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I have worked for an Indian Tribe in Washington for two years and want to quit for intolerable working conditions, which I have tried to correct.  Would I be eligible for unemployment in Washington?

(Washington )

I have been working for a Native American Indian Tribe in Washington State for over two years and for some time have wanted to quit due to various intolerable working conditions.  However, I have stuck through it for some time and feel like I have exhausted available resources and made many attempts to have a better work environment.  However, my situation has not improved and I really want to quit but first want to know if I will be eligible to collect unemployment until I can find another job. 

The first year of my job was great.  I enjoyed the work and my colleagues.  However, in my second year things started to get complicated between my supervisor and myself.  She is a major micro-manager and has a very intimidating, manipulative work style.  She would often involve herself in starting gossip at the workplace and creating a negative and hostile work environment among colleagues.  She also directly prohibited the program from meeting goals and objectives as she ran things the way she wanted them to be run for the direct benefit of her or her family, which I have always had a hard time with.  In my second year one of her children was hired on with our program and I ended up directly supervising him.  Well, as expected there was a severe case of nepotism going on and when coupled with her micro managing style it was just a disaster.  I was not able to do my job as the supervisor and give directives or provide feedback/reviews of work performance without facing retaliation.  When I would do my job and supervise my employee (also her son) I would face changes in my work schedule from day to night shift, be given a list of work chores or tasks that was not my job function, or be faced with a very negative, poor, and intimidating attitude by my boss.  I reported all of this to upper management and to our human resources department for months with no change in this behavior and the treatment I was receiving.  It was so bad that the stress and intimidation would not only affect me at work but was infiltrating into my personal life and well being. 

Eventually it got to a point where I reported her son (who had a history of poor work performance, attendance and attitude) for a violation of policy and procedure to HR and in turn the Tribal Operations Manager placed this individual on administrative leave.  (FYI…This employee has now been out for 6 months on admin leave and no decisions have been made still to this day, which is a running joke around the tribe).  After this the bullying and retaliation I experienced from my supervisor escalated.  I continued to report this to upper management and HR and yet didn’t receive any assistance.  It got to the point where my boss was threatening to harm me to other colleagues, stating that she knew where I lived and hung out and that I should watch my back.  I was scared and intimidated by these comments and again reported it all to upper management and HR.  Nothing was done in regards to my constant complaints for months on end.  The reason given to me was that my boss was under investigation for other reasons and that soon they would be acting on that and in the meantime I was just told to stay strong and get through it.  Well I did and finally just a few months ago she was terminated, for reasons that had nothing to do with the mistreatment and retaliation
that I experienced.  And since she has been let go there has not been an interim program manager to replace her so the confusion and lack of support for me, in the position I am in and for our entire program, has only escalated. 

My boss is currently going through the grievance process and attempting to get her job back.  She is claiming that I had something to do with why she was let go (along with other colleagues of mine) and she has hired an attorney to assist her in her grievance.  I have been asked to testify at her grievance hearing and will have to answer questions in front of her in just a few weeks.  Needless to say I am terrified and it is causing me huge amounts of stress, even though I know that I had nothing to do with the reasons or cause of why she was in fact terminated.   

About a month and a half ago I attempted to submit a letter of resignation.  I met with the upper manager and told her about my unhappiness in the program.  That I do not feel valued as an employee, that I do not have support, and that the working environment in which I work is extremely negative and continues to be regardless of the fact that my former boss is no longer employed with the program.  However, the upper manager did not accept my letter of resignation.  She asked that I go on vacation (which was preplanned prior to all of this) and come back refreshed and see if things go differently.  However, I have been back to work for a month already and still no changes.   

I am at a point where I am fed up with all of this drama.  I am sick and tired of being overly stressed and not supported in my work and desperately want to find new employment.  However, I would like to know if in my case I can receive unemployment in the state of Washington if I were to quit.  I feel like for all that I have been through here the least they can do is agree to allowing me to collect unemployment.


That your question is conditioned upon receiving a guarantee you would be eligible for Washington State unemployment benefits, I sincerely think, you should consult with an employment attorney yourself.

The problem I'm having with you quitting your job at this point is you want to quit not because of a harassing and retaliating manager no longer working there, or in charge of you, but because of the consequences of the employer finally taking some sort of action to eliminate the source of your complaints, even if for a different reason.

What you proposed as being good cause for the quit now is the resulting confusion, that you will be testifying at a grievance, lack of support from management, sick of the drama, and finally, threats of violence made to your person, which you may, or may not be able to prove for all I know.

If there is one point I'm trying to get across to everyone facing a situation at work that just doesn't feel right legally speaking,, it's the importance of speaking with an actual employment attorney while you're still an employee.

It's sometimes amazing what a good one can do to help preserve a job by encouraging those responsible for the work environment to do the right thing.

And when they can't .. you at least have access to some very good documentation that may also be supportive of a wrongful termination.

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