A previously existing condition was exacerbated by treatment on the job….
by Valerie J.
….I continually brought my complaints about the abusive and harrassing behavior of the employer to the HR person. Other employees witnessed this behavior and several others were also harassed in the same manner.
Eventually, the treatment led to an exacerbation of an existing condition that I had been treated for in the past, a condition that was under control with medications.
On a Saturday, the employer yelled and screamed at several of the employees, including myself, for something we had no control over. I was visibly shaken and had to remove myself from the job, temporarily, to try and recover sufficiently to continue working.
Like many times before, too many to mention over the year I was employed there, I tried my best to recover, but was so distraught that I had had enough. The following Monday, my day off, I was called in the evening by a fellow employee who stated that another similar situation like what happened on Saturday had occurred and that “I was going to be in for it” when I came to work on Tuesday.
I called the HR person that night and asked if they would, once again, speak to the employer about the verbal abuse. I told this person that I could get another job but wanted to stay there. I was called back and told that “the (employer) she was never going to change and that if I had another job I should take it”.
I was also told not to come to work the next day.
Because my injury was so severe, I was seen by my physician and was written out of work. Subsequently, I filed for and received Temporary Disability which began that Monday that was mentioned before, the day I called the HR person.
The pay at this job was bi-weekly and the pay for the last week worked could be picked up the following week. Because of the severity of my condition, outlined by my physician in detail and covered under ADA, my husband went with me and attempted to get my pay while I waited in the car. When he returned without the pay he told me I had to sign some insurance forms for COBRA.
I went into the job to get my paycheck but made my husband wait outside. The employer had me sign a document that I was told I would have to sign or I would not get my pay. Under my condition, I wasn’t cognisent enough to understand what I had signed.
Moving forward, I was Disabled for 6 months and when I had recovered sufficiently to return to active employment, since I was now unemployed, I filed for unemployment and was denied. The reason stated was, “left voluntarily because you felt the work environment was adversely affecting your health. There is no evidence that the conditions were so severe as to cause you to leave available work to become unemployed”
The determination goes on, “you failed to discuss your problems with your employer in an attempt to obtain other work prior to leaving”. I appealed the determination and was granted an in-person interview.
My husband acted as my non-attorney representative since he has a good knowledge of law and has previous experience. The two of us as well as the employer and the HR person attended the hearing. The employer lied continuously about the conditions and gave additional false testimony.
One thing that the employer did offer as evidence was that for several months leading up to my separation from work that my condition was noticed and that I was given the ability to leave work early or remove myself from the workplace in order to recover sufficiently enough to continue.
Even though the employer denies ever yelling at me, using profanity towards me or making derogatory statements about me or to me, it was offered that there were incidents where the employer was dissatisfied with individual acts that were part of my job. The employer also denies spitting on me even though the night of that event I was called and was apologized to and begged to return to work, even told that this behavior would stop.
My husband listened in on an extension to every phone call between myself and the employer as well as the HR person. In addition, other employees also related to my husband and myself about the environment and the harassment by this employer to others, to themselves and also toward me.
One of these persons was contacted by phone during the hearing and also lied about the conditions at this job and the manner of the employers conduct.
I have asked for the copies of the tapes for that hearing, which I have yet to receive. A decision from that hearing has not been generated yet either.
My husband suggested that I quit the job on several occasions and that when the spitting incident occurred that I call the police and file charges. Since, at the time, we were a one income family and bills had to be paid, and under the influence of my condition, I refused his requests and continued to try and tolerate the conditions at this job.
As I mentioned, I eventually became so sick as to warrant being written out of work. Since I never did quit, and I did not intentionally sign a document that said I quit, what are my chances of winning this hearing and recieving benefits. Should the original determination be upheld, what recourse do I have.
Can I file suit against this employer for any wrongs that were perpetrated against me? Can I get records of former employees so that they can verify my statements about the abuse by this employer. Since this type of abuse was also directed towards customers, how can I get them to come forward. How can I compel other employees to tell the truth?
This is by no means, a general question about unemployment.
I will tell you this .. an unfavorable unemployment hearing decision does not prohibit you from seeking other remedy in different venues in New Jersey.
What was the issue on your unemployment hearing notice? I can assume the employer said you voluntary quit and the testimony as to any performance issues the employer had with you should have been objected to as irrelevant.
You should have prepared for this hearing in such a way as to prove the employer forced you to quit .. the burden was your and you did not mention anything about the documentation or subpoenas for documentation you might have submitted or even an effort to present “corroborating witnesses” to the events other than your husband who listened into phone conversations.
Finally, if you haven’t received a decision, what makes you think this isn’t going to go your way?
Don’t answer that .. it was just a rhetorical question.
Issues and burden of proof, when you go to an unemployment hearing .. it is assumed you understand this stuff.
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