my boss is abusive and blames it on PMDD

A reader writes:

There’s no easy way to say this so I’ll be blunt: My department director, Katherine, has created a horrible work environment because of her unmanageable PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder).

As a woman, I do not want to reduce Katherine’s education, expertise in this field, and actually great work she’s done down to something that can be turned into a horrible sexist stereotype, but this situation has gone way too far.

We know that it’s PMDD/PMS because after two weeks of abuse, Katherine apologizes and blames her period. But for at least 10 days mid-month, Katherine goes from a supportive leader to a screaming, crying abuser who fires people and throws things at employees. HR is fully aware of the issue and has been trying to find a solution for a while now, but it feels like they’re not doing anything. And it’s gotten to the point where it takes is so long to recover from her outbursts that we’re always in panic mode.

We share office space with another department, and people not even supervised by Katherine have quit or demanded they be allowed to work from home. The company has put a block on internal transfers out of our department because we’re all trying to get away from Katherine. So many people have quit we’re all doing the work of three people if not more. Corporate has also blocked hiring new people because of the turnover and made it clear they won’t fill empty positions until the “environment improves.” This is a 25+ person department running on an 11-person skeleton crew. We’ve been to so many trainings and corporate sit-downs about positive workplace behavior when we as a team are 100% not the problem here.

Here’s just some of what Katherine does/has done:

• Hours-long screaming meetings where she pounds on the table and throws office supplies while calling us “lazy f*cking idiots.”
• She threw a very heavy stapler at someone in front of the whole team and then denied it.
• She’ll tell someone they’re on a PIP when they’re not.
• Calls random people into her office and fires them for non-issues like typos in internal documents or for a perceived personal slight. HR has given a LOT of unnecessary severances in the last two years.
• Called the cops on a vendor who parked in “her spot.” We don’t have assigned parking.
• Flipped a table during a weekly check-in meeting. She was ordered to take a two-month leave but came back a week later and nobody said anything.

HR told me their hands are tied by the ADA, which sounds wrong to me. I don’t think the ADA covers verbal abuse and throwing things at your staff. They said they’re trying to get menstrual leave approved by corporate, but I don’t see the point if Katherine spends the whole time screaming at us via Zoom or Slack, which is what she does when she works from home. Their most recent solution was to assign us our own HR generalist who just sits there until Katherine goes off and they send her home to terrorize us remotely.

Afterwards, sometimes she apologizes but mostly she refuses to take ownership of abusive behavior other than to just say she’s looking for a birth control that will fix it and to hint that maybe we had some kind of hand in pushing her too far. To an extent, I have empathy, especially after having my own struggles with hormonal birth control and endometriosis. But I can’t work like this anymore. I’ve been interviewing to leave the company for over a year, but I need comprehensive healthcare for one of my kids so I can’t leave without something lined up.

My attendance is suffering because I’ve started calling out for the days I know will be the worst. Some days our entire department is empty except for Katherine, the HR generalist, and like three people Katherine will spend the day screaming and snapping at. If she can’t scream at us, she’ll call her kids, husband, her mom, or her youngest’s school and scream at them, which we can hear through the walls. The generalist will send her home when she does that, but she won’t go quietly.

I know this must be hard for Katherine because any kind of PMDD or PMS treatment and diagnosis is usually invasive and it’s infantilizing to have extreme symptoms reduced to “that time of the month,” but my hair is starting to fall out. At my last doctor’s appointment, I found out I lost a considerable amount of weight, yet my blood pressure is dangerously high. All my tests point to extreme stress and everything is fine at home. Is any of this normal? Is HR doing everything they can? One of my coworkers suggested we walk out as a department, but we don’t have a union so I doubt that’ll work.

No, none of this is normal. And no, your HR isn’t doing anything close to everything they can.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require employers to let managers scream at and abuse their staff as a reasonable accommodation for a medical condition — and your HR team would know that if they bothered to look at the law or consult with a lawyer. They’re treating the ADA as if it means that once someone cites a medical condition, any and all behavior they say stems from that medical condition must be tolerated, and that is categorically not the case. The ADA doesn’t require employers to let someone struggling with, say, addiction (a medical condition) to snort coke at work, and it doesn’t require them to let someone with an impulse control disorder to grope employees, and it doesn’t require them to let Katherine abuse employees.

Your HR team is being severely negligent. If they’d done the bare minimum of speaking with an employment lawyer, they’d know it’s perfectly legally tell Katherine that she cannot scream at employees, throw things at them, angrily fire people in the heat of the moment, lie about PIPs, flip tables, or any of the rest of what you listed, and they can legally fire her if she does.

The ADA requires your employer to look for reasonable accommodations if providing them means the employee will be able to perform the essential functions of her job (which Katherine is not doing) and if the accommodations don’t cause undue hardship to the company (and Katherine’s behavior absolutely meets the bar for undue hardship).

None of this is intended to be unsympathetic to people who struggle with PMDD. But you can’t routinely abuse people 10 days every month. You can’t routinely abuse people for one day every month. If this happened once or twice, it would be reasonable for your employer to keep trying to work with Katherine, while making it clear the behavior couldn’t recur. But your company is permitting abuse be Katherine’s standard M.O. to the point that they’ve employed a “watcher” for her (and yet not given that person enough power to intervene in any real way).

I don’t have a good solution for you, although it might be interesting to get your own consultation with a lawyer to see if you might qualify for your own accommodations given the health effects you’re experiencing from Katherine’s abuse (and since we know your company tends to roll over quickly when the ADA is invoked, that might be fruitful). Also, your coworker who suggested you all walk out isn’t necessarily off-base; the National Labor Relations Act protects any group of coworkers who organize around working conditions, not just ones with a formal union. (A lawyer could help advise you there too.) But know that nothing about the way your company is choosing to handle this is normal, reasonable, or okay.

Read an update to this letter

{ 721 comments… read them below }

  1. Someone Else's Boss*

    OP, have you asked your HR rep how they expect you to act when you’re being screamed at? Have you gotten permission to end calls, reach out to HR, or otherwise protect yourself from her abuse? At minimum, I would ask those questions. Sometimes HR/companies will come to their senses when the victims start to ask questions that make them fear legal action from that side. I’m not suggesting that you should threaten to sue, but rather that you should use language that might help them see your struggle differently. “When Katherine screams at me over a Zoom call, am I able to sign off of the call to stop the abuse?” It reads like you’re looking for guidance, while also reminding them that you’re being abused. More importantly, though, have you started working on your resume? This is not tenable.

    1. Green great dragon*

      My immediate reaction was to suggest they just shut the call when she starts screaming over Zoom. But if they do that, with HR’s permission or without it, she’s going to fire them isn’t she? Sounds like they’ll get severance if she does, but that doesn’t help someone who needs the insurance.

      1. MsM*

        I feel like that’s where the collective action part comes in. If HR is faced with having to deal with the headache of firing Katherine versus firing literally everyone else and having to persuade new people to step into that nightmare, maybe they’ll finally make the right call. (And if they won’t, I don’t think anyone should be making any plans that depend on them being around in the long or even medium term to continue offering benefits anyway.)

        1. OrangeCup*

          Agreed! I was wondering how big the company is, and how close in reporting they are to the CEO or one of the bigger bosses. If they all complained en masse or walked out, that has the most likelihood of succeeding. Make it as painful as possible for bosses, because right now it’s only painful for the team.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            I can’t believe paying out all the severance is not painful for the company. So much wasted money that could have been saved if they just did something about one person. Even firing Katherine and paying her severance of several months would be cheaper than what is happening now.

            1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

              I can’t believe they allow her to fire people. They should take that authority away from her.

              1. Frank Doyle*

                I agree, I was expecting the story to be that she fired people, and they were immediately hired back/told that they weren’t really fired. I can’t believe the company followed through with the firings!

                This person is really holding this company hostage. They are going to have to do something about her *eventually*. How else do they think it’s going to play out? Are they going to let her behave like this for two, five, ten years? It doesn’t make sense.

                1. 2 Cents*

                  I wonder if people who are offered their jobs back under her are like, no thanks, give me the severance. I know it can’t be 100% but it could be close.

              2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

                Exactly. They pay severance instead of managing an abusive leader. “Nobody can transfer out?” Really? You are stuck there forever?

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Nobody can transfer out and they are not replacing anybody who got fired or left. What is the end game here? Are they waiting until the last person on the team walks out and it’s just Katherine with no reports? and then what?

                2. Mister_L*

                  Can’t reply to “I wrote this in the bathroom” so I’ll put it here.
                  When you put it like that, I wonder if the employer is aiming for constructive dismissal of the whole team. I know this has to be more expensive than just firing them, though.

                3. fantomina*

                  I also can’t reply to I Wrote This in the Bathroom so am putting it here, haha.

                  I think there isn’t an endgame– it sounds like it’s local HR who locked transfers out but corporate who put a hiring freeze in place, so the two actions weren’t taken in conjunction or with any degree of strategy.

                  I’d be tempted to negotiate a severance package with maybe 6 months of complete healthcare coverage and full salary using the threat of a wrongful firing suit as leverage. They’ve shown that they’re willing to throw money at the problem rather than doing anything about it, so they’d probably apply the same attitude toward a potential suit?

              1. LizWings*

                Unless you’re in entertainment. I interviewed at a production company once where they informed me that the previous employee of the now-open position had left after the boss had thrown a coffee mug at her, and it barely missed her head. It was spoken in tones of ” she couldn’t hack it- can you?” like it was a weakness of the employee to be borhered by airborne projectiles rather than a problem of the workplace.

                1. Properlike*

                  100% this. My first big job out of college, and working for the screaming type alone for over a year has stuck with me decades later.

                  It’s also why I’m quitting a new job inside of a month, but the job doesn’t provide benefits, so I’m free to do that.

                2. Nebula*

                  I was once looking at applying for jobs at a major broadcaster, until I saw that every single job, including basic admin jobs, included a long bit about ’emotional resilience’ (reading between the lines – tolerance for being bullied) as one of the requirements. Given what I’d heard from other people about the working environment there, I left well alone.

            2. OrangeCup*

              That’s part of why I’m wondering if they are a huge corporation. I work for one and I say (only slightly sarcastically) there are only a few things that would get you fired and behavior like this isn’t even on the list unless you do it to the wrong person (someone higher on the ladder than you. Severance to cover up messy behavior is a really a budget line item in some major corporations. Unless this behavior became public and embarrassing for the company it will not end unless everyone else quits and they can’t retain any staff.

              1. Stormfly*

                That’s definitely not huge corporations in general. Often, they’re a lot dysfunctional than smaller workplaces, as they’ve been forced to put in place proper policies around assessing performance and things like that to function. (e.g. In my very large company we have performance reviews twice a year, standards for each role, a ream of policies, an abundance of manager training, stringent hiring practices, etc.)

                They are also large enough to have legal teams who can assess that they’re much more likely to get sued from letting a situation like this continue than the expense of putting her on administrative leave or firing her.

            3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              Heck, it’d be cheaper overall to pay her a salary to do nothing / only do work she can do solo and stay away from everyone else.
              It’s not an optimal solution, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s better than what’s going on now!

              1. MigraineMonth*

                It sounds like the company did give this a try (sending her home for three weeks), but when she came back they didn’t have the spine to enforce their decision.

                Honestly, it’s not even a Katherine issue at this point; horrifying as her conduct is, it’s the HR/management failure that is worse.

      2. I'm just here for the cats!!*

        I think besides everything else, Katherine should NOT have PIP or firing power. So if she says someone is on a PIP / fired they should be able to go to the HR person (who just sits in their office space I guess?).

          1. Csethiro Ceredin*

            Right? Totally bonkers.

            I am sympathetic to people with substance use disorders who are never able to be sober, but I don’t think they should be allowed to drive while impaired. If she is never able to show good judgment, the power to use her judgment at work should be removed.

          2. metadata minion*

            THIS. Her situation is one that could probably be worked around in an individual-contributor role that didn’t have a lot of client interaction or things like that. But if your problem is that you are critically unable to interact with other people for half the month, you need to not be in management.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              No matter what’s causing the behavior, Katherine as described is dangerously unstable and is going to end up costing the company even more in lawsuits once she really injures someone.

              Companies that tolerate this level of terrible, unmanaged behavior astound me. I know about Missing Stair and the like, but Katherine is a rotten rope bridge over an abyss filled with rabid alligators.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                I mean; seriously, you are correct. The person as described in this letter is at the point where she apparently cannot control herself and is a danger to other people.

              2. Moonstone*

                She really shouldn’t be allowed around anyone and, besides the employees, I feel awful for her family and especially the kids. They are going to be seriously messed up from all this. If this person is like this at work, I can’t only imagine the absolute hell she unleashes at home. What a nightmare.

            1. STAT!*

              I think all people, no matter how awful, should have jobs if they want them. But the jobs should be commensurate with their abilities. Katherine clearly has no ability to behave in a way suitable to her current role.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          That was just one of the things that hit me (so much wrong here). Why is HR upholding these firings? they know she is making them in the heat of the moment and unreasonably. HR needs to just tell her that no this person is not fired.

          1. Lexie*

            That was my question (among many others), why are they allowing these terminations to stand? Unless everyone that she fires doesn’t want their job back and would rather take the severance package, which I can understand.

            1. RunShaker*

              Exactly. Why is HR accepting these firings? How about telling Katherine, I’m not going to let you fire me today. What is Katherine going to do? Yell some more? How about using the word harassment? I’m guessing it isn’t in legal sense but then again throwing things like a heavy stapler me means assault. This is just crazy.

            2. Kacihall*

              I imagine the reaction to being fired by her during a rant is similar to the ‘daydream’ college students have any being hit by a bus. yes, it sucks and it hurts, but PAYDAY and a break. (Then you realize afterwards that the situation is a total cluster and everything still sucks.)

              1. DJ Abbott*

                College students dream of being hit by a bus? And no one sees anything wrong with that?
                I never did that. I just kept starting and stopping college until I burned out.

                1. Sparkle Llama*

                  It was a rumor at my college that if you hit by a campus bus they paid for all of your tuition. I think that may be a common urban legend. And we knew it was messed up that people joked about wanting to get hit by a bus to get tuition paid for, but that is US for ya.

                2. Reed Weird*

                  Yeah, really messed up. I graduated in 2021 and we definitely all made jokes crossing the road about having right-of-way and hey, at least if we get hit we don’t have to pay our loans! We didn’t even have campus buses, just jokes about getting hit by cars to pay for tuition.

            3. Quill*

              Honestly it sounds like that’s the cleanest way to GTFO. Throw a typo in your email and get severance, because transferring out isn’t working.

              1. Momma Bear*

                This. If I were at my limits with no options, I’d take the firing. That’s very explainable to the next job and you could probably argue your case with unemployment re: hostile workplace.

                1. RunShaker*

                  I was thinking about what OP said about needing medical insurance & has been job hunting for year. But otherwise, I would be taking the severance.

              2. Yellow Rose*

                Personally, I’d love to be hit with the stapler, or even physically smacked by this demented woman.

                1. File Police report
                2. File suit against all actors including lax HR
                3. ?????
                4. Profit!

          2. CJ*

            The severance packages feel like “we know this is a wrongful firing, but we won’t reverse it because we know it will just paint a larger target on you next month, so here’s some money to not sue us.”

            I hope OP’s job search goes well, because while the situation with Katherine is horrible, I have more Concerns about HR in general. (The hiring/transfer bit is eyebrow-raising, for one.)

            1. kalli*


              They include an NDA.

              That’s all it is. ‘We will pay you to not go on Glassdoor and complain about Katherine, we won’t oppose unemployment, don’t claim workers comp, tell anyone wanting a reference to call this number and only speak to HR, here’s a written statement of service, please don’t go on Glassdoor and complain about Katherine, don’t file for workers comp, definitely don’t go on Glassdoor’ etc.

          3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            Because they think ANY action they take regarding her managing during her episode violates her ADA accommodation.
            Like the manager who forbade anyone from wearing one ring or three earrings for the OCD employee. He went as far as having people (not just his staff) line up “boy/girl” for the bus.

            1. Yikes on Bikes*

              I am not familiar with this one – a manager wouldn’t let others wear odd numbers of rings/earrings to accommodate someone with OCD?

            2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

              Also the manager who let one employee just leave work whenever he wanted and be absent for days at a time with no notice, while the other employee worked practically around the clock including every weekend, and had to cancel all her vacations because of that.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                Or the recent one where the employees had inadvertently formed a kind of cult around “not upsetting Sarah” because everything made her cry; an entire department was wigging that she might notice a dead bird that had hit a window.

                1. Mister_L*

                  @ Hawkwind1980: I’m not sure how to post a link, but the story is “a new manager says it’s a problem that our employee cries in meetings, at her desk, and during team lunches” from April 4th.

        2. tamarack etc*

          The situation is so bad now that measures like these are now way too little way too late. The first time firing was mentioned in anger by Katherine – that’s the time to do it.

          HR and senior management has let this situation deteriorate to a point where only personnel changes can be a suitable solution. (This should not only be about Katherine. Who suspends a dangerously transgressing employee and lets them just come back? There has been misbehavior all around.)

          As an employee like the OP, other than job seeking, I’d pursue the collective action approach (walking out / closing Zoom conferences as soon as Katherine becomes abusive), and also meet with a lawyer to explore sending a strongly worded letter to the company’s upper management + HR.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            What all of HR’s behavior, but especially that “you were supposed to be gone for X months but let’s just pretend everything’s normal” crap is signaling? Katherine can do anything she wants. And don’t think Katherine doesn’t know that.

            It’s not like she’s stable enough to get any other job–unless she’s capable of holding it together through an interview, hiring, onboarding, and gaining enough seniority/capital to restart this monkey circus somewhere else. She’s got her bosses in her thrall and she isn’t going to change; why would she? Ultimately her behavior is going to shut down her entire department, but until then her work is her hostage.

      3. Observer*

        But if they do that, with HR’s permission or without it, she’s going to fire them isn’t she?

        And incompetent HR won’t countermand her firings even though they KNOW that she’s in the wrong.

        That’s not because of the ADA.

        To the point that I’m wondering if they are incompetent or someone is lying for some reason.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I wonder why nobody has sued for wrongful dismissal? She must spend her mellow time making a paper trail.
          Honestly, OP writes that her apologies are explanations for how someone pushed her to explode.

          1. Ex-Teacher*

            >I wonder why nobody has sued for wrongful dismissal?

            If this is in the US, and the firing is not done either for a reason that’s illegal discrimination, or done for a pretextual reason to hide illegal discrimination, then it’s not a “wrongful termination” (legally speaking)

            1. N C Kiddle*

              Now I’m wondering whether it could look like a pretextual firing based on a coincidence of timing (fired right after disclosing they were pregnant, for instance?) in combination with how flimsy the excuse was. Would it be a defence to say “no, no, she fires people for reasons like that all the time”?

              1. MigraineMonth*

                It would be very difficult to prove a pattern of discrimination if she’s truly random with her firings. “Yes, she fired one pregnant woman, but she also fired these ten employees who weren’t pregnant” would probably be an effective defense.

            2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

              Thank you and to Alison. You can see I misunderstood. I thought it would cover when you were fired to poor work but your reviews were excellent.

        2. Lisa Simpson*

          She knows someone in real life. They’re squicky about firing someone with a disability protection. She has some sort of experience or certification they need to have on paper that’s hard to replace. She’s litigious, perhaps has a lawyer in the family willing to work for free, and would automatically sue them upon termination and create a ton of legal drama.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              Honestly, at this point unless this company is regularly attacked by Titans and Katherine possesses the only functional Medusa head, I can’t think of any alternative that ISN’T more attractive than keeping her.

              I’m so sick of the “but they’re so hard to replace” argument. Even if we’re talking actual rocket science, there’s never just one person who can do a thing. Cemeteries are full of irreplaceable men, and all that.

      4. Beth*

        Yeah, HR continuing to actually sever employment for people Katherine fires makes it really hard for OP and her coworkers to take any kind of “stand up for herself” action. I’m assuming that everyone who is still here hasn’t quit for a reason–probably because they can’t afford to leave without a new job lined up, and like OP, they’ve struggled to find a new job that meets their needs. Katherine and HR has the team between a rock and a hard place.

      5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Is Katherine still allowed to fire people by herself? Because I sure as heck wouldn’t let her. (Though I wouldn’t be letting her scream at people either).

      6. Jaydee*

        I can’t imagine the financial calculation here. Even if the employer is afraid Katherine will sue them if they fire her (probably pretty likely) and that either she’ll win (less likely) or they’ll have to pay out a large settlement to get her to dismiss the case (maybe), it sure seems like that would have to be less costly than paying severance for multiple employees she has fired in her tirades.

    2. Zarniwoop*

      “I’m not suggesting that you should threaten to sue”
      That seems like the only way to get any consideration at this company.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        This. I am. But I have lawyers in the family who could direct me to someone to discuss this situation.
        The “internal transfers are blocked” has to be actionable. How is it not “tortious interference”? They don’t have to hire you, but they should be able to give a reason other than, “Katherine will be mad and we don’t want to hear it” or “We won’t be able to replace you, so we are sacrificing your career at the altar of Katherine.”

        1. ShysterB*

          “Tortious interference,” at least under U.S. law, does not mean what you think it means. An employer’s decision-making about lateral transfers/promotions within the employer’s own organization is not tortious interference.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Exactly. If they were lying to *other* companies when called for employment date confirmation, that might qualify. “You aren’t allowed to transfer to a different team” does not.

        2. Anon for this*

          Lawyer here. That’s not tortious interference. The action has to be illegal in and of itself, and not allowing someone to transfer to another department is not illegal on its face.

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            Bummer. Because I’m really not trying to go frivolous lawsuit. The company is holding back employees. (Holding hostage, more to the point)
            Although….it does seem they give in to the person banging the biggest stick. They are misinterpreting ADA, it’s not a stretch to think ASKING the question of dedicated HR person might get someone a transfer…

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I read the comment as them not suggesting to go in and directly threaten to sue. Just to ask the types of questions that make HR think you might. And to force them into either giving you evidence for a lawsuit or pulling their fingers out of their butts to do something about this.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          This is what I meant. Go in and ask a question. They have a history of reacting. The transfer paperwork could be finished by end of day because they are so afraid of breaking the laws.

      3. Juggling Plunger*

        I think it’s also worth remembering that there are different ways of threatening to sue. Storming in and shouting “I will sue you unless . . . !” is almost always counterproductive, but understanding what you may actually have cause to sue for and bringing those issues up using the correct legal terminology can get results very quickly.

        Example: in one case for me there was an issue where my employer had screwed up my benefits horrifically. The words “contractual obligation” told them that there was a lawyer lurking somewhere in this mess, and the speed of HR’s attempts to remedy it changed from glacial to a decent fraction of the speed of light. I don’t know what the magic words are here (“hostile work environment “?), but if OP is friends with any lawyers they should ask what they might be to get HR to see that there’s risk on both sides.

        1. Howard Bannister*

          Probably not hostile work environment — that absolutely does not mean what it sounds like in English, from a legal standpoint. Hostile work environment means an environment hostile to members of a protected class — i.e., if all women were being targeted.

          But you are spot-on correct that a lawyer would be the person to understand the elements here that make this actually legally actionable and give the OP the right language to use–and what would be prime evidence that HR knew about those elements and did nothing.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Yes. They cave in at any “legalese.” OP should take a shot. Acting in bad faith? OK. They are treating her like crap and letting her be abused.

  2. ZSD*

    “Corporate has also blocked hiring new people because of the turnover and made it clear they won’t fill empty positions until the ‘environment improves.’ ”
    Did they not realize that whole “The beatings will continue” thing is supposed to be a joke?

    1. Silver Robin*

      I kind of understand the idea of not bringing new people into a toxic environment because they are just going to burn out/quit and it will be more expensive (time, money) to keep trying to fill those positions. Better to fix the underlying problem and then bring fresh people in to rebuild the department. Thing is, the fix is firing Katherine and they have not done that…

      It almost makes me think that somebody in HR is saying “that needs to be fixed, fix it now, before we hire people into that dept” and then the people in charge of fixing it are dithering about ADA nonsense. But that is pure speculation on my part!

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        Yes, a bit of left hand not talking to the right hand where one hand is in charge of recruitment and work force planning and the other is employee relations and also a rotting zombie hand incapable of grasping the problem without falling off the wrist.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah, I understand the awareness to say “hey, we can’t hire anyone new into this environment”, but to then sit there and DO NOTHING about the environment? While occasionally quietly saying “well, you know, ADA…”? Absolutely not. Katherine should have been told MONTHS ago “you can’t do any of this. You’re on a PIP”, and I’m assuming they would have fired her months ago had they done this. Are you afraid of her claiming ADA? You should know she’s ridiculous. Tell her to get a lawyer and go ahead and sue. There should be plenty of paper trail to show any lawyer who represents her (I’m assuming she’d lie to get them to say yes to said representation).

            1. AnonORama*

              Unless it’s a senior partner doing the throwing! I won’t say anyone “took well” to it, and the person usually threw things (to be fair, nothing metal like a stapler) at support staff rather than other attorneys, but I don’t think anyone ever thought of suing or calling the police.

              1. nap*

                Um yeah.. when my company had an employee doing some of these things it was awkward. Because they were the CEO.

        1. Wilbur*

          Maybe they’re hoping the team shrinks enough that they can say “We can’t justify having a manager for only 2 people, we’re going to reorg and put your teams responsibilities under Bob.”

