A friend of mine was bullied for 6+ months by her manager to promote a subordinate with whom he had an affair. This subordinate is an average performer with nothing much to show to be promoted from a Sr. Engineer to a Staff Engineer. My friend gave a pushback as she felt it is unethical and unfair to her other subordinates. He threatened her that her performance rating would be impacted. Further he said she could have potential fights with her spouse and that her family relations could get strained. He started excluding her from meetings, every month he would come to her and ask her to promote the subordinate. Last month, he said to her give her a promotion and I will move her to a different team. My friend said, go ahead move her to whichever team you want to, but I am unable to justify the promotion. My friend complained to HR of his behaviour. The meeting with HR was hot and voices went high. Last week, she got a termination letter and all the documents and evidence she had was confiscated from her. She would like to complain to the top management of this behaviour by her manager.

Since the employment is 'at-will' she has no where to complain. The company has given her a standard letter protecting their rights and the rights of their current, and past employees under the US Law. But there is no word that they will equivalently honor and not purposely defame her and sabbottage her job hunt.

In this circumstance would it be more of a negative impact for her to send a letter documenting the sequence of facts that occured with the manager to the highest level of leadership? Would it negatively impact her career? Would the manager be able to sue her for sending the letter. She was with the organization for a year.

This is a reputed multinational company located in the United States.

Thanks much

What we would like to achieve -

We believe the manager has been unprofessional and would not want another person to go thru the same torture. We would hate to see this manager being promoted to higher levels as he is unethical in his practices. Especially bullying.

Also, we would like to write the letter as a documentation of facts in case the manager comes behind her in the future

  • 3
    This is a bad situation - especially as HR seems to have come down on the side of the other party. Your friend's letter is likely to have little or no effect. As it is, this question is in danger of being closed as you haven't stated what outcome you or your friend wants to achieve, and also is verging into legal territory which should be addressed by a legal professional.
    – HorusKol
    Oct 2, 2019 at 3:25
  • 1
    The circumstances don't add up in my mind. It's known that this manager had an affair with the engineer? And still the manager brazenly pushed for a promotion? Do managers even normally voice an opinion regarding promotion for someone clearly a few levels below them? And given this information, HR chose to side with the manager?
    – Mars
    Oct 2, 2019 at 4:40
  • 2
    @user1807337 wow! From my point of view it is a bad practice for employees. No safe job, income etc. Is it common in USA to have such positions? Oct 2, 2019 at 6:38
  • 1
    @AndreiSuvorkov, yes, that is way it works in the US unless you are in a union.. Oct 2, 2019 at 6:44
  • 4
    sounds like a disgruntled employee to me
    – Kilisi
    Oct 2, 2019 at 6:47

4 Answers 4


I suggest she not send the letter. It serves no purpose and likely won't amount to much. If HR saw no problem with a manager trying to coerce a subordinate to promote someone he had a relationship with, they're not likely to care about the contents of that letter. She is instead free to post a review of the employer on various job boards if she feels it will not negatively affect her future job prospects, but should not make any allegations of misconduct and instead discuss her time there.

For future references, she's free to state she was terminated without cause. I would not go into the personal issues between her and her previous manager. Let the company disclose whatever they want.

The bottom line is that she was fired without cause. She should file for unemployment, appeal it if denied, and start looking for a new job.

  • Why would it matter what HR thinks when she sends a letter to the CEO?
    – nick012000
    Oct 3, 2019 at 11:55
  • Because HR is the only entity she'll ever have to deal with in the future.
    – JRodge01
    Oct 3, 2019 at 11:57
  • Why would an employee who's been fired deal with HR when they're writing a letter to the CEO?
    – nick012000
    Oct 3, 2019 at 11:58
  • Employment verification, references, and any outstanding payroll issues would go through HR. The CEO isn't likely to get involved with an employee termination, even if there's an angry letter.
    – JRodge01
    Oct 3, 2019 at 12:00
  • He might get involved with a former employee alleging unethical behavior by a manager, though.
    – nick012000
    Oct 3, 2019 at 12:01

HR is never your friend. Writing letters will do nothing (and if it did... your friend would be unlikely to find out anyway).

