Employers who intimidate with abuse run high risk of legal consequences
Maybe you’re fortunate and have never known or met someone, let’s say an employer, who regularly uses rage as a controlling tactic to dissuade you from being assertive for you own workplace and human needs.
In the story I will briefly tell you about now, an employer used rage as a conscious tactic to exploit his employee.
It long worked until, well, you know, it didn’t anymore. The court decided to “punch” back, and it did, to the tune of a judgment that finally put some hurt on the abuser, who was clearly devoid of respectful business character.
So what happened?
When employee Larisa Taouktski, a furniture and home staging designer, asked Lorenz and Z Furniture store director Tong Zhang for her paycheck she was met, not with professionalism and her agreed-upon, earned compensation but instead “how (expletive) dare you ask me for money! You have no (expletive) idea what I am capable of doing to you.”
Taouksti claimed she brought up her pay concerns frequently yet was ignored. It might be easy to be judgmental towards Taouksti (“why didn’t she quit, I would have done so” or “what fool works for free”) yet 1) we don’t know her personal situation 2) all the details and 3) the employer is the one who acted illegally.
Ms. Taouksti is not to be blamed, for anything. She provided a requested service, the company was compensated and Taouksti wasn’t. Simple equation.
Zhang was ordered by a judge to pay former employee Taouktsi $ 20,000 for his behavior (and an additional $ 27,000 for lost compensation).
Whether you see that amount as relatively minor or outrageous is left open to interpretation and the facts of the relationship.
Zhang was legally punished because of “unjustified constructive dismissal”, which, Wikipedia defines as “in employment law, constructive dismissal, also called constructive discharge or constructive termination, occurs when an employee resigns as a result of the employer creating a hostile work environment.”
The judgment also mentioned financial award for unpaid wages, vacation and retirement.
Zhang and the company were fined $ 1,000 each for breach of employment agreement breaches. Total payout in this case — $ 50,000.
What Zhang doesn’t realize is this — he is not only legally reprimanded and financially hurt, his professional and personal reputation in the community is badly stained. His reputation as an employer, in ruins. Think of the consequences of all that.
Summary— will the employer own their critical deficiencies and challenges and learn from their behavior and seek coaching to overcome it? Will other businesses that heard or read about this situation examine themselves and their treatment of employees and then correct it immediately, making a sustained commitment to respectful employment? Will employees, or those who leave a company realize they are not alone and do have potential advocates for them? Will employers realize the protective value of third-party negotiation or facilitated negotiation (mediation) to internally problem solve before disputes become crisis, court cases, judgments and other business pain?
Michael Toebe is the founder and practitioner of Conflict Management Care, which helps organizations and professionals alike effectively respond to conflict and dispute challenges and crisis.