          Probably more of a “I’m only charge of transfers, Jennifer is in charge of the other areas so there’s nothing I can do.” The Wilbur corrolary to Hanlon’s razor-“Never attribute to malice what can be explained by apathy.”

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            “We can’t justify having a manager for only 2 people, we’re going to reorg and put your teams responsibilities under Bob.”
            I think this is the long term plan. HR, “we can’t fire her, buuuut…”

      3. kiki*

        I wonder if they’re struggling to figure out the “right order” to make moves in and they’re caught in a loop. They know they don’t want to hire anyone new in the department until the Katherine situation is resolved, but they may also feel like they need some sort of replacement for Katherine figured out before they send Katherine on any sort of leave or dismiss her. But before they figure out a replacement, they have to figure out if it’s permanent or temporary.Which means they need to decide how to handle Katherine. But they’re trying to figure out ADA stuff and don’t know how to handle Katherine. And then the situation keeps getting worse and more people leave.

        They really just need to remove Katherine ASAP, even if it’s first with a paid leave of absense to start. I think getting her out of there will help everyone think straight and make the path forward clearer.

        1. Momma Bear*

          This actually makes a lot of sense. If she’s really unable to do her job properly because of her PMDD (or whatever the root cause is), then she should take short or long term disability to get her health in check. Meanwhile the company can regroup and repair. FMLA doesn’t hold your exact job forever, but they could find some comparable corner that’s not leading a department for her if she returns. She really needs to go and get herself sorted, for everyone’s sakes.

        2. learnedthehardway*

          Someone should have a chat with HR and tell them to hire an employment lawyer who has expertise in this matter, so they can get it solved ASAP. Because if they don’t deal with Katherine, they WILL be dealing with employees who sue the company.

        3. MigraineMonth*

          They did give her 3 weeks leave, she came back after a week, and no one did anything about it. WTAF?

      4. Observer*

        kind of understand the idea of not bringing new people into a toxic environment because they are just going to burn out/quit and it will be more expensive (time, money) to keep trying to fill those positions. Better to fix the underlying problem and then bring fresh people in to rebuild the department.

        That would be what I’d be thinking if *anything* in the rest of what is happening made any sense. But when they refuse to do a single other thing, and they are paying out all of the severance, I find it hard to believe that they are being this rational and thoughtful about it.

      5. Polly Hedron*

        I agree with all of the above. It’s a dysfunctional loop! But, unfortunately, corporate are not the ones who wrote in.

      6. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Exactly. I get the rationale here, but they’re missing the fact that it’s making the environment worse for the people who are still there. Like, if they’re going to do this, the company needs to reset expectations so that the people they have left can manage the workload reasonably well. Shift some of the work to other teams, if the work can’t be delayed. Don’t just make things harder for the people who are currently stuck in that department.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      This! Corporate seems to have decided to just write off the entire department instead of going through the process for ADA accommodations or, you know, ACTUALLY MANAGING.

      1. Lilo*

        I’ve done ADA accommodations. ADA does not apply here. This behavior is clearly fireable under any circumstances.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          It wouldn’t apply under UK law either. Reasonable accomodations does not ever include the right to abuse others with no consequences. It’s like sexual harrassment: there’s nothing that excuses that – it’s a dismissable offense.

          Even under UK employment law she’d be fired under gross misconduct.

          1. amoeba*

            Yup – I’d say in pretty much every country, no matter how strong the labour protection laws are. (I mean, they protect her employees, as well! You have a right not to have staplers thrown at you!)

            I *could* see her being placed on long-term medical leave instead of firing here in Europe (in more disfunctional places, because these are definitely fireable offenses!). But just letting her continue? No way.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I meant that they could have done an actual ADA accommodation process at the very beginning and put her on FMLA leave or something. Once she started assaulting her staff and firing people for typos, that’s clearly fireable.

      2. Observer*

        Corporate seems to have decided to just write off the entire department

        That seems correct. But WHY?

        I mean, the ADA is not *that* hard to follow. 5 minutes with a halfway decent labor attorney would tell them that. A whole bunch of lawyer, HR and severance for Katherine together probably would be cheaper than what’s going on now – and would be total over-kill.

        I mean, throwing things at people? *HEAVY* things? There is no way (in the US at least) that an ADA claim would stand up. That’s even worse than flipping tables…..

        1. Nightengale*

          there are lots of nuances in the ADA
          what does and doesn’t qualify as a disability
          what are truly “essential functions”
          who is “otherwise qualified”
          what accommodations are “reasonable”

          lots of nuances
          this is not one of them

          (this person as described may have a disability but clearly currently is not otherwise qualified, is not carrying out essential job functions and putting up with it is not reasonable.)

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          But they haven’t. They still work there.
          Katherine apologizes for her outbursts and has explanations for her frustration.
          She must have a pretty long fuse because she didn’t fire anyone this time, and she clearly doesn’t suffer fools long.
          So clearly, she is not a bad manager. Maybe the staff does a little hyperbolic venting after a big project, but clearly it’s not abusive if they haven’t left.

          -Corporate Fairy Tales for the Faint Hearted

          1. Polly Hedron*

            But a lot of them have left. OP said

            people not even supervised by Katherine have quit….So many people have quit we’re all doing the work of three people if not more…. This is a 25+ person department running on an 11-person skeleton crew.

            1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              Based on the title the commenter put at the bottom, this person was being sarcastic … making a joking statement about what the corporate leadership/HR crazies are thinking or spinning the situation.

          2. Jan*

            She is a bad manager. Good managers don’t bully people. And it’s not always easy to just leave an abusive situation when it affects a person’s finances.

            1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              I think this commenter was joking, based on their title at the bottom. Giving a tongue-in-cheek explanation of how the corporate leaders/HR are spinning this in their own heads.

        2. Wilbur*

          There’s plenty of people who can’t afford to not work and are very scared of being unemployed for any time. It makes me think of the Applebees manager who was excited for rising gas prices because it would make their economically desperate workers more amenable to their terrible business practices.

            1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

              I did not. I think because it was such a big thing that Applebee’s had to respond publicly and fire that person.

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I think what happens is that they are manufacturing an excuse to eliminate Katherine’s position and therefore aren’t firing her for her behavior or have to deal with anything ADA. The department is in such “disarray” that they can justify getting rid of everyone.

      Reminds me of sports team owners who want to move cities and they have to show that ticket and merch sales have fallen below a minimum threshold for the league to approve the move. So they build a losing team; let the old stadium fall into disrepair; make the experience miserable for coaches, players and fans… and then they get to move.

      1. knxvil*

        Except in Major League, where the Cleveland Indians showed they wouldn’t stand for such nonsense. How dare they win the league championship!

        1. AnonORama*

          Ha, there’s a lot in that movie that’s super cringe now (hell, it was probably super cringe then, but Tom Berenger’s “win the whole.f*cking.thing.” speech is still dead on.

        2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          ;-) I was thinking more along the line of real life Georgia Frontiere who managed to move the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams to St. Louis during her ownership. Although it could be argued that the loss of attendance and fan base, bad stadium, and losing team could be attributed to other factors, I think the idea of crafting a losing team in order to move is attributed to her, and the villainess in Major League actually looked a lot like her too.

          In the NFL at least, in order to move a team, the owner/s do have to demonstrate to the league that the current city/fanbase doesn’t (financially) support a team. “See? The Raiders don’t HATE Oakland, they just aren’t building us a sparkly new stadium — and we keep hiring players 5 years past their prime.”

          Back to the OP, if the company can make it look like they don’t have a viable department — turn over, failure to accomplish goals, etc. — they can just claim they are making a business decision to reorg instead of firing her, just in case Katherine wants to try to sue.

  3. Peanut Hamper*

    Change “PMDD” to “intoxicated” and this could be my old boss.

    Your HR department sucks. I’m sorry you’re going through this. But this is not something you alone can fix. You and your coworkers have to go over Katherine’s head as a group. The time for collective action is now.

    1. Smithy*

      Collective action or legal.

      If you know HR has already been paying out severance, then maybe this is about severance that includes your job also covering COBRA insurance? Or unfreezing the block on internal transfers?

      One thing that AAM I think does well when talking about employment lawyers, is that the engagement with the employer does not have to start off at the most antagonistic level but with a genuine interest in seeking a positive resolution for the OP. And given where things already are, having an advocate truly be on your side might make a lot of sense.

      1. Lilo*

        Maybe LW should try to get fired during one of her rampages and negotiate Healthcare coverage as part of severance?

      2. Totally Minnie*

        I think I’m team Collective Legal Action. Get a handful of coworkers and go hire a lawyer together, and have that lawyer come to a meeting with the highest level HR person the company has.

    2. WillowSunstar*

      As someone who was diagnosed with PMDD when younger, I had bad days but never verbally or physically abused someone else because of it. I might have waited til I got home and punched a pillow. There may be something more serious going on here.

      1. Covered in Bees*

        I had it too and it made me wonder if this is what caused women to be accused of “demonic possession” back in the day. It was horrible but went away entirely when I used bc to stop my cycle.

        The experience of having pmdd was so miserable I’m surprised she hasn’t been beating down a health care provider’s door for relief!

        1. Anax*

          Especially when she apparently has a diagnosis!

          It’s not that she’s not seeking treatment because she assumes her symptoms are typical, because she knows they aren’t. She has a name to put to them.

          (And I’m glad it’s gone away for you! PMDD sounds like a nightmare.)

          1. LRL*

            It’s not that she’s not seeking treatment because she assumes her symptoms are typical, because she knows they aren’t.

            This! LW says Katherine says she is looking for a birth control to fix it. She is seeking treatment.

            The comments questioning the legitimacy or severity of Katherine’s condition or assuming Katherine is doing nothing to help herself are ableist and reinforcing the stigma people with health conditions face at work every day.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              No. She’s literally screaming at people, firing them for no reason, and throwing things. Normal people who are seeking treatment and wanting to help themselves would NOT DO THIS. They would recognize that something is seriously wrong and that they cannot be around people at work until this is fixed. Let’s not be all “well, she assaulted me, but she couldn’t help it because she hasn’t found the right BC yet.”. Your medical issues are NOT AN EXCUSE TO ASSAULT SOMEONE.

            2. AbruptPenguin*

              If anyone is reinforcing stigmas, it’s Katherine, who is violent and abusive to employees and blames it on PMDD.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Absolute power corrupts and all that.
        You believed that if you did not control yourself, allowed yourself to give in and blow up there would be consequences.
        Maybe Katherine believed this in the beginning, but she discovered there were not. She was SENT HOME to stop abusing her staff. She chose to continue working and abused people remotely.
        I think this situation is terrible for her mental and physical health. It’s like spoiling a child who has a learning disability.
        Allowing her to run loose like this she is not going to get treatment she needs. She is miserable, seems to be paranoid, is hypercritical. Overall a very unhappy woman. Not facing consequences for abuse is not going to make her happy.
        As much as she is ruining the lives of others (and she is) it is ruining her life as well.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Speaking of child, I was horrified to hear she has children, who she also screams at. She is literally ruining lives all around her.

          With all the firings, it is amazing to me that the company has no corporate lawyer stepping in and advising them on the ADA, or… anything.

      3. boof*

        I have to admit, I realize seeking treatment can be daunting but if it’s really hormones doing this, there are treatment options!!! There may be an “explanation” for their behavior, but but that’s not a license to abuse other people! Or to let her abuse other people!

      4. DJ Abbott*

        I don’t know anything about PMDD, but that was my first thought also. I would look for something more going on here. Starting with, does she even try to control herself? Is she this disrespectful the rest of the time?
        To me it sounds like she’s not making any effort.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          Exactly. I had a boss who acted a bit like this once a month–screaming at people, threw a big pizza spatula at my co-worker. She’d just shrug and blame PMS. But she never acted that way when the General Manager was onsite, no matter what time of the month it was. Funny how a lot of people can control themselves when there might be actual consequences for their behavior.

          (And yes, I know some people can’t. Mental health disorders are real and terrible. But plenty of people don’t make the effort unless they have to.)

        2. Mister_L*

          I’m reminded of something I read in an relationship advice.
          People pointed out, that the clearly abusive partner who supposedly couldn’t control himself and started breaking things when in a rage would only break HER things.

      5. Tarmac Jack*

        What’s going on is that she’s always had temper problems and now she has an excuse to do nothing about them because oh I have a health issue.

    3. Jessica*

      Yeah, when I was at a giant, established corporation that should have known better, it took YEARS to get rid of a coworker who regularly came to work drunk, verbally abused his coworkers, and groped his female coworkers.

      HR kept saying they couldn’t do anything because he had an alcoholism diagnosis.

      The rest of us were like, “so… all we have to do to be able to do whatever we want and be immune from getting fired is develop a drinking problem???”

      1. Ticotac*

        It kinda makes me wonder what would have happened had people gone to HR to say that they couldn’t work with him because his behaviour gave them PTSD. Would they have gone, “well, since there’s more people with that diagnosis they win against his diagnosis, he’s fired”? Would they have reshuffled the department so that your coworker wouldn’t be in contact with the people complaining? Or would they have fired the people complaining because it turns out that the man with the alcoholism diagnosis was actually a favourite?

        [Just to be completely clear- I know this would never work in the real work. This is a fully hypothetical question, not a smartass suggestion. Just saw an absurd situation and I’m taking it to the limit out of curiosity, I’m not prepping for a “try this ONE trick that HR hates!” TikTok video, i swear.]

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I’ve often wondered this and asked this before: As everyone steps carefully over the broken stair, what is done for the functional stairs getting all the extra pressure?

        2. MsSolo (UK)*

          It reminds me of the bird phobia letter, where the guy pushed his colleague in front of a car and got her hospitalised, but the employer felt like they couldn’t do more than ask him to apologise because of his previously-undeclared diagnosis, which led to the colleague quitting. I always wondered what would have happened if the injured employee had returned and claimed her own accommodations – e.g. if she can’t work with him any more due to her PTSD, how would they have picked which person to put on a high profile project without the appearance of discriminating against one of them?

      2. Worldwalker*

        It sounds like that coworker would be a reason to develop a drinking problem. “It’s not my fault anymore. It’s Fred — he drove me to drink.”

    4. Anax*

      Honestly, you might be on to something there; this seems to have a lot of similarities to substance abuse, especially her lack of inhibitions.

      I hesitate to speculate on the subject, but since it’s very relevant here – I wonder if she’s claiming PMDD because she knows HR and the company at large will hesitate to punish her for such a sensitive medical issue, while her actual issue is either different or more complex than that.

      None of our business, of course, except that it seems in line with the dysfunctional and negligent HR at this company to just accept Katherine’s account, without even a doctor’s note or detailed discussion of ADA accommodations.

      (I don’t think it’s reasonable to demand doctor’s notes for every little thing, but when it’s this extreme and pervasive… surely you would want some paperwork to confirm the issue, right? LONG before this, and long before she escalated to physical violence, which clearly should warrant immediate termination!)

    5. kibbitzer*

      I was wondering if Katherine’s PMDD comes in a bottle from the liquor store. Because I’ve known people with really bad premenstrual disorders and while they could get awfully cranky, they didn’t flip over tables and not one of them threw a heavy stapler at anyone.

      1. Distracted Librarian*

        Sadly, I’ve seen this kind of behavior from someone who claimed it was “PMS.” She didn’t appear to be intoxicated at work, just out of control for a few days a month.

  4. Earlk*

    Not in the US but comparing this to other diagnoses that can affect mood and behaviour like this would be minimum sick leave if not dismissal?

    1. ferrina*

      Katherine might be eligible for FMLA (I am not a lawyer).

      That’s 12 weeks per year, and by the math OP provides, Katherine is like this 50% of the time (26 weeks per year).
      I wonder if HR can give Katherine the option of intermittent FMLA so she can get her act together. I wonder if the HR babysitter would have the power to tell Katherine that she needs to take intermittent FMLA on a given day (if not, they can probably say “you need to do this or else you are on unpaid administrative leave, and we will only give you 3 days of unpaid administrative leave per year”).

      That’s the only way I could see the current set-up even vaguely working- if it were a stop-gap while Katherine got longer lasting treatment.

      1. Samwise*

        You can’t force someone to use FMLA, but you can present the other options clearly. It would not be smart for HR to say, take FMLA or you’re fired — don’t know if OP’s HR is smart enough to present it correctly

    2. Noodlebop*

      Yes as someone with horrible PMDD that makes me suicidal each month I work so hard with my doctors because thinking I’d be making someone else suffer would make my own condition worse. It’s so hard to find a treatment that works for each person but God OP’s situation is untenable.

      1. STAT!*

        OMG that is awful! Big props to you for working hard at something you didn’t ask for though. Katherine doesn’t seem to be doing any of the hard work.

  5. VermiciousKnid*

    SWEET CRACKER SANDWICH. OP, you need to get out. I’m sending lots of good career vibes your way.

    When you do, the relief won’t be immediate. It’ll take some time to adjust. I started having panic attacks AFTER leaving an abusive workplace. My doctor said it was PTSD from steeling myself against crazy every day and when I didn’t have to anymore, my body freaked out. The adjustment is brutal, but in the end it’s worth it! Again, good vibes. Warm thoughts. Willing your escape.

    1. Transatlantic*

      Oh wow, this is a good description of how I felt *after* splitting up with my ex. It honestly took more than a year after that split to get off that rollercoaster of stress reactions, even though I was incredibly happy at living by myself again in a calm, quiet environment.

      1. Weakly*

        Yes, sending good work/career vibes to OP that they get a great job outta there and can start healing. And one with ah-mazing health benefits for you and your family.

  6. Angstrom*

    Are you recording the remote meetings? That would be one way to document some of this behavior.
    Allowing someone to be a berserker is not an ADA accomodation. Your HR is incompentent and spineless.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      No real lawyer in history would take this case. If she lies to get the lawyer, the company should have documentation showing her actions. She doesn’t have a case, and screaming ADA should get her nowhere (except the PIP may have to have a section that says “you may not claim that the ADA protects your actions”).

    2. BeenThere*

      Petty me would record this and just upload to the internet and let the chips fall where they may. But in all seriousness, as someone that has diagnosed PMDD, there are so many more things Katherine can be looking into beyond birth control to try to get a handle on her out of control self. I was miserable and those around me were miserable until I got it under control. So I am also sending good vibes to you to get out of this beyond crazy situation.

      1. Observer*

        But in all seriousness, as someone that has diagnosed PMDD, there are so many more things Katherine can be looking into beyond birth control to try to get a handle on her out of control self.

        That’s true. And useful to anyone who is reading this.

        But, unfortunately for the OP, it doesn’t really make a difference. Because it’s not possible for the OP to pass on that piece of information.

        I was miserable and those around me were miserable until I got it under control.

        I can imagine. And I’m really glad that you found something that works.

        I do believe that Katherine is miserable. But she also sounds like a jerk. Because she doesn’t apologize, doesn’t try to walk back the stuff she’s done, and she’s even *denying* things that multiple people have witnessed.

        1. Correct.*

          Yes, exactly. If she were an otherwise reasonably person, she’d be a lot more worried about solving this issue.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            That was my thought too. I’d have more sympathy for her for her behaviour during those 10 days if her behaviour the rest of the time indicated that she was really concerned about it, but this comment, “Afterwards, sometimes she apologizes but mostly she refuses to take ownership of abusive behavior other than to just say she’s looking for a birth control that will fix it and to hint that maybe we had some kind of hand in pushing her too far,” indicates that she is behaving somewhat abusively the rest of the time too. “I’m sorry for behaving abusively towards you, but it was beyond my control and you know, you really shouldn’t have made me angry” is…sort of abusive behaviour in and of itself.

            I’m not doubting that Katherine has a really horrible time with her condition but she doesn’t sounds like a particularly good person even apart from that. A good person would not only apologise properly and make it quite clear to everybody that they could ignore PIPs, etc issued when she is struggling with her PMDD and that it is 100% her fault and nothing to do with them, but would take steps to try and reduce the impact on others.

            1. Properlike*

              Yep. Even narcissists can have co-morbid reproductive disorders. Doesn’t mean the treatment for one fixes the other.

          2. Momma Bear*

            Agreed. No one who is reasonable throws things at work and threatens people with PIPs and thinks it’s at all “OK”. There may be a reason, but it’s not the only reason.

        2. I Have RBF*

          Yeah, I’m thinking that her PMDD is triggering other problems that push her off the rails, or she uses it as an excuse to act out her more savage impulses.

          I had problems like hers when I was a teenager – the yelling, the impulse toward violence. But I didn’t get to blame PMDD and continue with it. I had to learn that at certain times of the month I had to avoid other people and situations, and that I had to maintain my control when what I really wanted to do was hit someone. I had to learn safe outlets for the irrational rage (and it was irrational) – I had an anvil, a piece of hard brass, and a hammer, and when I was angry violent I learned to go beat on brass until I was exhausted. Fortunately, it faded as I got older.

          She needs to be put on leave for at least three months while she gets her medical shit in order. That’s the only reasonable accommodation for this shit. She needs to be told that, while the company is sorry that her hormones are so out of whack that she becomes virtually psychotic, she can’t continue to abuse, assault and arbitrarily fire her direct reports. She needs to take three months and get her medical shit together, and if she does any of it again after that, she will be fired. Also, her PIP and termination rights are suspended for a year, and even after that she needs upper management sign off for any of it.

          While PMDD sucks, it doesn’t give anyone the right to be an abusive jerk. Learning to handle mood swings, regardless of the cause, is part of being an adult, IMO. I understand it isn’t easy, I understand that it isn’t rational, but it is not okay to treat other people that way. She should not have any power over others until she can get herself under control with medication, meditation, safe outlets, or whatever works.

        3. Worldwalker*

          Miserable people can be jerks, and jerks can be miserable. Just because someone is miserable does not mean they’re not also a jerk, and vise versa. It’s possibly even more likely because jerks, having driven away the people they’d otherwise be close to, have fewer resources available to address the cause of their misery.

      2. ferrina*

        Petty me would record this and just upload to the internet and let the chips fall where they may.

        I’m not usually a fan of the Name&Shame, but this has been going on a long time and no one is showing any interest in solving it. I am not opposed to this. (though whoever records/uploads the video may be at risk for being fired)

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Yeah, they have a dedicated HR person to log complaints. X complaints, Katherine is sent home kicking and screaming until she gets back online to scream some more.
          OP, you are on borrowed time. Skip HR and contact the amorphous “corporate” every time.
          “She is cursing at me.”
          “She is throwing things.”
          Call HR
          “I don’t feel comfortable. I fear retribution from Katherine when she is told there is a complaint.”
          The complaint will be anonymous.
          “I am aware of anonymous complaints. She goes on a hunt through the department to find out who complained.”

      3. LRL*

        I know this letter is about LW, and I have tremendous empathy for LW. This is entirely banana pancakes and LW shouldn’t have to deal with it.

        I also have tremendous empathy for Katherine. She must be absolutely miserable. And surely her home life is also suffering.

        The kind thing for everyone involved in this would be to have Katherine go on some sort of medical leave so she can get some help and figure this out. She’d have time to focus on getting a treatment plan in place and feeling better, and she wouldn’t be terrorizing her department.

        1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

          Where I stopped being ‘poor Katherine’ is when I realized that her work and home life are suffering at her expense (calling to yell at her mom, kids, kids’ school and husband?! Does she not have work to do?) She takes no accountability for her actions nor does she seem to take steps to fix the situation. I’m gonna be honest, I think part of this is just Katherine’s personality but x1000 when her condition flairs. Giving her any ‘victim’ status ignores all PMDD sufferers who manage to get through their lives without doing this, trivializes the very real harm she’s causing to her colleagues and her home, and enables this behavior. They’re tried the route where they sit everyone else down to create a positive work environment, someone needs to sit her down and try now.

          1. 2 Cents*

            Yeah, any sympathy I had ended there too — she just finds new/different victims. She has to know something is off — this has been going on for quite a while, but she’s still waiting for “something” to work? She either needs a new doctor or IDK what. I personally suffer from several mental illnesses — I act my best not to inflict any of my inner head workings on other people.

            1. ferrina*

              Ditto. As a teenager, I had major cPTSD that caused me to lash out a lot.
              The solution wasn’t “do nothing and everyone else can deal”. Or “feel bad but shrug it off because it’s not my fault that I have cPTSD.”

              The solution was to continue to explore treatment options until the symptoms were managed well enough that I wasn’t lashing out at people. It took a decade for me to get to the treatment and recovery level that I could pass as ‘normal’. Yes, it wasn’t my fault that I had cPTSD. It was my responsibility to ensure that I was actively working to manage the symptoms so I wasn’t hurting others. It took a lot of research and even some experimental treatments. Katherine is majorly falling down on her responsibility not to be a terrible person. I can’t even imagine the damage her kids must be going through.

            2. Worldwalker*

              From my own experience (though not with this particular syndrome):

              She knows what “normal” looks like.
              She knows this isn’t it.

              The difference is whether or not she does anything — either in the moment or in the times when she’s not being affected — to change things so they’re more like she knows they *should* be. A person who feels genuinely bad about how they’ve treated people when they were at their worst not only apologizes effusively later (and apologizes, not justifies) but they do their best and more to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. People around me used to have a safeword of sorts that meant “leave this situation, NOW” and, because I was trying hard to *not* be a jerk, I would immediately drop everything and leave. It saved a lot of stress all around.

              That doesn’t seem to be what’s happening here. She knows what she should be doing, she knows what she is doing, and she seems to see no need to make the two conform. (and why should she, given management/HR’s actions?)

