HR won’t do anything about a coworker who’s angry about my weight loss — Ask a Manager

All I have to say for this update is hold on to your bananapants.

I saw a lot of comments asking where management was in all this, so I’ll address that first. My boss, “George,” was getting ready to retire while this was going on. George is roughly my grandfather’s age, so this entire situation bewildered both him and his replacement, who he was training at the time. Both of them met with Aubrey’s boss, because believe me I was documenting everything she did from the jump, and they all assured me that Aubrey would be dealt with. None of them recommended the red flag mediation, that was HR’s idea. I was given details of the meeting where Aubrey ranted about me and it was horrible, but apparently Aubrey was asked to leave by her own boss while several other employees told her to stop, so managerially and in the office in general, people were trying to rein her in from many different angles.

HR is where the ball dropped and dropped hard. This company just has a poor HR structure and bad entry to mid-level HR. When Aubrey’s boss referred her to HR regarding her negative behavior, HR took it upon themselves to consider it a mediation situation (which, remember, at our company can go against your bonus for the year) despite communication from George, his replacement, and Aubrey’s boss saying I wasn’t in the wrong. When George found out about this, he spoke to the HR generalists’ manager, who said that my “absence probably caused a lot of strain and extra work for Aubrey” when Aubrey’s not even credentialed to do what I do. Management made a point to tell me how baffled and upset they were with HR’s handling of the situation every time something came up. My company mentor was also a huge support during this time until she decided to take another job elsewhere.

When my doctor extended my ADA work-from-home accommodation a second time, HR responded by telling me my attendance was a “concern.” I emailed their boss’s boss, the HR director, and asked for clarification. He said I hadn’t come in to the office so of course my attendance was a problem, I reiterated I had medical documentation stating that if WFH wasn’t available then they could refer to the FMLA documentation my medical team also sent. He replied that medical documentation, including both FMLA and ADA reasonable accommodations, “doesn’t hold much weight” with the company.

That’s when I got a lawyer. Aubrey as a problem kind of drifted to the background when HR started their “medical documentation doesn’t matter” campaign. On my lawyer’s recommendation, I contacted the HR executive team, which is where this whole cursed situation came to light. (And I did check with my lawyer about emailing this update and they laughed and said I couldn’t leave people hanging after all that.)

I called the chief HR officer (which for my company is going over like five people’s heads, but I did it with George’s and my new boss’s blessings), who is the head of HR, and asked why my attendance was an issue when I had reasonable ADA documentation. She had no idea what I was talking about so I filled her in on all of it — including the mediation meeting and Aubrey’s harassment and the HR director (her direct report) saying medical documentation didn’t hold any weight with the company. She was speechless and asked to meet with me and my lawyer as soon as possible. My lawyer hardly had to do anything during the meeting because the CHRO was horrified at everything I told her. I’ve never actually seen steam come out of someone’s ears, but if it was physically possible it would have happened here. My lawyer didn’t need to say a word but just nodded and smiled when the CHRO offered an extended paid medical leave so I could handle my recovery and said Aubrey constantly sending me fitness plans would be “dealt with swiftly.”

I didn’t hear anything out of Aubrey for a long time but I did hear through some gossip channels that the HR staff involved in the red flag meeting/threatening to write me up were let go. Aubrey wasn’t fired because they believed she was misled by HR, so I understand that part even if I don’t agree with it, but she was on a tight PIP for a while. Then she showed up at my house.

Now we move from bananapants to full-on banana ensemble. I’m still on leave and out of the blue, Aubrey showed up at my door on a weekend with two other women in tow and the commenters guessed it: she’s in very deep with an MLM (or maybe a cult, I can’t be sure at this point). Aubrey came over to “demonstrate” some workout techniques and give me some diet “supplement” samples and discuss a “career opportunity” because she was worried about my “physical and professional health.” She didn’t make it past my mother-in-law, who has been a godsend right now. My mother-in-law made it clear where Aubrey could stick her demonstration and they left in a hurry. I notified my lawyer and the CHRO and suffice it to say, Aubrey is now a full-time “wellness coach.”

I’m happy I went with my gut and got a lawyer because the company has changed so drastically over the last year with the toxic HR department encouraging behavior like Aubrey’s and spreading false information about medical leave and time off, the company is almost unrecognizeable. Also with my boss and mentor both gone, I don’t know if I’m going to go back once I’m medically cleared. The company is also undergoing a restructuring right now and my department may end up distributed between other parts of the company or even other parts of the state. I have been looking at jobs and doing some resume drafting for a full-time remote position since it feels like it might be a better fit. But many thanks to the comment section and all the support!

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