update: two of my employees are harassing their disabled coworker

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 who had two employees who were harassing their disabled coworker? Here’s the update.

The day your answer came out, Lola asked to meet with me. We’re still meeting via video since the pandemic has been in an upswing in our area. She’s leaving to start her own company. While she wasn’t aware of the behavior of the two staff members in question, she still felt it was time for her to move on regardless since she’s getting a lot of attention in other places. We had the unpleasant choice of promoting one of the complaintants to Lola’s position until they both started bragging on social media (another staff shared it to us out of concern for Lola) that they got her fired and are celebrating, which caused a huge backlash and at least five people almost quit. Did I mention we have a very small team of under 20? We did as much damage control as we could and now we have three openings to fill. One of the commenters stated now is a great time to hire with so many hardworking people out of a job and I have to say our executive team agrees.

I wrote back and asked, “Am I reading correctly that you did end up firing the two who were complaining about her?”

We did, yes. It became a kind of you can’t fire me, I quit type thing but they were obviously not happy with us. Ironically this morning I got contacted by a temp agency saying they had a great freelancer since we had openings. It was one of the two. Lola was able to point some people our way so all in all, as much as I wish we could have avoided that, I’m happy for her, and we have some great leads and don’t have to worry about abelist and harassing behavior.

{ 160 comments… read them below }

    1. Eye roll*

      IDK. I’m pretty unsatisfied that discrimination and bullying were about to land someone a promotion until they caused public comment and protest from other employees by bragging about their bad behavior. Apparently, they can bully and discriminate, ignore instructions from their manager, and derail projects, but bragging and alienating the other employees was the problem. That’s… not great.

      1. SweetestCin*

        True, but I find it ultimately satisfying that they were refused for a re-hire through a temp agency.

        And honestly Lola deserves far better than this company, so I’m glad she’s moved on!

      2. Observer*

        I don’t think that this is so terrible. I mean their behavior was bad. But I think it’s fine that bragging about “getting someone fired” (who was NOT fired) and seriously ticking off coworkers with awful behavior are things that good employers DO care about.

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          I think the point was, that employees who were creating a hostile work environment for someone based on their disability should never have been considered for a promotion at all, even prior to them bragging about it. Promote anyone else, but they shouldn’t be rewarded for that kind of behavior.

          I’m glad they finally got themselves fired, but I’m definitely not glad that they were ever for a second considered for a promotion after harassing someone for so long. That’s PIP-worthy (at best), not promotion-worthy.

          1. Observer*

            I agree that they should never have been under serious consideration. And I don’t understand the OP’s org felt like they had to choose one of them. I just don’t think that the final straw was such a ridiculous thing to provide that last push. Because that could have been firing-worthy on its own.

            1. Anonys*

              Yeah, I never really got the comment “We had the unpleasant choice of promoting one of the complaintants to Lola’s position ” – Why was that ever a choice? Just because the disabled coworker is gone doesn’t mean you can’t discipline her harassers.

              They weren’t just complaining about a coworker they didnt like, they created a hostile work environment in the legal sense which would be actionable even after Lola left. Imo, OP should have followed Alison’s advice (to have serious conversations with the two employees and be prepared to fire them) and OP defo should have put their foot down on any talk of promoting one of the harassers.

              Lola leaving doesn’t really change Alison’s initial advice though of course would usually make it harder to monitor if the behaviour would improve, though in this case, the employees were stupid/bigoted/evil enough to brag on social media even after Lola left. And in a way I’m of glad they did that because it led to them getting their comeuppance instead of being promoted. Also, I hope OP is not giving the good references!

      3. staceyizme*

        That’s a major disaster, in my estimation! It’s WAY too far behind the action-needed curve and it’s impossible to conceive of the company as having credibly considered promoting someone, ANYONE, who was hostile and harassing to another employee. I know that it can take time to see a pattern, assess its severity and develop a response. But here, I think, any shred of a shadow of a doubt that something is “Rotten in Denmark” with respect to the management culture there died with this line “we had the unpleasant choice of promoting one of the complainants to Lola’s position until…”. WHAT THE EVER LIVING WHAT? Yikes, that’s bad.

      4. Nic*

        Same. They should absolutely have never been in consideration for that role after Lola left. Their abhorrent behaviour and lack of professionalism should have seen them a) on a PIP and b) barred from promotion opportunities for at least a year/until they understood that bullying coworkers is wrong.

  1. theothermadeline*

    I really wish the company had seen that their harassment was a disqualifier for promotion and had hired outside for Lola’s job from the start, but glad to know that Lola is in a place that makes her happy.

    1. Anhaga*

      So much + to this! Opening the company you work for up to ADA discrimination lawsuits in addition to flat-out harassing a co-worker really should be a termination-worthy offense. They come across as terrible people.

