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Hostility with coworker

by Laura
(New Mexico)

I was recently fired from my job of four years by the new owners of my place of employment in New Mexico. The immediate cause was an email I had written the day prior, a businesslike appeal for more oversight in my department, where two of us had seen job description changes that I argued were hurting our overall goal. Additionally, I discussed recent event failures and my professional opinion regarding why they occurred, and that prior to the changes in procedure, I had demonstrated a pattern of success. Finally, I stated that I was unable to perform my job function as described ('getting people into the store') without use of/direction of all the communications tools available to me.

I am concerned that I'm about to hear that I have been denied unemployment benefits because I was told, essentially, that I was insubordinate and difficult to work with. The correspondence in question was not at all inappropriate, and the coworker in question is someone who was moved to working solely at home because of her issues with all staff, ultimately requiring only me to work with her. (This was even stated on the morning of my termination by an employer). Additionally, I was never given specific examples of being 'hard to talk to' or suggestions on precisely what to avoid doing - and correspondence and meetings to address any conflict was always initiated by me, attempting to solve what was clearly an issue.

On multiple occasions, I had asked for meetings to evaluate the effectiveness of the new procedures, and I had written a few emails arguing my case for the level of direction I previously enjoyed, and asking for my employers to consult other industry professionals for reasoning similar to my own. Largely, editing of any sort seemed to be considered hostile.

There were conflicts with this coworker. We argued
heatedly on one occasion, when she made a disparaging remark about my credentials, and I believe I was the only person reprimanded. I also voluntarily apologized prior to the complaint with my employer, whereas the coworker did not. On multiple occasions, my request to address serious errors she had made was ignored by my employers, and frequently, they missed meetings we had set, often without any communication. There is perhaps one email I will concede was inappropriate from several months ago (at least four, possibly six), but all other documented correspondence that is likely to be cited as inappropriate is not.

It's unlikely I will be able to convince any coworkers at this small business to attend an unemployment hearing if I need to appeal, although when asked, none said they had issues with me, all were shocked by my termination, and all have complained about the coworker in question. What are my chances for winning this? Do I have any support from the facts that I always solicited the attempt to reconcile our issues, that my employers allowed hostile behavior from this coworker, or that the immediate cause (the most recent email) is obviously not inappropriate?


It seems to me, you might be leaving something out .. such as whether it was the emails themselves that were insubordinate or whether it was your ongoing interactions with the co-worker that are being viewed as insubordinate and in contradiction to a directive from your employer as to how to deal with this person.

It sounds like the co-worker was accommodated to work from home .. maybe because they complained of harassment?

I'm guessing you'd probably be better off with a hearing rep .. because it just sounds like a situation made messy by human interaction that even a good hearing repgood hearing rep would need to understand thoroughly to help you out with.

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Jul 26, 2011
Left out?
by: Laura

It does seem like I am leaving something out, but I'm not. The emails were basically requests to revisit job descriptions, or explanations of problems, why I thought x was important for me, and why we needed to discuss this. The interactions with this coworker were addressed in every meeting I had, and each pattern of operation we decided upon was never supported once she deviated.

I may have been terse with this person, but especially immediately surrounding the firing, all I did was try to edit. Technically, I think I was blamed for causing certain functions to be delayed, although it's pretty agreed upon outside of my employers that this was not the case. Essentially, the emails themselves will be what were considered insubordinate or hostile, but by all accounts from those I asked to read prior to sending they were reasonable and polite, and my new employers simply got sick of being asked to fix things.

The only thing I can really claim to have left out is that this coworker established a close personal relationship with one of my employers, and it's my suspicion she'd been undermining me through that for months, since it was no secret she wanted my job.

It's a messy situation, and I suppose I'll see if I was denied shortly. I can't claim that I was never guilty of being snappish, but immediately around the termination, this was simply not true.

I agree - if ultimately necessary, I'll seek representation.

Hi Laura,

Okay then. Since insubordination is really an outright refusal or simply ignoring a directive from an employer it seems to me whether denied or not (a lot of states are just denying at the initial level as their own form of attrition) you have a very arguable case, because as I noticed ... and you confirmed, there's a big gap in the logic for the cause of termination.

If anything, I would think an employer would have at least made an effort to document "poor performance" and jumble the issue with the "metrics" you were consistently unable to achieve .. not that that would be a slam dunk case either, but it makes more sense than claiming your emails raising concerns over procedural issues related to the work was insubordinate.

There has to be at least a timely casual connection between the offense or cause for termination and the date of termination, otherwise the employer risks being seen as condoning the violation.

Unemployment reps bring a certain skill to an unemployment hearing. They can often cross examine employer witnesses much more effectively resulting in discrediting employer testimony.

Good Luck.


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