire that employee for fear of getting sued.

    WTF did they think would happen if one of you sat in the push pins?!

    I’d have called my union rep while they were still pulling the pins out of my ass in the ER.

    And I’m pretty sure any judge worth their salt would have handed your bosses their heads on a silver platter once they found out an employee was allowed to run wild like this.

    Fucking hell, what is wrong with those people?!

  9. Hooray College Football

    Well, now you know how much you can get away with and not get fired, right? What an example HR set with that one! You can be completely awful/destructive/toxic, and if we are afraid you’ll sue, we won’t fire you. My friend has been sued about 14 times for firing people (Government). He has won every single time. It can be a pain, but keeping a toxic/awful employee? Much worse.

    1. Ermintrude

      I’m wondering if that’s been this nutbag’s thinking – escalate and see how far she can take things and get away with them. :/

  10. ISuckAtUserNames

    I feel like someone could take this start and make a horror movie out of it.

    Glad she’s gone OP, before she poisoned someone’s coffee or whatever her next escalation would be (and OP’s company (or others who can’t seem to think this far ahead)? If you’re reading? Employees injured by your negligence can sue, too. Just sayin’. And have a much better case than the mythical “Might sue us for FMLA violations.”

  11. CatCat

    “… they were expecting the offender may attempt to sue the company and they were trying to avoid it.”

    Sigh.

    1. CatCat

      That was just my immediate reaction. Yeah, you have to manage risk, but not like this. Not by putting other employees at risk of harm.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if ex-coworker still sues the company either.

      1. mark132

        I would think managing the risk of current employees being assaulted would be the risk you want to put more effort in mitigating.

      2. Oranges

        Even if you look at it from a cold/inhuman angle they failed at risk management.

        Risks for firing her: Legal battle.

        Risks for not firing her: Employee turnover increase. Moral decrease. Predator behavior increase (since predators of EVERY stripe now know that they can get away with it).

        Just. All of the fail.

        1. Glitsy Gus

          Additional risk of not firing her: Legal battle brought by all the people who reported her and had their personal safety completely ignored.

        2. Observer

          Additional risks of not firing her:

          She alienates customer or other outsiders who have option.
          She actually hurts an outsider – that’s a lawsuit and possibly REALLY BAD publicity.
          She damages expensive or critical equipment.
          She manages to wipe or corrupt sensitive information.

    2. EPLawyer

      Even though she resigned, she can still sue. So they might not have avoided the problem. At the expense of good employees. How many will leave now that they know this is how incredibly dangerous situations are handled at this company?

      1. CatCat

        Totally agree with you and I wonder if the company ever even talked to an employment lawyer before they decided on just hoping she would go away and not do anything was a good approach.

      2. Narise

        Yes she can still sue, been there done that although our employee wasn’t crazy just difficult. However if I were OP I may be unavailable or unwilling to provide any statements supporting the company and HR. After all they did very little to support/protect these employees while Crazy Lady ran rampant. At the very least I’d make them sweat it out that I wasn’t going to back them up. Also verify HR won’t offer this lady her job back as an olive branch if she does sue. The entire department should threaten to quit if she comes back although I understand this is not feasible.

      3. lulu

        Exactly. I’m almost hoping she does sue them so that they can see their attempt to pacify her at the expense of everyone else was not worth it.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      Adding to the chorus of “you can’t leave us hanging” but also I really kind of hope you were because otherwise there’s another one out there.

    2. OP

      I’m SO intrigued!! Could we form a coalition of previous colleagues of this nightmare? Do tell, do tell!

  12. ZSD

    Holy expletive. What is wrong with the HR that they failed to fire her after she cut a chair open with a knife?!

    1. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want

      Right?! Even if this woman is gone, why would anyone be okay with working at the sort of company where someone can behave like this and get away with it?

  13. ragazza

    Wow. I would have been very tempted (and possibly forced) to say “I don’t feel physically safe at this workplace” and refuse to come in. Of course it sounds like this company would then have no problem with firing the complainer rather than the possibly violent and disturbed individual.

  14. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

    It’s only been 3 days (depending on when the update was sent). I would not relax just yet. She may just up and decide she didn’t quit after all and walk back in like she still works there. I hope the business has some security and that she can’t get past the front door. Speaking of security, why didn’t they at least prevent her from coming in early — take away her keys altogether, make her badge unusable before her start time, or have a guard keep her in the lobby until her start time? That would have been a partial solution to some of this.