          2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            I offered sympathy because she is hurting herself. She is not getting treatment that she needs. I think she is not competent in the truest sense because she does not see a problem.
            Someone needs to tell her to stop.
            Whether her husband leaves her and takes the kids, or her company fires her when an employee gets a lawyer to blow this shit show into high heaven, she needs medical care.

            1. Worldwalker*

              I’m fairly sure a lot of people have told her to stop. The problem is, the people who have actual authority, at least over her job, have told her she doesn’t need to stop. And those are the ones she chooses to listen to.

          3. Distracted Librarian*

            “Giving her any ‘victim’ status ignores all PMDD sufferers who manage to get through their lives without doing this, trivializes the very real harm she’s causing to her colleagues and her home, and enables this behavior.” THIS. I have zero sympathy. She’s abusing her employees and her children. It’s on her to get proper treatment or remove herself from situations where she can harm people. She’s lucky no one has filed a police report – pretty sure throwing things at people is illegal.

        2. An Honest Nudibranch*

          I do think that sympathy and “you are still accountable for your actions” can coexist. Like, I do suspect you’re correct that she’s miserable. But the thing is, a lot of people miserable with PMDD manage to not scream and throw things at people, and do what they can to avoid situations where they know they’ll have trouble regulating their tone / body language, and take ownership of what happened when things settle down.

          PMDD isn’t the *only* thing happening here, in that it seems to be paired with a belief of “I feel terrible, so I can be as cruel as I want to others and be justified in it.” Which is an issue. Emotions don’t *make* people do things. Even if she did find decent treatment (which to be clear I do think she needs) and stuck with it – what happens the next time something makes her miserable?

          PMDD is probably exacerbating the issue, but it’s not the core problem. She needs to be fired.

        3. LRL*

          To be clear, LW should not have to deal with this and the company is severely negligent is allowing it to continue.

          However, I also think the comment section is underestimating the potential severity of PMDD, how long it can take to find a treatment to manage a psychiatric condition, and the potential frustration and helplessness while trying to find treatment that works. We don’t know Katherine’s side of this. It is very possible that she knows there is a problem, is actively working to find a solution, and is frustrated that she has not yet found a solution. It is also reasonable that she wants some privacy in her medical treatment and doesn’t want to hash through the invasive, infantilizing, frustrating treatment with her team at work.

          The company absolutely has a responsibility to manage the environment in the office- whether that is firing, a medical leave, some sort of hybrid working situation with significant oversight and the very real threat of firing if the behavior continues, or some other option many of which have been suggested in this comment section. Having Katherine continue to terrorize the department is not the answer. But publicly humiliating Katherine is not the answer either.

          Maybe Katherine is a terrible person. Or maybe she is a supportive manager (as LW calls her) with a real and significant medical condition who is exhausted and frustrated.

          1. AnotherOne*

            I think that’s a lot of it. The failure here is partly on Katherine. On her not acknowledging how bad her behavior has gotten.

            And a lot on the company’s side. They’re ultimately failing LW and coworkers, but also Katherine. Katherine isn’t in the place to manage right now. Maybe she needs medical leave so she can spend 3-6 months focused on trying to find better treatment options. But she definitely needs to not be a manager right now.

            1. LRL*

              LW mentions that she can’t leave without another offer because of the health insurance benefits. I wonder if Katherine is in a similar situation- she knows she is unwell, is trying to get treatment, and needs her insurance to cover the treatment trials. Psychiatric treatment is so difficult to access in so many locations, and psychiatric treatment relies heavily on trial and error to find something that works. We also don’t know what, if anything, Katherine has tried at work. Maybe she has requested and been denied accommodations. There are so many ways this could go where Katherine isn’t a monster. Is she doing great? No. But she may be doing the best she can.

              However, I can’t figure out a single scenario where HR or the company isn’t severely negligent.

          2. She of Many Hats*

            Elsewhere in the commentary, people note that there’s no indication that Katherine allows herself to explode all over her superiors. Just those she has power over. If she were truly that mentally and physically ill that she can’t control her behavior, she would be exploding all over the company, not just those “below” her. Yes, she has a terrible problem but she willfully weaponizes it when she uses her condition(s) to abuse and endanger those who must report to her.

            1. LRL*

              We also don’t have any indication that she is NOT melting down with her supervisors. Just because LW didn’t mention that is happening doesn’t mean it isn’t. She’s clearly still melting down in front of the HR babysitter.

              We have no indication that Katherine “willfully weaponizes” her condition.

          3. Distracted Librarian*

            This may be unpopular, but I don’t care what’s wrong with her or how hard it is for her to get treatment. There’s no excuse for abuse. And let’s be clear here: what she’s doing is abuse. She’s abusing her employees. She’s abusing her children. We need to stop excusing abusers. A diagnosis isn’t a license to hurt others.

            If she cared about hurting others, she’d take FMLA or try to get an accommodation to WFH during the worst days. She wouldn’t shrug and go, too bad, this is how I am – which is page 1 of the Abuser’s Playbook.

            1. LRL*

              I am not, and I haven’t read any comments that are, excusing her behavior. Something absolutely needs to be done, LW absolutely does not deserve these working conditions, and HR is not doing anything close to everything they can (and should!) in this situation.

              The points that I, and several others, am trying to make is that publicly humiliating someone who is acting inappropriately due to a psychiatric condition by sending recordings to the local news station or making them into a meme is cruel and questioning the legitimacy or severity of her condition when we have very limited information is ableist and perpetuates the stigma people with mental health conditions face every day.

              1. Twix*

                This is a very personal issue to me, and I think it’s worth pointing out that framing mental illness as something that the sufferer has no agency in also perpetuates the stigma people with mental health conditions face every day. I agree with both of your points, but while Katherine may not be able to control her behavior in the moment, she still needs to take responsibility for it the rest of the time and it sounds like she’s not doing that. And that is a very, very serious problem that is 100% on her. She may be doing all the things you mentioned in private to address the root cause, but if she’s doing anything to manage the damage done by her symptoms in the meantime it’s woefully insufficient. At the very least, if she can’t control being physically violent she has a personal responsibility not to be in the office on those days.

                While I’m sure this wasn’t your intent, framing situations that are a combination of symptoms of a mental illness and the mentally ill person’s choices while they’re not decompensating as something that person has no control over is really damaging and perpetuates lack of recognition of/respect for mentally ill peoples’ agency and consent.

          4. Whomst*

            I completely agree with everyone here who says that whatever medical or personal stuff Katherine is going through, that’s no excuse for this level of abuse towards other people. She needs to take responsibility for her actions and figure out how to manage whatever it is she’s going through without abusing other people.

            But I also want to put in that all these people who think “a couple months off to find a treatment” is a feasible option have no idea how treatment for female reproductive health works in practice. You know how they tell you that you should give it a couple months when you start/switch birth control so your body can get used to things? That means it will take a minimum of 3 months (barring any life-threatening side effects) to try just ONE treatment option. My doctors have always pushed me to try a new medication for 4-6 months before deciding it doesn’t work and trying something else. (I don’t have PMDD, I have endometriosis, but the treatment for both tends to follow similar timelines.) It can take YEARS to figure out something that actually helps.

    3. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      I would be recording in person as well. I may even decide that I’m recording every time I’m in the room with Katherine. HR gets the first recording and 24 hours. Then the local news gets it Flipping tables indeed!

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        Recording conversations without consent has some pretty specific laws around it, and the laws vary by state, and is also potentially covered in employee handbooks as a fireable offense.

        I’m not saying don’t record. I am saying make sure that anyone considering this as an option look into the legality of it.

        I mean, one could always just give Katherine a heads-up that she’s being recorded, but then the firing hammer would come out.

        1. kibbitzer*

          While the laws do vary by state, federally it is legal. This is a bit of a glitch but federal law is supposed to supercede state law.

          Tl;dr: Record her and let SCOTUS sort it out.

          1. Howard Bannister*

            …that’s not how Federal supremacy works. If there was a federal law granting you the right to record without legal retribution, then states could not take that away. Since there is not, states are free to create laws penalizing you for such, unless it is found to be unconstitutional in the courts.

            And thus the states have created such laws, usually in the name of privacy.

            Eleven states require two-party consent, however. In other words, everyone involved in a conversation must agree to be recorded. Those states are California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

            There will be no SCOTUS involvement, the law is well developed and there is no ambiguity.

            If you’re not in one of those states, then you are legally able to record the conversation.

            If you’re outside the US, check your local laws. (if you’re in Australia, Canada, the UK, Ireland, or Germany, per a quick google, you’ll want to be careful)

  7. Reality Check*

    Maybe even point out to HR that the potential for violence is high, and not just from Katherine. People can be pushed only so far. It seems just a matter of time before someone literally punches her in the face. I know a few people who would have by now.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      And if she’s throwing things, she can injure someone, making the company legally liable and Katherine criminally liable.

      1. Observer*

        making the company legally liable and Katherine criminally liable.

        True. Do these people *really* not understand the legal liability here? If they try to claim ADA accommodation, *their* lawyers are probably going to tell them that either they get out their checkbooks, or Lawyers are going to walk because this is not a case they can defend. And the opposition’s lawyers are going to fall over laughing so hard.

      2. ferrina*

        This! I’m shocked she’s allowed to throw office supplies on a regular basis. Of course someone is going to get hurt eventually! It shouldn’t come to that before this whole thing to get resolved!

    2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      In the email to HR that others have suggested be sent. looking for advice on how to handle protecting yourself/suggestions own health issues as a result of Katherine’s behavior/requesting accommodations like being moved to another department or working from home (all of which I’d advise)–I’d include that you don’t feel safe at work due to the two incidents you mentioned in the letter. Use “unsafe working conditions,” “hostile work environment,” “uncomfortable, scared, or intimidated,” and speak to Katherine’s “violence” at work.

    3. Yes And*

      I’m pretty sure “literally punches her in the face” is a joke, but just in case, no. An employee who punched another in the face would/should be fired, no matter the provocation, except in an EXTREMELY narrow set of circumstances: The puncher is cornered with no means of escape, has been put into punching distance by the advance of the punchee, and the puncher reasonably fears physical violence is imminent from the punchee. Basically, the puncher has no other choice.

      Katherine sounds terrible, and she should definitely have been fired/put on leave by now, but nothing in OP’s letter describes a situation where somebody has no choice but to punch her.

      1. Reality Check*

        I wasn’t joking. It doesn’t matter if the puncher is justified or not; the likelihood of it happening is high, period. I’ve seen it happen before.

      2. Polly Hedron*

        No one is advising anyone to punch Kathleen in the face. RealityCheck just said it’s a likely outcome. I agree.

      3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I don’t think punching would be *defensible,* but I think punching would be *understandable,* under the circumstances. Clearly no one *should* be punching people at work (except, like, martial arts trainers)… but these conditions are pretty extreme, and while punching Katherine is in no way a recommended course of action, it would not at all surprise me if someone gets pushed that far, especially if Katherine were being violent at them.

        … and I’m a pacifist who pretty categorically believes that violence is not a good answer.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          And frankly the outlines of “legally defensible” punching from Yes And seems to cover a lot of Katherine’s behavior! She definitely sounds like she could corner someone or take a swing at them.

      4. learnedthehardway*

        I don’t think it’s a joke. There’s a real potential for violence. If Katherine throws a heavy object and it hits and hurts someone, well, people have fight/flight/freeze reactions, and one of those is fight.

        Besides which, an employee who was hurt could very easily press charges and sue the company.

      5. Worldwalker*

        People do a lot of things without being justified. People *do* snap when they’re pushed beyond their emotional limits. Some of them go postal. Others just punch Katherine.

    4. perstreperous*

      That was my immediate thought – the biggest risk of all here is that Katherine ends up being knocked out, which would trigger a legal minefield.

      I was involved as a witness in a case where someone, just after resigning, assaulted three people, one of whom was in hospital for two weeks as a result, and the resulting bad publicity eventually led to the company folding.

    5. SadieMae*

      I had an epically awful boss once. He was a sexist pig who outright insulted the female employees he thought were old or fat or ugly and flagrantly sexually harassed the female employees he found attractive. He was also a big liar who would blame his (frequent) errors on his subordinates and then speak snidely about us to clients right in front of us. He also once called me during a family medical emergency and insisted that I come to the office right away or I would be fired, and when I ran over there, it turned out that what he wanted was for me to deposit one $50 check into the company account. Which he could have done himself by simply going to the bank that was *on the first floor of the same building*.

      I really needed that job but I quit eventually because I was afraid I was going to hit him. And I’ve never hit anyone in my life! Like, I started to fantasize about what it would feel like when my fist collided with his smug face. (And he was incredibly litigious and would surely have sued me in addition to firing me.)

  8. Lilo*

    Your HR department is completely negligent. There is no ADA accommodation that allows mental abuse and physical assault. For crying out loud what the heck is wrong with your job. they deserve to be sued given they are putting people at risk of physical harm. Both throwing staplers and turning over dekss could seriously harm people. None of this is normal.

    I hope you get a job offer asap. Even if they fire her, I wouldn’t trust an organization that tolerated this.

    1. Lilo*

      Also, next time she physically assaults someone call the cops. Don’t talk to HR, just call the police. This is past due.

      1. Tea Rocket*

        Yes, this is a great suggestion. The ADA doesn’t grant the people covered by it immunity from criminal charges. This might take the company’s HR department (and upper management in general) out of its stupor. There’s the embarrassment of having the police involved, the legal liability of having someone assaulted on company property, not to mention potential criminal charges against Katherine herself. Plus, it potentially gets her out of the office for a few hours during the time of the month where her behavior nosedives.

        1. Worldwalker*

          That would probably get the LW fired, though, which takes us back to the problem of needing insurance and having no job lined up. (which is yet another reason why the American system of having one’s health care tied to one’s job is such a bad thing)

        1. MigraineMonth*

          You mean LW will get fired for calling the police? That’s illegal in 43 states, though with an HR this incompetent it may not prevent it.

      2. Distracted Librarian*

        This right here. Maybe when the police come out, HR will get a clue and deal with her.


    2. Observer*

      I hope you get a job offer asap. Even if they fire her, I wouldn’t trust an organization that tolerated this.

      This. x1,000

      Please look as hard as you can, because this is not just a bad department, it’s a bad company.

  9. Erin*

    My sister has severe PMDD, which for a very long time she self-medicated with alcohol. (This was not the solution, unsurprisingly.) Once she was on the correct dose of effective medication, her desire to drink all but went away and she’s now been sober for 3+ years. I would assume that if HR could ensure that Katherine takes advantage of any EAP and get connected with a psychiatrist (or equivalent professional who could prescribe medication), that would be the best bet.

    As for you and your colleagues, you are absolutely suffering from trauma. I’ve spent a lot of time speaking to my therapist about the trauma caused by my sister’s PMDD and drinking, and even though she’s now been sober for three years, there’s a lot of wounds that need to heal. If you’re able to take advantage of an EAP, please do so as soon as possible. And start looking for ways to either not report to Katherine or get a new job. Best of luck to all of you, because this is an incredibly challenging and awful situation!

    1. Observer*

      I would assume that if HR could ensure that Katherine takes advantage of any EAP and get connected with a psychiatrist (or equivalent professional who could prescribe medication), that would be the best bet.

      No. At this point, their best bet is to fire her. Next best bet is to provide her with any information they might have on medical resources (whether an EAP or a link to what their insurance happens), but her on a leave of absence, and when she comes back, THEN fire her if she hasn’t found something.

      Your suggestion is actually one of the few things that the company cannot legitimately do – they simply cannot get involved in her health care.

    2. True Faux*

      if HR could ensure that Katherine takes advantage of any EAP and get connected with a psychiatrist (or equivalent professional who could prescribe medication)

      To amplify what Observer said, the company cannot get involved in Katherine’s healthcare.
      The role of the company is to ensure a workplace free from bullying and to protect its workers’ legal rights. No part of that involves dictating any form of medical care.

  10. First Google Result*

    “Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a health problem that is similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) but is more serious. PMDD causes severe irritability, depression, or anxiety in the week or two before your period starts. Symptoms usually go away two to three days after your period starts.”

    Just in case someone else also hadn’t heard of it before.

    1. SBDavin* – a valuable resource regarding PMDD.

      This behavior is completely unacceptable and the HR department is just horrible. OP, I wish you well in healing from this – emotionally and for your work career.

      I suffer from PMDD. It took some years to get this diagnosis and the correct treatment. But even severe PMDD symptoms are no excuse for Katherine’s behavior.

    2. worthless_peon*

      either these meltdowns dont actually happen mid-month every time or this isnt actually a menstrual disorder. periods dont just align themselves with the calendar months… I dont want to diagnose or undiagnose anything but I call bullsh*t especially since the boss implies that its the employees fault she got set off… its a lot easier for her (and convenient for invoking ADA) to blame this on severe menstrual disorders than to fix her attitude

      1. LRL*

        Since it is normal for a period to start every 21-35 days, it is extremely common for them to align with calendar months.

        1. worthless_peon*

          i do not think its very common, otherwise tracking apps wouldnt exist (even mine is consistent but cant happen every month at the same time). even if your period cycle was 30 days long… all months dont last 30 days. it would have to be some perfect cycle length changing every month.

          1. amoeba*

            Eh, if the cycle is roughly 30 days, it’ll align well enough (especially as the PMDD periods are so long, anyway)! I mean, it’s not like LW says it’s always exactly on the 13th or whatever. Yeah, probably within a few years it will shift from mid-month to beginning of the month or vice versa, but, you know, very slowly.

    3. EvilQueenRegina*

      I only had because a UK show is airing a storyline on it. Coincidentally, the character’s name is Cathy.

  11. Gritter*

    Katherine’s behaviour is unacceptable. It may well be caused by legitimate medical issues, but a stapler thrown at your head won’t hurt any less because of that.

    1. Lilo*

      It’s absurd. If she’s reached the level of psychosis where she’s unaware of her actions and poses a physical risk to others, she needs to be hospitalized. If she’s aware of what she’s doing but is just very angry, she’s legally on the hook for her actions. There is no combo of magic where you’re allowed to assault other people and just go about your day consequence free.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This! The accommodation should be for Katherine to take FMLA to get her condition under control so she can behave in a civil manner. The fact she is *physically assaulting* people is unacceptable. It’s like she’s turning into a werewolf and HR shrugs she mutilates people.

        1. Where Wolf?*

          At this rate, a werewolf would be better because at least it would only be the one full moon night of the month and you can protect yourself with silver.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            In the terrific movie An American Werewolf in London, the villagers at the start of the film have become this HR department: everybody stays inside the pub on those full moon nights and the entire society has bent over backwards accommodating the lycanthrope in their midst for generations.

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          I actually wrote a fanfiction once that involved a campaign for werewolf employment rights and the rights being enacted were basically that a person couldn’t be fired for being a werewolf, so long as they were not putting anybody else in danger

          1. Anon for this*

            Have you been reading C.M. Nascosta’s werewolf titles? (Totally NSFW due to very explicit scenes.)

      2. Distracted Librarian*

        Thank you. I’m pretty frustrated at the number of commenters who seem willing to bend over backward to accommodate someone who is assaulting and otherwise abusing employees (and her own children).

        She needs to be fired immediately. Next time she assaults someone, call the police.

  12. Snarkus Aurelius*

    If someone threw a stapler at me or flipped a table, I would file a police report and let law enforcement figure it out.

    I bet HR would be more responsive in that situation.

    1. jasmine*

      Yes. This.

      I’d highly recommend OP leave this job ASAP. Abuse always, always leaves trauma and twists what’s “normal” in your mind even if you’re 100% aware of what’s happening. Even if Katherine leaves, I would not stay in a company with this type of HR.

    2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      At the very least file a report with HR (and an ombudsman, if you have one) about Katherine’s “violence” at work using words and phrases like “unsafe working conditions,” “hostile work environment,” “scared,” and “intimidated.” Ask for your own accommodations related to the violence and physical safety concerns while you’re at it.

      1. Worldwalker*

        WFH and the explicit right to terminate calls/zoom when Katherine gets abusive would be a reasonable accommodation. Not that I think this company would go for that — it seems only Katherine gets accommodated (I wonder what blackmail material she has on higher-ups?) but it might be worth asking for.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Agree with all this except for “hostile work environment”. From the letter, there’s no indication that LW or the others are targeted based on gender/race/nationality/etc.

        “Violence” and “unsafe working conditions” are very good, though.

    3. Mrs. Hawiggins*

      I came here to say the same thing. I suspect HR would set up a bit straighter if they saw a uniformed officer on their way down the hall.

      As for her blaming her period and gaslighting a few days later, I would not accept the apology and let her know in no uncertain terms I won’t tolerate it any further. Especially since this is the millionth time, not the first time.

  13. DisneyChannelThis*

    I’ve known people with PMDD and this isn’t how it presents at all. Either Katherine is using the diagnosis as an excuse to be awful or the letter is bait

    1. jasmine*


      I know very little about PMDD but I’m highly skeptical that Katherine has a medical condition that “makes” her be abusive for 10 days every month.

      But for a second, let’s pretend there is. Let’s say that someone is a good person, but they werewolf into someone who screams and throws (dangerous!) items once a month. Anyone with a basic sense of compassion would not shrug and say that it’s a mental condition, because their primary concern wouldn’t be how to get away with it. Their concern would be hurting someone else! If they were going to site ADA, they’d do it to stay home so they don’t berate or injure (!!) or deprive innocent people of their livelihoods.

      Abusers are capable of holding back. Just because Katherine isn’t like this 24/7 doesn’t mean she’s not just a run of the mill abuser.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

        Yeah, I will give the Letter Writer the bennefit and say that Katherine does have PMDD and it does cause these issues. But I think it just exasperates what a horrible person Katherine is. If someone really did have a mental condition that caused this level of abusive behavior, when they were ‘normal’ they would be super apologetic and would be open to taking steps to getting help, like not coming in or taking any calls during the difficult times.

      2. ferrina*

        I’m not super familiar with PMDD and what symptoms may or may not include, but I am extremely familiar with ADHD and it’s cognitive/behavioral symptoms.

        ADHD symptoms can be pretty extreme- way more so than people can believe. For example, as an adult I have randomly forgotten how to tie my shoes (my working memory just shorted out so I couldn’t quickly tie my shoes- I had to go back into my long term memory to recall the instructions I got as a child). I cannot tell you how many things I randomly lose.
        BUT. It is no one else’s job to take the burden of those symptoms. It’s up to the patient to figure out what treatments bring them back into the bounds of acceptable social behavior. I can’t just waive deadlines at work because my brain doesn’t want to focus today. That’s a really key component of my job. I need to seek out treatment so I can meet the base expectations of my job (and treatment can include behavioral strategies, such as support systems of CBT).

    2. The Ginger Ginger*

      Or perhaps the people you know aren’t the entire be all end all of how PMDD is experienced. This tracks with what I know of someone with PMDD. It created HAVOC with their personal relationships, and some of their family members ended up going no contact for extended periods until it got properly managed.

      1. The Ginger Ginger*

        to be clear – it doesn’t excuse the behavior, but just because someone is behaving incredibly poorly doesn’t mean they don’t ALSO have a medical condition.

    3. C.*

      It’s not an excuse for Katherine’s behavior, but PMDD can present very differently in different people. Rage is a symptom, and could be spurring many of these disproportionate reactions and making them difficult to control. The company is acting badly and Katherine is acting badly, but these kinds of disorders can make people engage in impulsive behaviors like this or worsen existing tendencies. Just because it’s abusive behavior does not mean PMDD isn’t entangled with it; as someone with PMDD (which “luckily” manifests as more depression and fatigue than rage) who has spent a lot of time in online support groups, this actually sounds very plausible to me, along with other issues with boundaries and the failure of the company to enforce meaningful consequences.

      Ultimately though, we’re not qualified to untangle to what extent this is PMDD or Katherine’s other issues. But part of destigmatizing mental illnesses of all kinds is to not pretend that they all present they same way for everyone who has them or that their symptoms can’t cause or worsen destructive, antisocial, or even abusive behavior. “Real” PMDD is not just the kind that only hurts the person who has it, and it prevents people from seeing the illness clearly to say that it does.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        But if it “only” manifests for 10 days a month, what about the other 20? Why isn’t she taking accountability for this psychotic behavior once she’s lucid? I’m not saying she doesn’t have PMDD or this isn’t how PMDD presents, but it seems that she’s awful every day and escalates tenfold for several days once a month.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          THIS. If I turned into a werewolf for 10 days a month, I would spend the other 20 days demanding treatment and renovating my basement with a cage and chains to make sure I never hurt anyone.

        2. jasmine*

          Yes, maybe a mental issue can cause these symptoms but something about Katherine specifically isn’t adding up.

        3. LRL*

          LW refers to Katherine as “a supportive manager” the other 20 days of the month.

          And we don’t know what Katherine is or is not doing without the LW’s knowledge or what LW didn’t tell us about in the letter. Katherine may be actively seeking treatment. Katherine may have asked for and been denied accommodations.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      It honestly doesn’t matter what is causing it, or how much her condition actually contributes to it, because there is no legal excuse for a company to accommodate physical and verbal abuse of others. If they absolutely must continue paying her, they should do so while she is on sick leave, but they are entirely within their rights to fire her. Not only would it be the bare minimum way to protect their employees (and business!), but having her fired or on gardening leave until she finds an effective treatment would probably be the better thing for Katherine’s reputation anyway.

    5. JTP*

      I have PMDD (on top of major depressive disorder), and — unmedicated — I felt, just, rage. Over the slightest things. I can remember two specific times I threw things. I said awful things to my husband He (rightfully) almost left me. My son was terrified of me.