If your friend wants to pursue the issue, the only recourse they have is to talk to an employment attorney. They're the only people who can listen to all the evidence and determine if there's a case worth chasing.

Grudges are very heavy. Don't carry them too long; move on as soon as possible.

  • just worried that the termination letter has all the lines protecting themselves, but nothing to the effect of their employees not tattle tailing behind my friend. The thought of the letter is to document the facts, if they/the manager try to cause harm Oct 3, 2019 at 16:02

IANAL. This sounds a lot like she should consult a lawyer. My understanding of at-will employment is you can only be let go for any LEGAL reason more than ANY reason. I can’t say whether this passes the test to be considered illegal, but there are definitely components of sexual harassment at play where abuse of position is occurring.

This also underscores what I’ve seen a few of us say (and PeteCon added while I was typing this). HR is not your friend. Their job is to protect the company, not to protect righteousness. About the only ethical role HR can be relied on to play is where there is clear and provable misconduct by the management. If the scandal can’t be prevented, then they are likely to attempt to distance the company from the wrongdoing.

As to the letter, the career advice is to drop this whole thing and based on similar questions here, 80% of people are going to agree with walking away. Whether or not in the form of a letter to be sent, she should definitely keep a written record of the facts. While it may not be the proof desired without the confiscated information, it would serve to raise the question of just why does this information no longer exist.

That said, I personally would applaud her following her ethics. Continuing to reward behavior enforces it. When doing the mental calculus, only she can ascertain how much satisfaction she will gain from following her integrity vs. how much risk she’s willing to endure. My recollections of the definitions around slander and libel are that she can say pretty much anything so long as they are either 1) factual or 2) presented as her opinion. I would suggest that facts she does not have evidence to prove be presented as her opinion or recollection.

LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Better Business Bureau, even possibly local news outlets are options. It is conceivable that HR will decide it is in the company’s best interest to do the right thing if their image is tarnished enough. But remember that other employers will see what she posts and threats will very likely come from the company, possibly even that manager. People have a way of turning their misconduct into other people’s faults in their own minds

  • Thank you John, yes, she stood for it. If she agreed to it, he would continue bullying her to do other favors for her, other employees, or whatever he wants and take advantage of her Oct 3, 2019 at 16:10
  • We do want to walk away for it, we just want it documented somewhere with them too as we are worried that the manager with bad mouth her and sabotage her job search Oct 3, 2019 at 16:12
  • @user1807337 I wish her luck and it speaks well that you are trying to support her. It's an awful situation she shouldn't have to even be thinking about.
    – SemiGeek
    Oct 3, 2019 at 19:42

In this circumstance would it be more of a negative impact for her to send a letter documenting the sequence of facts that occured with the manager to the highest level of leadership?

Depends on the company culture, the particulars of the industry, and the values of the executive that you're sending the letter to. It's possible it might do nothing, it's possible that the manager might lose his job as well, it's possible it might backfire on her.

Would it negatively impact her career?

Well, obviously she shouldn't list the manager as a reference if she does, but she probably shouldn't do that anyway.

Would the manager be able to sue her for sending the letter.

I'm not a lawyer, but as long as she sticks to the facts and doesn't allege anything that isn't true, the manager shouldn't have grounds to sue her for defamation - he could still try, but it's unlikely that he'd win. The truth is an absolute defense against defamation accusations.

  • nick012000, they took away the laptop and all the paper's which had documented evidence of the behavior. If they have gone to the extent of purging from company mail servers, there is no proof. The hope is that this letter would be the only documentation to hang on to. Oct 2, 2019 at 3:53
  • @user1807337 She still has her memory, right? She could simply state in her letter about how she had the documentation stored on her company laptop and papers, and how they would provide corroborating evidence of her claims.
    – nick012000
    Oct 2, 2019 at 3:55
  • nick012000, oh yeah, that is the intent. To write a written letter, documenting the facts of all the bullying, but a lot of it was verbal too.. Thank you! Oct 2, 2019 at 3:58

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