    1. AFPM

      I was thinking this too – have security at the entrance(s) and around the premises after she leaves. She could slash car tires or break windshields, or worse. I’m surprised she hasn’t tried to follow anyone home. This is horrifying.

    2. MatKnifeNinja

      Seriously, this was the first thing that came to mind.

      She maybe be doubling down for part two. This type of cray doesn’t slink away.

      1. wendelenn

        “This type of cray doesn’t slink away.”

        Another gem for mugs or T-shirts at the AAM merchandise store! (Is there one?)

    3. Parenthetically

      YES!! OP! Please don’t let your guard down and please insist on security! This woman is dangerous and used to getting her way. That’s not a recipe for, “Ah, she’s left the company, cool, back to normal.”

      Also I cannot overemphasize how much this company sucks. It sucks so bad.

  15. Lena Clare

    Oh my god. She SLASHED a CHAIR with a KNIFE? Sorry for shouting OP, but she should have been fired for that. That’s worrying behaviour because it’s escalating, and it’s even more worrying that your HR department did not take out seriously enough.

    I’m glad she’s going (although I’m worried that she’s basically taking her psychopathic behaviour elsewhere and it’s going to make it someone else’s problem), but as an earlier commenter said maybe it’s time to think about not being there in the long term for your wellbeing.

  16. Ginger

    Your company sucks. Full stop.

    Fear of a lawsuit so they allow everyone else to be terrorized? Totally insane.

  17. MuseumChick

    Excuse me while I pick my jaw up from the floor. WTF??? I am happy you no longer have to deal with here but I am so sad and shocked with how your company handled this. I hope you will soon find a job at a company that handles issues like this appropriately.

  18. AmazinglyGuileless

    “for example, coming to her enclosed office in the morning to find her chair knife-sliced ”

    HOLY CRAP.

    I cannot believe they didn’t fire this person. What does that tell you about the state of management these days??? Truly unhinged. I am glad she resigned and you are ultimately much safer, OP, but WOW, that person should have been terminated long ago.

    1. irene adler

      I would have been out of there directly after learning about this incident.
      Just crossed over into a whole ‘nother level of crazy.

  19. sunshyne84

    Normally when people ask if they should contact a person’s new job I’m quick to think of course not, but I wouldn’t be mad at an anonymous note being sent out because this person is just crazy. People need to be warned!

  20. Jilly

    You know, companies get sued. Avoiding the filing of a lawsuit shouldn’t be the goal. Documenting yourself out the wazoo so that the company wins the lawsuit should be the goal.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Exactly. That’s why you have insurance, documented policies and proof you require employees to follow them.

      Letting someone terrorize the office this way flushes their proof they administer policies fairly. Welcome to Office Armageddon.

    2. Lilo

      You can’t actually avoid a lawsuit. That’s an unattainable goal. Anyone with a filing fee and a pen can sue anyone (many just end up with motions to dismiss). The issue is to avoid a legitimate lawsuit.

    3. CM

      This.

      You can’t ever be sure that no one will accuse you of doing something illegal, but you CAN make sure you don’t do something illegal, and you can muster evidence to support that.

      I’ve been in jobs before where people seemed to believe that employment laws (which offer good protection to workers where I live but still strongly favour employers) somehow tied their hands and made it impossible for them to do anything, but, IMO, it was always a case of them not understanding the law or not being able to imagine HR processes outside of “we do whatever we want” or “the employees do whatever they want.”

  21. PSB

    Can a whole HR department be nominated for Worst Boss of the Year? They seem to be the ones with all the authority here.

    1. Urdnot Bakara

      seconding. alison, **please** put all managers and HR personnel from this post on the worst bosses of 2018 list!!

  22. Oxford Comma

    I’m trying and failing to pick my jaw up from the floor. I’m relieved this person is gone, but that she stayed so long and that your employer did nothing to remove her, well, it’s a giant red flag and if I were you, I would be looking for another position.

  23. Urdnot Bakara

    this is BEYOND absurd. FMLA aside, surely they could have fired her for intentionally breaking your things (including electronics, probably company-issued) and LITERALLY destroying someone’s chair with a KNIFE???

