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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » I Need Advice or Right to Refuse: personal right or managerial?

   
Author Topic: I Need Advice or Right to Refuse: personal right or managerial?
AchillesHeel
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I am a third-shift clerk at a gas station. For longer than I have worked at this particular store there has been a customer who spends the better part of three hours buying scratchers and generally commanding as much attention from the clerk as possible (pick out, pay, scratch, hand back without reading them, receive pay-out, repeat.) I would start my shift and seeing as I had a lot of work to get started on I was never a fan of being forced to converse with a stranger for two hours until midnight when he could no longer redeem his tickets, so I eventually took the approach of not interacting. I would serve him as any other customer, but I stopped talking and responding to him so I could get to all my responsibilities lest I get bogged down so early in my day. He hated this.

It became his personal past-time to bother me, he would yell and demand things of me, denigrate me in front of other customers and on one occasion threw a tantrum. I endured and sold him his tickets. One night he came in and quite soberly called me a punk while calling out what he wanted me to get him, that was the last I was going to take from him. Since then I have refused to serve him, on grounds of his disruptive behavior and that he is verbally abusive. He still receives service from every other clerk, and even my manager has admitted that his repeated complaining about me is personally motivated and has nothing to do with how I do my job.

Lately he has started coming in at an hour when only I would be the one on shift, he makes use of the self-serve kiosk that checks scratcher tickets for people too lazy to read the results themselves. When he does this he acts like he always did, and I just refuse to speak to him. He is simply trying to bother me and make up reasons to complain about me so that he can prove his authority in a gas station.

Today my boss told me that I have to resume serving him and that my right to refuse service has been 'revoked.' Is that even possible? Do I have the right or is only management? I work at an internationally owned corporate store so clearly the owner isn't involved. I was literally ordered by my manager to concede to the demands of a man who has verbally abused me in the past and never shown a scrap of guilt over it, so in short, do I (as a clerk) have the right to refuse service despite a direct order or is the ability to refuse service the legal property of the manager only?

I don't know what would get me fired first, disobeying direct orders or my eventual reaction to this petty sociopath. I really need some help on this.

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Xavier
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IANAL, but I think whenever your boss orders you to do something (that's legal), and you refuse, then it's grounds for termination.

I'd start looking for work elsewhere, as soon as possible.

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Aros
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Do as your boss says and quit whining. Or get a different job.

Or put up with it for awhile and then call the cops and say he tried to rob you, with his finger under his shirt, pretending it was a gun. That ought to be good for a laugh.

Or follow him home. And send anonymous notes to his spouse / lover, implying that he's cheating on her / him when he goes off to the "store" for "lottery tickets".

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Xavier:
IANAL, but I think whenever your boss orders you to do something (that's legal), and you refuse, then it's grounds for termination.

Hmmm, do some research in your state because there are exceptions. Your employer may be also required to provide a safe and healthy work environment, they may be liable if they do not and/or fire you for refusing to do unsafe work.

For example:
quote:
Tell your supervisor that you believe that the situation is not safe, and that you will not continue the work until the situation is made right. If necessary, let them know that you are exercising your right under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to refuse work.

Make sure there's no doubt that it's not a discussion or a complaint investigation, but that you're refusing to perform the work until they do something about your concerns. At this point your boss or supervisor may not agree with you, but once you have "refused to work" under the Act, you can't be ordered or forced to do the work and you can't be disciplined for refusing the unsafe work.
...
It is against the law for an employer to punish or fire a worker for refusing work that the worker thinks is unsafe.

There are provisions under the Act to protect you from "reprisals".

If you feel you have been disciplined (e.g. sent home without pay, had your hours drastically cut or were fired), you can report it to the Ministry of Labour, who will guide you either to your union (if there is one) or to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) who will rule on the situation.

http://www.worksmartontario.gov.on.ca/scripts/default.asp?contentID=2-4-3#H1

But do consult your state.

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AchillesHeel
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Arg, if only I lived in Ontario. I live in Arizona and the OSHA material I am finding doesn't list harassment or abuse.
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Xavier
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Does dealing with an annoying (and verbally abusive) customer really have anything to do with safety? Maybe I'm missing an element to the situation if so.
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Mucus
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Verbal abuse is usually listed as an example of workplace violence.

quote:
Most people think of violence as a physical assault. However, workplace violence is a much broader problem. It is any act in which a person is abused, threatened, intimidated or assaulted in his or her employment. Workplace violence includes:

threatening behaviour - such as shaking fists, destroying property or throwing objects.
verbal or written threats - any expression of an intent to inflict harm.
harassment - any behaviour that demeans, embarrasses, humiliates, annoys, alarms or verbally abuses a person and that is known or would be expected to be unwelcome. This includes words, gestures, intimidation, bullying, or other inappropriate activities.
verbal abuse - swearing, insults or condescending language.
physical attacks - hitting, shoving, pushing or kicking.

http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/violence.html

But again, this is probably jurisdictional and I'm afraid that Google Canada isn't giving me back particularly reputable looking Arizona websites, a lot of lawyers and the like.

