Tell Your Story!


Whether you work in HR or in any other position or industry, please tell your story here.

Thank you for participating in this important project; feel free to use an alias if you are afraid of retribution.

Have you experienced unlawful harassment, discrimination, or retaliation or other violations of state and federal employment laws?

Have you been retaliated against for having reported unsafe working conditions or for opposing other unethical or unlawful practices in your workplace?

How did your supervisor, HR department or other organizational leadership respond when you made legitimate complaints using internal complaint processes? Even if the complaint department was outsourced, how was your complaint handled?

Were your concerns and complaints welcomed or not?

Did your company follow its own procedures and policies concerning your complaint?

Was your complaint investigated soundly by an impartial, qualified person devoid of any conflicts of interest or personal relationships with those about whom you complained?

Does your company apply policies and procedures to all employees consistently or not?

Did you complain externally to a government entity like EEOC, OSHA, or a City or State Human Rights Division? What happened?

Did you then lose your job, get demoted, or experience unjustified negative performance evaluations?

Please feel free to tell your story here. Please leave out real names of people and companies unless they are part of a public record. If you mention specific names of people or companies without providing a link to publicly available information about your story, they will be edited out and appear as “XXX”. Thank you for your cooperation.

There is a crisis in corporate governance in the US workplace; too many Americans are afraid to complain and/or unlawfully lose their jobs for having done so.

Unlawful retaliation happens everyday in the U.S; the more people who tell the truth about this, the more likely we are to change it.

Which of any of the following was your complaint about?

Gender
Disability
Refusal to accommodate disabilities even when the requests are reasonable and/or provided for others
Race
Color
Ethnicity
Religion
Age
Sexual Harassment
Safety Violations
Workplace Violence complaints
Danger to the public
Sexual Orientation
Financial fraud of stockholders or defrauding the government via false claims
Unlawful payroll practices
Veterans’ Issues
Marital Status
Caregiver Status Issues
FMLA Issues
Workers’ Compensation Issues
Union Organizing and Union Activity
Ethics Violations
Complaints about Disparate Treatment or Inconsistent Policy Application
Nepotism
Cronyism
Ethical Conflicts of Interest due to personal relationships with employees or other stakeholders
Ethical Conflicts of Interest due to personal relationships that concern financial matters (e.g. audits)
Failure of the company to investigate legitimate complaints
Sham investigations that are unsound, biased, and/or conducted by unqualified persons
Sham investigations with the intentional purpose of resulting in fixed outcomes
Retaliation for having made any of the above complaints

Aligning with business and organizational goals does NOT include engaging in or turning a blind eye to unlawful and/or unethical actions.

Tell your story here and spread the word. Feel free to use an alias to tell your story.

Here is a letter you may send to your President, Congresspeople and State Congresspeople, Governor, Attorney General, State or City Inspector General, State Labor Department, HR professionals and Leaders at your job, union leaders, clergypersons, and anyone else you can think of:

There is an epidemic of violations of public safety, fraud, and corruption laws that are directly related to labor law violations in government entities and US corporations. Despite this epidemic – Ethics Commissions, AGs & IGs are unresponsive to labor violation complaints in workplaces and government, even when proof is submitted, tax dollars are misused, and there are rampant ethics, safety, and other compliance violations. The EEOC, OSHA, and State Divisions of Human Rights are underfunded and understaffed, thus their responses to these complaints are almost always delayed and insufficient.

Given that all government employees are required to report legal and ethical noncompliance, mandatory imparital investigations must be implemented without exception and accompanied by absolute prevention of unlawful retaliation against complaining employees. There must be a freeze on any termination of any complaining employee while a sound, impartial, unbiased and thorough investigation is completed, and even afterwards, retaliation against complainants must be prevented.

Violations of EEO, OSHA, public safety, retaliaiton protections, whistleblower protections, ADA, union-protections and fraud/corruption prevention laws must be classified as serious crimes that result in prosecution. There is extremely insufficient protection for employees who use apropriate channels to report noncompliance in both government and corporate workplaces.

Currently, legal compliance with US labor laws is essentially optional for corporate and government workplaces. Only employees who can afford lawyers have a chance of recourse. Most lawyers will not take cases on contingency, even if complaining employees can prove employer noncompliance with labor and other laws. When there is rare justice, it comes years later – often after unlawful termination and great damage to health, families, and finances.

Most legitimate employee complaints are dismissed by noncompliant employers who unlawfully retaliate against these employees, terminate their employment and health coverage and pay them a small sum for which they are desperate and on which they are taxed. This money almost always comes with a gag order, the dismissal of the complaint with government authorities so there is never an investigation, and the continued employment of those guity of serial noncompliance and other violations of law, which remain unremediated.