    2. Batty Twerp*

      It was quite a rollercoaster for such a short (comparatively) update.
      So pleased for Lola though, and good for her that she felt comfortable pointing people towards her former company.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yeah, I read “We had the unpleasant choice of promoting one of the complaintants to Lola’s position” and my eyes kinda bugged out of my head. I know sometimes you’re put in a desperate position, but this seems like something that shouldn’t happen regardless of how desperate you are.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        I expected “We had the unpleasant choice of promoting one of the complaintants to Lola’s position” to be followed by something like “or go through a lengthy and expensive recruiting process,” at least. Surely there were other options than promoting one of the awful harassers?

        1. ThePear8*

          Same, the unpleasant choice of promoting one OR….?? Because clearly the first option should not even be a consideration?

          1. KateM*

            I read it as “we had the choice whether to promote one or other of these two” and, yes, my eyes bulged, too.

        2. Nic*

          Right? I mean even if you discount the direct ableism/bullying/toxic workplace issues, you’re still left with them hijacking her project and completing it so badly that it had to be redone. Why would you ever want someone that incompetent in the job – they clearly still have a lot to learn before they get the extra responsibility.

      2. Madeleine Matilda*

        And clearly promoting one of the two wasn’t the only choice because now that they finally fired these two horrible people, they are also hiring to back fill Lola’s position.

      3. Wintermute*

        I boggled at that, managers are a position of trust, they’re not just a slot on the roster to be filled– you have to be able to trust anyone you gvie that responsibility to handle HR matters, to hire without discrimination, to address complaints about behavior and do other *sensitive* things. Promoting either of those clowns would set you up for a nasty, well-founded hostile workplace complaint sooner or later.

      4. Gingerblue*

        Seriously. I’m glad everything eventually worked out, but what on earth was this company thinking?

      5. Software Engineer*

        Yep. And given that they ended up having to replace those guys and a bunch of other people who quit because of them, this seems like one of those lessons in why sometimes it’s better to have nobody in a job than have the wrong person there. It probably seemed like they’d be too short-handed leaving the role empty but they put themselves in a much worse spot in the end

    4. A Poster Has No Name*

      Yeah, that “choice” left a bad taste in my mouth. The fact that it wasn’t the harassment, but the bragging about it on social media, that triggered the firing is…not a good look, to put it mildly.

      Glad Lola struck out on her own and I wish her the best of luck.

      1. mean green mother*

        Yeah, it seems like this company wasn’t taking the harassment seriously enough in the first letter, and STILL wasn’t taking it seriously enough afterwards. As a disabled person, this stuff really sickens me. Lola was an incredibly employee, but because she did things differently due to a disability the company allowed her to be harassed by her coworkers. The fact that the company didn’t immediately fire those jokers once they learned what was going on tells me Lola is better off out of there.

      2. Boof*

        Well, the bragging was an extension/”last straw” of the harassment as far as I see it
        Too bad the last straw wasn’t several straws ago though

    5. JSPA*

      I read it as, that was, temporarily, the company’s default, due to standard practices and needing continuity, but that they didn’t end up having to follow through on it… because both the malefactors put themselves not only out of the running, but out of a job.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        That was how I read it as well – possible project still in process and Lola and the “Two Nuts” were from some reason the only folks with a needed skill. Project continuity is another reason.

        Sounds like multiple people knew about the nuts, didn’t agree with them, and were looking for a reason to get them gone.

      2. KayDeeAye*

        I also got the impression that they hadn’t actually promoted one of the two truly terrible employees (and even worse human beings). I could be wrong, but that’s how I read it. It sounds to me as though they thought about it because of precedent and need, I guess, but hadn’t actually done so before the Terrible Two demonstrated that they were idiotic in addition to awful by bragging about getting someone fired. (Which…who does that, BTW?)

        It wasn’t a good precedent, of course, and they should never have even been considered – because of course what should have happened is that they were fired fired FIRED before Lola left. But I don’t *think* either of them had actually been promoted. It’s hard to say, though – it could definitely be read more than one way.

      3. Idril Celebrindal*

        That’s how I read it too. I checked the dates, and it has been only one month since that post, and if Lola gave 2 weeks notice it could have been less time than that. So it sounded to me like an, “Um, usually we would promote someone already on the project, but that’s these two so…”, then “Oh, well now they’re doubling down on their terribleness, that solves that question”, followed by “oh hey, we’re getting a lot of great applicants, huzzah!”

    6. Lucette Kensack*

      I agree! What had these folks done to have earned a promotion? They harassed a coworker, did poor work, and required a lot of attention and reassurance.