      Thankfully, working with a psychiatrist, I was able to quickly find a combination of meds that worked for me.

  14. Jessastory*

    You’ve probably already considered it, but is there any chance you (or at least your children) could get healthcare through Medicare or your state’s insurance if you quit?

    1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      Depending on the state it could be a long wait to get medicaid. A few years ago I looked into it in my state and was there was no funding for new members and that I would have to wait until the new year to try and reapply. That’s becasuse my state refused the extra funding from the ACA.

        1. Howard Bannister*

          No, I take it back, as of this year, it’s down to 10! Thank you, North Carolina, for joining the rest of us in making things a little easier for people in a desperate situation!

          1. 1849 Wisconsin*

            Here in Wisconsin our (gerrymandered Republican) legislature refused the federal money and also expanded Medicare. *confused shrug*

            1. Howard Bannister*

              Wow, turning down 8 million a year? That’s wild.

              It also means that there are a bunch of other rules they don’t need to comply with. It looks like they charge 8$/month premiums and 8$/visit copays for people under 100% FPL — that wouldn’t fly. But the money they make back doesn’t nearly make up for the funding they’ve turned down. Just wild stuff there, Wisconsin.

    2. Coverage Associate*

      A change in employment status also allows you to sign up for an ACA plan outside of open enrollment. I just crunched the numbers for health insurance for my husband, and an ACA plan was always more expensive than even bad employer sponsored insurance, but it wasn’t hugely more expensive, and the numbers could come out very differently for a child versus an adult over 50. Also, while you may not qualify for a discount/rebate when you first apply if you are recently employed, if your income is lower than projected at tax time, you will get the refund.

      1. Jessastory*

        I think this situation is bad enough the bother and expense of changing insurance is well worth it. And I expect interviewing and job searching might go better if LW isn’t in this situation anymore.

  15. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    My only advice to OP is to focus on the behavior, not the cause. As Alison said, your boss can’t just whip out a medical diagnosis and have anything and everything excused.

    And I know you say you feel some sympathy because you’ve had an adjacent medical issue, but this is so far out there that you probably need to suppress those feelings. Her behavior doesn’t just affect you – it also threatens the safety and well-being of her spouse and kids. Her unwillingness to devote time to treating this apparently long-standing illness is an indicator that there’s much more than just PMDD involved here.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      During this whole letter, I was thinking of my friend’s response to a complaint I had about a family member who was mean to me. Friend, who is a clinical psychologist, said, “Just because someone has (medical condition) doesn’t mean they aren’t also a jerk.” No matter what medical stuff someone is dealing with, that doesn’t give them any right at all – AT ALL – to be abusive to others. OP, I really feel for you and hope you can get out of there asap, because even if they fix this problem your company doesn’t seem like it knows how to run itself very well. Best of luck, dear OP.

          1. AnonORama*

            When I practiced law (not in the firm with the book-thrower and work-stomper), someone had had a needlepoint sampler made that said “asshole is not a protected class.” This is a little different — she’s likely in a protected class AND an asshole — but we always appreciated the point when we had to turn down cases for reasons like “I’m being discriminated against, because I got fired when I threw a stapler at someone.”

            1. RVA Cat*

              It’s like this HR thinks it would be racist to fire R. Kelly for being a sex offender (honestly just his aggression towards Gayle King in the interview should be a firing offense).

            2. Distracted Librarian*

              I’ve said, “asshole is not a protected class” and “asshole is not a diagnosis” quite a few times to the resident asshole in my life.

    2. Worldwalker*

      The whole point of accommodation is so that the affected person can function normally. For example, if they’re allergic to peanuts, prohibiting peanuts enables them to work like other people. (and, y’know, not die) If they use a wheelchair, putting in a ramp enables them to get to their desk. Etc. It’s all about making it possible for a worker to work.

      What’s going on here is … not that. Telling people they have to just put up with abuse and even physical violence is not making it possible for Katherine to do her work, because as a manager, an important part of her work is maintaining good relations with her reports. Katherine is not working during these episodes. She’s not working as effectively outside them — how forthcoming and honest would you be with someone who throws things when she’s upset? A third of her working time, she’s not accomplishing anything productive, and neither are the people subjected to her outbursts and violence. So that “accommodation” is not making it possible for Katherine to work. Hence it’s not a valid ADA accommodation.

      It sounds to me like Katherine knows where the bodies are buried, or is the HR person’s sister-in-law, or something else the LW doesn’t know about which makes her internally untouchable. Because no sane company keeps a Katherine on the books and just pays off the people she fires.

      1. Distracted Librarian*

        Sounds like a gutless HR dept. Years ago a friend of mine worked in a public library that had an employee with a documented mental health disorder. Said employee was blatantly rude to patrons and colleagues and was never disciplined for it “because she might sue.” Some HR departments act like anyone with any kind of health condition is untouchable.

  16. Siege*

    Seconding Alison’s comment about the NLRA. It’s not a super dense document (long but generally readable and clearly organized) so it may be worth a read because it does give you protection, and since you’re already acting as a group, you may as well know the full extent of the law most relevant to you. It applies to most workers, not solely unionized workers, and you’re not in one of the few excluded groups unless you’re an airline or rail worker, since you’re working in an office. It is intended to address the power disparity between employer and employee, regardless of union status.

    As a further note, if you or anyone reading this decide you want a formal union, your county or state labor council can help. I don’t think it’s a good fit for this situation, since you could bargain consequences of Katherine’s unhinged behavior (such as not being penalized and not having to take PTO for ending your work day when she begins abusing staff) but realistically the timeframe is much too long and your HR has all the tools they need already to deal with Katherine. But never think you’re too small to form a bargaining unit; we have a unit of three and a unit of seven in my workplace.

  17. Temperance*

    Obligatory: mental illness doesn’t excuse shit behavior, it’s not an excuse for shit behavior, and it sounds like your boss is an abuser who has found a convenient way to get away with it.

    No, the ADA doesn’t require workplaces to allow people with symptomatic mental illnesses to treat everyone around them like crap. JAN has some great resources on this; HR/her manager should be addressing her behaviors when they happen, and setting up a behavior improvement plan.

    If local HR is excusing her behavior, I would reach out to corporate.

    1. Capybarely*

      Yes, the part where Katherine implies they pushed her to it? That’s textbook abusive behavior. Not that any of it would be okay even if she was contrite and mortified afterwards, but this is an especially big red flag. It’s a classic cycle of abuse, and the honeymoon period isn’t even a honeymoon anymore.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yes. It wouldn’t be OK even if she were contrite and mortified afterwards, but I would have sympathy for her; I’d just have more for those being abused. But that line makes me think this isn’t a decent person with a medical issue that affects their behaviour in ways they are struggling to control, but a horrible human being with a medical condition that contributes to their poor behaviour and which she appears to be making minimal effort to control. If she can’t even acknowledge afterwards that she was entirely in the wrong and do her best to mitigate the damage, then I doubt she is making much effort to avoid situations in which she is likely to abuse her staff.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      Agree! mental illness and mental disabilities do NOT mean people can act any way they want.

      I would ask HR what they expect from the workers. Obviously, people aren’t going to be able to get work done with this type of treatment. They should make her go on leave until she has specific medicines or what ever help she needs, And if she comes back she needs to be escorted out.

    3. Observer*

      If local HR is excusing her behavior, I would reach out to corporate.

      Except that corporate is apparently aware of the problem. Their solution? Block all transfers and make the situation even more stressful by refusing to fill all of the vacancies that have arisen because of all the people that Katherine fired and all of the people who realize that they are not actually indentured servants and have found other work.

  18. Meg*

    OP, if you haven’t, start documenting/recording. I’d also heed all of Alison’s advice, especially the part about a lawyer. If the higher ups are afraid of a lawsuit over an ADA violation, let them know that you’ve got someone in the wings who will actually fight for you.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      Also, if the OP gets in trouble with work because of missing days and/or gets fired she should DEFINITELY call a lawyer.

  19. HonorBox*

    I’m really sorry to hear this all, OP. It sounds like nothing short of a nightmare. In addition to consulting your doctor and a lawyer to see about a transfer as an accommodation, I’m wondering what a lawyer would tell you about the potential for some sort of hostile work environment claim. Clearly this is hostile. Clearly this is abusive. And clearly the workplace isn’t accommodating the needs of employees. Those needs include a workplace that is free from violence.

    If you’re feeling a bit saucy (which I am right now), I might push back on HR with the following:
    *If hiring won’t happen until the environment improves, as them specifically what their plan is and what their timeframe is. Because clearly Katherine is the root of the problem and they are letting this continue. To what end? Til no one is in the department? Til employees file a lawsuit? Til Katherine consults every doctor on the planet? They have a HUGE problem on their hands if the department is less than 50% staffed. And I’d point out that the remaining team members are taking on the work of EVERYONE who has left or been fired, so what are their plans to compensate people appropriately?

    1. Lilo*

      Legally “hostile work environment” refers to discrimination based on a protected category and likely wouldn’t apply here.

      There are potentially other claims here, however. Especially by anyone attacked by this person.

      1. HonorBox*

        Thank you for pointing that out. I realized after I submitted my comment that there are legal differences. Mostly was using the verbiage to point out that Katherine is outwardly hostile (violence, yelling) to her employees.

    2. Bookmark*

      Unfortunately “hostile work environment” has a very specific definition in employment law that is specifically related to differential treatment based on protected class characteristics (race, sex, gender, etc) or due to retaliation for making a complaint of harassment based on protected class. An environment with someone who is indiscriminately hostile to everyone isn’t legally actionable on those grounds. Alison has written about this before, search the archives for “hostile work environment.”

      1. HonorBox*

        I typed it without thinking through the legal aspects of it. I wasn’t referring to that in the exact legal sense. More just pointing out that a lawyer would have input on the overall work environment that includes violence and verbal abuse being hostile. Thank you for pointing that out. Didn’t mean to bring in the legal term where it doesn’t apply.

      2. She of Many Hats*

        An known Unsafe or Violent work space may be the legal grounds for the team to use. Since it’s been reported to management and the only actions taken by the leadership is to box (deny transfers, deny hiring new staff) the existing team in the control of the violent/unsafe manager, they could (should) be held complicit.

    3. Ellen*

      Maybe Alison will chime in to confirm this, but I’m pretty sure “hostile work environment” as a legal concept (in the US) requires discrimination based on a protected characteristic; it doesn’t just mean “people are hostile to me.”

      1. Angstrom*

        “Missing stair”: an obvious problem that eyeryone gets used to compensating for (like stepping over the gap of a missing stair) until it becomes so “normal” that actually fixing it becomes a low priority.

        1. Wildbow*

          To add: Frequently there’s the added implication that when someone new stumbles into the dynamic with a missing stair in it, and people don’t warn them, they stand to get really hurt.

      2. cosmicgorilla*

        MikeM, it’s a Captain Awkward reference. Miasing stair because folks get used to skipping over the missing stair instead of doing something logical like fixing it. And then new people come onboard and question why they are expected to step over, why it hasn’t been fixed.

        In people terms, this means that everyone in the group overlooks someone’s bad behavior. “Oh, that’s just the way he is.” or “She’s that way because.of x extenuating circumstances.” The group may even take evasive maneuvers or have unwritten rules like “don’t invite Greg to the barhop…you how he gets after he drinks” or “make sure noone is left alone with him”, but noone ever directly addressed the bad behavior, or makes a move to remove the person with bad behavior from the group.

      3. Nea*

        It refers to a problem person that everyone works around, like you learn to step over the gap where a stair is missing instead of fixing the staircase.

      4. No Tribble At All*

        A metaphor for someone in a social group who needs to be “managed” or extensively accommodated such that everyone else has a worse time, when the answer is to just remove that person. Everyone gets used to jumping up and down over the missing stair, and no one ever says “hey, we should replace this stair!”

  20. JaneDough(not)*

    Would it be at all useful to adapt (essentially rewrite) Alison’s insightful assessment and leave it — without any details or phrasing that could lead to identifying this website or the LW — for the head of HR anonymously? (I don’t want the LW to be at risk of retaliation from HR or the abusive boss.)

    In other words, would a clear-eyed assessment of “You, HR, don’t understand the ADA, and your failure to either control or fire the abusive boss puts you at risk of a lawsuit from the traumatized workers” maybe light a fire under them and get them to actually do their job with regard to this abusive boss?

    LW, I feel for you and I wish you success in finding a resolution *soon*.

    1. higheredadmin*

      I think this is why other commenters are suggesting she consult a lawyer. They can send a letter along those lines and hopefully get some serious attention.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes, a law firm’s header can be much more convincing than a random note.

        At this point I might do both but a lawyer is the more reasonable advice.

      2. Captain Vegetable ( Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

        Yes to the lawyer. I had a dispute with a landlord and they were not taking me seriously. I paid $250 for a lawyer to put my words into lawyerly verbiage with a lawyer letterhead- all of a sudden, the issue was resolved!

      3. She of Many Hats*

        If the company has inhouse legal counsel, perhaps speaking with them instead of HR will bring results. Pointing out that staplers and tables are flying, abusive language, and inappropriate behaviors are occurring 6 months of the year and the team cannot receive transfers out or are being maliciously fired may raise the corporate liability flags for the legal team.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      It likely won’t be all that useful to submit something to HR anonymously. HR won’t know who sent it, so it won’t carry any weight. HR has no way of knowing that the sender is well-versed in employment law when the sender is anonymous. Like higheredadmin says, a letter from an employment lawyer will be much more effective.

    3. Mo*

      Nope on sending it to HR. This is a letter you have your lawyer send to your employer’s legal department or outside firm. HR is obviously a big part of the problem.

      We had a mentally unwell team member. We had a meeting with HR saying that we were frightened of her. Her boss really loved her work. She stayed.

      She was gone less than a week after I had a miscarriage. That’s what it took to get rid of her.

  21. Athenae*

    Yeah, it’s an insult to the ADA and the very concept of accommodations to use it like this. Being an a-hole isn’t a disorder and the way you know this is the former and not the latter is that she’s screaming at perceived inferiors, not at her bosses or people on the bus or something. It’s a power trip and has nothing to do with her mental health.

    1. kbeers0su*

      Oooh good point. If the behavior was purely a symptom of her diagnosis, the behavior would be indiscriminate. If she isn’t yelling at HR or her supervisors (or other people in a position of authority/power over her) then that makes this behavior all that more suspect.

      1. I Have RBF*


        If she can keep from ending up on a 72 hold for yelling at or throwing things at strangers, she can keep from yelling and throwing things at her employees, spouse and kids.

        I understand the hormone-caused rage at the world. But she doesn’t get to take it out on those around her.

    2. Caliente Papillon*

      Exactly what I think- Katherine is having a grand old time, fully sanctioned by the powers that be. I mean someone has to follow her around and make her leave once she goes to far? You gots ta be kidding me

    3. Worldwalker*

      Excellent point. The legal concept of insanity, in a criminal sense, is whether the accused would have acted the same way in front of a police officer. If not — for example, if they take steps to conceal their crime — then they know the difference between right and wrong, and they know what they did was wrong. Same thing here: if she was really totally controlled by her compulsions, she would throw things at her boss and scream at HR. She doesn’t. Therefore, she has a level of control, and she makes choices. Those choices are to abuse the people who work under her.

    4. Jan*

      This a thousand times. I had a boss like Katherine once, and she had a neurological condition which she used as her excuse for being verbally abusive and threatening to staff, name calling, screaming and threatening to stab anyone who displeased her. But she was sweet as cake whenever her boss was around, so she could obviously control herself when it suited her. Not that it mattered anyway, considering he was too much of a wimp to discipline her despite receiving numerous complaints. His excuse was “Well I wasn’t there, so I can’t comment.” Yeah, because most abusers do their shit in front of witnesses, innit…

  22. CommanderBanana*


    LW, I totally understand that in the dystopian nightmare that is the U.S.’s healthcare system, your insurance is tied to your job and that you can’t leave. I really think you ought to consider bringing a lawsuit against your employer at this point. I think your coworkers should also sue.

    I don’t know who needs to hear this, but we absolutely cannot continue allowing people to behave like this in workplaces. I had a boss at a previous job who had similar anger issues and outbursts, and not only was she not fired, she was actually hired back after she left and flamed out immediately at a new job that didn’t tolerate her behavior. As far as I know she is still there.

    This is so far beyond unacceptable. Katherine ought to have been marched out of the office the first time she had an outburst like this.

    I really do not understand why this sort of behavior is tolerated.

    1. Betty*

      I’m curious what the grounds for a lawsuit would be? My sense is that this falls into the vast “terrible but not illegal” land of US employment land, but IANAL.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, most likely. There’s nothing here that obviously violates employment laws, unless some employees get their own ADA accommodations that require this to stop and Katherine violates those. Some of it is potentially criminal (assault) but in reality, are police likely to do much about a boss throwing a stapler? Not in most jurisdictions (although LW and her coworkers could potentially shake up Katherine/HR just by having police show up). Someone mentioned a restraining order and while this situation might qualify for one on paper, I’m really doubtful that a judge is going to issue one against someone’s boss for basically being a horrible tyrant.

        The LW’s best legal options are to pursue their own ADA accommodations, or possibly NLRA organizing activity (which is likely to be a much more circuitous path but not one I’d take off the table).

            1. Anonymous 75*

              Having a police report on file will absolutely help of and when there is a physical injury. Additionally, the police can speak to the individuals involved, birth perpetrator and victim. as well as HR and let the victim(s) and HR what to do the next time this happens. Ideally, having law enforcement show up and now having a formal, outside of agency record of what’s happening, might just scare HR and the perpetrator into taking this seriously, especially if there’s an escalation.

          1. Samwise*

            She didn’t throw it, you can’t arrest someone for “she would have thrown the table, probably, maybe, if there was more room”

            1. Velawciraptor*

              Depending on the jurisdiction, assault charges would have been possible if people were put in fear of an imminent battery. And given that multiple people could have been put in fear, that could have been multiple charges.

              Granted, whether officers showed, much less issued a summons, would have depended on any number of extrinsic issues, but charges were possible. And collective action of everyone in the room demanding charges could have left both the manager and the company in a deeply uncomfortable position.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          I generally hesitate to get police involved, and this varies a lot by location even within the US, but here’s my experience as a defense attorney who has handled some low-level cases like this.

          You could call the police and say, “My boss just threw a stapler at me, and I need police to come out here.” Where I live, police would come out, they would write up a report, and your boss would be charged with misdemeanor assault, which would require her to go to court and comply with court-imposed conditions, which could include staying away from you and not throwing things at you.

          Again, I hesitate to involve police, and the details will vary a lot by location… but criminal charges might in fact be a way of getting your company to act.

          1. Velawciraptor*

            All of this. And even assuming conditions of release allowed her to return to work, returning to the behavior could both be a violation of CORs and potential witness tampering/intimidation, which could bring its own set of separate charges.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        I still think it would be worth considering a lawsuit, or at least speaking to a lawyer. I feel like lawsuits around this type of behavior are starting to get more traction. If that’s what it takes to get employers to stop tolerating this sort of behavior, so be it.

    2. Young Business*

      Well-stated. I am astounded that some HR teams can be so toothless and so deferential to monsters in the workplace.

      I also want to say that workplace burnout leaves a semi-indelible mark. From my own experience, I was in a terrible environment for 2 years and while the stress didn’t manifest as physical symptoms, I felt like a shell of myself. I would randomly start to cry on weekends just thinking about work on Monday.

      I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this, LW. Your health is paramount and I understand it’s not just super easy to up and leave and find a new position, but I hope you can take care of yourself and find a new role. It took me about six months in a new company to actually feel like myself again. The quicker you get out, the sooner you can heal and recover from this.

      The repercussions of toxic workplaces are so widespread and yet toxic and poorly run companies will normalize bad behaviour.

      As someone stated, if you could get a medical note and get transferred out to circumvent HR’s ridiculous block on transfers in the interim, do it!

  23. Ginger Cat Lady*

    This is absolutely something that HR can do something about. Their failure is as bad as Katherine’s behavior.

  24. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    Well, folks, gonna be two years in a row without needing/having a vote on worst boss of the year…

    I really don’t know what to say. I would seriously consider going public with all of this including names and addresses.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Elon may do something awful again to re-enter himself and top this one. Perhaps this year he starts smearing poop on the walls at Twitter/X/whatever HQ? :P

      1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

        This boss (and last year’s, with the lady who wanted to fire her employee for wanting her paycheck to clear) versus Musk strikes me very much as the Umbridge to Elon’s Voldemort. It’s not that the latter isn’t almost unquestionably more evil and causing major issues on a global scale, but there’s something so personal, relatable, and immediate about the former that you can’t help but almost be more disturbed reading about their actions.

    2. The answer is (probably) 42*

      I’d apply this more broadly to the entire structure that’s keeping Katherine in this position to begin with. She alone is awful, but they’re allowing her to continue being awful under their watch and doing nothing effective about it. If the employer were remotely competent, Katherine would have been fired way before she’d been at this behavior for long enough to qualify for worst boss of the year.

      Katherine and the company can share the prize between them.

      1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

        There have been calls in previous years (that I agree with) to split the award into two categories: worst boss, for individual achievement (interrupting a wedding, leaving notes at a grave, banning maternity clothes, etc.); and worst management, for company-wide crappiness (forfeit all vacation time if you worked from home during the pandemic, bat infested workplace, etc.).

        Here, of course, we have contenders for both categories. Must be a proud day for this company.

  25. KellifromCanada*

    She threw a heavy stapler at someone’s head. How about if that person files a police report, charging her with assault and asking for a restraining order? She wouldn’t be able to attend the workplace if there was a restraining order, right?

  26. Shirley You’re Joking*

    Pretty sure that part of the ADA states that you don’t have to make an accommodation for someone who is a direct threat. Katherine is dangerous. Throwing a stapler should be enough to get someone fired. This HR team is a joke and, as an HR professional, I’m especially angry at them for their incompetence.

    1. Whoa*

      At one office I worked at we weren’t allowed to where open-top footwear as part of the dress code because of the liability of something like a stapler dropping on your foot. On accident. The fact that this place tolerates one whizzing by your head on purpose is beyond me.

        1. Sage*

          This is something you can also read on “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft.

          That book is about men who are abusive against their female partners, but you can use some of the information on other abusive situations.

    2. Anonymoose*

      I came here to say this too: that the direct threat part of the AD applies to someone with an apparent disability who throws things.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      it passed full banana ensemble and entered complete banana wardrobe territory.

      TEN DAYS A MONTH. There are only about 20 working days a month. So HALF the freaking month this person is out of control. Medical condition or not, it cannot be tolerated. The kindest thing to do would be to put her on sick leave — which means no zoom calls either — until her doctor gets a handle on it.

      1. FlailingJuggler*

        Yep. I am currently being investigated for PMDD, and yes, my period and its associated miseries are currently taking up around 15-20 days a month. I hate it and am miserable during about ten of those days. But if I was a shade less functional I would be claiming medical leave, not ignoring the problem and lurching into work like a very unhappy loose cannon anyway.

  27. Orangejuice*

    I mean her throwing things at you would be considered assault right? Maybe you need to call the cops on her at that point and see if she can be arrested.

  28. Green great dragon*

    If the company is that serious about ADA, then the accommodation would surely be to have her stay at home for 10 days a month (without cutting pay of course). I’m not suggesting this is what should happen in most circumstances as it surely goes well beyond reasonable adjustment standard. But it is clearly less bad than what she’s doing now.

    I’m sceptical she’s a decent manager the rest of the time, due to her not being mortified about this behaviour and doing more to change it, but at least you’re getting some management without all this happening.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      Stay at home and not contact employees at all. It sounds like she has worked from home but still is abusive via zoom calls.

  29. Panicked*

    I would absolutely talk with an attorney about this being a hostile work environment. This is one of the few situations I’ve seen where it appears to actually meet the definition. You can/should also file a complaint with the EEOC. If your HR doesn’t want to deal with it, they’ll be forced to one way or another. Document absolutely everything, send emails describing her behavior to HR every single time, and backup those emails somewhere that isn’t controlled by your organization.

    I don’t often advocate for the nuclear option, but this is ridiculous and neither you nor your coworkers should be exposed to this behavior. As an HR professional, I am absolutely appalled on your behalf.

    1. Seashell*

      This has nothing to do with a hostile work environment or the EEOC. Katherine is being awful to everyone, not just people of a specific gender/race/religion.

    2. She of Many Hats*

      It may not meet the EEOC definition of a hostile work environment but may meet legal parameters for unsafe or violent work place. Unsafe in that her actions have put people at risk and it is a known risk that management has documentation about. Not much different that forcing people to use a piece of machinery that is known to be damaged but won’t repair.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        I just looked in my employee handbook, and there is a section on workplace violence, prohibited conduct, and reporting procedures.

        LW: what’s in your handbook?

    3. Nancy Gribble*

      OP doesn’t imply abuse based on a protected class, so EEOC won’t get involved. OSHA might based on the violence but that would be a long shot. Allison’s advice to follow NLRB guidelines for working environment would be the best option (short of quitting altogether).

    4. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      It’s a workplace with a very hostile person! But it’s not a “hostile work environment”, which is very specific in legal ways.

    1. Elsewise*

      I just had a flashback to reading Dear Abby as a teenager, and her advice to kids and teens who wrote in usually included the sentence “print this letter, show it to your parents, and tell them you wrote it.”

      (The “teenager who reads Dear Abby for fun” to “adult who reads Ask A Manager for fun” pipeline is a strong one.)