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umberhulk
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quote:
Originally posted by Xavier:
Does dealing with an annoying (and verbally abusive) customer really have anything to do with safety? Maybe I'm missing an element to the situation if so.

If he has fixation with Achilles, it could develop into one.

Would your boss consider changing your work hours? (might help, atleast temporarily)

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kmbboots
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My suggestion is that you need to contact OSHA. Here is their information.

http://www.osha.gov/workers.html#4

It might be helpful to take a look at this publication on late night retail workplace safety as well. Especially the checklist. I would make a point of the fact that this guy is threatening and has started coming in when you are alone. That is dangerous.

http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3153.pdf

Since it is a chain, I would also suggest that you pass along your concerns up the chain as well. In writing.

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MattP
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I wouldn't think it would be an OSHA issue as much as a "hostile work environment" one. Your employer isn't allowed to harras you and I suspect insisting that you deal with a customer that harasses you would be equivalent.
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AchillesHeel
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Thanks for the help everyone, a part of the order is coming from two tiers above my manager so I'm really worried about how easily I can be fired and or ignored.

Kmbboots, no threats of violence yet and I don't think he is the type. If he had it would make my position far clearer, but he seems to be more like a troll who hasn't discovered the internet.

One issue that is really bothering me is this, do I have the personal right to refuse service or is the right of the business? I was literally informed that my right to refuse had been 'temporarily revoked.' I can't help but feel like my rights are being violated on this issue.

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Xavier
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I don't believe the "right to refuse service" exists in any respect at an employee level. If someone comes into a yacht dealership with a suitcase of cash ready to buy, and the salesperson turns him away because he doesn't like the customer (or whatever), the salesperson doesn't have any legal basis to claim his actions aren't grounds for termination. None that I know of anyway.
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MattP
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As Xavier says, right to refuse service is a right of the business. Your ability to invoke that right is only tied to your authority as a representative of the business. Basically if you tell the guy to get out, he has to get out. But if your employer didn't want you to do that then they could discipline you for it.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Xavier:
I don't believe the "right to refuse service" exists in any respect at an employee level. If someone comes into a yacht dealership with a suitcase of cash ready to buy, and the salesperson turns him away because he doesn't like the customer (or whatever), the salesperson doesn't have any legal basis to claim his actions aren't grounds for termination. None that I know of anyway.

But we are talking about a situation in which the someone coming into the dealership is obviously engaging in pattern harassment of the employee and is probably also crazy.

I would be reasonably confident that he has good workplace safety laws grounding his concerns in an actionable sense, but this being Arizona (Trying to be the Mississippi of the West since 1992™) reduces it to me thinking it's a crapshoot

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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
Originally posted by Aros:
Do as your boss says and quit whining. Or get a different job.

Or put up with it for awhile and then call the cops and say he tried to rob you, with his finger under his shirt, pretending it was a gun. That ought to be good for a laugh.

Or follow him home. And send anonymous notes to his spouse / lover, implying that he's cheating on her / him when he goes off to the "store" for "lottery tickets".

This is single handedly the worst post I've seen on the 'rack since what's her name flew off the handle about a year or two back. Congrats!

As to your problem AH...serve the guy and if/when he gets abusive, call the police, and report that one of your customers is getting verbally abusive and making you worry for your safety. Once the police write up a report on your "petty sociopath", getting your manager to agree that you can refuse him service should be easy.

Just to be clear, in no way provoke him or give any false statements to the cops. 100% straight truth.

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Rakeesh
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I suspect that perhaps his appeal was successful because he did what others have advised and you haven't yet done (or am I wrong?): that is, file something and get it cooking in the chain. If he did so, it could very well look to whoever it was two rungs up that it was simply a matter of a customer complaining about something, and the person-not caring or involved much one way or the other-said to his subordinate 'take care of it', and considered the matter closed.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
This is single handedly the worst post I've seen on the 'rack since what's her name flew off the handle about a year or two back. Congrats!

you thought the post was serious?

addendum: we had two what's-her-names and two more provisional part-time what's-her-names, you'll have to be more specific about what this post was about

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Aros
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
This is single handedly the worst post I've seen on the 'rack since what's her name flew off the handle about a year or two back. Congrats!