    7. Generic Name*

      I agree. The LW made it sound like the company was forced to promote one of the bullies, as if they had no other choice. Maybe there was a hiring freeze? Either way, they should not have been promoted.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        Or they could have fired both of the yahoos and hired Lola’s new company at triple her old pay. That would have been a satisfying update!

    8. M. Albertine*

      Exactly! They almost lost A FOURTH of their workforce by considering that promotion! Losing two terrible employees or five good employees? That’s what allowing a toxic workplace gets you.

  2. Paddling as fast as I can*

    I want to say this was the best outcome Lola is shining on her own and at least one of them is still out of work. I am in HR and would have recommended firing at first sight of this. I am not sure it is all abelist thought some of it may be sexist as well, I am so happy to read about someone who is standing behind their convictions. Kudos to you

  3. Scout Finch*

    OP – I hope you were able to convey to the temp agency why their candidate would never darken your door. Or at least – “No thanks – we’d rather have the empty spot!”

    And YAY for Lola. So glad for her.

    Hoping for KARMA to get those other 2.

    1. Miss Muffet*

      I hope the OP just laughed and laughed and laughed when the temp agency suggested this person!

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I wouldn’t have laughed. I would have literally told them “the position is open because we let that person go from it”.

        1. Belle of the Midwest*

          Yes indeed. No drama, no extra explanations. Just simply what you said, “the position is open because we let that person go from it.”

    2. SuperAnonForThis*

      This would have been the perfect moment for a surprised, “I’m sorry, did they not tell you they are ineligible for rehire after we parted ways last month?” Direct all the unpleasantness back to the ex-employeee.

      But yes, so down for laughing and laughing and laughing when you get off the phone.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Yes, at the very least tell them, “That person is not eligible for rehire,” and leave it at that. I hope, also, that OP’s company will contract with Lola’s new freelance business while they are filling the positions, unless Lola doesn’t want that.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – so hoping that the Temp Agency was at least told that “Freelancer” isn’t welcome at our company anymore. No need to give details, just “they aren’t welcome here anymore.”

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      And what kind of incompetent temp agency doesn’t have their candidate’s resume to see that they until very recently held a similar position at the company for which they are being pitched? Some one at the agency went, “Gee, Bob worked at this place until two weeks ago, I’m sure there’s not a good, recent reason he no longer works there and both parties would love to have him back at a premium temp rate!”, and no one else thought to look into that?

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I think this might be what happened.

          @Alison or anyone else that knows. In the situation that OP described where the company moves to fire them, but the employee in questions is adamant “You can’t fire me because I quit.” Is a company in a position to say “Okay you want to quit?”, give us a letter of resignation, and we will say “YOU quit” but we will contest unemployment benefit then, or “We can ALL AGREE you were fired, and unemployment will not be contested, your choice?” While I wouldn’t normally suggest such a thing, in this situation where an employee is acting so terribly I can make an exception.

          If I understand correctly the employee can say they quit, but the company is still able to say “No, we fired them and they are not eligible for rehire.” to anyone that calls and asks.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Hopefully the answer is: the only kind of incompetent temp agency who will hire this jerk :)

  4. Alice*

    Best luck to Lola and to OP.
    When I read “We had the unpleasant choice of promoting one of the complaintants to Lola’s position,” it sounds like something that happened to your company, rather than something your company did.

  5. juliebulie*

    -1000 points to the temp agency that thought you’d want them to send you an extremely recent ex-employee.

    (A staffing company once attempted to place me at the company that had just laid me off. As a programmer. I’m not a programmer. I get why these places don’t mind wasting our time, but I’m baffled as to why they insist on wasting their own time as well.)

    1. PT*

      I believe some agencies have call quotas. So it doesn’t matter if they’re calling a programmer about a wonderful opportunity driving a school bus, that is not in line with the programmer’s career, that pays less, that the programmer does not want, it just matters that their software logs that they made X calls regarding the open School Bus Driver position.

    2. bubbleon*

      I was wondering if the ex-employee might have just left this job off their resume, since I’m hoping it was made extremely clear to them that they wouldn’t be getting a positive reference.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        That was my thought – that the Ex-employee spun some tale about stepping out to try something new, didn’t mention that they had been fired at all.

    3. KRM*

      I will never cease to be fascinated by recruiters who say “I came across your profile on LinkedIN, I have this job for a senior level immunologist who would work exclusively with IgM antibody development” or something equally niche that I have ZERO qualifications for. If it’s that specific, you have to do more than message blast people!!!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I put a recruiting firm on permanent ban for my team because one of their recruiters kept spamming me tangentially-related positions for 1/4 my current salary, with my profile not set to open-to-opportunities. I asked the recruiter to take me off their mass contact list twice, and they didn’t, rather continued to invite me to apply for administrative assistant positions (at least positions within my general industry, I guess). My LinkedIn profile shows 20 years of experience and an upper-level management title. I would also be a terrible administrative assistant – that is not my skillset and I’d be fired within a month for incompetence.