  30. Heart&Vine*

    I very much want an update to this. Hopefully the walk-out happens and/or all the employees lawyer up and inform HR that they cannot be expected to work in an environment where their boss risks their mental, emotional, and physical health and safety for a week every month because she has PMDD.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Heck, at this point trying to advocate for full paid leave for Katherine for two weeks of every month (or, heck, until treated) would be better for them than what’s going on. And that’s a comparatively ridiculous ‘accommodation’ here, but.

    1. blueberryfields*

      I agree, but also it’s frustrating because no one other than Katherine should have to leave. She is the problem!

    2. Melissa*

      I’m sorry, I know that’s insensitive. You can’t just quit. But this is so extreme, I hate for you to be trying to convince yourself it’s fine. It isn’t!

    3. Bookmark*

      Except that LW says she needs comprehensive healthcare for one of her kids. Not going to get that in the gig economy…

      1. Coverage Associate*

        But she and/or the child could be eligible for COBRA or an ACA plan, and a change in employment status allows for ACA enrollment outside the annual enrollment period for everyone.

    4. Anne Shirley*

      Yes, take one last stab (if you have the energy to) with legal action, organizing, etc. but always put your physical and mental health first. Get out and temporarily go on Medicaid if need be. The passiveness of this company is jaw-dropping. Please update us.

      1. Dog momma*

        You might be able to get the kid on Medicaid.. please check,, its been too long since I’ve been in the insurance arena. and may have to not have insurance yourself. COBRA is increasingly expensive & is only for the employee.

        I’d like an update too. Praying for these employees

        1. goducks*

          COBRA is for the employee and any dependents they had covered under their health plan. In fact, it’s possible to elect COBRA for just the kid. Each person covered by the plan has separate rights to COBRA.

  31. Portia*

    LW, your HR department are out of their collective mind.

    Katherine is violent. She is *dangerous.* She flips furniture! She throws things at people! If HR think they’re somehow protecting the company by letting her run amok, they will be disabused of that as soon as she nails someone with a flying stapler.

    If she genuinely, absolutely cannot control her actions — I wonder: has she ever screamed and/or thrown office supplies at someone who could fire her? — Katherine has no business working around humans, much less managing anyone, until she has found a way to handle her condition so she is not a danger to her co-workers.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      What happenes when she escalates her behavior. I doubt she just started with throwing things. I mean, she must have been acting normal at some point to be able to get a manager role. So what happens if she brings a weapon to work? Or seriously hurts someone. In this case it doesnt matter why she is being abusive. I half wonder if she has turned her abusive behavior to the HR people and they are afraid she will sue them.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Imagine two potential court cases:

        A) “The company fired me for throwing things at people.”

        B) “The company allowed someone to throw things at me with no repercussions.”

        Which one looks more winnable?

    2. Sage*

      This is something you can also read on “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft.

      That book is about men who are abusive against their female partners, but you can use some of the information on other abusive situations.

    3. mostly harmless*

      That’s a very good question – is Katherine throwing staplers at her manager or people more senior than she is? Is she screaming at them, overturning desks when they’re present?

      I would bet that she is not. I would bet that she can control herself enough not to do that.

      If so, she CAN control herself with her own staff, but she CHOOSES not to.

  32. Mytummyhurtsbutimbeingbraveaboutit*

    I wonder if the manager’s misuse of ADA is also what’s preventing her from being fired, like threatening lawsuits or something.
    It’s not just HR that seems incompetent – upper management needs to have dealt with this a loonnggg time ago

    1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      At first I wondered if HR didn’t know the severity of what was going on. But being there is an HR person sitting in the department now, there is no justification for this.

    2. Industry Behemoth*

      Yes. The only thing crazier than some lawsuits, is the lawyers who file them. And not having a legal claim doesn’t mean someone can’t drag another person into court, and make them absolutely miserable with nonstop legal maneuvers.

  33. Fluffy Fish*

    once upon a time my then high schooler was being bullied. the bully harassed everyone including teachers and made veiled an not so veiled threats. kiddo did everything reasonable she could do but in the end i had to get involved.

    and the school did nothing. then more nothing, then longer nothing. so i instructed my child to let the front office know that if i did not hear from someone that day about how they were going to protect my child from this person then I would be forced to get a restraining order and they could have fun figuring out how to keep the bully away from my child.

    now do i have any idea if i could have gotten a restraining order? nope. but the school didnt need to know that.

    so perhaps, OP, letting HR know that since they are not protecting you from verbal emotional and physical abuse that you will be exploring legal routes including a restraining order – they might just reevaluate what they are doing.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I really like this idea, although I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t fly. A kid is required to be in school, but we aren’t required to stay at a specific job (but that insurance need kind of means the OP is stuck there for now).

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        I get that – but my gut instinct is HR clearly doesn’t want to lose anymore people and this may force them to reckon with the fact that the boss is an actual danger.

        IAMAL but I suspect if OP is fired for protecting herself from actual abuse that there’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  34. Toodooloo*

    As a person who works in HR implementing ADA accommodations, it makes me so frustrated that this behavior is being excused. It would NEVER be a reasonable accommodation to allow an employee to behave this way and she should have been fired several times, and immediately once she flipped a table! She could try to claim disability discrimination but that would be without merit with even a fraction of the evidence included in the letter.

    1. Sharon*

      Right? An ADA accommodation is something that allows a person with a disability to be better able to perform the core functions of their job. I’m not seeing that K *IS* able to perform the core functions of her job, in which case she either needs to suggest an accommodation that will allow her to do that, or be let go.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          Oh absolutely. In a world where there’s routinely stories of things, in the US, like child laborers not remotely old enough to work doing exceedingly dangerous tasks – and the employer is a fairly large corporation? Yeah, crap like this absolutely happens.

        2. Lana Kane*

          I have witnessed stapler throwing in the workplace – she was a supervisor and also did not get reprimanded or fired. I’ve also seen a (very large and well-staffed) HR department choose to not pursue certain employee misbehaviors for fear of lawsuits. I think it’s entirely plausible.

          1. STAT!*

            Yep. It is widely rumoured that a certain Australian Foreign Minister was a stapler-chucker. Went on to negotiate international peace settlements after that gig I believe. Oh the irony.

        3. Heart&Vine*

          100%. Because this isn’t a Katherine problem, it’s an HR problem (and those are unfortunately prevalent). Had HR done their job from the beginning, Katherine would’ve been fired the first time she launched a stapler at someone.

    1. Lilo*

      I have a friend whose boss threw a stapler at her head (don’t worry, she’s no longer working there). It happens.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        I had a boss who threw a stapler at me. I quit. The office manager said she was sick of having to repost the position.

      2. Distracted Librarian*

        I watched a boss throw one of those huge pizza spatulas at my friend. Totally happens. That boss also blamed her menstrual cycle.

    2. OyHiOh*

      Considering that at least 3 commenters have already chimed in and said they had similar experiences with a boss? Yes, absolutely.

    3. IT Heathen*

      Many years ago, I had a co-worker like this. He threw chairs at the windows, broke them, and on multiple occasions, threw office supplies at folks, including one incident where he threw scissors at me. HR said because he was bipolar they could not do anything.

      1. Nea*

        Isn’t it odd how many times on AAM we read about “I need this simple accommodation but my company is dragging its feet over the price/who buys the chair/the size of my service dog” compared to the equal number of times we read “Someone in my office is a danger to my mental, emotional, or physical health but HR says we have to accept that as the company’s accommodation to their diagnosis”?

      2. AnonORama*

        I worked for someone who screamed incessantly, threw books at people, punched a wall and generally behaved like an out-of-control maniac. (I never had anything thrown at me, but he once took a project I’d completed — several hundred hours of work — threw the documents on the ground and stomped around on them for several minutes. That was the “lite” version of his behavior that you couldn’t complain about because he wasn’t throwing things at you.) He’s a high-level executive and, as far as I know, is still at the company. I moved on years ago, thankfully.

        Hey, at least he never claimed an ADA issue! He owned it and admitted he was an a-hole, he just wasn’t willing to change. (Just saying “I know I’m an a-hole” is not actually good enough…a-hole!)

    4. zelavie*

      I’m very happy for you that you’ve not worked in a toxic environment. While I’ve never had a Katherine-level boss, I’ve had a few that did a NUMBER on my mental health while doing things that seem completely unbelievable in a workplace. So yes. I absolutely believe this is real.

    5. mostly harmless*

      Considering that I had a teacher who once threw a stapler at a child in my class, nothing would surprise me. It’s certainly NOT out of the realm of possibilities.

  35. Hiring Mgr*

    Not familiar w/PMDD but Katherine sounds violently insane. Hopefully she leaves or is fired, or OP can move to a new job.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I have PMDD, all the women in my family do and it has “affectionately” been known as “flying frying pan syndrome” for generations.

      Still would expect to get arrested/fired if that frying pan hit someone. The symptoms are real but no one is expected to tolerate this – at all, or particularly in the workplace.

      1. Morte*

        as someone who also struggled with undiagnosed PMDD and didn’t realize what it was (or how bad it was) until later when I found effective treatment… I can’t help but laugh at “flying frying pan syndrome”

        1. I Have RBF*

          I had the problem as a teenager, and into my 20s. I knew I wasn’t being rational, and yes, I was a total bitch. But I learned how to deal with the violent impulses. It took a few years, but instead of trying to damage walls or people, I had safer outlets for my rage – a hammer and a piece of brass, or a wooden practice sword against a tree. I allowed myself to hit things that were mine and designed for hitting. It sloooowly came under control, and eventually faded out without medication, fortunately – I had it in the 70s and 80s, before it was a common diagnosis.

          The biggest thing, IME, that Katherine can do to bring this under control is avoid other people when the PMDD is raging! Not just her employees, but her spouse and kids, because they are victims too.

      2. Relentlessly Socratic*

        I don’t have PMDD or even really much PMS, but I can *always* tell where I am in my cycle when I get irrationally angry that there are other people in the same aisle as I am at the supermarket. Just, full-blown, teeth-clenching PISSED that someone else DARES to need canned tomatoes. I, of course, do not throw the tomatoes at anyone.

        I am so sorry for folks who have much stronger symptoms!

    2. MarieHasLeft*

      I have PMDD, but it just makes me suicidal.

      …Never thought I’d type, “it just makes me suicidal,” lol.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        haha, you just summed up my response to one of the meds they tried to give me for fibro.
        “No thanks, I tried that and it just makes me suicidal”
        The doc looked at me and wrote “Allergy to Rx” in my file. In retrospect, I thank her for keeping my comment off the record.

        1. I Have RBF*

          I had that happen with an antibiotic. Scared the heck out of me, because it was so out of character. Sure, I’ve had battles with depression, but I was never suicidal. I wasn’t depressed at the time, and suddenly I was thinking about suicide. I called my doctor, since the only thing that was different was the antibiotic. I stopped the antibiotic, and the thoughts went away.

          It’s a very scary side effect, especially when it sneaks up on you.

  36. Keymaster of Gozer*

    There is NO accomodation for ANY disability or medical problem that means you can abuse others. NONE. I don’t care what physical or mental issues you have – you do not get to treat other people like dirt.

    Frankly she should be outright fired. Your HR is wrong. Does she have to step up to punching someone before they’ll pull their fingers out? Or will they shrug and say ‘well, ADA, we can’t do anything’?

    Look, as a professional crazy person (been hospitalised more than once) I can safely say there is a point where you have to realise you cannot perform in society when it gets bad. And if that means you can’t do the job (and she really can’t during these periods) or even go out in public then it’s your responsibility to protect others from your actions.

    All the good things she’s ever done are far outweighed by her utterly abusive moments. I’m sorry but she has to go.

    1. I Have RBF*


      If she can’t get up in the morning, realize that this is a bad day, and call out from work, she needs to be fired.

      If I wake up hangry, or grumpy, or whatever, I don’t get to take it out on my housemates or my coworkers. Yes, it took a few incidents where I made a total ass of myself to realize how to handle it. The solution always started with isolating myself until the rage subsided. It helped that the other symptom was depression of the “can’t get out of bed” sort. It’s hard to give in to violence when you don’t even want to get up to pee.

      But some days I was just mad at the world, for no reason, and I had to learn how to deal with it in a safe way. Yes, it was still technically “violent”, but when your brain is flipped to rage, you have to find a way to vent it, or it will explode when you don’t want it to. Getting alone and punching a pillow until you are too tired to do it any more works, too.

      Katherine needs better medical and psychological advice, IMO. Until she gets that, she should not be allowed to manage people.

  37. BellyButton*

    WOW. This woman needs help. Many many anti-depressants help with PMDD. PMS and cramps when almost completely away when I started the lowest level of an anti-depressant. I had no idea they would help so much. Not that OP could suggest that to her, but just info for anyone else suffering.

    HR and the bigger bosses are so negligent, I can’t believe it. If there is such high turnover they have put a freeze on hiring, then they know she is the problem and need to fire her yesterday.

    OP should ask to go on medical leave. If someone started yelling at me or throwing things, I would get up and walk out. I will not tolerate that. OP, your health is suffering- your doctor can and should put you on stress leave.

    I hope this gets resolved somehow.

    1. Quokka*

      Yep I probably had this going through puberty – the mood swings were insane and I probably got one good week in four, with the worst week being one where I was either completely detached from all emotion or suicidal. I now realise how lucky I was to be able to convince my mum to let me go on the pill, and that the pill was something that worked for me.
      I was silently terrified that when I went off the pill to try and get pregnant many years later the mood swings would return, but it was apparently linked to puberty.

      My question to the company would be (in addition to all the others already mentioned): what if she can’t find a treatment that works for her? What will they do then?

      In my country this would now be considered a Work Health and Safety issue (psychosocial hazard) and the company would get a massive fine for allowing this to continue, and be forced to rectify the issue or risk jail time. This would be investigated and determined by an independent body that can be tipped off anonymously.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            It’s like when the Song of the Summer is so obvious that they have to start a second competition for the runner up.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      I know you mean well but I don’t know a single person who can just quit or take a lower paying job until something better comes along.

      I’m sure they’re out there but most people need their jobs.

    2. Humpty Dumpty*

      Sorry, i was wondering this but I see now that LW wrote that they’ve been interviewing for over a year. I’m so sorry for the situation, LW.

  38. The Person from the Resume*

    They said they’re trying to get menstrual leave approved by corporate, but I don’t see the point if Katherine spends the whole time screaming at us via Zoom or Slack, which is what she does when she works from home.

    Menstrual leave as an accommodation would need to be actual leave (not working) and not WFH since Katherine remains abusive while working from home. Also I doubt a full time employee being out sick 10 days/2 weeks every month permanently could be considered a reasonable accommodation which is why menstrual leave for Katherine’s case is unlikely to be approved.

    1. Lana Kane*

      Boss could maybe manage this with FMLA but even that has its limits in terms of how many days you get until the benefit runs out for the year.

  39. Ticotac*

    So she screams at people, throws stuff at them, flips tables. A question I have is, if it’s her PMDD that makes her act out of control, then surely she has occasionally broken her own stuff, or injured herself by accident? Surely she ended up throwing a stapler at the CEO during a very important meeting. Surely she cussed out a client. When she called the police on the vendor, did she do it from the safety of her own office, or did she also argue with the vendor? Is the vendor aware of who called the police and why, or do they just think that it was a misunderstanding? In other words, is the behaviour caused by her PMDD negatively impacting her, or does it just happen to make her explode at stuff she doesn’t like? Because from what I see in the letter, it looks to me like she’s getting the sweet sweet deal of abusing people into doing whatever she wants without getting any sort of pushback.

    I guess it doesn’t really matter, at the end of the day. Whether she’s using PMDD as an excuse to act out or she’s acting out because of PMDD, this is unacceptable. There’s thousands of people with PMDD who manage to not be abusive to the people around them, and whenever people realize that their disorders has made them act out of line, their reaction is to be absolutely mortified. The fact that she’s violent AND unrepentant shows that this isn’t an ADA issue, this is a personality issue.

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      Abusive partners and bosses all seem to have the same ability to ONLY lose control when they are interacting with someone with less power than they have.

      It’s calculated, and shows that they aren’t losing control. They’re exercising control.

      1. C.*

        Surely it would manifest in some of these relationships too in other ways (irritability, snarkiness, rogue emails etc.), but the thing about PMDD is that you can keep things under control for some things, in short bursts, when the stakes are high, but it often comes out somewhere else. For a lot of people that means they hold it together at work and let things out in their personal life, on spouses, kids, etc. A LOT of people with untreated or improperly treated PMDD struggle with friendships and personal relationships this way. My mom, a teacher, would mostly hold it in at work and then come home and have a breakdown with my brothers, my dad, and me. Katherine does probably have this impulse around her bosses and tamps it down, but lets it fly more readily on those without power over her. Doesn’t mean the behavior isn’t abusive, but it also doesn’t mean it isn’t PMDD; not lashing out at her boss isn’t a smoking gun that she’s faking. It’s like any mental illness: a combination of symptoms and behaviors that are contextual.

    2. FD*

      This jumped out at me too, that she is very carefully avoided acting in ways that are unacceptable towards people who are likely to be able to take concrete action.

      It doesn’t fundamentally change the advice for the letter writer, but it is good to keep in mind.

      1. Ticotac*

        Yeah, it doesn’t really change the reality of the situation (this is an abusive situation and HR has dropped the ball) but maybe it could help if OP is feeling guilty. It’s good to interrogate our motives, but the truth of the matter is that this isn’t about a woman having a stigmatized disorder, this is about a woman acting in an abusive way.

        Maybe the PMDD *does* make her a raging monster, but it doesn’t prevent her from realizing that her behaviour is unacceptable once those ten days are over. It doesn’t prevent her from apologizing, being contrite, wanting to do her best so that she doesn’t abuse everybody around her, trying to come up with a plan of action for when her period is back. Like, i don’t know, if you scream at people, then ask them to interact via email; if you are mean via message, implement a delay that forces you to sit with that message for an hour, so that you can look at it, cool down, and go “you know what, maybe that’s excessive”. When you’re in this situation you try to do something, you don’t just shrug and go, “well, eventually I’ll find the right birth control that will fix everything, but until then, what can we do?”- or at least, that’s what you do if you are bothered by what is happening and want to fix the situation.

        1. Portia*

          Yes, exactly.

          Katherine is apparently not repentant, when, if she is genuinely out of control, she should be horrified by her own behavior.

          She’s getting something out of this. Maybe as simple as enjoying the power that comes with making her staff afraid of her. She wouldn’t be the first.

      2. Ticotac*

        Also just to be clear, I meant my other comment as a “yes and” but I just realized it could read as a “well actually-” and that definitely wasn’t my intention, i know we agree!

  40. Thatoneoverthere*

    Wow just wow. I don’t know the legal logistics of this at all. But is it possible to start recording interactions with her? Even if you just set meetings to record, or carry your phone with you on record.

    Again I really don’t know the legalities of this. Perhaps getting a lawyer, in this situation (no matter if you record or not) would be beneficial. In the meantime if she throws ANYTHING or threatens you call the police immediately. Don’t ask permission just do.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      DEFINITELY familiarize yourself with the recording laws of your particular locale before you do this.

      But as someone in a one-party consent state, yeah, I’d be doing this.

    2. Thatoneoverthere*

      Also TBH (I went back and re-read the letter again). She goes on an hour plus long screaming tirade I would also call the police. If you are scared and others are too call them. Get it documented by the police. Maybe HR will do something. Maybe this is a drastic step, but honestly eff it. Your company has done nothing about this, take some drastic measures. Maybe it will wake them up.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > Maybe this is a drastic step

        If someone was behaving like this somewhere other than work, like in a bar or the grocery store, you bet people would be calling the cops. It isn’t any different just because it’s a workplace.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          Exactly. When someone behaves like that, it’s reasonable to fear for your own safety and theirs.

  41. Observer*

    OP, Alison is 100% right here. And, it’s worth noting that you CAN all walk out and the law most definitely covers you, union or not.

    I’m going go a bit further than Alison and say that not only are your HR not doing everything they can or even the *bare minimum*. They (or someone above HR) are actively *avoiding* dealing with the problem for some reason.

    Think about it – they have blocked any requests for transfers because the situation is so dire. And while they may have thought that it would keep people in place, they can see that it’s not – it just *slows* the bleeding, and they are losing people to other companies. And their solution? Since they can’t actually forbid people from quitting, they are simply refusing to hire people to keep things going.

    This makes no sense. I wonder what is *really* going on in the background. Because none of this makes any sense.

    1. Nea*

      I’m willing to bet that Katherine has threatened to sue the company for discrimination if they let her go due to “a medical condition” so HR is as afraid of her as everyone else in that department.

      Thing is, a person with a medical condition absolutely can be fired for performance issues such as firing people randomly, much less being physically dangerous to be around. Screaming is assault; throwing things and flipping tables is battery.

      As for how she’s able to get away with all that firing, were I working there, I wouldn’t fight for my job if she told me I was canned. I’d be thrilled at the sweet, sweet relief of being free, even if it meant I had to collect severance and/or unemployment.

      1. Lana Kane*

        I said in another comment that I’ve seen my large and well-staffed HR department let stuff go because they were afraid of lawsuits. The employer not only has a robust HR but also robust legal resources. It never made any sense to me except that as robustly staffed as they were, the mandate from above must have been to avoid lawsuits. (Also, the head of that HR ended up being let go and a big culture change is underway. So many of these baffling HR situations can be traced to horrible leadership).

      2. Observer*

        I’m willing to bet that Katherine has threatened to sue the company for discrimination if they let her go due to “a medical condition” so HR is as afraid of her as everyone else in that department.

        I get that. But what is she costing them already? And what liability is she exposing them to? Something stinks, and it’s not *just* Katherine. Someone in leadership is being grossly negligent (or worse.)

      3. The Prettiest Curse*

        So if the HR department is scared of being sued by Katherine, the answer is to make them even more scared of being sued by multiple people, namely the remaining staff in the department.

        Also, I’m wondering if the severance the fired staff received came with NDAs – because if not, there’s presumably nothing (other than not wanting to re-visit trauma, which of course isn’t a small thing) to stop them from testifying in any potential lawsuit.

        1. Coverage Associate*

          I don’t think a NDA can exempt someone from having to respond to a subpoena. It can be very hard to subpoena someone who will not cooperate, but it can be done.

      1. AnonORama*

        Ha! A friend of mine refers to this as “recto-cranial inversion.” Sounds so much more clinical than having your head up your butt, so you can say it with impunity!

    2. kalli*

      The department’s reputation is shot and they want to close it down but they can’t make a case for genuine redundancy, so it’s a drawn out form of constructive dismissal. Then when enough people are gone they can redistribute job functions and essentially erase the department and any trace of Katherine and team in the org chart. Ideally they hope Katherine ends up resigning because she doesn’t have enough targets left, and they can redeploy some people who have experience to cut down on the hiring, but it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work out that way, as long as Katherine eventually chooses to leave independently after being starved of captive targets.

      Seen it happen, complete with workers comp claims redeemed to the full amount as soon as the problem worker ‘got a better job elsewhere’. Department restructured and then disappeared, company doesn’t handle that work any more, neatly severed from everyone who could speak up for problem worker – and department also happened to be the lowest-earning in the company, so the books instantly looked better.

      We don’t know what is going on in the background and it’s useless to speculate – Katherine could be sleeping with someone in HR or the CEO’s secret cousin, HR may genuinely be clueless, the minder could be being blackmailed, we don’t know. It doesn’t help LW to speculate, either.

      1. Observer*

        It doesn’t help LW to speculate, either.

        In a purely pragmatic sense you are correct.

        But I think it might be helpful to help the OP realize just how completely bonkers the situation is. I mean they asked if HR is really doing everything they can, which tells me that their sense of what competent workplaces look like. And all of the people saying “This makes no sense whatsoever. So much so that this, that, or the other crazy thing must be going on in the background” should make it clear to the OP, the yes, really and truly this HR department is NOT doing what they should be. Not even close.

  42. Sara without an H*

    Hi, LW — No, this isn’t normal and your health (physical and mental) are suffering. I have a couple of suggestions:

    1. Set up an appointment with an employment attorney to find out what your options are. While you say your firm isn’t allowing any lateral transfers, I suspect a case could be made that you need one as an accommodation for your own health issues. A good employment lawyer can help you with this.

    2. Talk with your doctor about medical documentation to support a request for accommodation.

    Your HR team are idiots, so I wouldn’t rely on them for any advice at all. See your own attorney and doctor for help in drafting a request for accommodation and for back up in moving it along.

    Now the larger question: You said you’ve been interviewing for over a year. You didn’t say what industry you’re in, or what the job market is like in your area. Please ramp up your search. Check the AAM archives and make finding another job your first priority. You can’t fix this and the only people who can, won’t.

    Jedi hugs, and please send us an update.

    1. Observer*

      While you say your firm isn’t allowing any lateral transfers, I suspect a case could be made that you need one as an accommodation for your own health issues.

      The thing is that really, the OP needs to get out of there. Sure, as a short term solution, get moved if at all possible. But this is a *terrible* workplace. Management here either is criminally incompetent (not legally, but colloquially) or they are terrible people who are using the ADA as a cover for some other issue. Either way, not a healthy place to stay in the long term.

      1. Sara without an H*

        True! But the Letter Writer said that she’d been looking for a year and really, really needed to keep her health insurance for family reasons. An internal transfer would relieve the immediate pressure while she looked for something better, which is why I recommended that she get help from an employment lawyer to build her request for accommodation.

        But you’re absolutely right that there’s no real future at this place. Katherine is the presenting symptom in a pattern of dysfunction, and I recommended that the LW ramp up her search.