  24. kittymommy

    She sliced up a chair?? She committed a misdemeanor and displayed a propensity towards violence AND SHE’S STILL NOT FIRED??? Oh fuck no. LW needs to get out of their ASAP.

    1. fposte

      Sure, but then what? They’re not going to lock her up without bail for slashing a chair, so when she comes to work the next day, what do you do? If the answer is “fire her,” why not just cut straight to that in the first place?

      1. mark132

        I think you can do both. After she is arrested, mail her a letter informing her she is fired and request the Police no trespass her. She shows up tomorrow, she can get arrested again.

      1. mark132

        Fair enough it would be best that the company do this and my post wasn’t clear on this, I was actually thinking of the company requesting a police investigation. That said some of the property is personal property, so an individual would be able to file a complaint.

  25. Kitty

    Holy crap. I think the problem is no longer the offender, but the appallingly lax management and HR! Run far from this company as soon as you can.

  26. Lana Kane

    I’m wondering what Jane did after her chair was slashed. Did she raise a stink with HR, or did she mention it and not push it further?

    It’s mindboggling to me that fear of a lawsuit over FMLA could be conflated with the theft, vandalism, and threats she was committing. This isn’t a safe place to work.

    1. Not Australian

      At the very least that had to be quite a challenging conversation:
      “I need a new chair.”
      “Why?”
      “Because [co-worker] slashed it.”
      How does that *not* get escalated to management doing something about it? Destruction of company property in itself is no laughing matter…

  27. Lady Phoenix

    OP: “Heather” put tacks in my chair
    HR: We’ll move her to manager supervision
    Manager: My chair has been knifed
    OP: My stuff has been messed with
    Manager: My stuff has been damaged
    HR: Oh, we can’t do anything cause she might sue
    OP & Manager: You are aware that WE can sue too, right?
    HR: …… We can’t do anything cause she might sue

  28. Common Welsh Green

    Good grief! And I thought I’d worked in some snake pits! Time to dust off your resume, OP. These people have shown you who they are. Believe them.

  29. ResuMAYDAY

    At first I figured her new employer didn’t check references, but now I’m thinking your noodle-spined HR department might have actually given her a good reference! Take a look at her LinkedIn profile or social media in a week or two. If you find her new employer and know anyone at that company, consider reaching out to them. She’s not going to go back to a normal state and let the crazy work itself up over time; she may do real harm to someone at this new company soon.

    1. The Bimmer Guy

      I second that, but with the caveat that the LW takes steps to be safe. The perpetrator sounds, frankly unhinged. The LW would be doing a real service to reach out and mention the coworker’s history, but not if it means jeopardizing their safety.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      A lot of HR departments adopt a policy of only confirming dates of employment and maybe if they are eligible for rehire. HR is a terrible resource to use as a reference.

      But I agree with the trying to find out where she went and discretely giving a heads up if you know anyone there.

  30. The Bimmer Guy

    Assuming there was proof of everything the offender was doing, I feel like it could have been more costly for the company to get sued by you and everyone else by fostering a hostile work environment (by not taking appropriate action against the offender).

    Slashing chairs and stealing family photos? What the hell?!

    I know Alison tries to correct this whenever she encounters it, but you still see companies that are so afraid to get sued, they fail to act against really inappropriate/harmful/toxic behavior. First of all, someone has to *win* a lawsuit. The very act of being sued does not automatically mean that you will be out anything. Second, if you act within legal boundaries—consult your/a lawyer if you aren’t sure—you can absolutely discipline and/or terminate bad performers.

  31. Interviewer

    It would take a lousy HR coordinator about 4 minutes to poke holes in all of that crazy loon’s stories, using the pushpins she left in OP’s chair.

    1. Elaine

      I would laugh about your clever “using the pushpins she left…” line, except that I’m still so shocked and horrified that all laughs are off for a while.

  32. Madison

    I think your company might be a biiiiiig issue here. It may be worth looking elsewhere for employment even if things are better now, since the only relief you got from basically physical assault was the offender finally deciding to quit of her own volition.