        I finally reached out to their regional office head to let them know we would not be accepting candidates for any open positions from their recruiting company based on the recruiter’s spammy methods and refusal to stop spamming when asked. If that’s how they’re recruiting for those positions, that’s how I’m going to assume they’d handle mine.

      2. Wintermute*

        I once got a call from a recruiter from a place looking for a **dentist**– I am not a dentist, I do nothing remotely related to dentistry, I’m in IT and my degree is in law. I have no idea what was up with that. I mean dentistry is not something you can pick up in a boot camp like a programming language!

        1. I Need That Pen*

          Similar story here, in this case they had a job for someone in food service with a food safety certificate. I clicked, “No thanks/not interested” on the site and got an email a couple hours later, “Thank you for agreeing, I will tell them you will be there on Monday at 8am.” No, I won’t. Not only that I have never worked in food safety, and I have to read the recipe to make a sandwich.

          1. Julia*

            LinkedIN is convinced that I speak Spanish for some reason, so I keep getting the strangest jobs in the weekly summary. I do not speak Spanish.

            1. CircleBack*

              I had a job title 7 years ago with “Bilingual” in it because I spoke French and one of the company’s service areas was Quebec. I ended up just removing the word “Bilingual” from my title on my resume and LinkedIn because apparently it’s a flag that screams “SPANISH SPEAKER” at every recruiter and agency imaginable, wasting all of our time.

      3. Sasha*

        I think I’ve mentioned on here that I was once headhunted as Dean of the medical school at Trinity College Dublin.

        I do not live in Ireland, I was an extremely lowly PhD student at the time, and I had exactly none of the essential requirements for the job.

        I assumed initially it was spam, but she kept on emailing me in increasing irate tones asking why I hadn’t responded, and sent out links to the personal specification etc, so actually seemed legit. I wonder who she thought she was emailing, and am trying to image the reaction I would have had from the medical school if I can actually gone to interview.

      4. SweetestCin*

        Apparently a common thing. Received one this week for a “National Director of Teapot Design”. Of the first ten very specific qualifications, I have exactly ZERO. Not the degree, not the active license, not the years of experience with X, nor the proficiency with software platform Y, so on and so forth…

        The job description to me looks like it was written form someone specific. Why are you going to pester me about it when there’s no way they’d even look at resume?

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Maybe. I can see scenarios where a person who was recently an ex-employee would be welcome back temporarily through an agency. Lola, for instance, has recently left the company but I hope they would be thrilled to have her on a freelance basis while they find permanent replacements for the 3 positions…

  6. zolk*

    It doesn’t sound like OP took this seriously enough or took action in time. Still sounds like a hot mess. Not pleased with this one. No wonder Lola left.

    1. Littorally*

      Yeah, I agree. It’s good that the complainers ultimately got fired, but this doesn’t feel like an overall good resolution to me. Unless there’s a lot left out of this update, the illegal harassment was never even addressed directly!

    2. OrigCassandra*

      I wonder whether the OP’s company is now in trouble, having lost their chief rainmaker.

      Leaving the OP specifically aside, I can’t say I’d be too displeased if it went under. Lola’s crap coworker should never have been promoted.

    3. Viette*

      Agreed. “At least five people almost quit.” I wish they had. This sounds like a terribly managed workplace; nobody did anything until Lola left on her own and then there was some kind of dramatic dust-up between two awful, unchecked employees and their ineffective managers. I would want to leave after months of watching co-workers publicly, outrageously bully a disabled co-worker with no real consequences, and this fallout wouldn’t make me feel any better about the company.

      1. Ginger ale for all*

        Am I the only one thinking that some of those employees might be secretly asking Lola for a job if one becomes available?

    4. ATM*

      TBH I’m curious how it all went down because it sounds like OP was the manager for the problem people’s bosses, but not the PP specifically. That plus the PP going to HR and claiming that the OP was showing favoritism towards Lola makes me wonder if there wasn’t any politicking involved in what to do about the PP – i.e. could it have been perceived (incorrectly) as retaliation?

      1. ATM*

        To clarify, I don’t think any of that perception would have been valid, since the two causing problems should have been fired immediately IMO; im just wondering how HR/the higher ups were seeing it.

    5. OhBehave*

      Would OP have spoken to/fired these jerks if they hadn’t been bragging on social media about getting someone fired (WTH!)? I really hope so.

    6. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I addition to the stuff other people have mentioned, I side-eyed the heck out of this sentence: “While she (Lola) wasn’t aware of the behavior of the two staff members in question, she still felt it was time for her to move on regardless since she’s getting a lot of attention in other places.”