Many General Counsel attorneys falsely believe their duty is to protect the corporation by any means instead of ensuring legal compliance and remediating noncompliance according to non-retaliation laws. GCs who knowingly cover up unlawful practices in corporations and government entities must be addressed by the criminal justice system and BAR associations given the enormous financial fraud perpetrated upon taxpayers and shareholders when significant funds are used to unlawfully retaliate against employees who exercise their rights to complain about noncompliance. When this occurs in government entities, it is fraudulent misuse of taxpayer money.

These crimes are epidemic and do require deterrence in the form of large fines, improved processes for complaining employees, and guaranteed sound impartial investigations into unlawful practices, even when there are settlements with complaining employees. Gag orders need to be made unlawful, regardless of settlements with employees.

Remain updated on how your elected officials vote on Labor and other issues: Sign up to see how your elected officials vote on various issues: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/megavote/ Make sure you tell them you want workers’ rights to be protected and improved – not gutted by the GOP who are destroying workers’ rights because they accept large campaign donations from the Koch Brothers and other corporations.

 

34 thoughts on “Tell Your Story!

  1. XXX (a major car company) management told me “You don’t look like the others.” fifteen minutes after I complained a coworker swung a heavy metal object at my head intentionally. They then fired me (one week). After four months of working with the union and finding out they lied about trying to get my job back; I complained to EEOC and they were horrible to me but had to forward my complaint . The next day I got my job back, but did not get the back pay, about 16K net.

    1. I filed a sexual harassment and retaliation complaint; was threatened with a libel suit; and even though I dropped the complaints and left the employer, I have been blacklisted. The man I accused is carry on (pun intended) as usual. Everyone knows about him and no one will do anything about it. He is completely protected. We have “rights” — but only on paper. You will be destroyed if you attempt to exercise your rights. I learned the hard way.

  2. XXX (An unnamed phone company) ; a trainer struck me after trying to sabatoge my training. He had bet, with other trainers, I would not pass, (other trainers told me after I completed the training).

    The company’s response to my age complaint (trainer specified that I was too old to do the job ten years ago) was that the company outsourced the complaint dept. and said everybody felt ‘Harrassed’ – not just me.

  3. My best friend hurt her back at work, but before that was a cancer surviver. The company she works for continue to work her 10 hours a day, with the hurt back.

    It is believed that because of her cancer medical cost, she is an undesirable for the company. Working her 10 hour shifts, even though she can hardly walk, they probably think she will quit. But she is trapped because she needs the insurance. (No other company will take on that hi risk employee for insurance reasons.)

    She worked many years for them as a dedicated leader, they should be grateful, treat her right. Not just look at the numbers, and sacrifice her for a potential and fractional profit gain.

    1. Chris and Don,

      Thank you for your comments and true stories.

      All of these stories reveal a severe crisis in corporate governance.

      Don, can your friend have her doctor visit the JAN (job accommodation network) website (see my blogroll) to get guidance for her and her doctors to make reasonable accommodation requests for her under ADA/ADAAA?

      Best,
      Denise

  4. For a 25 year veteran in HR, ethics just does not exist. My last employer had no ability to even create an ethics policy, as requested by our outside auditors. The BOD had obvious conflict of interest. Worse, senior executives made exceptions to written company policies based on the individual employee involved, and not based on the circumstances. There was no accountability among managers and sr. execs (no performance appraisals or formal documentation ever written).
    Frankly, I was let go because I told execs what they NEEDED to hear, not what they WANTED to hear. I kept my professional standards and personal principles. To read more of what I had to deal with, see my blog at http://contrarianone.blogspot.com/

    1. Justin,

      Thank you so much for posting this here. I have this story over and over again from HR professionals who have tried to practice HR according to what they were taught in grad school, according to corporate policies and laws, and according to the SHRM code of ethics.

      It is an extremely disturbing reality when HR professionals encounter this kind of leadership.

      I hope that in telling these truths, corporate leadership everywhere will begin to see how destructive it is to ignore legal compliance, ethics, and consistent applications of policies.

      Thank you for contributing here and feel free to do so again.

      Denise

  5. I am in India, so this may not be relevant for you as you mention you are exploring issues in US. However, I still wanted to share my story too. I am in Human Resources and have more than 20 years experience in this field. I have 2 stories to relate here, one in an organisation that is known for its so-called people practices for many years, another is a MNC in India.

