If I believe we have a hostile work environment, what are my options?

I’m a director at a company and report directly to the CIO. This CIO came to our company about 6 months back. He fired about half our IT department. Since his first month, he has been openly disrespectful and insults people in all IT meetings. He will call people incompetent, talks about how terrible their decision was, how people are a failure, etc. Recently he has made it obvious that he wants to fire one of the other directors of PM. He has been telling some of us about how he doesn’t respect her for not having a PMP. He has been making up new job duties for her that are not in her job description. He makes these up when something fails and then puts all the blame on her; she will openly say that was never part of her job function. A lot of these things are administrative assistant duties. In all our IT meetings he will talk down to her in front of everyone and then tries to find opportunities to ask one of her PM’s who has a PMP what her opinion of the situation. So he is openly undermining her in front of all of IT. People have felt scared in our department since this person came aboard. Everyone feels like if they speak their opinion they will get fired. Last week, in my one on one with the CIO, he was trying to lead me into saying the PM wasn’t doing her job. I told him no, I do not believe what is going on has been her fault, that these were never responsibilities of a PM, and have never been at any other organization. He then tells me there will be some changes in IT and he doesn’t want me to be part of the collateral damage. I then found out later that day, he had a one on one with one of my employees and was trying to coerce him into saying the same thing. My employee said he felt really uncomfortable about the situation. He had one on ones with all of IT last week, I’m not sure how many others he did that too, but I know me and one of my employees right now. There is a general fear in our area. What are my options here? I know I can go to HR, but do I have anything to stand on here? Would I just be putting myself at risk by going to HR about this?

Asked on October 14, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Kansas

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

While seemingly unprofessional, ths CIO's actions are not illegal. That is unless they violate the terms of an employment contract/union agreemnt or unless it constitutes some form of legally actionable discrimination (which you did not indicate). The fact is that most employment is "at will". This means that a company can set the conditions of employment much as it sees fit.

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

While seemingly unprofessional, ths CIO's actions are not illegal. That is unless they violate the terms of an employment contract/union agreemnt or unless it constitutes some form of legally actionable discrimination (which you did not indicate). The fact is that most employment is "at will". This means that a company can set the conditions of employment much as it sees fit.


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