      Are you sure, OP? Give it some thought. You were aware of the harassment. Five other employees out of your staff of 20 were so aware of the harassment that they almost quit over it. Your harassers were so blatant that they *bragged on social media*. But Lola somehow missed it? And then somehow coincidentally decided to leave and strike out on her own, just then, for reasons totally unrelated to the ongoing harassment and your failure to curb it?

      I mean, sure. It’s possible. Sometimes the target is the last to know. But it’s also possible that you lost your big rainmaker by letting this drag on and that she was doing what many of us do in an exit interview – being nice and not burning bridges.

      1. Daffy Duck*

        Yeah, Lola knew. She also knew your company wasn’t going to do a darn thing about it (because they hadn’t even tho multiple people had issues). So Lola left to work for herself and didn’t mention the harassment so the company could save face and because it wouldn’t change anything anyway.
        Funny how it isn’t until they start bragging on social media and make the company look bad that they get fired.

      2. Karia*

        Yep. My read too. She’d had ample evidence that the company did not seem to care about disability related discrimination- why bring it up in the exit interview? She wouldn’t be the first employee to paint on a fixed smile and say she’s leaving for better opportunities*

        *(and also because the company let Fergus and Wakeen take out their juvenile insecurities on her)

      3. BelleMorte*

        As someone who is disabled, I agree. She totally knew. She may not have wanted to expend capital on bringing this up and chose to leave instead. I have been in this situation so many times and I rarely bring it up, because what is the point? Given that one of those two were considered for a promotion after that behaviour that office was already toxic and likely Lola knew that too, that’s why she didn’t bring up her concerns.

        I would really hope the OP considers their own abelist views as well, while not as egregarious as the two, they did enable this bad behaviour by not doing anything about it and actually rewarded it when Lola left by promoting one of the two… They obviously work with a hiring agency and could have hired a new person for example. I am also concerned about the way that she viewed Lola as so much of the wording (the 5ks etc) leans towards the whole “Inspiration-pron” type of comments. The infantilizing assumption between the lines that Lola was too innocent or unable to see bad behaviour (common assumption when it comes to people with disabilities) is particularly bad. Especially given that EVERYONE knew. She’s not stupid, she 100% knew, she likely left because of this. Even children can pick up when people are being covert A-holes to them. They may choose not to call them out, because nothing will change, but they 100% know. I’m deaf, I always know when people are talking s**t about me, even when I can’t hear them, I choose my battles for when I call them out though.

        Accessibility is not all about building ramps and providing special chairs, it’s about managing your staff’s behaviour as well to build a respectful workplace.

  7. RetroGusto*

    I want to celebrate this update but I’m confused – is Lola still with the company? When OP wrote that they had “3 spots to fill” I interpreted that as the 2 evil workers + Lola (maybe I interpreted it incorrectly). When those coworkers bragged about getting her fired, I’m guessing that was a premature celebration?

    1. Retro Gusto*

      UGH. I somehow missed the first 2 sentences. Now it all make sense! Wish I could edit my first comment…

    2. Kevin Sours*

      Lola left on her own accord. Though, like others I’m seeing a pretty big disconnect between the words saying Lola was valued and the actions taken by the company.

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I think you’re correct:

      1) Lola left the compang to form her own company.
      2) The two terrible employees were fired.

      The company is now looking to fill all three positions.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        You forgot 1.5) One of the terrible employees who ran Lola off was promoted into her position.

        1. Myrin*

          I don’t think either of them actually got promoted (not least of all because the letter only came out exactly one month ago today, meaning OP’s initial talk with Lola also happened only a month ago) – it read to me like those two were, for some weird, company-structure-related reasons, the logical people in the running for Lola’s position, but before anything could be decided the social media posts happened.
          I could be misreading this part, of course.

        2. Sylvan*

          One of them was considered for the promotion. Which, why, but I’m not sure that person actually received the promotion.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          Oh, good. I’m glad I misinterpreted that. I mean, it’s awful that they were even *considered,* but still.

    4. Observer*

      It wasn’t premature – it was just silly. And gross.

      Lola wasn’t fired – she quit to start her own company.

  8. Wendy*

    Good for Lola! I know you’ve still got a mess on your hands, but it sounds like she’s going to be in a much less problematic place.

  9. Jennifer Strange*

    until they both started bragging on social media…that they got her fired and are celebrating

    Wow. Even if their complaints about Lola had been valid, I cannot imagine gloating on social media about “getting someone fired” unless it was due to some extremely horrible behavior (i.e. racism, sexual harassment, etc.). I’m glad they are no longer spreading toxicity at your company, but I also really hope they both grow up and look back on this with shame.

