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Assaulted by coworker, coworker not fired. How do I proceed?

Discussion in 'Civil Court, Procedure & Litigation' started by AnnT, Sep 4, 2013.

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  1. AnnT

    AnnT Law Topic Starter Banned

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    I posted this in another forum and it was banned, I suppose due to language in quotes. Read at your own risk, it's pretty lengthy. Here is the repost (edited) and additional info:

    9/3 I'm a nurse and work for a small non profit hospice unit inside a major hospital. A couple of days ago a coworker assaulted me in a patient's bathroom because she overheard me talking to another nurse about a bizarre incident that occurred with the coworker. The nurse to whom I was speaking overheard the commotion and wanted to know what happened, was concerned. This nurse (my superior) was second in command because the charge nurse was unavailable. There were only three nurses working that day. The coworker burst in and blocked the doorway, began threatening to physically harm me, pointing her finger in my face almost touching me, at most a cm from me (later she said "but I wasn't actually touching you") and slapping my hand away when I raised it to protect my eyes, grabbing me by the arm and forcing me against the wall where I was trapped with the toilet on one side and the shower stall on the other. She continually said "just give me a reason to kick your a**, go on and touch me so I can kick your a **" "You people are gonna me go off and do something" and the like. She grabbed my arm and pushed me to the wall behind me as she was threatening and putting her finger in my face I was only able to stand there and wait for her to stop because if I tried to defend myself or even get past her to escape, she would have pummeled me, per her threats. I know she was trying to get me to touch her so she could have "grounds" to hit me. I was scared out of my mind and felt like an animal was about to attack. I was imagining horrible things she might do and two days later, I am still feeling freaked out, and panicked at the idea of working with her. I had the first anxiety attack of my life last night and had to call off work for today because I am filled with fear.
    In a meeting shortly after the incident, our supervisor said we needed to learn to get along and recommended sensitivity training, lumping me into the category with the coworker which I felt was obscene. She asked us if we could go back to work and be professional with one another. The coworker was not asked to leave. I was asked if I wanted her to leave, and I said no because at that time immediately after this event, it hadn't hit me yet (adrenaline?) and I felt like that would be melodramatic. My supervisor was minimizing the incident and I felt ridiculous. It was later that the anxiety and fear occurred.
    This coworker has always been paranoid and defensive in even the most benign situations. I have always walked on eggshells where she is concerned. I was not terribly surprised by an outburst from her, but I was surprised at the degree of her rage for something relatively minor. I don't feel comfortable that she will not do this again and I do not feel safe at work. I missed work today because she is there, and I feel my supervisor should have had her stay home to allow me to work in safety.
    Today will be a meeting with management and my hope is that she will be dismissed. I have been with this company for over 10 years and I don't want to leave, tail between my legs, because of a bully.
    I realize I should have called the police but I honestly didn't think to do so right way. When I mentioned it later as something I should have done, it was minimized to the point I felt I was being ridiculous. Throughout this assault, the other nurse kept asking her to stop, and I did as well, I told her she was hurting my arm etc. I didn't think there was anything else to do, but I am being asked how I could have prevented it.
    Addendum: I was just notified by the my supervisor and my president that both the coworker and I are suspended, unpaid, for three days pending investigation. I asked why I was being suspended when I didn't do anything to warrant that punishment and I was told that I should have done things differently to prevent the attack, which caused us to divert time from patient care and made the unit look bad. I agree, that happened. But the coworker chose to attack me, not the other way around. She said "it takes two."