    The first: An employee in my own HR group, a recruiter, was sexually harrassing other employees both in HR and in the Company (an IT Company). This story goes back to about 10 years ago when sexual harassment was not being dealt with as a separate issue – that is, no separate Committee to handle this etc. This Company had a very strong code of ethics (as it turned out, in document form only). Being a recruiter, this person would travel to other cities in India for campus recruitment with technical interviewers (employees in the Company on the software side). The ladies on their return complained to me (at that time I was at a mid level band and reporting into others more senior than myself). When I took up the matter with my seniors, including upto my H.O and very senior people in the Company, instead of looking into the case and warning / suspending/ firing the employee, I was targeted. I lost faith and trust in the Company and my seniors and resigned. I left after putting in the required notice period (2 months), and without a job offer in hand. This happened just after the WTC episode and the dot com crash which affected India as well. Being an innocent, and thinking people would still be professional (as I am), I often appeared for interviews and gave my senior manager as a reference. I did not get a job till a year and a half later. It was only after one of my HR ex-colleagues asked me if I was giving my ex-Manager’s reference 1.3 years after I left did I know that he was giving me a bad reference and that the person in the sexual harassment incidents was a favorite of my senior manager and had in fact been recruited by him. I stopped giving his reference and gave references of other previous bosses. Within 15 days of doing this, I landed another job.

    In the second story, the head of the MNC Company I was working for was a very difficult person to work with. He would often shout, scream& rant in front of other employees, even when it was not our fault. He would revert decisions on policies that affected employees reimbursements / eligibilities for certain benefits etc, without a qualm with retrospective effect. He would often interfere in our working styles, getting into the HR areas, doing micro management, etc. After talking to him (as I felt I should) about his behaviour which was affecting the rest of us & requesting him to take up things on a person to person basis in a closed room rather than in the open in public, if he had something to discuss, he toned down for a while but soon his behaviour reverted to the old one. I was again targeted and had to face all kinds of untruthful accusations. He was otherwise excellent on the business side. Due to his unbearable people management style, which clashed with mine, I decided to leave this organisation too. My VP-HR was aware of the situation (I had informed him), but he felt he was helpless to do anything since the person in question was leading the India company and doing a very good job of it on the business side! So it was people vs business results!

    As Justin says I too told execs what they NEEDED to hear, not what they WANTED to hear and hence was targeted. I kept my professional standards and personal principles. And I am glad I did.

    Could you please share if these kind of instances also happen in US? And what action do you take?

    I have realised that a person as ethical as myself with high integrity & personal values is a ‘mis-fit’ in a Corporate entity. I am still looking for the ‘ideal’ Company which has people with matching ideals / values. I wonder if I will ever find such a Company? I wonder if working in a Corporate means one needs to let go of these very same professional standards and personal principles in order to survive.

    1. Yes, Anita, this happens to HR professionals in the US also. It is an epidemic judging from the emails sent to me and stories told to me by HR professionals all over the US.

      The question is what will we do to change this and demand legal compliance and NO RETALIATION for opposing unlawful and/or unethical practices?