  10. learnedthehardway*

    Congratulations and best wishes to Lola – I hope that her self-employment venture is WILDLY successful.

    In fact, OP – you might consider hiring Lola on contract to a) fill the vacancy you have and b) make it up to her that the company failed to deal with the harassment situation.

    Because that’s really the fly in the ointment here – the company leadership really failed Lola and the company, too, by not taking the harassment situation seriously and by failing to discipline / dismiss the problem employees. I would bet money that – regardless of Lola’s primary decision factors in starting her own business – the actions of those two employees made it all that much more attractive for her to leave.

    Meanwhile, the two employees who were fired feel like they were treated badly. Now obviously, they weren’t, but a dressing down for their behaviour and attitudes, and a progressive disciplinary approach might have gotten it into their thick, entitled heads that they should treat their fellow employees better and should check their prejudices at the door.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Honestly, I kind of hope they try… and that Lola has enough clients sorry that she can afford to politely turn down the company which had already failed in its duty to protect her from ableist harassment on the job.

  11. Nice Try, FBI*

    This is a satisfying update. I remember when that originally ran, and it made my blood boil.

  12. Lyra Silvertongue*

    Hm. Weird update. So really, they weren’t fired for the months-long harassment campaign against their disabled coworker but for publicly boasting about it. And if they hadn’t publicly boasted, one of them would have received a promotion. And five other people nearly quit over this. I’m not convinced that the problem with ableism and tolerance for harassment in this company has been solved simply by firing these two people. And while I admit this is pure speculation on my part I wouldn’t be so sure that the employee of over a decade, who has left to start her own business during a pandemic, was not aware of the ableism being directed at her.

    1. Kali*

      This is exactly where I am. I’m happy for Lola (and 100% agree that she is more aware of what was happening than OP gives credit for) and giving a major side-eye to the rest of this. There’s a lot of distancing language in this update, as if the decision to promote one of these harassers was made by a magical (and oblivious) unicorn.

      It all makes me very uneasy.

      1. lazy intellectual*

        Yep. I notice a lot of roundabout language in this letter. OP knows she screwed up and doesn’t admit it.

    2. OhBehave*

      This hit me too. These two escalated their complaints to the boss who told OP to handle it. I’m hoping the resolution all coincided to the point OP didn’t get a chance to fire them over the prolonged abuse before they shot themselves in the feet.

    3. Daffy Duck*

      Yeah, the upper management at this company is either incompetent or actively horrible. If a quarter of the employees almost left over it you can be sure Lola was aware also.

    4. LTL*

      Were they fired because they boasted though? Or were they fired because the company had to deal with the backlash?

      I almost feel as if they’d be happily working at this organization right now if the rest of the employees didn’t react to the public boasting and kept their heads down.

  13. JustKnope*

    OP, I don’t want to be too hard on you, but the company should have shut those two employees DOWN, and hard, as soon as the behavior showed up. It’s a real problem that it wasn’t handled aggressively, and then to promote one of those people into the position after she left? Ouch. That person never should have been promoted, no matter how desperate for coverage the company was. Lola definitely wins here by having her own company, and you/your organization need to think long and hard about how you should have handled these two from the start.

    1. MistOrMister*

      It doesn’t sound like either of the two troublemakers got promoted. The way I read it, at least one of them was in the running to be promoted to Lola’s spot. Then the social media stuff came to light and they were both fired. Only did they the old, you can’t fire me, I quit! routine. However, I find it hard to believe that either of these people, who should have been in danger of being fired based on how they were treating Lola, were in the running for a promotion. That is bonkers.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        It sounded to me like it was more of a “well, you’re already on Lola’s project and you’re here, so you’re a logical person to consider finishing it” plus or minus some of the existing outstanding thing where they got caught being shitty to Lola but had simultaneously filed complaints about Lola and it might’ve still been under investigation to confirm who was actually horrible vs some sort of retaliation. Then the social media thing happened and it became very clear they were full of shit and definitely the horrible party.

  14. AKchic*

    I can guarantee that Lola knew. She may not have known the full extent, but she knew that the Toxic Twins were ableist, toxic, reporting turds.

    I am really disappointed in the fact that their ish didn’t disqualify *either* of them from getting Lola’s position, which is what they wanted all along. Had they not bragged on social media, your company would have rewarded their illegal behavior. Behavior that actually put your company at risk.
    It seems like the only reason why they got fired was because they went public-ish with their campaign and it would have lost you more than 25% of your staff and that staff would have made sure to talk about what happened. Firing two ableist problems was a PR move rather than the right move.

    Lola was failed by the company. For all the kind words, for all the 5k runs, fundraisers and “feel good” support; when she actually *needed* the protection the law not just allows, but *requires*; she was failed. I hope this is a learning experience for your management team. I wish Lola all of the success in the world.