  43. Mimmy*

    This is just another example of how employers need a better understanding of the ADA. They are either afraid of discrimination lawsuits and are overcautious, or they just don’t understand the law’s limitations. Excusing inappropriate behavior is not a reasonable accommodation. An employee can certainly be coached, either by the supervisor or a job coach, but it sounds like Katherine is WELL beyond this point.

    Best of luck OP. Please update us when you can.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      So many companies don’t even have HR, I don’t know why places bother investing in HR if they aren’t going to train them to the bare minimum. I don’t think HR should be optional, to be clear, but they aren’t even a CYA function if they’re working like this.

    2. Observer*

      This is just another example of how employers need a better understanding of the ADA.

      Honestly, I don’t think that this is the issue here. This is causing so much disruption that in any reasonable company they would have consulted a lawyer. And any competent lawyer would have told them that they are flat out wrong here.

  44. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    Wow, your HR sucks.

    “They’re treating the ADA as if it means that once someone cites a medical condition, any and all behavior they say stems from that medical condition must be tolerated, and that is categorically not the case.”

    As a very real and oft-cited example, the ADA recognizes alcoholism as a covered disability and employers are required to make REASONABLE accommodations to this end. For example, time off to attend inpatient treatment, perhaps a schedule adjustment to attend therapy or AA, etc. This does NOT include allowing people to no-show because they went on a bender or show up to work drunk. In fact, ADA is pretty clear that this would no longer be covered or protected.

    In short, what is going on is NOT reasonable and it is causing your employer an UNDUE HARDSHIP. IANAL, but I’ve done enough work in the RA sphere that this seems pretty cut and dried. If it was me, I’d be looking to place her on a mandatory indefinite medical leave until she can get her (stuff) together.

  45. Sociology Rocks!*

    Firstly and I think most importantly, go find all those people in other departments, and their managers who moved them, and build and document and collect all the evidence of the degree of problem she creates. If any of those people are actually decent reasonable people, ask them, and the not shitty managers, to join you in solidarity of not working/bothering HR about the situation/threatening legal action due to a hostile workplace etc. some of them may be willing to help support and produce more of an impact.

    Then schedule a meeting with the head of HR, and loop in as many other senior people as they can. Schedule it for the same time as their meetings with the manager, and subject these people to the situation either in person or via overhearing in the next room. Make them uncomfortable, keep asking how this is reasonable, pull out the employee handbook on rules and behavior and find the ones that apply to her behavior. Force them to really experience what’s happening for as long as you can drag out the day. Absolutely collectively refuse to work until conditions improve, and instead go stand in /around HR’s office all day asking when conditions will improve and what they’re doing about the situation. Be a disruptive killjoy so HR cannot function because of the number of emails and messages and meetings and badgering about the situation you all collectively give them. Make it more convenient to get rid of the problem manager, and document everything you all do to get around her, and how much work doesn’t happen due to screaming. Record the horrid meetings and play them back on loop by HR’s office. Disrupt your company beyond HR as much as you collectively can, make it stop working, so that they actually have to act. constantly mention the situation as the only response to why isn’t XYZ done for other departments.

    Find HR’s boss and bother them too.

    It’s truly baffling they’ve allowed this to go on so long, and I’m so sorry you all are dealing with it. Abuse is a terrible terrible thing and take a long time to recover from sometimes, and you all will get there one day.

  46. Gramby*

    Could there be another underlying medical condition at play here? That sounds like PANS/PANDAS but in an adult!

    1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      It doesn’t matter what the condition is, and its not our place or the OP’s place to speculate. Regardless of what the problem is, Kathleen has no right treating anyone like this and should not be a manager.

      1. Jaydee*

        I think it matters because “finding the right birth control” might not solve things if it isn’t PMDD (or if it isn’t *just* PMDD).

        That said, differential diagnosis is useful for Katherine and her medical providers – not so much for advising OP on how to deal with this situation.

  47. jellied brains*

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this. My first non-retail job was a family owned s-show. The brother was a psychotic bastard who routinely used me as his verbal punching bag & once nearly broke my wrist. I never did anything besides quit because I didn’t think anyone would believe me (people who worked there sure didn’t).

    So I encourage you to go legal ape shit on her ass. No one deserves to be treated like that.

  48. Regina Phalange*

    I definitely think there’s a lot of fodder for legal action here. A conversation with a lawyer, even an informal one, could give you an idea of what language you need to drop to get HR to take you seriously.

    And, God, the way health insurance works in this country is such a freaking joke. To be trapped in a situation like this because you rely on it for health insurance is inhumane. I hate it here.

    Best of luck, OP…please send us an update on how it all goes.

  49. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    It seems to me HR are afraid of her (and I can see why) and are using the ADA as a ‘shield’, so that they don’t have to actually take any action, rather than that they genuinely think behaving like this is a suitable accommodation under the ADA.

    I would report to law enforcement including any records you have of past incidents. If you don’t have records, write down as much as you can remember and then start keeping records (offsite if there is any chance she will find it, or in your phone or such like). She has crossed the line into actual assault, more than once.

    The trouble with asking to be reassigned etc is that all of OP’s co-workers are in the same boat as OP, in terms of the impact of Katherine’s outbursts on the team. So a request for reassignment is likely to be met with a response like “corporate already vetoed that, and this situation isn’t unique to you”.

    Getting treatment for her rages (I won’t speculate on possible treatments, but let’s just say it needs treating psychiatrically as well as with hormonal birth control) needs to be made a condition of her staying employed there (if they want to keep her – in the UK, she’s done enough that could be considered gross misconduct that she could be summarily dismissed if that’s the way the company wants to go). What is she actually contributing to the company on the other 15 (or whatever) days of the month? Would it be worth them keeping her?

  50. Dog momma*

    Nurse here with my one period problems/ menopausal symptoms when I was younger. The only syndrome this falls under is she is able to get away with this behavior. And is running with it. Sounds like POSSIBLY an undiagnosed something or other that MIGHT be exacerbated by period symptoms. But I’m A nurse and not A doctor so..

    This is so far from normal that I.. can’t even… HR needs to get on top of this yesterday, put her on a short term PIP to cover themselves, and fire her for harassment, attempted battery..throwing things at people// overturning A table people are seated at.. and whatever else they come up with.
    I’m sorry your group is going through this and that no one is doing anything. This is beyond a toxic environment. Keep goid records of all this LW, and if she throws something or otherwise you’re in he way of a flying object.. chair, table etc…call a lawyer stat. That may get someone’s attention.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      PMDD in my family *does* manifest like this, but it’s a reason not an excuse. Medication, time off, whatever you need to do – this isn’t okay.

    2. Dog momma*

      You might be able to get the kid on Medicaid.. please check,, its been too long since I’ve been in the insurance arena. and may have to not have insurance yourself. COBRA is increasingly expensive & is only for the employee.

      I’d like an update too. Praying for these employees

      1. Call Me Dr. Dork*

        COBRA can cover all the people who were covered under your employer health care – it is not just for the employee. I just got my initial COBRA docs, and my spouse is on them (and got a separated copy of the docs too).

    3. kalli*

      They don’t need a PIP when someone is repeatedly physically violent in a workplace where people are also fired for typos. They can let Katherine go, they just are not because everyone’s decided Katherine has a medical condition.

  51. Khatul Madame*

    I don’t think HR is protecting Katherine due to ADA – this is just how they are trying to explain their inaction to the LW. She probably has some serious dirt or on the company leadership, or is best friends with the HR director, or is related to someone high up. I would add the possibility that she may be sleeping with someone high up, but who would want a mistress like this?
    I agree that LW should pursue legal action.

  52. CookieWookiee*

    WTAF. No. This is not OK.

    As someone who dealt with severe PMDD and other problems until finally getting a hysto (yay!), I can safely say :nothing: about PMDD requires the sufferer to hurl heavy objects at one’s subordinates.

    PMDD may be the :reason: for her being in a bad mood, but it DOES NOT excuse her abusive behavior. This is completely unacceptable. People with PMDD still have control over their actions, and know right from wrong.

    Your HR needs serious retraining on ADA accommodations. They can’t fire her for having PMDD, but they :can: censure or fire her for, say, assaulting and/or verbally abusing her co-workers. One has nothing to do with the other.

    OP, even if they do eventually fire her, I hope you can get out of there and into a better environment. This place sounds really screwed up. Good luck.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Even more serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia don’t excuse throwing things at people or screaming at them.

      If someone is so psychotic that they genuinely cannot control their actions then it’s a serious mental health emergency. If she *can* control them then it’s just straight up abuse.

      I think maybe HR are just terrified of her. If they have little to no knowledge of mental disorders they may be thinking ‘don’t make the crazy person worse!’

      1. pally*

        Or the decision-maker in HR simply has not experienced being in the direct “line of fire” -either the verbal or the physical kind. Easy to brush off the complaints when this is the case.

  53. I mean its probably not the best solution but it worked...*

    Worked for someone like this but they used a different mental illness as their excuse for hitting/throwing and other physical aggression. HR was flaccid and trying to hide behind ADA. The proverbial straw was her throwing a glass beaker at another employee and causing them to receive a bunch of stitches.

    We filmed one of her tantrums and put it on “Public Freakouts” on Reddit.
    She was fired shortly after it went viral.

      1. I mean its probably not the best solution but it worked...*

        We didn’t consent to being physically abused at work, either.

  54. Yikes on Bikes*

    If you are in a one-party consent state, I would RECORD EVERY INTERACTION with her. And then trot that over to a lawyer.

  55. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    I’d suggest that the LW and if possible her co-workers arm themselves with some research about the ADA, talk to HR, and ask HR to talk to a lawyer. The government agencies that regulate this stuff have guidance on their websites. If HR doesn’t act, is it possible to elevate it to the CEO/head of the company?

  56. K*

    …is her name actually Katherine? Because I had a boss named Katherine that absolutely meets this description, and even now, more than a decade later, I still have her name programmed into Google News so I can know to stay far far FAR away from wherever she is.

  57. Criminology Major*


    2. Do what the lawyer says.

    3. Film any interactions with Katherine screaming and especially if she throws something. Make sure you also film her HR “handler” sitting there doing nothing.

    4. Next time something is thrown at someone or any kind of physical abuse takes place, call the police. This is not an HR matter, it’s a criminal matter. It will be hard for Katherine to Zoom scream from jail.

    5. Please update Ask a Manager!

  58. Toledo Mudhen*

    I wonder what Katherine’s supervisor is doing through all this.

    I once worked with someone on a call center who had a multitude of mental disorders. They were a hard worker, very smart, and generally good with the callers. When they were angry about something, though, everyone knew it. The yelling, the crying at the slightest perceived slight. I think they broke three headsets. They werne’t abusive directly to any of us, but it was still an awful environment to be in.

    Fortunately, the manager got through to them that no matter what they had, no matter what meds they were having adjusted, they were still responsible for their behavior. They also were passed over for promotion and that really hit home.

    They moved on and I heard from a mutual friend that they’re doing better now. I’m glad someone got through. I’m not sure anyone can get through to Katherine if there are no consequences for her behavior.

    1. E*

      crying should be seen differently than aggressive violence imo. people cry and it doesn’t hurt anyone it just makes people a bit uncomfortable.

      1. edda ed*

        It’s not merely crying, it’s “crying at the slightest perceived slight.” Yelling, of course, makes a workplace unpleasant, but I would say there are definitely contexts in which yelling is appropriate (e.g., life and limb at risk). I’ve cried at work after receiving news of the death of someone close to me and my coworkers were gracious, but if I cried because my coworker occasionally drove a few blocks away to a sandwich shop for lunch instead of sack lunch with me in the break room every single day, that would not be appropriate. Context matters, and while Toledo Mudhen didn’t specify what “the slightest perceived slight” entails, I don’t have a problem with the way they grouped that type of crying with yelling, breaking equipment, and other abusive behaviors.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          Agree 100%. Being around someone who cries all the time over minor things is more than uncomfortable. People shouldn’t have to deal with a co-worker’s out of control emotions except in very rare circumstances.

        1. reyes*

          It is not on the coworkers to be patient if someone cries “at the slightest perceived slights,” that is, over petty matters that still imply some grievous wrongdoing on the coworkers’ parts. That combined with the yelling and breaking things, I’m not surprised in the slightest that others did not care to extend grace.

  59. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

    I used to work with people with substance use disorders. They were often in withdrawal or a lot of pain. People act out of character when they’re in pain and to an extent, it helps deal with their behavior better (even when it’s out of line). However, their pain isn’t a free pass to inflict it on you. Katherine absolutely needs to manage her pain (and other symptoms) so it’s not to her and everyone else around them’s detriment — her condition sounds extreme for someone with PMDD & it would be to her benefit to get it diagnosed and clinically managed. I understand it’s not your place to say this, but Alison’s advice to get HR involved in putting their foot down on this abusive behavior might be the first galvanizing step for her.

    Slightly unpopular, but honestly, Katherine should be fired over all this. It wouldn’t be for PMDD though; it would be the lack of doing anything about it, the lack of ownership over it, and the abuse. I’m sympathetic, but everyone else is suffering for one person’s inaction. This cannot be pleasant for Katherine either.

    1. I Have RBF*


      She shouldn’t be fired for the PMDD, she should be fired for not even trying to manage her condition. Because even if your hormones make you want to stab everyone in sight, the way you handle it is not to pick up a knife and start stabbing, or even threatening to stab, but getting away from other people and finding safe ways to bleed off the rage.

      I understand irrational rage. I also understand how to not let it hurt others.

    2. Distracted Librarian*

      Yep. She should be fired immediately for assaulting her co-workers. Like, this shouldn’t even be a question. No PIP, no warning, nothing. You assault a co-worker, you’re gone.

  60. And I'm the alchemist of the hinterlands*

    Call the police next time she throws or flips something or otherwise has a physical altercation with someone that qualifies as assault. I rarely call for such an extreme response, but this is absolutely insane. Maybe that will wake HR up.

    1. Veryanon*

      Exactly. It’s only a matter of time until she actually injures someone. Maybe when the company gets hit with a lawsuit for abetting negligent and abusive behavior, they’ll learn.

  61. Jane*

    I would absolutely not stand there and allow her to treat me that way. I know it’s scary to stand up to your boss, but I’d walk off, disconnect the call, etc. If she tried to fire me over it, I would push back against HR and threaten a lawsuit. If she did anything at all physical in my presence, I’d be calling the cops. Period. I think OP should consult with a lawyer. HR has been severely negligent and endorsing this abuse.

  62. Unkempt Flatware*

    Has anyone ever stood up to her? In my experience (and no, I’m not suggesting OP does this as the boss seems unhinged), these people are cowards who would melt into a puddle of tears at the first instance of someone giving back what she spewed out. I’d love to see it.

    1. Distracted Librarian*

      Yep. In my experience, they also knock that crap off as soon as they experience serious consequences. They have to care enough to try hard enough to control themselves.

  63. Look Before You Leap*

    I see some advice re making recordings. Please check recording laws in your state before doing so (I live in a one-party consent state).

    Also know that COBRA protects your health insurance coverage for 18 months, you just have to pay for the full cost (plus usually 2%), rather than the discounted amount you get through your employer.

    1. Observer*

      I see some advice re making recordings. Please check recording laws in your state before doing so

      The good news is that she’s doing this on zoom. And Zoom (along with all the major video conferencing tools) annouces when it’s recording. So if she starts screaming and the OP hits record, Zoom will announce it. And either Katherine continues to rant and rave, but the recording is legal. Or she tells them to shut it off – which just adds some more proof to the idea that she actually DOES know *exactly* what she is doing.

  64. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

    So. Though I have my own mental health issues, PMDD is not among them (although PMS certainly is). So I don’t mean to make light of what, for all I know, could be a truly terrifying and impossible condition to live through and attempt to manage. However.

    The justification that one is “only abusive because they’re premenstrual” sound a lot like those who say “they only said something racist because they were drunk” — the disorder doesn’t *make* someone violent anymore than the alcohol *makes* someone racist, it just creates circumstances under which they lose control of a tendency they already had. The responsibility is still on the bad actor to control and whenever possible eradicate that tendency. Katherine is still responsible for her abusive behavior even if it’s easier for her to be abusive than it is for other people. So that’s the soapbox part of my comment.

    Otherwise, I tend to agree with everyone here: right now HR is able to treat this like a missing–stair problem because all of the consequences are in-house, so make this a bigger problem for HR by bringing in the outside world. Call the police when violence happens, get your doctor to document the medical consequences of Katherine’s actions, speak to a lawyer about whether you can sue the company for creating a hostile work environment (you don’t have to actually sue, a threatening legal letter may do the trick).

  65. Jessica*

    What I don’t understand is why HR would uphold Katherine’s firings.

    Even assuming that they believe they can’t fire her because of the ADA, and that they can’t rein in her abuse of her coworkers, that doesn’t mean that they have to do something as extreme as actually terminating people she verbally says “you’re fired!” to when they haven’t done anything wrong.

    Even by the broadest application of the ADA, there’s nothing that says that if an employee is in a delusional state, the company has to uphold any proclamations they make in that state. Presumably if Katherine had a psychotic break and declared that her department was now focused on giving manicures to mules, HR wouldn’t send someone out to buy manicure equipment. I don’t see how this is different.

  66. LucyGoosy*

    Yeah, no. Tons of people have PMDD and do not behave this way. That certainly could be a contributing factor, but she has plenty of choices about a) whether or not to be in a triggering work environment, b) how to speak to other people, c) how to behave around other people, d) whether or not to seek medical treatment.

  67. Cordyceps*

    Sigh. I’m sorry this is happening to you OP. I wish I had something constructive to offer, because I’ve been in this situation. Not sure how any of this changes when, in most companies, senior management would rather lose dozens of great rank and file employees rather than even have to have a difficult conversation with a member of their management team.

    I think it’s important to remember that, yes, your boss is the perpetrator here, but it is upper management that is allowing this to continue. So even if by some miracle, this person leaves on their own, does that really solve the problem?

  68. Misshapen Pupfish*

    This strikes me as so sad on multiple fronts, because beyond her behavior at work it sounds like she does this to everyone, all the time. When she can’t scream at someone in the office she screams at family or the school? How insanely hard must that be for her family? What is it like to be her hairdresser or her cashier at the grocery store? I hope OP can get the peace and safety they need for themselves and their family, and I really hope Katherine can get the help she needs too.

  69. Wendy*

    Holy moly, if she is throwing things/flipping tables it’s time to call the cops. That’s got to be some kind of assault.

  70. Throwaway Account*

    Can you just go to HR and tell them she fired you and claim some severance? I did not read all the threads so maybe someone suggested this.

    but definitely contact a lawyer!

      1. Jaydee*

        I mean, 49 out of 50 states are at-will employment states so that’s probably true. But at-will status doesn’t mean you can’t ever bring a successful claim for wrongful termination, it’s just harder. My guess here is that a condition of receiving severance was waiving the right to sue.

  71. Katherine*

    I got to this part: “The company has put a block on internal transfers out of our department” and my eyebrows straight up flew off my head and then I kept reading and anyway I think my eyebrows are in orbit now. I’ve worked in kitchens where knife throwing was a common daily occurence, but that sounds infinitely preferable to this work place.

    (I am mostly posting because of my user name)

  72. Oysters and Gender Freedoms*

    It might be worth all or most of you chipping in together to get an initial consult with a lawyer. That would spread the cost, let you all know what you can legally do, and help you figure out next steps. The first step might simply be for the lawyer to write letter to their legal department, that in itself might get the wheels to turn differently.

    Other things might be possible. Maybe several of you go to your doctors and get a letter saying working conditions are affecting your health and you need accommodation. If five people do that at once, that has an impact. A lawyer might know the right wording.

    A good lawyer won’t be about going out with guns blazing—the goal is to get the maximum effect with the minimum effort. You won’t all agree on the next steps, but getting information could be very helpful.

    However I think you should also keep looking for a new job no matter what. There’s something deeply dysfunctional somewhere in the company and Katherine is only a symptom. Look into ACA, Medicaid, COBRA just to see what your options are. The ACA currently has a lot of subsidies available in many states. There might be some kind of organization that helps with healthcare access that might be able to talk to you about your options.

  73. Nancy Gribble*

    Wow- just wow.

    I’m the only female manager in my job group, in a traditionally male setting, and this makes me so angry. And even angrier that the HR at this place is so incompetent as to allow physical abuse of their employees and blame their inaction on ADA. OP, please try to find another job for your own sanity.

  74. Justme, The OG*

    I have PMDD. But her boss saying this and then acting the way she does is just fodder for the “women are too emotional to be leaders” crap. “One a month she just loses it.” And it’s also just crap. She’s using it to cover her abusive behavior.

    1. ampersand*

      I agree. Wonky hormones can F a person up (been there) but they don’t turn otherwise reasonable people into abusive monsters.

    2. Distracted Librarian*

      Thank you for saying this. I *hate* it when women use “hormones” as an excuse for terrible behavior. A little moody/cranky? Fine. We’ve all been there. But batsh*t crazy? Yeah, no. Take some accountability, get therapy, whatever. But don’t imply that a fundamental aspect of being female is the reason you’re out of control.

  75. Spurs*

    My last boss would throw things at me when she was frustrated. Usually just her reading glasses, but one time she threw a stapler. She immediately told me she never threw it, and then launched into a whole campaign with the entire office about how crazy I was and how no one ever throws a stapler. Whenever I had to go into her office I would glance at the freakin’ DENT in the WALL where she threw it, and she would go on and on about how crazy I was to ever think she’d throw something at me. While there was a physical DENT in the WALL where she THEW SOMETHING AT ME. I’ve been gone from that place for a while now, but jesus, what a mess.

  76. Veryanon*

    Holy crap on a cracker. Reasonable accommodations do NOT include tolerating any abusive or harassing behavior! Good lord. This lady needs to be fired. LW, I hope you find another job soon.

  77. Destra N.*

    Wait a minute, deliberately throwing a heavy object at someone is assault. “ADA” is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for prosecutable acts of violence.

  78. Veryanon*

    Another note: I once worked for a screamer, as in, she would stand in the middle of the workspace and scream at whoever was the target of her wrath that day. I finally hit my limit one day when she was screaming at me and I stood up, looked her in the eye, and said “I can’t understand what you want me to do when you speak to me that way. If you have a problem, we can discuss it calmly in private, but don’t talk like that to me anymore.” I was fully prepared for her to fire me, but shockingly she backed right down and moderated her tone. It didn’t last, sadly, and I did eventually have to get another job to get away from her.

  79. Dawn*

    For what it’s worth, I don’t believe that your manager’s behaviour is because of her alleged PMDD, I believe that your manager’s behaviour is because she is seriously abusive (and given that she comes back apologizing after a certain point you should maybe consider reading up on abuse cycles; that one is known as the honeymoon phase.)

    Your manager is committing violence on her employees and your management is doing nothing about it. I know that you need the healthcare but were I in your place I would do any possible thing at all to get out of that situation where you are being forced to tolerate the presence and actions of your abuser.

  80. ampersand*

    LW, this is one situation that screams CONSULT A LAWYER. I don’t make that suggestion lightly since lawyers are usually costly and it’s stressful even to be in need of one. I don’t see any other recourse that will result in any long-term benefit. You have all of my sympathy and I hope you’re out of this situation soon! Please take care of yourself as best as possible.

  81. Dek*

    It always blows my mind when we get letters from people whose coworkers literally assaulted someone and are still there. Like wtf. WHO THROWS STAPLERS?

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yeah. I feel terrible for her husband, her kids and the people she yells at down the phone. Especially her kids.

    2. Camellia*

      Abusers are usually smart enough to only abuse when they can get away with it. She’s learned she can get away with it a work. At home maybe, hopefully, she’s not allowed to get away with it and therefore doesn’t do it.

    3. She of Many Hats*

      Wonder if her employees can call CPS the next time they hear her being verbally abusive to her kids because if she’s doing it over the phone, she’s doing it at home where there’s fewer eyes. Those kids don’t deserve to live with that even if it’s only by phone.

    4. Our Lady of Shining Eels*

      I am terrified for the LW – and absolutely terrified for Katherine’s children. If she’s throwing staplers at employees – what is happening at home?

      Please please please give us an update when possible.

  82. MuseumChick*

    I….have no words. Your HR sucks, your company sucks. My long term advice for you is to find a new job. Aside from that, in no particular order I would 1) Document EVERY incident 2) You most likely have a traumatic stress disorder from all this, get medical documentation and recommendation that your accommodation for this is a transfer out of the department. 3) For any violet incident (have a stapler thrown at someone!!!) call the police and file a report. Heck, if it was thrown *at me* I would consider getting a restraining order.

  83. Calcifer*

    I have PMDD and it is terrible, but it’s no excuse for what’s happening to LW. I am medicated for it now but even on my very worst (unmedicated) days with PMDD I still knew better than to scream and throw things at people.

  84. Subversiveworker*

    This is horrifying. I thought I had worked for some awful people before but this makes them look like sweet little kittens! This reminds me of other columns about people who fear for their safety at work. There really isn’t any difference between those letters and this one, except the abuser is claiming ADA coverage. I’d email HR and ask them for immediate guidance on various situations like “if she throws a stapler at someone’s head/flips a table/screams her head off at me *like she’s done before*, what kind of response is permissible to protect myself from injury?” I’d put this in writing to them and ask for a response by X date. Your HR sounds cowed by her but asking this in writing and framing it around personal safety puts them on the spot and hopefully force their hand. And then it hopefully covers you if she tries to fire you for doing what they said to stay safe. And honestly, if you are able to do it, I’d look for upper management allies. Is there anyone who is sympathetic above this woman who has some independence and courage? The short cut would be to hire a lawyer but for most worker bees that’s out of reach.

