Can I trust HR to protect my legal rights?

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I have a biologically-based mental illness that I got diagnosed with over a decade ago when I was at university. Since I was diagnosed, I have maintained treatment and have never missed work or been hospitalized. I maintain my condition like a champ. I am a great employee with solid skills and a great work ethic. Basically, my condition does not affect me at all, except that I have occasional doctor appointments to see specialists (psychiatrist, psychologist, lab work). I hardly ever take sick days. Nobody at work knows about this because years ago when I was younger, I confided to HR about my condition, my manager found out and I almost lost my job. They did a whole bunch of illegal stuff because they knew I was broke, and I didn’t have the money or stomach to sue.

I just started a new job about three months ago. Nobody knows about my medical condition. I have a coworker who is a total bullying jerk. He started out saying sexually suggestive things to me, and I had to shut him down repeatedly before he finally stopped. His thing is “diagnosing” people with mental illness if they do things that he doesn’t like or if he thinks they are bad people, or if they don’t allow him to run the show. He is not a doctor or even remotely qualified to diagnose mental illnesses, especially not as gossip fodder to put people down. Each time he has told me that so-and-so is psychotic, schizophrenic, bipolar or whatever, I have consistently told him in no uncertain terms that it is totally inappropriate and that he is not qualified to make that diagnosis. He angrily retorts that all he has to do is read the criteria for the condition and he can diagnose it. 

Our manager is kind of a jerk in that he’s abrasive and I don’t trust him, but the way a hostile environment American With Disabilities Act claim is made is by proving that the manager did nothing to stop the abuse, so it has to go up the chain of command. Obviously, I haven’t told him that my coworker is creating a hostile work environment by bashing the mentally ill, because I can’t prove a hostile work environment without outing myself as being mentally ill and covered by ADA. I can’t claim protection under the ADA without telling HR that I have a covered condition, and if I’m making claims of a hostile work environment based on protected status they are probably going to demand my medical records. I am not going through that again. I don’t trust my manager to hear that diagnosis and magically not allow it to affect my employment — let’s be real, he’s going to fire me if he finds out. 

Do I have to just grit my teeth and allow this dude to bash me? I can’t do anything about it unless I want to be exposed, right? Other than find another job, which I am looking for nightly, what else can I do?

To read the answer, which includes advice from the ever fabulous Donna Ballman, click here: Can I trust HR to protect my legal rights?

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3 thoughts on “Can I trust HR to protect my legal rights?

  1. No, you can count on HR to protect the legal rights of the company. Only. They work for the company, not you. That is an HR created mythology. They will protect you if it is in the best interest of the company. Or, kick you to the curb if that is in the best interest of the company.

  2. @JC is absolutely correct. I would go further and say that the only person you can trust to safeguard your legal rights is yourself. Sometimes you might be able to trust your attorney, if you hire one. Mine is not a cynical view, but a realistic one borne by experience and observation.

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