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Protect Yourself From Co-Worker's Baseless Complaints

By Lily Garcia
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, December 19, 2007 5:23 PM

My problem stems from the actions of an underperforming co-worker who is part of a group that I unofficially supervise. Based upon my negative appraisal of their work combined with a personal dislike, this individual has started to file frivolous claims of discrimination against myself and my supervisor. Three of the original complaints have been rejected by our office that handles these cases, and a fourth I am confident will be rejected after investigation. The EEO office informed me that this latter complaint was only being investigated because it came in too late to stop it. I understand that an individual has a legal right to file EEO complaints, but is the individual completely immune from any action when it is shown that there never was a reasonable basis for the complaints? The same individual has also been complaining to our administration, essentially trying to sabotage my career. It seems highly unfair that a worker can be subjected to continual harassment in this way with no recourse.

Do not forget that your organization's policies also protect you. Under the circumstances, you may be entitled to complain, and your coworker may be subject to discipline, on the following bases:

If your organization's policies contain any of these protections, consult your EEO office and seek their recommendation on how to proceed. Even without the benefit of clear policy language, you should still point out to your EEO office that you co-worker's conduct is harassing and unethical. It sounds to me like they already get this, but you need to remind them that their work will not be done until your grievances are addressed as well.

Whether under a defined policy or not, it may be appropriate to discipline your co-worker for what s/he has done. However, the fact that you and your boss have been the subjects of these complaints means that you are probably not in the best position to address the behavior. False as the complaints might be, to put you in the position of punishing him or her for making them would easily leave a casual observer with the impression that you are retaliating.

Join Lily Garcia on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 11 a.m. ET for How to Deal Live.

Lily Garcia has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail hradvice@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered. The information contained in this column is not intended to be legal advice.

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