    1. Adultiest Adult*

      This x1000! This update leaves me concerned that the company hasn’t actually fixed the real problems but wants the credit for having done so.

  15. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Oh small world, where the temp agency called you about one of the problem former employees. It makes me think that that employee didn’t disclose that they worked for you on their resume either, since the temp recruiter should have been able to draw that line between “Company X” on resume and “Company X” with an opening for a position that person is qualified for.

    I once had a temp agency try to hook me up with a job with somewhere who had already rejected me for a similar role. Thankfully they ran jobs by me first before putting me into interviews. I was able to say “Oh I actually interviewed there and they passed. You may want to bring that up preemptively with them so they aren’t blind sided by seeing me waltz back in there!” [They decided to pass on me from the temp agency, much to my relief. I wasn’t in a position to say no to work but I sure didn’t want to work there after the interview was rather awkward to say the least. As a much older person now, I know it was just a bad fit in the end, the company is fine and I’m fine, we just don’t mesh well!]

  16. Madeleine Matilda*

    I’m thrilled for Lola! She is a shining example that having a disability doesn’t have to hold you back in your career. I wish her every success.

    OP – your management team needs to take a strong look at how this situation was so grossly mishandled by your company and make changes so that something like this can never happen again.

    I hope the OP from the update earlier from the person who was told they couldn’t hold a job due to monthly medical appointments sees how Lola has succeeded even with her health issues.

    1. Madeleine Matilda*

      And kudos to the five co-workers who were willing to quit rather than work for one of horrible two. And kudos to the co-workers who reported the social media bragging. I’m glad Lola had co-workers who were decent human beings to counter the to horrible ones.

  17. Myrin*

    Alison, it seems there is some unclarity in the comments on whether one of the terrible two was actually promoted or was only considered for it – did the OP provide you with any further information on that?

  18. CatCat*

    We had the unpleasant choice of promoting one of the complaintants to Lola’s position…

    Wait… what. I don’t get why that was even in the cards.

    1. MistOrMister*

      It’s mind boggling!!! What if Lola had quit because of how they were harrassing her? Would the company still have been considering promoting one of those two? If I worked there and knew about the goings on, I would think my morale would he seriously in the gutters.

      1. KAZ2Y5*

        I’m pretty sure that Lola did quit because they were harassing her. She just didn’t tell OP that.

  19. Bookworm*

    Sorry about Lola and ew about those two employees but glad that’s done. Thanks for the update, OP!

  20. GS*

    Thank goodness for Lola’s coworkers, who put their own jobs at risk to ensure the decision that the higher-ups in the company should have made.

    They shouldn’t have had to do that.

  21. Paris Geller*

    Such mixed feelings on this update. I mean, it sounds like the right outcome won in the end, but I’m still annoyed that the problem employees weren’t fired for harassing Lola for months, and were only fired because they were boasting about getting her fired. Better than keeping them on but I wish they had seen the consequences of their action sooner!

    I do have to say I think it says something that five people threatened to quit in the midst of this pandemic and unstable job market. I’m sure that’s a threat none of them took lightly. I think this is a wake-up call to really look at the culture of management from top to bottom, because to me this signifies there’s some real gaps there.

  22. RJ*

    I’m glad Lola got out and is pursuing her own dreams as she’s the one who really matters in the end. The two conspirators, however, got a bit of karma but not really what they should have received. OP, very happy with Lola’s outcome, but your management failed this one.

  23. MBK*

    Bragging right out in public about getting one’s disabled coworker fired and oneself promoted into her spot is, I daresay, not the smartest play one can make professionally *or* socially, unless one’s friend group is made up entirely of sociopaths.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      I’m guessing they were bragging about getting a “problem” colleague fired for ostensible reasons other than “we don’t like her ‘cuz she’s disabled,” and their friend group from outside the office wouldn’t know enough about the truth *inside* the office to challenge that description of events. The people who worked there knew, however.

      I’m 100% with all the people who are saying that 1) the company screwed this one up big time even if it more or less blundered into a quasi-adequate result in the end, and 2) Lola absolutely knew the bulk of what was going on with these two pieces of sh** and left because they were harassing her and the company wasn’t fulfilling its responsibility to protect her. She just handled it politely and without burning bridges, as you’d expect a true professional to do.

      I hope her new company thrives and brings her both wealth and joy.

  24. June First*

    I read this line:
    “Did I mention we have a very small team of under 20?”
    Legit thought LW was referring to their ages.

  25. SimplyAlissa*

    I hope Lola’s new business thrives.

    The rest of the update just doesn’t leave me feeling warm and fuzzy. The actual discrimination and harassment was never addressed. “Damage control” isn’t the same as actively working to fix the original problem.