  33. Not Today

    We always hear about the US primarily being employment at will, yet it seems the people with the worst behavior have the most job security. Fear of litigation should stop no company from firing an obviously troubled and disruptive person as long as documentation is in good order. I bet if someone “went off” of this arshole, they would have been the one to get into trouble! I cannot stand wimpy companies like this, they don’t understand the toll taken on morale and productivity when the inmates run the institution. Ugh.

    1. Autumnheart

      IKR? I’ve always wondered why that dynamic comes up so frequently. Do your job well and be an engaged and productive employee? Your neck could be on the chopping block at any time! But abuse workplace policies, act out against other employees, and do things that would literally get you arrested? Management will bend over backward to make sure any word about your shenanigans is buried, and that anyone who complains about you is shown the door. In fact, they’ll probably promote you 2-3 times in an effort to “limit the damage,” while employees who would actually be a credit to those positions will never get a snowball’s chance at them.

    2. Dr. Pepper

      Yeah, it sucks. It seems like deserving people get fired all the time for minor things, yet crazy people get to do whatever they like and suffer no consequences. I don’t know if that’s really true or just seems that way because the injustice is so blatant. I suspect that part of it is that regular, rational people simply don’t believe that crazy people exist, and by the time they’ve wised up to the fact that someone is NOT in fact a normal, rational person, it’s getting into ass-covering territory and sunk cost fallacy.

      1. Lucille2

        I believe the common denominator here is bad managers. The workplace is flooded with them. Bad managers fire people for terrible reasons or enable problem employees to stay and infect a workplace.

        Consider how company’s often hire managers: either based on years of experience (could be good or bad), or promoting someone who is good at their job to managing people who do the same job. The latter is moving someone who excels at a one skillset into another one without any prior education or exposure. Having years of management experience is like years of playing amateur golf. If you don’t learn proper techniques early on, bad habits are developed and entrenched over time.

    3. AcademiaNut

      This is actually a pretty common dynamic in personal relationships too. How many families have a ‘difficult’ member – violent, vindictive, nasty, irrational – that everyone else is expected to work around and pacify. Or when the abused family member is supposed to make up and ‘get over it’ so as to not make weddings and holiday dinners awkward. Or that one friend who is ultra sensitive or nasty to people, but everyone is expected to overlook it so as to not cause a scene.

      People know that the reasonable person will not cause major problems (they keep quiet, or quietly decide to cut off contact or get a new job), but the unreasonable person will cause a scene, or slash cushions/tires, cut off contact to grandchildren, or sue. The only time the reasonable person has leverage is when they have something the job/family/group wants and are willing to withhold it, or are willing to move things into a legal arena. Or are willing to cause a scene themselves, which can be hard to do when you’re likely to be fired.

  34. ooo

    Sounds terrible, but let’s be honest: The White House needs every employee willing to work there right now.

    1. Lady Phoenix

      I know we are supposed to avoid political discussion…

      But that burn was so hot that even THE SUN has to wear sunglasses.

  35. LCL

    I believe OPs interpretation, I’m not posting this to be contrarian. Most of the things OP posts are circumstantial; creepy coworker wasn’t actually witnessed doing anything, except being where she didn’t belong. It looks like HR didn’t understand how to handle this kind of investigation with possible criminal activity happening. People like creepy coworker know exactly how much they can get away with, and how to avoid being caught and deflect blame if they are caught. Our HR understands these kind of issues-they fired someone who got in a bad turf fight with their manager and broke into an area where the manager had locked up documentation they needed for their job.

    I think you should ask your manager some hard questions about the security of your facility. Creepy coworker was able to break into 2 enclosed offices, multiple times. How was this able to happen more than once? At minimum I would want to know who has keys for everything and where the keys are kept.

    1. Kyrielle

      It says “enclosed” and not locked. I’m currently at a workplace where most of us have offices with doors, but few of us have doors with locks. (Managers do, though. And I would assume HR, IT, etc.)

      1. LCL

        Yeah, I guess I am in a slightly different environment. In general, here, if it has a door it has a lock and would require interacting with facilities to get the lock decommissioned. I still think OPs employer was rendered inert by a lack of imagination regarding what a bad person may do if so inclined. I would love to hear Lady Phoenix’ take on the whole situation.

  36. The Man, Becky Lynch

    I’m not worried about a lawsuit. Lawyers will eat that up for breakfast. I’m terrified that a lunatic is allowed to knife chairs. That’s escalating. That’s a step away from being featured on 20/20 about workplace violence.

