"On my way to work yesterday, one of my coworkers was driving in front of me on the interstate. This coworker is a smoker. When they finished their cigarette, they flicked it out of the window. I continued following them (we were going the same place, obviously) and they repeated this action and threw another cigarette butt out the window.
When I arrived at the parking lot I asked this coworker if they could please not throw their cigarette butts out the window on the highway. The coworker responded that "they would do whatever they wanted and there was nothing that I could do to stop them." I mentioned that it was against the law to litter and that cigarette butts are bad for the environment and for general cleanliness, and that they have an ashtray in their car for a reason. The coworker told me to "fuck off".
I have not had many interactions with this coworker, they are in a different department and I have never talked to them other than in passing.
This coworker told HR that I have been "harassing them." I told HR my side of the story. Now they want me to come to a longer meeting, which I don't really know what is about.
Was I wrong to criticize my coworker for throwing a cigarette out of the car? Should I contact my lawyer? What should I do here? I'm really uncomfortable with this whole situation but I refuse to stand by and watch people have such disregard for common decency.
Relevant law: "2016 Minnesota Statutes - 169.42 LITTERING; DROPPING OBJECT ON VEHICLE; MISDEMEANOR.", The Office of the Revisor of Statutes
Subdivision 1.Objects on highway. No person shall throw, deposit, place, or dump, or cause to be thrown, deposited, placed, or dumped upon any street or highway or upon any public or privately owned land adjacent thereto without the owner's consent any snow, ice, glass bottle, glass, nails, tacks, wire, cans, garbage, swill, papers, ashes, cigarette filters, debris from fireworks, refuse, carcass of any dead animal, offal, trash or rubbish or any other form of offensive matter, or any other substance likely to injure any person, animal, or vehicle upon any such street or highway.
UPDATE AFTER THE MEETING:
The meeting has since come and gone. I think it would be helpful here to note three things. First, my employer is a privately owned company with between 500-1000 employees world wide. Secondly, in Minnesota, environmental awareness is an issue that receives quite amount of attention. Finally, on Friday before the meeting I was stuck in an elevator with our director of HR for about 30 minutes -- we obviously didn't discuss the issue -- our conversation was pleasant and about dog adoption (not sure how relevant this is all is, but I do want to paint as clear a picture of the outcome as possible).
Before the meeting, I sat down with my immediate supervisor and our department head and discussed the situation. Both of them told me that my worry was largely unfounded, and at worst it would be a slap on the wrist and a note in my file.
The meeting was attended by my boss, our director of HR and one HR associate. They asked me to again explain how the situation unfolded. I recounted to the best of my ability. They asked me why I thought it was a good idea to confront [coworker]. I responded along the lines of "I hoped mentioning it to them in private would be enough for them to reconsider this act."
I was then told that they found the accusation of harassment unwarranted, but that in the future I should tread very lightly in situations like this. They told me that if I observed an employee breaking a law off company property, the correct action is to report it to the authorities. They pointed out that had I not approached the coworker then none of this would have happened. They also told me that if a situation arises like this again, while there is nothing they can do legally to prevent me from escalating it with a confrontation or legal action, they would very much appreciate it if I did it in a way that would be difficult to involve the company.
I do not know how this issue was addressed with the coworker (nor do I care to investigate). I was told by a different colleague that the coworker has not been in the office this week.
TL;DR version: You're not in trouble, please handle this situation differently in the future (specifically in a way that doesn't involve us).