    Lola knows. I was in a similar position some years back. Just because we’re disabled doesn’t mean we aren’t painfully aware of the b.s. going on behind our backs.

    1. lazy intellectual*

      I hope Lola’s business thrives, eats up OPs company, and drives the spineless, incompetent people out.

  26. X-Man*

    Do you ever really convince yourself that there’s only one logical way for the situation to resolve and then get disappointed when the real update doesn’t play out that way?

  27. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impared Peep*

    Disabled people know when other people are harassing them. You should have shut this down OP. I hope Lola is thriving and you should hire her, on contract, as an apology. You let this go on for far too long. I hope you learn a lesson from this to move faster if there is a next time. I doubt there will be because I doubt any of your co-workers will ever want to say they’re disabled. What if there are more bullies who just haven’t popped out their ugly head and you still do a bad job? Yeah.

    I love update season but this one is just sour.

    1. Ann*

      I wore a very conspicuous back brace for 3 years as a pre-teen and teen, and I can tell you that I heard so many comments coming from behind me where it was obvious that the commenters were assuming I could not hear what they were saying. That’s not to mention some uncomfortable things said right to my face.

  28. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    So Lola was already too fed up to be retained and obviously didn’t feel like management had her back if she decided to leave even though she has a degenerative disease and thus can only get worse over time. It doesn’t even sound like OP did anything to try to stop her leaving, like asking why and saying that actually she was preparing to fire the two jerks who were harassing her. pffffffffffffffff

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that. In fact it may be that her medical issues is part of why she wants to go out on her own as she would be be able to have total control of her own hours and how much work she takes on. We don’t have any more information on her motives than what OP told us and there is no need to speculate.

  29. Bob*

    I’m glad it all ultimately worked out but only because those scum went one step too far. If they had not done their last piece they would still be employed and one promoted from the sounds of it.
    Someone or the company needs to grow a spine and this only worked out by a sequence of failures, not because the company was already on the correct path.

    1. lazy intellectual*

      Am I the only person having trouble with math regarding their hiring? Based on this letter, Lola left, the 2 harassers stayed and one got promoted to fill her place. But they wrote horrible things online so 5 people quit. Based on Alison’s comment, the harassers got fired. So that would leave 7 vacancies. They have 3 left to fill so I’m guessing they were able to hire 4 people very quickly?

      There is a lot of context missing from both letters but by the sounds of it OPs company is super dysfunctional. The fact that 5 people quit at once must mean their foot was already out the door.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        It says almost five people *almost* quit. The company did end up firing the two terrible people so no one needed to quit over it. The three vacancies are Lola and the two bad seeds.

  30. Not Australian*

    Frankly, I think the organisation suddenly having to fill three posts is a just reward for the inaction that led to the situation arising. ‘An ounce of prevention is better than a ton of cure’, after all. Employees who are looked after and genuinely feel supported by their employers would usually prefer to stay where they are, since that’s always easier than moving. Failing to protect one asset was what led to the inconvenience of having to fill three vacancies, and the company only has itself to blame.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      Yeah- Lola left at least partly because of this situation. I agree with others that her supposedly not being aware of it was a polite fiction. You can’t accept it just because you want to believe it- LW needs to take a hard look at how the company handled this and do whatever she can to make sure it’s handled better if there’s ever a “next time”.

  31. Jennifer Thneed*

    OP, I wonder if you’re reading these comments? I wonder if you read the comments on your original letter? There was a *lot* of really helpful response that I’m guessing you didn’t read, since the day your original letter was printed was the same day Lola came to you to resign.

    I’m going to quote from both your letters. From the first letter:
    > But I have the two staff who complain a lot that Lola’s behind
    > or not working as fast as they’d like, both of whom even went
    > so far as to exclude her from a project and finish her work for her

    Do you think that Lola never noticed that? She noticed that!

    From your second letter:
    > While she wasn’t aware of the behavior of the two staff members
    > in question, she still felt it was time for her to move on regardless
    > since she’s getting a lot of attention in other places.

    Here’s the thing, OP. You’re taking things at face value. Lola told you something that is a really common social fib and you seem unaware of that possibility? You’re a manager. You’re supposed to be aware of dynamics like this. Have you never smoothed things over with a client by downplaying something that almost but didn’t actually mess up a project? I’m not saying you should assume that everything a person says is a falsehood, but you really need to up your game in terms of paying attention to what isn’t being said out loud.

  32. LTL*

    I wouldn’t be so sure that Lola wasn’t aware of what these two were doing, at least in part. It may very well be one of the reasons she left, whether or not she shares it. And even if Lola had left, someone should have talked to these two about the situation, making it clear that if they ever pull anything like this again, they will be fired.

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