    1. Delta Delta

      And not only that, but that the employer is on notice that the employee knifes chairs. This is starting to feel more potentially grossly negligent on the company’s part, the more I think about it.

  37. Delta Delta

    Lawyer here: people sue and get sued all the diggity dang time. Refusing to terminate a dangerous employee because ‘uh oh, we might get some scary lawyer papers’ is completely ridiculous. In the long run, a suit from this employee (if it went anywhere at all) would have cost the company less than the exposure the company would have had by knowingly continuing to employ a dangerous person. OP and her coworkers have just been shown by their company that they aren’t valued AT ALL. This calls for either a recalibration of HR, or for people to find an employer who doesn’t support knife slashing as a casual hobby.

    And another thing – the company might not be totally done with her. Who’s to say she isn’t going to show up and start slashing tires? She seems to be wired that way. I’d also suggest some security cameras on the parking area.

    1. Parenthetically

      Yep to all this. I am not a llama but seriously… just because this lady might be able to find some ambulance-chaser to take her case doesn’t mean she HAS a case!

    2. Lilo

      I’m a lawyer too and this is ridiculous. You can get scary lawyer papers for no real reason at all. Being so afraid of a lawsuit you won’t remove a dangerous employee makes you much more likely to be sued in a manner where you will actually lose (versus a frivolous lawsuit for a legitimate firing).

    3. Spider

      Out of curiosity — would OP or (say) the manager with the sliced chair have a legitimate case to sue the company for refusing to fire the hostile and threatening employee?

  38. ENFP

    In all seriousness, I would be concerned that this person would come back and try to harm employees. Don’t want to be alarmist, but this person is scary. Not sure what you can do at this point, but OP should at least consider having security walk her to her car for a while. (Hopefully security is more competent than HR.)

  39. Oranges

    Something no one has pointed out yet: HR has now told all the predators at your workplace that it’s open season. This is…. not good. Predators (of all kinds) are hearing that they won’t be punished up to and including physical violence.

    If you think you don’t work with a predator… statistics say that you do (unless you work at a place with less than 20 people or so). Predators are very good at camouflage, they have to be.

  40. Not So NewReader

    OP, I hope you are able to move on from this job. Your company is not able to keep you and others safe. This is such an extreme case of spinelessness. With an added jaw-dropping, Grand Canyon size, lack of understanding of how the laws work. How do they even get through IRS tax code or do other business functions, with such low level of understanding.
    There are so many points that management could have jumped in and ended this incredibly long saga. Many of the posters here have pointed out some very basic things that could have been done.

    Please move on before you forget what good management looks like or that good management does exist out there. If it were me, I would need a good year or two before I could sleep through the night, after having your experience here.

  41. Dr. Pepper

    That is wild. Just wild. My forehead hurts from how far my eyebrows went up reading that.

    The woman is a menace and your company sucks for the completely spineless way they handled her unprofessional and violent (!) behavior. Some of those things could be interpreted as crimes, and “oh noooo we might get suuuued” was considered sufficient reason to wuss out in every regard?? What if she hurt someone? What then? Oh no, we’re too scared of one crazy person suing us to do anything to protect the rest of our employees.

  42. Episkey

    At a previous company I worked at, a similar thing happened BUT the employee in question was not dangerous (at least). Just horribly, horribly incompetent to the point of sleeping at his desk on a regular basis. He just didn’t do any work and another issue was he refused to travel, knowing when he accepted the job that it required occasional business trips. One of my former colleagues actually taped him snoring at his desk on his phone (unsure if that was actually legal or not). He was a POC and had sued a previous employer for racial discrimination, which he threatened to do at my previous company and HR did the same thing — refused to fire him to avoid a lawsuit. Eventually they got bought out by a much bigger company, which I suppose was willing to take on the “risk” of a lawsuit, so they got rid of him that way. Geez!

  43. Lucille2

    None of this is ok. IME, HR is not making the decision to terminate, the offender’s manager is. HR may need to be the approver, but more likely a legal arm within HR. I’m pinning this on the VP who can earn the approval to terminate with proper documentation about the incidents and conversations with the offender. This was either not being done at all or sufficiently.