    9/4The meeting went well but I noticed my pres didn't have my official statement in her hand, the one that I sent two days ago via email to my supervisor per her request. Shortly after the assault (1 hour or so) the supervisor asked us to write on three sheets of paper: first one briefly describing the incident, the second stating how we felt about it and on the third we were asked to write how we felt it impacted the unit and pt care. We were given 15 minutes to complete this. Those handwritten sheets were all I saw in the president's hands. I don't know if I should email her and ask if she got the official statement or if I should wait and see what happens. I feel like I don't want to say anything, as I have so very little trust in their motives right now. Will it work for me or against me? It is somewhat different (def. more detailed and better sequence of events) because I was no longer in shock and had time to think clearly.
    At the meeting my pres reassured me that I was absolutely not being fired and that she felt I was one of their best employees. I am known for working with the difficult/aggressive/angry family members, calming them and establishing trust. I work hard at it. I am saying this because when I asked her why I was being suspended, she said "it takes two" and that I provoked the coworker by making her defensive when I questioned her, when I should have left it alone and taken it to the charge nurse. Ok, fine. But for an unpaid suspension on my permanent record, it seems the punishment doesn't fit the crime. I have no history, no write ups, all great employee evaluations and a couple of employee of the month plaques to boot. AND they are talking like she will not be fired, asking me if I thought I could work with her or go to conflict resolution classes with her, one of us goes to night shift, etc. again today. I said I didn't think so, that I feel threatened by her and the idea of working with her fills me with anxiety and fear and that I do not believe I would feel safe in my work environment if she is there. I asked about the company workplace violence policy, is it no tolerance? Yes, she said. I so wanted to scream "Then why is this happening!" but of course, I didn't. I asked who was performing the investigation, and it is just those two. How far are they into this investigation? I am the first one. Three days later and I am the first interview. This coworker will be back at work before they finish because the suspension is only three days (today is day 2). They plan to finish Monday (5 days more). The coworker DID admit to putting her hands on me and everything else except the a** kicking comments. She admitted that she said we were going to make her "go off" and dared me to touch her so she could "go off." Sounds threatening to me.
    During the meeting with the supervisor, the coworker said if she'd wanted to harm me "you wouldn't even be sitting here right now" and tell me, why is this person even being considered for retention?
    Isn't there something called negligent retention?? I didn't want to sound threatening so I said nothing about OSHA, but I wonder if my best move would be to notify them and let them investigate us if this coworker remains employed. When I mentioned filing a police report or that I should have called the police at that time, my pres said that would be a very bad idea and looked mortified. They keep asking me if I am willing to sit with her and resolve this, or work with her and get past this. Are they gently bullying me to retract my statement that I feel threatened or making sure I say it enough times that it will hold up in court if the coworker decides to sue for wrongful termination?
    One more thing, growing up I was subject to severe physical abuse on a regular basis and this incident triggered some terrifying memories and feelings, some so deep I'd forgotten they existed. I worked very hard in my 20's through therapy to move past it and it's back to haunt my life again, I realize only temporarily, but it makes me want to crawl out of my own skin it's so painful and I am beginning to feel depressed. I know my reaction is probably more intense because of this history and I am not sure if I should mention this or hide it. I don't want 'special treatment' or to be seen as weak, and I don't want this revelation to be held against me and have it somehow determined I am unfit to continue employment, but I want them to understand why all of their questioning and minimizing and pushing me to "get along" is hurting me so much. I suppose that isn't their problem and I am thinking I should keep it to myself and talk to a counselor instead. This is such a mess.

    *I got a couple of unhelpful (to put it nicely) posts last time. I was not expecting this kind of forum to partake in old school chat room behavior but If you feel you must, go ahead and do so but PLEASE make no insensitive comments about the abuse. I really couldn't handle that right now. Attack anything else, just not that. And sorry this is so long*

    I've contacted EAP and they were very helpful in just listening and giving advice on how to handle the meeting/interview today and I also will see a counselor they set me up with.
    If this employee stays, what options do I have? Call OSHA and report workplace violence or a violation of policy on workplace violence? Do I have grounds to sue? I've lost money, time, my perfectly clean record and quite possibly my mind.. I have been with this company for over 10 years and love my work with all my heart. I would be devastated to feel forced to leave.
    Icing on this already bizarre cake, if she stays we will have gotten the exact same punishment. Unbelievable.
    Any advice on how to proceed would be appreciated (if you're still awake ;))
  2. cbg

    cbg Super Moderator

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    The law does not require that she be fired, and it is common practice to suspend both participants in such a fight.

    Did you file a police report? (sorry, your post is so hard to read I may have missed something)
  3. disagreeable

    disagreeable Well-Known Member

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    The bottom line is management cannot be there to referee the individual actions of each employee. It was perfectly normal to suspend both employees involved. Many times they will terminate one or both.
  4. Betty3

    Betty3 Super Moderator

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