Q & A Session – Hostile Work Environment and Leave


Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.


After 23 years of government service, I was recently reassigned to a new job and new supervisor. I have not yet been placed on performance objectives, but my new supervisor has threatened to place me on a PIP after being unable to complete a task because I had an already schedule appointment. The next day my supervisor yelled at me in front of the office. I felt sick, submitted a leave slip and went home. I called in sick the next day, and I had already gotten leave approved for the remainder of the week. I have received a letter of counseling that said I would be docked pay and marked AWOL because I did not submit my leave properly.  I have never had any problems with my performance and have a great deal of annual and sick leave I would like to use to take my mother to her medical appointments. What should I do?


There is no justification for a supervisor to yell at a subordinate, especially in front of coworkers. That being said, if I had been threatened with a PIP and was given a deadline, I would cancel prior approved leave and doctor’s appointments to meet the deadline.

Also, if I had 23 years of government service with a spotless record and a new supervisor who clearly had me in his sights, I would make sure I followed leave rules, no matter how sick I felt.

Finally, if your mother has a serious health condition and needs your assistance (and this assumes you have documentation for both health conditions and the need for you to help our mother), you are entitled to time off under the Family Medical Leave Act. If you just want your time off to spend with your mother, your supervisor has every right to deny your leave request. You then have every right to file a grievance if you think your supervisor’s leave denial is unjustified and unreasonable.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

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  1. I don’t believe management can threaten someone with a PIP, either. A PIP is supposed to be a tool of management, not a punishment. If a supervisor is dissatisfied with an employee’s actions, he/she should discuss the problem with the employee and only consider a PIP if the problem continues and/or there are other reasons for a PIP.

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