    It blows my mind that HR is willing to protect this employee over all other employees threatened. Problem may appear to be solved on the surface, but you’re still working for the same VP and HR who enabled the offender.

    1. GingerHR

      Agree -although I guess I would! However whilst managers will usually talk to me when they want to dismiss someone, ultimately it’s their choice. It’s down to me to make sure they do it the ‘right’ way, and that they don’t fire people frivolously, but that’s on me to be convincing, not dictating. With something like this, f I didn’t help the manager to get a dismissal, I’d expect them to ignore me. And to be honest, if I knew about this and the manager was going nothing, I’d escalate to someone who would. This is a really poor HR department.

  44. Mr. Bob Dobalina

    Oh wow. A pattern of outright criminal activity left unaddressed by the OP’s employer. Time to look for a new job, OP.

  45. Bookworm

    I was really concerned this would escalate to physical assault on someone and am glad she’s nearly gone. This behavior is really disturbing and it’s terrifying how HR refused to fire her. Like…some of this is breaking the law.

    I’m glad this got better, OP, but there is something very wrong with your HR department and maybe further up the chain. Glad you’re okay, though!

    1. T

      I thought the same thing, if this person is crazy enough to slash office furniture, it could easily escalate next to a physical attack. The whole thing with the knife is just completely insane.

  46. Lilo

    The fact that she STABBED SOMEONE’S CHAIR and HR wouldn’t do anything (not to mention the multitude of clear deal breakers) would make me job search. What the everloving heck was wrong with this people? Did they want her to actually stab someone before they would have fired her?

  47. Ms. Ann Thropy

    Your company is TERRIBLE. Instead of worrying about being sued by this bunny-boiler, they should have worried about the lawsuit from another employee she injured after they were on notice. Their priorities are very skewed.

    1. Lilo

      When I was a law clerk my judge had where someone sued for wrongful termination alleging discrimination (she really had just simply failed to show up to work a lot). It wasn’t that hard at all, the employer had documented the employee’s misconduct and was able to win with a simple summary judgment motion after the evidence had been submitted. Didn’t even get to trial.

      Meanwhile, suing for medical harm for disregarding a reckless and dangerous employee? That the employer could lose.

      This lawsuit avoidance stuff will actually get you sued. And you’ll end up paying, unlike with a frivolous claim. An HR with any kind of knowledge of how this works would know that.

  48. Candace

    I was the senior manager at a place where a middle manager (Jane) started noticing weird wet areas and odd smells in her office. With her agreement, we immediately quietly installed a webcam – and caught an already somewhat difficult employee (Dora) sneaking into the office on a Sunday, stealing a spare key, letting herself into Jane’s office, and spraying chemicals and solvents everywhere. Jane has serious environmental allergies. When we saw the video on Monday, we called HR immediately, showed them the video, called Dora in, and fired her on the spot. No excuses.

    1. Lady Phoenix

      At first, I was thinking Dora was doing… somethibg else. Like nsfw else.

      Call me dirty minded but that’s what usually happens.

  49. Lumen

    *stares at letter*

    *stares at paragraph where after KNIFE SLASHING SOMEONE’S CHAIR this person was not immediately fired*

    I have…

    no words.

  50. Nox

    I hope that person gets help. Like i’m just saying just maybe some 3rd party to help her talk this out and try to figure out what darkness is deeply cooking in there

  51. AutumnAlmanac

    What the hoo? “…for example, coming to her enclosed office in the morning to find her chair knife-sliced…” In what world is this not a police matter? This way beyond HR.

  52. riffy

    I feel as though the potential law suits they would field from a deranged unnecessarily protected problem employee harassing, intimidating and potentially escalating to injuring could have been pretty serious….

    I would’ve run for the hills personally, how anyone put up with this I do not know.

  53. Fish girl

    Oh god. Sounds like the HR at my old company! They were terrified of getting sued so refused to fire anyone. Like that time that one coworker sexually assaulted another coworker at the company holiday party. The solution? Ban him from next year’s party. Yep…that was it.

    1. Gazebo Slayer

      Which opens the whole company up to a nice big sexual harassment lawsuit! Especially since it sounds like there were witnesses, if it happened at a party….