  6. Lorna’s Summary

    I know first hand the financial, personal, emotional and physical damage that can result when school administrators, the Montana Education Association and the National Education Association put their own interests above the students, teachers and the taxpayers of the State of Montana. My files contain mountains of paperwork including depositions, declarations of truth, notarized documents and exhibits resulting from an arduous legal process that finally ended when the Havre (Montana) School District settled two lawsuits – a Federal suit and one filed in State District Court. These documents also include a letter from a union representative stating, “ This is nothing more than a witch hunt.” Yet the union continued to allow the school administration to harass, bully and bring harm to me.
    These two lawsuits resulted from a single incident that, had it been handled differently and under the light of public scrutiny, would not have snowballed into awards of more than $200,000 worth of damages. Funds that eventually came from the taxpayers’ pockets. Ironically, as a taxpayer in Hill County, my family and I are helping to pay for the damages awarded to me. This covered the attorneys’ fees. The settlement did not include my attorney fees, however the district, insurance and taxpayers paid the defendants attorney bills, which exceeded mine. The settlement was made on March 2, 2006.
    I was a tenured teacher at Havre Middle School with a successful work history of nearly ten years. I was approached and harassed in my classroom by a mentally challenged and dangerous person during school hours. His speech and actions caused me fear that I would be raped, or worse. The administration’s less-than-positive response to the situation eventually caused me to file a sexual harassment and hostile environment complaint. After making the complaint and following the chain of command within the school system with no results, I filed a Montana Human Rights Complaint with the Montana Human Rights Bureau. This was a dual filing with the EEOC.
    Upon returning to work the next school year, I found hard-core pornographic emails on my school computer. When I reported these emails to the proper authorities, their response was that “keep quiet”. When I asked them to trace the pornography, the administration replied that it couldn’t be done.
    As I pressed the issue, the administration’s reaction was to try to find a way to get rid of me. They embarked upon a series of closed meetings with students and parents in an attempt to discover anything and everything they could use to build a case to terminate me. Students were taken from their class for meetings with the administration and were told to keep the discussions “a secret”. While I was never allowed to meet with parents or students to discuss what were obviously fabrications, rumors were rampant. Administration leaks were prevalent although I was continually told to keep silent I also received letters from administration threatening termination. These letters lacked a basis in fact and were simply threats.
    Such a campaign can take a toll. Admittedly, my teaching suffered. I was afraid to discipline any student in fear that such an action would result in more closed meetings and threats of termination. Grades were questioned. Parents called and met with members of the administration. These meetings were either scheduled for times during which they knew I could not attend or simply held without notification. I was totally isolated. These are only the highlights of a year of harassment and intimidation. Naturally, my health suffered. At one point, I weighed 90 pounds and my physician prescribed medication for stress. In fact, he recommended that I take a leave of absence.
    When I returned from that leave, my classroom was bare. My personal possessions were boxed. Student work had been removed, was missing or destroyed. Grades had been awarded in my name that I had not authorized. In response to all of this and other forms of harassment, my union representative said simply “They can do what they want. They’re administration.” Finally, I was terminated.
    While doing discovery, I learned that members of the Montana Human Rights Commission, members of the school district’s law firm, the Montana School Board Association and Montana Teachers Union all had political ties with the superintendent who terminated me. To make matters worse, he chairs the Board of Public Education. All of these people met to discuss my complaints against the administration. These meetings were not publicized and I was not in attendance.
    During the same period in which I was under daily scrutiny and discipline, male employees were allowed to use corporal punishment, have inappropriate relationships with students and drink alcohol on school sporting trips. Other topics brought to the attention of the administration during this same period included the treatment of a Native American paraplegic paraprofessional and her Native American students as well as the use of derogatory names referring to women, ethnic groups and special needs children. All these were dealt with behind closed doors. The public was never informed and no other teacher lost his job.
    Even though I received a settlement, I have been blacklisted and cannot be employed in my chosen career. Sadly, I have lost my passion for classroom teaching and find myself fearful of those who work as administrators in the field of public education. This entire scenario could have been avoided had the school administration been willing to discuss openly and frankly the events that led to my filing the first grievance. It was filed only after the administration refused to listen to my concerns and only after I was told to “keep quiet”. At one point, the administration represented me as a hysterical female whose problem might be “hormonal”.
    All this was done with union knowledge and while I was under a Collective Bargaining agreement. The union was in contact with the administration and was contacted by the administration. They did not protect me nor did they stand up for me. I believe this would not have happened had the Union done their job and not breached their contract with me. Again, these are only highlights.