    I also like the suggestion about using your own health issues as a reason to transfer somewhere else.

    OP, please send an update when you can!

  85. Maple Leaf*

    I cannot fathom having to work in this every day! I wish you strength and safety!

    Here are a few thoughts I had (keep in mind I am in another country so their may be different laws & work legislations at play):
    1. Email HR to advise that you refuse to meet with Katherine without the HR rep present and the meeting (either virtual or in-person) being recorded, in your email provide your reasons why this is now required (Katherine’s prior outbursts and ongoing safety concerns).
    2. I would also advise HR (also in writing) that should Katherine escalate, you expect the HR rep to step in to de-escalate Katherine and/or put a halt to the meeting until she can compose herself or re-schedule the meeting to another time.
    3. Remind your employer of their occupational health & safety obligations to provide a safe work environment.
    4. I would also advise HR (in writing) that further outburst from Katherine will be reported to the police.
    5. Complete an occupational health & safety report about your unsafe work environment every time Katherine escalates to verbal assaults, and physical outbursts (stapler throwing, table flipping) every time there is an incident.
    6. Keep a running log with specific information (date, time, location, other’s present, and detailed notes on what happened).
    7. Report the ongoing safety concerns to your local labour board.

    If all else fails, do as Allison states “get out, get out, get out”

  86. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    I’ve commented about this before, but there’s some new context that might be useful to the OP.
    At my last job, the department head, let’s call her Michelle, convinced HR that accommodations for her Bipolar Disorder include yelling and cursing at people (just not insulting the person directly),throwing things at walls (just not at people), and slamming doors. This was in place for at least 12 years, and Michelle was recently promoted.
    But here’s the new context: someone got a medical diagnosis of CPTSD and requested an accommodation that they not be yelled at or subjected to people throwing things & slamming doors. The local HR didn’t know how to reconcile the two accommodations, so they moved it up to central HR. And central HR straightened everything out. Michelle was no longer allowed to lose her temper. She was let go less than 6 months later.
    So, like… your hair is falling out, right? You can try getting a medical accommodation that you can’t be yelled at.

    1. Temperance*

      That is so bizarre to me that anyone considered those things “reasonable”. A+ to the person who requested the accommodation of not being abused.

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        It’s a bananapants workplace for a lot of reasons, yeah. I think it’s interesting that, by sending it up the chain, HR showed that they genuinely thought they were doing the right thing by accommodating Michelle’s tantrums. I had always assumed she was, I don’t know, BRIBING them or something. But if she had been, surely they would have done their best to keep it a secret from the central office.

        1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

          @WellRed I’ve thought about this a lot in the years since I left. Maybe it boils down to two things. 1) We’re an old coal mining town, and there’s something to be said about generations of people surviving based on how well they kissed up to the Company. That might contribute to people thinking “the boss has the right to be terrible.” 2) It’s not a great company. They have a mediocre national reputation, they don’t pay competitively, and they don’t attract great talent.

  87. Ess Ess*

    Time to tell HR that if the manager throws ANYTHING at anyone again, you all (the employees) will be calling the police for assault. Let HR know that they need to stop this before this happens again. Also, contact OSHA now to report that you are being threatened and assaulted by an employee of the company and that the company has said they will not protect the victims from it continuing to occur.

    1. rollyex*


      She would have been immediately fired or severely reprimanded and put on a PIP the first time she through that stapler.

      “Calls random people into her office and fires them for non-issues like typos in internal documents or for a perceived personal slight. HR has given a LOT of unnecessary severances in the last two years.”

      Forget Katherine – she’s an extreme symptom of a deeply dysfunctional organization if these things are happening and she still works there.

      1. Observer*

        Forget Katherine – she’s an extreme symptom of a deeply dysfunctional organization if these things are happening and she still works there.

        Exactly. Which is why the OP should not focus ion a transfer, but on getting another job, and seeing if they can get their kid on Medicaid if they wind up leaving / getting fired.

  88. Ess Ess*

    One other thought due to this comment — “my hair is starting to fall out. At my last doctor’s appointment, I found out I lost a considerable amount of weight, yet my blood pressure is dangerously high. All my tests point to extreme stress and everything is fine at home.”

    Can you talk to your doctor about filing a workman’s comp claim for the cost of the doctor visit and for time off to get the blood pressure and hair loss under control since it’s a direct result of the work environment?

  89. kalli*

    Someone blaming their period for symptoms that occur roughly on a 28-35 day cycle does not mean you get to diagnose them.

    Especially when sometimes in workplaces, people have to blame their period because it’s the only excuse uneducated people understand without questioning or going ‘but have you tried’ or ‘my sister’s babysitter’s niece’s dogwalker’s mother had endo and they fixed it with a raw diet, here’s a voucher for my MLM and if you spend $300 you get a free generic-brand food processor!’, even with a medical certificate.

    Sure, HR isn’t doing their job, this workplace is unsafe, but please don’t just go ‘the crazy lady has PMS’ because someone said the p-word. Armchair diagnosing is bad, but this is exactly how people do end up skating on preconceptions and armchair diagnoses, because everyone just accepts them even when they’re inappropriate, wrong and don’t justify actual bad behaviour that may well correlate or be exacerbated by psychiatric effects of HBC or a hormone storm or wtf ever is actualy going on, but it sure helps perpetuate miseducation and stigma and enable people to use actual real medical conditions that are perfectly manageable with proper medical care (or passable medical care, or just dedication to trying to be a decent human being) and HR who aren’t also terrified of doing anything now the office has collectively decided to allow this to keep happening because of p-word omg.

    And I’m not talking out of my arse here – I was the ‘nice girl’ in school, the ‘unemotional’ girl in college, the go-to ‘client is having a mental breakdown on the phone please talk them down’ person in my office, and I was given a Mirena and overnight turned into an overwrought vicious violent person until I found a doctor who believed me and didn’t tell me to just cope with it because theirs was wonderful but took it out, and within 24 hours I was back to being that one person everyone talks to when they’re falling apart, most of my friends never even having been aware I was in crisis. It’s quite possible this is a real issue that peaks at a particular point in K’s menstrual cycle, but it doesn’t have to be PMDD and it is not helping that everyone seems to have decided that it is.

    K cannot perform their job and their behaviour amounts to serious and wilful misconduct; K can be dismissed, ADA notwithstanding. The part where there may or may not be a medical condition is no longer relevant when they’ve proven that they know there’s an issue but are unable to control it in the workplace and they’ve had long enough to get it ameliorated or proactively work on actual accommodations, but everyone in the office deciding what K’s diagnosis is *is also not helping* anyone.

    1. Observer*

      it doesn’t have to be PMDD and it is not helping that everyone seems to have decided that it is.

      No one here has “decided” anything. Nothing you say here provides any reason whatsoever to think that Katherine does not have PMDD. All people are saying is that it’s possible to have it and still not act like that.

      K cannot perform their job and their behaviour amounts to serious and wilful misconduct; K can be dismissed, ADA notwithstanding. The part where there may or may not be a medical condition is no longer relevant when they’ve proven that they know there’s an issue but are unable to control it in the workplace

      That is 100% true.

      everyone in the office deciding what K’s diagnosis is *is also not helping* anyone.

      Again, the staff is NOT “deciding” anything. Katherine is the one who is claiming this. I don’t think that the staff have any other option than just to accept that.

      Even for HR, where it might have made a difference at some point, it doesn’t really matter. Because she’s gone so far off the deep end, it doesn’t matter if she has a diagnosis or not.

      1. kalli*

        Nothing says that Katherine doesn’t have PMDD, or does. However, Katherine has not said she has PMDD – LW has said that because Katherine blamed her period. This collective ‘we know it’s PMDD’ in the office isn’t helping the situation because HR aren’t now taking it as ‘Katherine’s behaviour is inappropriate’ but ‘we all know Katherine has a medical condition and that means accommodations’, which because they don’t understand that framework, has allowed the situation to continue.

    2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I see your point re: stigma, but per the LW, KATHERINE is the one that is saying it is her (presumably diagnosed) PMDD, and HR is backing that, presumably, because they have medical documentation to this end.

      1. kalli*

        This is what the letter says:

        ‘We know that it’s PMDD/PMS because after two weeks of abuse, Katherine apologizes and blames her period.’

        That’s it: “blames her period”. It could be anything from menstrual migraines to HBC wonkiness, and LW ‘knows’ it’s PMDD because Katherine ‘blames her period’. There is no mention of any actual diagnosis, just that HR have “said their hands are tied by ADA” which given that the letter clearly shows they do not understand ADA, does not mean they have medical documentation and are required to provide reasonable accommodations as recommended by Katherine’s medical team and reviewed against the burden on the business – in fact they pretty clearly *haven’t* followed ADA guidelines and seem to be of the impression that because Katherine has said the p-word, they can’t do anything about it because ADA.

        All of this is entirely out of whack and not coming from Katherine. “Katherine said she has PMS” is not “Katherine blames her period” and the conflating of PMS and PMDD indicates that LW doesn’t have the medical information or knowledge enough to be saying Katherine has any specific diagnosis. It’s just all based on ‘Katherine blames her period’.

    3. brjeau*

      Katherine disclosed she has PMDD to her employers and employees, in the context of explaining (and excusing) her behavior. She has also disclosed at least part of how she is seeking medical care for it. No one is armchair diagnosing in this situation, they’re discussing how she and HR are handling the condition that she has (apparently, based on HR’s response) requested accommodations for.

      1. kalli*

        No, “Katherine apologizes and blames her period.”

        The collective ‘period = emotional = tolerate outbursts’ thing that people have going is a social disservice that normalises giving people special treatment when they’re experiencing menstrual side effects (not limited to the actual discarding-waste section of it) does people like Katherine a disservice as it enables exactly this situation – Katherine says ‘it’s my period’, everyone just puts up with it because it’s medical, and the fact that this is not normal gets glossed over. Some people go their entire lives without realising that periods don’t have to be painful, that mood swings can be moderated or even neutralised, because the idea of ‘period = dark room, heat pad, midol, chocolate, gentle treatment in case of emotions’ is still so normalised and entrenched that when people in the workplace have issues, nobody dares to say ‘hey, this isn’t normal and we can’t tolerate it, get medical attention’, especially if there are men involved, or women who put up with their pain so everyone else should, or women who are undermined enough already that speaking up about menstrual leave (perfect for Katherine!) or asking for accommodations for actual medical conditions gets them dismissed as whiny women who won’t ever get promoted because they have bodies.

        Period is not a magic word that gets one out of being a decent human being. The social assumption and gossipy-LOL “woman is unhappy, must be PMSing!” means both that people can get away with behaviour, apparently to this extent, by invoking The Magical Period Of Invincibility, and that actual medical conditions that are not PMS or that may exacerbate PMS or may mimic PMS but are really something else being exacerbated by the way hormone levels change during a cycle get dismissed, missed entirely, or written off as ‘period! normal!’ the way women having emotions used to get written off as hysteria and they got locked in the attic or sent to asylums.

        It’s not ok, and the more people reply to me going ‘but it’s definitely PMS’ when the letter itself just says ‘we know it’s PMDD/PMS (two separate conditions!) because Katherine said it was her period’ just shows that even here, a space purported to be dominated by working women who assumably have some awareness of menstrual issues as experienced in conjunction with trying to earn money by working, this insensitive connection (rooted in sexism and often perpetuated by those men who don’t have to deal with periods) being treated as fact is still troublingly common when it should be being replaced with ‘hey, it’s not normal and you don’t have to put up with that, hit up EAP or get a referral to a gynaecologist if your GP isn’t able to do enough to make your body not turn you into another person for half your life’ and ‘this is a real actual medical condition and I’m managing it with medical support and I need reasonable accommodations, can we get a microwave on this floor so I can have a heat pad when I’m not with clients?’

        The idea that people on their period are allowed to get away with anything because it’s their period, and the idea that any period-connected mood/pain/pain-causing-mood issues must be PMS both need to go away. If they had, someone would feel comfortable taking Katherine aside in the other half of the month and saying ‘this isn’t normal, we need you to see a doctor’ and ‘period’ would not mean ‘Katherine gets away with everything because it’s medical’ (it would mean Katherine gets reasonable accommodations and leave if those aren’t compatible with the workplace functioning like actual adults work there).

        1. Jackalope*

          We are understanding the letter differently. The belief that the issue is PMDD is not based just on the OP saying that Katherine blames her period. First of all, we’re supposed to believe the OP when they say something in their letters. Secondly, they give multiple indications that Katherine has an actual diagnosis that she has shared with other employees (including the OP). She has apparently discussed it multiple times including the treatment she’s trying, and there have been discussions (with K? With the HR rep? Unclear) about her Reasonable Accommodations which require the disclosure of a diagnosis and in many cases (perhaps most?) medical documentation of said disability. So there’s every reason to believe that K and/or the HR rep have explicitly said that the diagnosis that K is seeking an RA for is in fact PMDD.

          You can certainly choose to believe that K does not have an official diagnosis of PMDD. I disagree with your interpretation of the facts but if I squint and look sideways I can kind of see where you’re coming from. But as someone who is also female and has dealt with menstruation and some of the ills it can deal out, as well as having been dismissed because I’m allegedly too emotional or whatever, that’s not the reason we are believing the OP when she calls it PMDD.

          1. kalli*

            “she’s looking for a birth control that will fix it and to hint that maybe we had some kind of hand in pushing her too far.” does not support what you’re saying.

            I am pointing out that LW has provided us with an assumption that is socially based in the ‘crazy woman = PMS’ and that assumption is not helping in the workplace or these comments.

            ‘I believe LW because I am female and have periods and social consequences’ is similarly not helpful because LW’s conclusion and framing itself is flawed, and y’all are taking it to mean something it does not.

            I shall also point out that seeking reasonable accommodations under the ADA does not require disclosure of one’s diagnosis to the entire workforce. If HR is so afraid of ADA that they are providing unreasonable accommodations, supported by the ‘crazy woman = period = PMS = we cannot talk about this!’ social cliche, then HR disclosing Katherine’s diagnosis to LW and the entire office would be highly abnormal and unlikely – additionally, LW would then say ‘I know Katherine has [actual specific diagnosis] because HR told me’, not ‘We know it’s [one of two diagnoses] because Katherine blames her period’.

            “Believing” LW because they drew a conclusion on social cliches because you are female is not helpful and again, perpetuates the stigma, mystique and lack of common and correct knowledge in this area. It is simply unhelpful.

  90. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    Where the heck is Katherine’s direct manager in all of this? Has HR (or anyone else) informed that person about what’s going on? Was the information complete and accurate?

    That person needs to spend much more time around Katherine. Ideally, either Katherine would not scream at people while her boss is there or the boss will get a much clearer picture of what’s been going on.

  91. H.Regalis*

    OP, what’s your contingency plan if you’re one of the people Katherine calls into her office and fires on the spot? Whatever that is, I would get it going. This situation is going to get worse, not better, and it’s already affecting your health.

    And FWIW because you’re stuck in a hellscape where a lot of people are telling you that Katherine’s behavior is okay: It’s not. What she’s doing is fucked up, and “everyone needs to take my abuse” is not an ADA accommodation.

  92. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    To heck with HR. If someone in my office starts screaming, flipping furniture over, and throwing things, I’m calling 911 and reporting an emotionally disturbed person behaving violently on the premises. Maybe getting cuffed, spit-hooded, and sectioned will help Katherine – and your company’s incompetent HR and management – put all of this into perspective. Good luck LW.

    1. SB*

      The police are notoriously terrible at dealing with mental health crises…there have been several people in the news lately after having the cops called on them for behaving erratically & being straight up killed, the latest being just last week & 100m away from where my parents live. Not saying police shouldn’t be called, just saying that they are generally not equipped to deal with people in a MH crisis & tend to make bad situations much, much worse.

  93. beeboobop*

    I have PMDD that developed after having my child and before I realized what was going on sometime last summer, there were definitely things I did that I’m not proud of. I didn’t keep my cool, I took things personally, and just overall didn’t act in a way that’s acceptable. It’s been tough to get it under control since hormonal BC and SSRIs don’t agree with me, but I’ve been able to manage it ok- I take a bunch of supplements, I track my cycles (huge help), and number one is if I start to feel myself veering into cuckoo territory, I TAKE THE DAY OFF. I really empathize with Katherine, it’s so hard, and any time I’ve spoken to a medical provider about it, it gets brushed off. But even so… we have a responsibility to ourselves and the people around us to do the best we can to control our symptoms.

  94. merida*

    “Corporate has also blocked hiring new people because of the turnover and made it clear they won’t fill empty positions until the “environment improves.”

    Whooa. Obviously this whole situation is bananapants but did this sentence strike anyone else as especially nuts?? Corporate seems to be aware of the level of abuse happening but their response is to just… sit and wait it out until it improves? How will it improve?? It reads like they’re trying to make some weird power move and ‘punish’ Katherine for her behavior by blocking hires rather than… I don’t know… just doing their job and firing Katherine for regularly abusing her staff. Yuck.

  95. Clown Eradicator*

    At this point i think that I would be leaning in to the stapler being thrown, a la Jason Kendall on the Pittsburgh Pirates when batting. It hits me then I’m calling the cops for assault.

  96. ICodeForFood*

    I haven’t read through all the comments (lack of time), but I wonder if the situation is that Katherine “has something” on someone in upper management… Many years ago I worked for a company where the head videographer (an individual contributor rather than a manager, thank goodness) was repeatedly moved from one department to another whenever their old department was laid off… And I know for a fact that at least one manager was told “You WILL add them to your department,” even though it made no sense for them to be part of the department… We always wondered if they had some… uh, interesting video evidence about the company head…

  97. Michelle Smith*

    Yes, please, god, talk to a doctor and a lawyer. This is called workplace violence and it is very much not normal or acceptable.

  98. CLC*

    I’ve had severe PMDD for 36 years and it’s been exacerbated for long stretches due to IVF hormones, postpartum, etc. It can be awful, and I remember in my early 20s before I was diagnosed I feel so much rage, hopelessness…just everything…and I had no idea why. It’s been controlled by birth control and other medications to varying degrees over the past 20+ years. But even to me this seems VERY extreme. For me it’s never been something that I feel continuously for 10 days. I’ve never tried to hurt anyone. Usually if it gets so bad you have some sort of outburst (like knocking over a table or throwing a stapler) it sort of passes…like you realize what’s happening and you might not feel better but the rational part of your brain takes over and you go and rest or something—you don’t just keep freaking out. Also, how long has she been looking for a solution??? If it were me I would be probably take a medical leave of absence to find a good pill and get things under control. And the weirdest thing about all this is she doesn’t seem to understand the problem. PMDD doesn’t make a person stupid or give you amnesia. She still would know she can’t throw things at people at work, The whole thing is very, very, very strange. I would guess PMDD is not nearly the whole story here.

  99. CSRoadWarrior*

    Good gravy. Flipping tables? Throwing things at employees? And the turnover, my goodness. If I did any of these things once, I would fear getting terminated IMMEDIATELY. But I don’t have that kind of behavior at work, even when extremely frustrated. I would probably just growl loudly at my computer AT WORST. And even this isn’t common for me.

    No, I am not a manager either. And clearly HR isn’t doing close to enough. To the OP, your physical symptoms are being severely affect at this point. If HR won’t do anything, please be prepared to walk away as a last resort. But do all that you can first before walking away. Katherine medical condition is no excuse for her extreme behavior. It just baffles me how one nightmare boss or coworker can make a good place to work a living hell. And Katherine is clearly making it a living hell.

  100. My face says more than I do on video calls*

    I had a boss who was awful for about 5 days a month (although nothing on this scale). I felt for her, but she was an absolute tyrant, a bully, and made my life a complete misery when her hormones kicked in. I got to the point where I charted her behaviour so that I could try to avoid her during the days I knew she’d be raging.

    In the LW’s case, I’m horrified that no real action has been taken to properly deal with the situation. Nobody should have things thrown at them in, and HR should be mindful of the harm their lack of response is causing.

    My heart goes out to LW. In all honesty, it goes out to LW’s boss as well – it must be awful for her as well as everyone around her, and she clearly needs some help in managing her symptoms.

  101. NaoNao*

    These kind of stories are always so confusing for me as to why and how there are *so* many abusive, incompetent people who have jobs or appear to be “protected” by the organization–especially when I’ve seen kind, caring, competent, and productive people let go or be fired over the slightest mistake or easily correctable things.

    I had a similar issue with a neighbor that was stalking and threatening me, and being a real terror. I complained to my apartment manager, called the police multiple times–they claimed their hands were tied because they were “afraid she would sue”. This person was *crazy*. She in no way had the mental faculties to sue, and yet for some reason, they prioritized her *possible* lawsuit over my very real complaints, even though multiple other residents had noise complaints and property use and appearance complaints as well.

    I don’t understand how people like this get absolutely coddled by the various systems, while others get crushed underfoot without a second thought. It’s genuinely baffling to me.

    1. Distracted Librarian*

      Completely agree. Too many Americans are irrationally afraid of lawsuits. Yes, there are occasionally stupid ones, but I know of several legit cases that lawyers wouldn’t take because they weren’t confident they could collect. The barriers to suing successfully are a lot higher than most people think.

    2. Clare*

      I will admit I’m almost equally confused as to why more people don’t respond with a bluff like “She might sue, but I definitely will if you don’t fix the problem. This is affecting my lawful rights in ways X, Y and Z, as outlined in our contract/state law UVW. May I have you’re lawyer’s contact details please? Mine will be in touch.”

      These people have told you that they protect people who might sue, as opposed to retaliating against them. Now you know that, get yourself in that circle of protection!

  102. Zolk*

    When she starts yelling, please walk out and go directly to the HR watcher. But also call a lawyer as a group–if say, 5 or more of you show up at HR with an employment lawyer, I would bet this miraculously and suddenly would be resolved.

  103. Raida*

    I love that HR is *just* educated enough to know there’s protections for medical reasons.
    But *not* educated enough to know the business has a responsibility to provide a safe work environment.
    Or that accommodations must be *reasonable*

    They’ve decided reasonable means “It’s not her fault so we’ll try to support her”
    Instead of “We’ve tried a few things that don’t work so she cannot continue working here”

    Get in touch with an employment lawyer – if Katherine doesn’t have one already then HR’s going to be in for a shock realising they are negligent and this current setup actually poses more of a business risk from employees suing them than one staff member that’s hormonally abusive.

  104. Woebegone Wednesday*

    Throwing a stapler, flipping a table, an entire department decimated and no new hires – crap on a cracker this is beyond the pale.

    I have a family member covered by ADA for mental health issues. It does NOT give that person carte blanche to behave anywhere near as terribly as Katherine.

    She doesn’t do this to her superiors – right? Then she has sufficient self-control to reel it in throughout the year. Any more of that **** happens and is around or directed at you – call the police. If you can legally record her, do so. Any chance your office is already monitored via CCTV?

    Carry pepper spray, see your physician, consult an attorney and continue your job search. May you succeed in landing a new position today. Good luck to you and your kid.

  105. Not A Manager*

    I definitely think your doctor should diagnose you with traumatic stress disorder, which wouldn’t be a stretch, and explicitly state that the necessary accommodation is a lateral transfer. Since your company is so bananas about accommodations, they might just send you to a new department.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Totally worth a shot. I despise people who refuse to take accountability for their actions. Katherine is horrible and so is your HR department.
      I hope you try the transfer approach. Noting that they don’t do anything when Katherine ignores their instruction, I wonder if you can tell them and don’t ask them. Take that doctor’s note and tell them ‘I am transferring and will help find my new role’, then go socialize it with another manager and just make it happen.
      I have been in an abusive situation that HR refused to do anything about and it was a nightmare. I am so sorry this is happening to you.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      This is exactly what I was coming to say. You are experiencing documented health problems and your company’s reaction to that is to give someone everything they want — time to ask for everything you want.

    3. RubyJackson*

      In California, any diagnosis of work-related stress may necessitate the filing of a worker’s comp claim.

    4. Momma Bear*

      I once had a boss so bad that my therapist was like “wow, you need a new job.” And they weren’t as bad as described here.

      The stress you feel from having a bad boss/workplace is not to be underestimated. I’d honestly not discount the stress you are enduring every day. If your HR needs you to get documentation from a therapist, do so. She needs to go or you need to. I wouldn’t sugar coat it and maybe try to have a skip level meeting with your grandboss about how bad it’s gotten.

      Also review the company handbook. There may be verbiage in there you can use regarding how to report harassment and other unsavory behavior. If there’s a form, use it. Go formal on this as much as you need to and encourage the rest of the team to do the same.

      OP, you also say that people call out and leave the department empty. Can you WFH full time? Most of the time? Maybe getting physically away from her will help.

    5. Polly Hedron*

      Yes. Consult a doctor; get a diagnosis; ask for an accomodation; and, if that doesn’t work, consult a lawyer.

    6. constant_craving*

      This is definitely a stressful situation, but it is really unlikely a valid PTSD diagnosis could be given here. A diagnosis definitionally involves “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence,” not to mention all the symptoms that need to be present as a result. This work place is a mess, but a fake diagnosis isn’t the solution.

        1. Therapist*

          The colloquial definition of “trauma” is much broader, but constant_craving provided the clinical definition from the DSM. There are other diagnoses that can be used for stressor-related disorders, but it would not be PTSD.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            I have a PTSD diagnosis from my father’s (mostly) verbal and emotional abuse. I certainly felt like he wanted to kill me, but I don’t remember him ever saying so or getting that physically violent. Was I diagnosed in error?