  54. SleepyKitten

    Wow, this person is unsafe. But I will say one thing: if her condition is aggravated by work (fatigue, back pain, etc), Wednesday and Friday afternoons are reasonable times to want off. I have CFS/ME and back when I was doing 40 hours, those are the times I would most frequently crash and have to go home. I now have Tuesday and Thursday afternoon off so I can rest and *avoid* a flare-up.

    Basically, whatever was going on with her absences might be completely legit, and she should still have been fired for all of the property destruction.

  55. MLB

    Holy hell! That lady was batshit crazy, but if I were you I’d start paying closer attention to how your company handles other (more sane) problems and maybe start a job search. If they’re unwilling to fire someone who slashes a chair and puts push pins on someone’s chair (in addition to taking time she doesn’t have), it’s doubtful that they’ll handle any problems appropriately.

  56. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks

    The really sad thing is this person has probably just been hired at some other unsuspecting company where she will wreak havoc. :-(

  57. T

    I would get out….now. This company allowed this person to behave this way with no repercussions at all. How was she not fired?! This boggles my mind. I also worked at an extremely dysfunctional company and had to start carrying mace because of a very creepy coworker. There were several HR complaints against him (one that even went to court) but no one would actually fire him. When I left if was such a relief to never have to deal with this creepy guy again, but it was really due to the company not having good enough management to see he needed to be gone.

  58. Gymmie

    I haven’t even read through the comments but I knew as soon as I came here to comment that I would probably just be reiterating the horror and shock that people will be expressing. What the AF?! The knife slashing was especially horrifying. She is an unstable person. Seriously unstable and it sucks that being able to get away with things seemed to fuel her actions. Also, your workplace sucks. Your HR person is terrible from a purely human decency standpoint, but also, their actions do not keep you out of a lawsuit! Having people terrorized at work make people file lawsuits. Especially what if a person was from a protected class, they would have even more reason to cite harassment, etc. You now know though that if anything ever happens to you, HR is not going to respond appropriately. Wow.

  59. CaribouInIgloo

    So HR was so worried about getting sued by ONE employee with a history of frivolous lawsuits against previous employers that they were willing to put the company at risk for being sued by MULTIPLE employees, including some senior ones?!
    I’m sorry but your HR sucks donkey balls. I’m glad that it worked out in the end, but man…

  60. Polaris

    HR was worried about the offender suing? I think they should be worried about the rest of the employees suing, particularly OP and Jane. This isn’t technically a “hostile workplace” as defined by the EEOC, but I’m pretty sure the intimidation, threats of violence, and workplace sabotage break a few laws of their own.

  61. Evan

    “Whom is extremely friendly and kind” — you just use “who” here, since she is the subject of the clause. “Whom everyone loves” would be correct because “everyone” is the subject and “whom” the object.

  62. Goya de la Mancha

    So glad she’s gone! But echoing what everyone else is saying, leave as soon as you are able. I think it’s unlikely that you’ll run into another co-worker at her level of absurd, but HR/management has basically shown their true colors and lack of action on this one. This wasn’t a Bob keeps stealing my guacamole out of my lunch, this is a person is continuously damaging property (personal and company) and showing that she’s capable of escalating.

  63. Observer

    I have to wonder if there was more going on with HR than just worry about a law suit. Because not only is it possible that someone else would have sued the company, but someone this unstable and violent could have done the company some serious and costly damage. I mean, can you imagine what would happen if this person tried to put a string across a doorway and a visitor wound up getting hurt? Or sliced something like a power line? At this point, they were not only failing to protect their staff, they were failing to protect the business on the most basic level.

    I cannot think of any *legitimate* reason for anyone in HR to protect someone like this. But I *can* easily think of some “good” non-legitimate reasons why someone might protect someone like this. And those reasons mean that even if the OP doesn’t start looking for a new job right away, they SHOULD polish their resume, take any an all opportunities to add good stuff to it, and constantly network. Be ready to find a new job at the drop of a hat.

  64. Noah

    There are a lot of comments critical of the employer, and some are valid, but we have no idea what the situation was with the employer’s relationship with her and what their risks of a lawsuit are. They may have had good reason to believe the bad employee would quit soon (look, she did!) and decided that, overall, that’s what was best for the company. That sucks for OP, but it doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision for the company.

    1. Elspeth

      Nope. OP’s company’s refusal to protect their employees means they could be sued – by employees targeted by that out of control now-ex employee.

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