Employee Rights Attorney
Mission Viejo, California
Q: “I am a staff professional who recently accepted a transfer to a new department. Within days, it was obvious that my new supervisor was mainly interested in giving direction without accepting my input and in treating me like an untrained employee.
“I endured six weeks of heavy handed supervision and several unflattering, unfounded and widely circulated e mails that demeaned my contributions. The last straw came when this supervisor told me my transfer had been necessitated by various rumors about my performance and that “some people,” implying my former department head, were dissatisfied with my work. My former department head said this was untrue, an assessment that was confirmed by my last performance review.
“I believe my current supervisor needs to be reprimanded and removed from my review team as well as from being my supervisor. But I am concerned about the office’s laissez faire attitude on these matters.
“Do I have any legal recourse? Do you have other suggestions for persuading the office to remove her as my supervisor?”
A: “It is illegal for someone to make deliberate misrepresentations about another person in the workplace, so you might have a defamation claim.
“But you have to be careful making these assertions. Often, the information you have about the apparent misrepresentations isn’t clear. For example, the rumor that ‘some people’ were dissatisfied with your capabilities might actually be true if your supervisor has sources other than your former boss.
“Management people also have some rights to discuss their employees. However, these comments need to be relevant to the workplace situation and conveyed only to other management personnel or employees who have a need to know such information. If your boss exceeded those limitations and deliberately stated misrepresentations about you to others, you might have a claim.
“You have a dilemma, however. If you demand that your supervisor be reprimanded and removed, but are not successful, your relations with that supervisor will undoubtedly worsen. On the other hand, if you are successful in having your supervisor reprimanded or removed, other management personnel might perceive you as a whiner and not a team player.
“Instead, consider asking for a transfer. Explain your concerns to your supervisor. She might appreciate your honesty, as well as discussing your concerns with her first before going to her bosses. Consider expressing your complaints diplomatically in a letter. Retain a copy.
“Try to determine why your supervisor is so critical of you. If it is based on any sort of discrimination or is retaliation against you for being a whistle blower, you would have even more rights to assert.”