This made me smile. [ROFL] [ROFL]

Thank you for the heartfelt congratulations. Would the proper response be a formal bow? I can send you my address, if you have a trophy you'd like to send.

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Mucus
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There's the right to "refuse unsafe work" and there's the right to "refuse service." I suspect that you'd have trouble with the latter even here if your employer wasn't backing you up. It doesn't look like a personal right. I have much more confidence about the former which explicitly is a right of an employee here, albeit with Samprimary's caveats about Arizona.
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Xavier
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quote:
But we are talking about a situation in which the someone coming into the dealership is obviously engaging in pattern harassment of the employee and is probably also crazy.
Yeah from a workplace safety angle you may have a point, but there's no "right to refuse service" on top of that which would offer protection.

I personally think the workplace safety angle is going to be a difficult one to pursue (from what has been shared). It may be worth a shot, but I suspect that finding a different job without this issue would be a lot easier than trying to force your employers to change their mind by invoking workplace safety clauses.

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AchillesHeel
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So the general idea I'm getting is that I'm boned. I'm going to hit the pavement starting tonight, I was already going to an atheist meetup so I may as well try to make use of the sparse community I have. Even the OSHA book made no mention of harassment or verbal abuse as a work place danger.

Thanks everyone.

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Dan_Frank
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AH, sorry I'm late to the party here.

If nothing has changed since the last time I ran a business in AZ (which was admittedly ~5 years ago)... yeah, you're boned. At least insofar as forcing your employer to let you continue to refuse service.

However, depending on the scale of this guy's bad behavior, you may not be as boned. I mean, you don't have some special workplace right to not be harassed by customers, but you still have a legal right to not be harassed, period.

Look up AZ Statute 13-2921. One of the definitions of harassment is a tautology (harassment is defined as committing acts that harass people, no joke)... so you may want to speak to police or a lawyer or similar if you want to go that route.

That may not provide you any protection from firing, though. But perhaps if your boss sees that the guy's behavior was criminal harassment he'll ease up?

Oh and I'm not a lawyer etc. etc. insert disclaimer here.

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AchillesHeel
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Funny, how I spent over three years working nights in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Phoenix and here I am considering quitting because of an obnoxious tailor.
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MattP
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I like where Dan's going here. If the guy is harassing you according to the legal definition then you may be able to get a restraining order without your employer even knowing about it. Mr. Jerkface Guy would just stop showing up one day.
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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
we had two what's-her-names and two more provisional part-time what's-her-names, you'll have to be more specific about what this post was about

quote:
Originally posted by Aerin:
Javert and Rakeesh, go to hell. That now makes an unbelievable amount of people ganging up on me, and considering the offense is umbrage at my contention that Hatrack is a nasty, uncivil place filled with ill-informed, entitled jerks I would cross the street to avoid in real life, the present circumstances are only reinforcing my assessment.


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AchillesHeel
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He spent the last few months badgering my boss during the day so that he could be allowed to bother me at night. This is his hobby, and he has a lot more money than I do so I will under no circumstances step into a legal debate with him and his lawyer.
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Stone_Wolf_
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Is there a video/audio surveillance in the store?
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AchillesHeel
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Video, and oddly enough it isn't very good for seeing what any of the customers do, we have five cameras and four of them are looking behind the counter. His behavior is not volatile, but could still be classified as harassment. Video can't help prove that.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
we had two what's-her-names and two more provisional part-time what's-her-names, you'll have to be more specific about what this post was about

quote:
Originally posted by Aerin:
Javert and Rakeesh, go to hell. That now makes an unbelievable amount of people ganging up on me, and considering the offense is umbrage at my contention that Hatrack is a nasty, uncivil place filled with ill-informed, entitled jerks I would cross the street to avoid in real life, the present circumstances are only reinforcing my assessment.


yup, that's a katharina post all right
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Stone_Wolf_
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Got a voice recorder AH? Or a smart phone?

Get the guy on tape being abusive, then go to the cops. Easy peasy.

Samp: I can't say I miss Kat much, but she did keep things interesting, that's for sure.

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Kwea
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Just tell your boss you will help him, but if he threatens you again you will call the police, because you fear for your safety. You have no right to refuse, but the business does. You do have a right to a safe work environment, although what constitutes that is often open to interpretation.

Then...do it. Wait until he threatens you are acts out, then call the police....and your manager. File a report. Make sure other employees see it, so you have a witness.


Aros.... never mind. No one actually cares about your opinions here anyways.

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Samprimary
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Well, I'd care if it turns out it is serious advice, so
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