            1. E*

              PTSD can come from the belief that your life is in danger, even if it actually is not. So it sounds like you were diagnosed correctly.

            2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              No, people are getting a little too hung up on the DSM 5 definition, which is constantly being edited and changed, usually after the mental health field has already changed its criteria on its own. The ICD 11 does mention some events that would qualify as “traumatic events,” but states that the list of events “include, but are not limited to …” I have seen plenty of treatment records, court letters, psychological evaluations, etc., where the treatment provider gave a diagnosis of PTSD or CPTSD based solely on verbal abuse, and I actually would not be surprised at all if OP were diagnoses with either condition. (And I also think that if you were being diagnosed under ICD 11, you would have CPTSD; DSM 5 does not recognize that diagnosis yet, but it is in the works to include it last I checked.)

            3. Don't live to work*

              I have a PTSD diagnosis from bullying in school. Key factor was spending years in an actively hostile and emotionally unsafe environment, not actual (threat of) physical harm or death.
              Someone on the internet disagreeing with a diagnosis by a licenced professional who has actually seen you is really not relevant, so just ignore that comment above.

      1. Rex Libris*

        So I’m not a lawyer or a psychologist, but given the actions described, it sounds like threatened serious injury is happening regularly. Just because the stapler missed and the table didn’t hit anyone doesn’t make it not threatening, or traumatizing.

        1. constant_craving*

          I am in the mental health field and this is not the level of injury meant. Yes, a stapler thrown at you could hurt you, but it’s extremely unlikely to cause loss of limb, paralysis, etc.

          This situation is certainly the colloquial definition of traumatizing, but not the clinical definition.

          1. Kella*

            It doesn’t meet the clinical criteria for *PTSD* which is not the same as saying it does not meet the clinical criteria for trauma. The DSM5 has yet to incorporate “C-PTSD” which is a large category of trauma that mental health professionals are steadily increasing their awareness of. Just as “head trauma” doesn’t tell you what object hit you, only what the physical and lasting impact of that object was, mental trauma isn’t defined by the severity of the event that happened to you but how your body and mind react to what happened.

            I am not a therapist but I have been in trauma therapy for 13+ years. I’d say 3/4 of my trauma does not meet the current iteration of DSM criteria for PTSD. And yet I have multiple diagnosed conditions caused by trauma.

        2. STAT!*

          I am a lawyer, and the stapler chucking probably is common law assault. Whether the police would have done anything about it is another matter. However, reporting the incident might have been the push management needed to finally act (and perhaps, Katherine to get her act together).

          LW, this entire situation is just so awful. You and your co-workers should not have to endure it. Good luck.

      2. Velomont*

        I just looked at the DSM 5 description and I’m surprised that the criteria (which you’ve correctly listed btw) are that restrictive.

        1. Melissa*

          I’m a psychologist and the reason the definition is so restrictive is because the symptoms caused by physical threat to safety have a specific treatment that targets the fear. The same symptoms caused by other types of trauma need to be treated a different way. Emotional and verbal abuse are no less traumatic, they just don’t fit under the same diagnosis.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            I read a lot of treatment records and psychological evaluations in my work, and it is often used for emotional and verbal abuse. What people often forget is that emotional and verbal abuse can come along with a real sense of physical threat to safety, even if nothing physical actually happens. You may not personally choose to make this diagnosis without a physical act, but I can assure you that many of your peers do.

      3. Double A*

        I had a severe stress reaction to a job and was diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder and went out on FMLA leave. It’s basically, “Your environment is causing you stress that means you cannot function.”

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I always joke that Adjustment Disorder diagnosis means “Sh*t happens in life and sometimes we need some help dealing with it because life is hard” diagnosis! It can be a catch all, but it is a great one, because sometimes people need therapy just because of what is going on in their lives, rather than due to a specific condition.

      4. kalli*

        The only reason PTSD wouldn’t be diagnosed here is because the trauma is still ongoing. If LW is still experiencing stress symptoms with treatment, a month after being removed from the situation, then a PTSD diagnosis would be considered.

        Bullying and violence are 100% in the PTSD wheelhouse.

        But that’s a decision for LW’s medical team, not us. This is 100% unhelpful and unnecessary and we don’t need to continue nitpicking it.

        1. Marvel*

          Thank you. I have been diagnosed with PTSD by three different therapists and this comment section is driving me insane. There are valid criticisms of the DSM criteria for all sorts of things (ask me, a trans person with C-PTSD, how I know). It’s not the Bible!

          Trauma specialists tend to be in agreement that the clause about the cause of the trauma should be removed. That’s not something we do for any other condition. We don’t look at someone with all the symptoms of an anxiety disorder and then tell them they can’t have it because WE don’t think their life sounds stressful enough. It doesn’t matter exactly what happened, it matters how a person’s brain responded and continues to respond.

          Also, anyone can say they “work in mental health” online. They are not all telling the truth. And frankly, if they are continuously citing the DSM and no other literature, I always figure it’s a decent bet they’re lying.

      5. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Actually, under the ICD 11, the list of things that constitute a traumatic event says “includes, but is not limited to …” In cases of CPTSD, which is currently recognized in the ICD 11, though not yet adopted into the DSM 5, it is well understood that emotional and long-term psychological abuse constitutes trauma and can have the same impact, symptoms, and treatment implications as “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.” It is actually pretty common for therapists to give out CPTSD diagnoses as their official diagnoses for people who have suffered verbal and psychological abuse long term. The DSM evolves and is rewritten and amended often, usually in response to changes that have already taken place in the field over time. And for the purposes of writing a letter with a diagnosis, CPTSD or PTSD would be accepted. The medical professional making the diagnosis only needs to provide as much information as necessary to allow the employer to know what needs to be accommodated. Even if it were to go to court, the DSM 5 is not an unassailable authority. The ICD 11 and expert testimony from other practitioners would be more than sufficient to support it as a valid diagnosis.

        Also more and more, mental health providers are coming to the realization that it is dangerous to try to determine one’s experience of trauma by a fully objective standard. Something that legitimately leads to all the symptoms of PTSD in one person and which they found traumatic may not have the same affect on another person. Of course there must be some limitation, but at the end of the day, whether I would see an event as sufficiently “traumatic” is irrelevant to determining if that event caused of contributed to someone else’s PTSD.

      6. Manglement Survivor*

        If someone almost hit you in the head by throwing a heavy stapler, or flipped over table that you are close to, both sound like you were exposed to possible serious injury

        1. Properlike*

          And would have a legitimate fear of future injury – not limited to stapler-throwing – because your workplace actively prevents you from protecting yourself from future actual or potential physical harm. The employer has determined that the employees’ only course of action is continue to be exposed to threat of violence OR threat of unemployment and loss of salary/benefits/etc.

          I’d be calling the police. Awkward for the employer, but that’s on them to explain.

      7. Mel2*

        Longterm emotional abuse can absolutely cause PTSD. I know this because I made the same argument when I was diagnosed with PTSD due to longterm emotional abuse. The therapist had to sit me down with the diagnostic criteria and show me how many I was experiencing for me to believe it. There’s a move towards a new diagnostic condition of Complex PTSD for people with longterm emotional abuse and the like, but it hasn’t been picked up by the APA yet.

      8. Scrimp*

        The manager throws heavy staplers at people, would that not count towards fearing serious injury or death? They are literally in danger of serious injury, if anyone gets hit in the head they could actually die.

    7. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Or, if they won’t accept that accommodation, you stay in the department, but you get to work from home 100% of the time AND you either report to someone else or Katherine can only contact you via e-mail.

    8. kalli*

      More likely acute stress disorder or adjustment disorder with anxiety. Accommodations are generally more along the lines of ‘cannot be around the stressor’ which means that HR would have to find LW a position where they would not be exposed to Katherine, which may not be possible given Katherine is doing this from home and is affecting other departments – it would risk LW being stood down due to lack of suitable duties, and if they don’t have paid leave enough… While a break may well benefit LW and a period of leave for their body to recover before they RTW would probably be the immediate response, LW can’t risk losing their health insurance and thus losing access to a supportive doctor who acknowledges workplace stress in the first place, as those are rare, especially ones that understand it in the context of family responsibilities and existing health conditions like LW has. It’s a very hard choice to make and having a stress claim on one’s health record and on their personnel file can still be considered a negative thing, especially for women and people with children.

      It shouldn’t be like that, but it is, and LW staying as long as they can because it’s the overall least bad decision for their family is certainly fair enough in the current intersection between job and medical care.

    9. Anon for this*

      Unfortunately, in my experience as an employment lawyer, a transfer away from the person causing stress is generally not considered a reasonable accommodation. Now, if her boss were harassing her based on a protected characteristic, or disability or perceived disability, that would be different.

      1. kalli*

        In my experience as an employment lawyer, it is a reasonable accommodation; however, it is also understood that small employers may genuinely not have roles that are sufficiently non-contact with any one person, that some employers may not have work available in other departments, some employers may be able to come up with a short term role (e.g. reviewing and updating documentation, plant inspection, stocktake/auditing) but not a permanent one.

  106. Feen*

    I agree about recording her. Has HR actually witnessed any of this abuse, or just been told about it? A video recording might really turn the tables.

    1. Woebegone Wednesday*

      “HR told me their hands are tied by the ADA, which sounds wrong to me. I don’t think the ADA covers verbal abuse and throwing things at your staff. They said they’re trying to get menstrual leave approved by corporate, but I don’t see the point if Katherine spends the whole time screaming at us via Zoom or Slack, which is what she does when she works from home. Their most recent solution was to assign us our own HR generalist who just sits there until Katherine goes off and they send her home to terrorize us remotely.”

      Sounds like HR knows if they send her home.

      What a nightmare.

  107. Akili*

    As someone with PMDD (albeit a depressive version where I would be suicidal for several days before menstruation), I in no way want to make light of this situation or the serious issue that the letter-writer is facing (and Katherine, if she does have PMDD, which of course I have no idea whether she does or not).

    However, it has made me wonder if an appropriate ADA “reasonable accommodation” would be to force her to go to a rage room to work out her anger issues (maybe a new work benefit! I would love that just as a general thing. You get $750 a year for a physiotherapist and you get $500 a year for rage rooms – or something like that lol).

    1. Clare*

      I went through that when I was given progesterone for my endo, so I know how much it sucks and I am so, so sorry. I really hope the ‘would’ in your comment means you found a way to make it stop. Anything that makes one suicidal is by definition the worst thing a person can go through. You have my solidarity, friend.

      1. Akili*

        Thanks! We did, in fact, figure it out and I’m taking a supplement now that made all of my symptoms vanish (though now I have a few more of the common physical PMS symptoms, but I will take that over what I *was* feeling every month). Balancing hormones sucks and can be incredibly difficult to figure out.

  108. CuriousToKnow*

    I’m very curious if Katherine only does this to certain employees that she knows will not do anything. Has anyone ever blew up at her during one of her outbursts and what happened? I can’t imagine that all the employees just let this happen. It seems like at least one person would give her a dish of what she has been dishing out.

  109. Not Your Lawywr*

    They’re ok with her committing crimes on company time? Because throwing the stapler might not be a felony, but if she was aiming and it’s only good luck it missed it’s still going to be a crime most places. And if she’s making threats of physical violence that are believed, those are crimes many places too. I get that it isn’t a typical workplace crime but it’s still a crime!

    1. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      IANAL but surely a heavy, probably metal, stapler would count as a deadly weapon if it was being DELIBERATELY THROWN AT A HUMAN PERSON? Right? Please?

  110. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Good Lord. If this was in your home, you’d be in an abusive relationship. The police would be involved.

    This is not about PMDD because Katherine tries to imply you all played a role in causing her behaviour (!) and refuses to take responsibility. That’s about her, and her choices.

    What if you all started behaving like her and claimed it was a disorder? (I’m not saying she’s being dishonest about the disorder, I’m just saying it’s completely irrelevant.) Would you all be given this bizarre level of special treatment?

    1. Clare*

      As a person who had PMDD in the past, if the PMDD means that she has to behave like that, then she can’t do the job. And yes, that’s not fair, but not everyone’s bodies allow them to do every job, even if they’d be good at it otherwise. That’s life.

      I’m really determined, focused and competitive. I’d make a great Olympic swimmer. But I don’t have the lung capacity or the feet or the right torso-to-limb ratio. I’m not entitled to be allowed to swim in the Olympics even if that feels unfair.

      Yep. Some people’s bodies are wrong for what they want to do. But just because we all have the right to meaningful, fulfilling work at our capability level that pays for us to be at the same point in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as everyone else in our society can get to, DOESN’T mean we have the right to any one specific job. As YSRH says above, the specific cause is kind of irrelevant. She just can’t do this job.

  111. SKYE*

    Many, many years ago I worked at a resort. The GM was a sweetheart for most of the week but every Sunday she was an absolute monster because she would go out on Saturday night & get absolutely messed up. She would scream at staff, break things, accuse staff of talking about her behind her back, & all sorts of other very inappropriate things because she was wildly hung over. This was EVERY Sunday. We complained to HR however as she was the daughter of one of the owners our complaints only ended up making things worse because they told her Dad & he told her. The staff turn over was insane because of it & nothing was done until someone had a nervous breakdown & sued the company. After that they had no choice but to let her go which changed the place completely (for the better). Hopefully you get a good outcome too.

  112. NYNY*

    I really doubt this is about incompetent HR, I think it is that Katherine has friends in high places. This will continue until someone files a police report.

  113. catcat*

    I finally got a PMDD dx when it began interfering with work and home life, and my symptoms were absolutely not this out of control. It took 4 tries to find something that worked for it, but it’s been at a level of control everyone’s happy with. Boss pulled me aside and said “Something’s up, you’re not yourself, what is going on?”, and this led to a long discussion on how I felt I was going crazy every month, and I didn’t want to have all the rapidly shifting moods and rage and what it was doing to my relationships at work and home.
    Boss would have been completely within their rights to toss me out of the building bodily if I pulled any one of the items OP mentioned, and she is not the sort to anger easily.
    Just because your employer has decided that nothing can be done doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Keep pushing back as a group and continue to look for a new job. My health improved when I got out of a toxic environment that was nowhere near as toxic as this.

  114. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

    OP, for what it’s worth, you are not the one reducing Katherine’s behavior to a sexist stereotype. She’s the one blaming her behavior on her periods. That ship dun sailed, and she was at the helm.

    And hey. I get PMDD. Aunt Flo is an inescapable monthly reminder that I was born with the wrong hardware, went through the wrong version of puberty, and am chock full of the wrong hormones. I know I am probably not pleasant to be around when it’s at its worst. You know what I don’t do? COMMIT LITERAL DAMN AGGRAVATED ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON AND THEN SAY THE TARGET DROVE ME TO IT. Holy shit. If your company is tired of paying severance, they’re going to be real unhappy when she seriously injures someone and they get sued about it.

  115. what the actual hell*

    OP I’m so sorry that you’re going through this.

    I have nothing constructive to add and strongly agree with Alison and recommend getting a lawyer ASAP but wanted you to know that another person feels for you and that this shouldn’t be happening.

  116. Clare*

    For anyone who has struggled with PMDD and was attracted to this thread hoping to see some advice in the comments:

    If you’ve found hormonal treatments don’t work, your PMDD peaks at the times when your progesterone is rising OR falling, or it’s taking up nearly half the month, you might have a problem with your GABA-A receptors.

    Progesterone is converted to allopregenanolone (among other things). It’s supposed to rearrange your GABA receptors and make you feel calm and friendly (gotta build that social support network ICOP). But if they don’t rearrange properly you end up feeling awful instead. What’s worse, progesterone can also convert to DHT, testosterone’s strong mean big brother. You end up miserable or cranky or anxious instead of joyful and glowing like you’re apparently supposed to.

    But there is hope: the progesterone conversion process is done by something call 5-alpha reductase. And it’s possible to block 5-alpha reductase with 5-ar inhibitors. DO NOT DO THIS IF PREGNANT. Pregnancies need allopregnanolone. So, how do you get 5-ar inhibitors? Curcumin (from turmeric). That’s it. I’m not trying to sell anything or give medical advice so you can check out the details for yourself, but 5-ar inhibitors cure my PMDD emotional symptoms within an hour, no lie. No special secret PMDD formula full of snake oil at exorbitant prices, just normal turmeric from the shop. (That said, it doesn’t absorb very well – so full disclosure I do buy a more bioavailable version, but you don’t HAVE to if you can’t access stuff like that). It’s not magic, you’ll still have all the brain fog and bloating, but at least you won’t be feeling angry and persecuted to go with it.

    1. Clare*

      Content warning
      (Mentions of suicidal ideation)

      If anyone tries or has tried circumin and it works well for their mental PMDD symptoms, please be extremely careful when starting oral progesterone or the bar (if you’ve never been prescribed it before). It reliably gives me an extremely strong and urgent desire to make myself not alive anymore. It’s legitimately life-threatening. Not saying it would do that to everyone with PMDD, but just something to be aware of if you ever start taking it because you won’t be warned. Stopping the oral progesterone brings me back to normal again very quickly. It seems to be heritable, my Mother gets rages instead of depression. I do have an IUD, that’s fine. I assume because the progesterone is used up near source. It seems the problem arises if it has to go through your bloodstream and liver because it gets a chance to be converted to other things like allo and DHT, then be carried to a brain which can’t handle it.

      If this happens to you, have hope! You can ask your doctor about stopping the hormones. The thoughts pass pretty quickly after stopping the oral progesterone! I know how awful it is and I promise you’ll be ok. You’re not alone <3

    2. Woebegone Wednesday*

      “(That said, it doesn’t absorb very well – so full disclosure I do buy a more bioavailable version, but you don’t HAVE to if you can’t access stuff like that).”

      I was told by a friend that turmeric is more readily absorbed when it is consumed with a carrier and one with some fat in it (so in a cream-based sauce or stirred into a full-fat glass of milk, etc.). Is this accurate?

  117. Just A Thought*

    LW, have you considered asking your doctor to sign off on a leave of absence so you can at least get a break from this horrible situation?

    Maybe there is a small chance that having someone need to go on leave due to Katherine’s behavior will spark some kind of action from HR. Or maybe you’ll finally find a great new position during your leave and won’t need to come back at all :)

  118. Sagegreen is my favorite color.*

    Wow…sounds like a contender for worse boss of the year. I would get everyone together and go to a lawyer. To heck with HR and definately call the police next time there is physical violence in the workplace. They might take her away in a wagon. I don’t think this is pmdd. If she hit someone on the head with a stapler, she could kill them.

    If you get any updates, we will be waiting with bated breath. Stay safe!

  119. Betsy S*

    IANAL and IANAD, but even if this company thinks their hands are tied as far as firing, why on earth can’t they move this person sideways into a job where she keeps her pay but isn’t supervising anyone?

  120. Hexiva*

    :-/ I know mental illness can really fuck you up, but to me, “she only abuses her employees when she has PMS – if she could find the right birth control, she’d stop” hits the same note as “My husband only beats me when he’s drunk, if I could just get him to stop drinking everything would be fine.” Which is to say, the drink didn’t make him do it. I can’t help but think that if she got her hormones settled, there would be some other reason to abuse people. And she’s not just lashing out at whoever happens to be around her – if she’s left alone in a room with no victims, she actively gets out her phone to start abusing her family instead!

  121. Chief Bottle Washer*

    With the mentions of corporate in the letter, this seems like a reasonably big company. I would guess the local branch is really screwing this one up, and possibly corporate really doesn’t understand what’s going on. If there is a whistleblower line, I would call it and describe everything in this letter. It could be that if someone higher up actually knew what was happening, something would change.

    1. Observer*

      I would guess the local branch is really screwing this one up, and possibly corporate really doesn’t understand what’s going on.

      They may not know, but they also DO NOT CARE. Yes, I’m shouting. How else do you explain their decision to block hiring? They know that turnover is off the charts, and they have simply decided to not hire anyone into that department “till things improve”. If they cared in the least bit, they would have looked into the further and said “Why the **** are you exposing us to all sorts of liability by allowing this person to act this way? Why on earth have you not reached out to corporate counsel for assistance?”

  122. Hyaline*

    Out of curiosity, has anyone ever brought up that it would be entirely reasonable if physically threatened to call the police (or at least security)? How does HR take this? What if someone unaware of Katherine’s PMDD was visiting the office, felt (understandably!) threatened by her behavior, and called law enforcement? What if an employee finally had enough and felt suitably in fear for their safety? HR is acting like their only liability is an ADA lawsuit if they fire or discipline Katherine, ignoring that she’s a giant walking liability herself. Do they think that, if she actually does hurt someone, the company is not going to be liable for ignoring the problem and contributing to the unsafe environment?

    Frankly, the first time a stapler went flying in my direction I’d be considering calling the police and pressing charges. That’s physical assault.

  123. MamaSarah*

    I know the RP says she needs the insurance, but at what point does one just quit? The situation is far from okay. I’ve kind of always thought that the road would rise to meet you in a situation like this.

  124. Tarmac Jack*

    I bet if Katherine was physically threatened after throwing stuff at people her behaviour would resolve itself right quick.

  125. KL Loophole*

    I’m not an expert but my understanding is that under federal ADA if a location has less than 15 employees – which her department seems to have – then ADA no longer is applicable and HR should have fired Katherine. Also, since the heavy stapler throwing incident was witnessed, the person hit should have called the police, requesting assault and battery charges be filed against Katherine – AND had a workers’ compensation claim filed.

    Good luck to original LW and her colleagues/fellow victims of Katherine’s reign of terror!

  126. Mmm.*

    I had/have a lady parts issue that resulted in extreme pain, vomiting, back-end issues, fatigue, extreme weight gain and loss, and, of course, a VERY bad mood.

    I’m mentally ill with types that people (incorrectly and offensively) use to excuse violence.

    I was also a middle school teacher, and if anyone can make you snap, it’s someone that age. But in all my years, I had a meltdown on that level exactly ZERO times.

    She’s either using this as a way to get away with shit like she’s a teenager with a male gym teacher or she’s got way more stuff going on.

    No matter what, you can’t throw stuff at people! That’s a literal crime, and both she and the company can (and should, at this point) be held responsible.

    I saw someone else suggest diagnosing you with trauma related health conditions. One of my diagnoses is PTSD, and though you may have a hard time getting that specific diagnosis, you might be able to get your doctor to write to HR explaining how work stress can cause your issues until/unless you can get a diagnosis. Your mental and physical health problems being caused directly by a controllable work issue likely trump hers.

    Also…if she’s at work all day, every day, she isn’t trying to get this taken care of unless she has a doctor who’s open late and on weekends. Which is rare, especially since this would need both a typical gyno and testing facilities.

  127. ToS*

    People with PMDD work, and if their healthcare providers have not come up with an effective way to control symptoms, they either take leave, using FMLA if they qualify, or have a reasonable accommodation plan for not subjecting the people they work with to behavior that are fireable offenses. For some this might mean total leave during a flare, for others it might mean a modified schedule or creating a bubble or buffer zone so the employee has the space for health appointments for mitigating symptoms so they have a shot at (personal) health management.

    Do not emphasize anything gendered about this- the process is the same for someone of any gender whose mental health medication has stopped being effective- yes, bodies are that unruly, and medication doesn’t always work for many deeply personal reasons that stay between the doctor and employee. The accommodation plan is about what’s reasonable, and the employee (not their bosses or work people) is responsible for managing that, so no nosy questions if the behavior is off-follow processes: reportable behavior gets reported to her boss in dry terms, immediately.

    If she’s being inappropriate at work, they can put her on administrative leave and send her home just like someone showing up in a swimsuit and beach coverup because they want to get a tan on their lunch break. If the boss is working remotely or two buildings over, clue them in with a phone call.

    With behavior like this, the EEOC has Plenty of Examples that uncontrolled dangerous behavior cannot be accommodated and green lights employers holding stapler-throwers to behavioral standards via consistent disciplinary procedures.

    She likely has a plan and/or an attorney either that 2 months, returning after 2 weeks 2 step that must include behavioral change. If there is no change, report behaviors. If she takes leave for a week, ok! If it improves drastically, that’s decent. Employers/HR can call regional ADA centers and Job Accommodation Network for advice about working with employees with disabilities if they can’t afford consultants or lawyers.

    Back to you-you have options too. EAP can let you blow off steam, and you might want an employment lawyer of your own. Why should you have to quit or constructively leave employment? Look for someone local who does EEOC/workers comp in your industry if you go this route. Many people also take the next, best job offer. If you go that route, take some time to exorcise the dysfunction demons that this work situation creates.

  128. KB*

    There was a mentally ill person in another, but similar, department in my workplace. They threw a trashcan at a coworker. HR was ineffective, even though the manager wanted to get rid of the offender. In retrospect, if the victim had made a police report for assault, it may have forced HR to act. I suggest if there is actual interpersonal violence, a police report is warranted.

  129. Summer Bummer*

    Yo I have PMDD and it’s the fucking worst. I can’t describe the INCREDIBLE RAGE that comes over me, for the smallest and most insignificant reasons. The first and last time I threw something mid-meltdown, my boyfriend of a year looked me right in the face and said, “if you ever do that again, I’m out of here.” And you know what? I never did it again, and we’ve been married for eighteen years now. Katherine sounds like someone in a lot of pain, who has never faced a consequence. That’s a terrifying combination.

    1. pen*

      Second thought – is someone in HR so uncomfortable by the topic of PMDD that they just immediately write it off as an ADA accommodation?

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