    LORNA’S SUMMARY
    I was a tenured teacher at Havre Middle School with a successful work history of nearly ten years. I was approached and harassed in my classroom by a mentally challenged and dangerous person during school hours. His speech and actions caused me fear that I would be raped, or worse. The administration’s less-than-positive response to the situation eventually caused me to file a sexual harassment and hostile environment complaint. After making the complaint and following the chain of command within the school system with no results, I filed a Montana Human Rights Complaint with the Montana Human Rights Bureau. This was a dual filing with the EEOC.
    Upon returning to work the next school year, I found hard-core pornographic emails on my school computer. When I reported these emails to the proper authorities, their response was that “keep quiet”. When I asked them to trace the pornography, the administration replied that it couldn’t be done.
    As I pressed the issue, the administration’s reaction was to try to find a way to get rid of me. They embarked upon a series of closed meetings with students and parents in an attempt to discover anything and everything they could use to build a case to terminate me. Students were taken from their class for meetings with the administration and were told to keep the discussions “a secret”. While I was never allowed to meet with parents or students to discuss what were obviously fabrications, rumors were rampant. Administration leaks were prevalent although I was continually told to keep silent I also received letters from administration threatening termination. These letters lacked a basis in fact and were simply threats.
    Such a campaign can take a toll. Admittedly, my teaching suffered. I was afraid to discipline any student in fear that such an action would result in more closed meetings and threats of termination. Grades were questioned. Parents called and met with members of the administration. These meetings were either scheduled for times during which they knew I could not attend or simply held without notification. I was totally isolated. These are only the highlights of a year of harassment and intimidation. Naturally, my health suffered. At one point, I weighed 90 pounds and my physician prescribed medication for stress. In fact, he recommended that I take a leave of absence. I was diagnosis with PTSD.
    When I returned from that leave, my classroom was bare. My personal possessions were boxed. Student work had been removed, was missing or destroyed. Grades had been awarded in my name that I had not authorized. In response to all of this and other forms of harassment, my union representative said simply “They can do what they want. They’re administration.” Finally, I was terminated.
    While doing discovery, I learned that members of the Montana Human Rights Commission, members of the school district’s law firm, the Montana School Board Association and Montana Teachers Union all had political ties with the superintendent who terminated me. To make matters worse, he chairs the Board of Public Education. All of these people met to discuss my complaints against the administration. These meetings were not publicized and I was not in attendance.
    During the same period in which I was under daily scrutiny and discipline, male employees were allowed to use corporal punishment, have inappropriate relationships with students and drink alcohol on school sporting trips. Other topics brought to the attention of the administration during this same period included the treatment of a Native American paraplegic paraprofessional and her Native American students as well as the use of derogatory names referring to women, ethnic groups and special needs children. All these were dealt with behind closed doors. The public was never informed and no other teacher lost his job.
    Even though I received a settlement, I have been blacklisted and cannot be employed in my chosen career. Sadly, I have lost my passion for classroom teaching and find myself fearful of those who work as administrators in the field of public education. This entire scenario could have been avoided had the school administration been willing to discuss openly and frankly the events that led to my filing the first grievance. It was filed only after the administration refused to listen to my concerns and only after I was told to “keep quiet”. At one point, the administration represented me as a hysterical female whose problem might be “hormonal”.
    All this was done with union knowledge and while I was under a Collective Bargaining agreement. The union was in contact with the administration and was contacted by the administration. They did not protect me nor did they stand up for me. I believe this would not have happened had the Union done their job and not breached their contract with me. Again, these are only highlights.

    I know first hand the financial, personal, emotional and physical damage that can result when school administrators, the Montana Education Association and the National Education Association put their own interests above the students, teachers and the taxpayers of the State of Montana. My files contain mountains of paperwork including depositions, declarations of truth, notarized documents and exhibits resulting from an arduous legal process that finally ended when the Havre (Montana) School District settled two lawsuits – a Federal suit and one filed in State District Court. These documents also include a letter from a union representative stating, “ This is nothing more than a witch hunt.” Yet the union continued to allow the school administration to harass, bully and bring harm to me.
    These two lawsuits resulted from a single incident that, had it been handled differently and under the light of public scrutiny, would not have snowballed into awards of more than $200,000 worth of damages. Funds that eventually came from the taxpayers’ pockets. Ironically, as a taxpayer in Hill County, my family and I are helping to pay for the damages awarded to me. This covered the attorneys’ fees. The settlement did not include my attorney fees, however the district, insurance and taxpayers paid the defendants attorney bills, which exceeded mine. The settlement was made on March 2, 2006.
    I was a tenured teacher at Havre Middle School with a successful work history of nearly ten years. I was approached and harassed in my classroom by a mentally challenged and dangerous person during school hours. His speech and actions caused me fear that I would be raped, or worse. The administration’s less-than-positive response to the situation eventually caused me to file a sexual harassment and hostile environment complaint. After making the complaint and following the chain of command within the school system with no results, I filed a Montana Human Rights Complaint with the Montana Human Rights Bureau. This was a dual filing with the EEOC.
    Upon returning to work the next school year, I found hard-core pornographic emails on my school computer. When I reported these emails to the proper authorities, their response was that “keep quiet”. When I asked them to trace the pornography, the administration replied that it couldn’t be done.
    As I pressed the issue, the administration’s reaction was to try to find a way to get rid of me. They embarked upon a series of closed meetings with students and parents in an attempt to discover anything and everything they could use to build a case to terminate me. Students were taken from their class for meetings with the administration and were told to keep the discussions “a secret”. While I was never allowed to meet with parents or students to discuss what were obviously fabrications, rumors were rampant. Administration leaks were prevalent although I was continually told to keep silent I also received letters from administration threatening termination. These letters lacked a basis in fact and were simply threats.
    Such a campaign can take a toll. Admittedly, my teaching suffered. I was afraid to discipline any student in fear that such an action would result in more closed meetings and threats of termination. Grades were questioned. Parents called and met with members of the administration. These meetings were either scheduled for times during which they knew I could not attend or simply held without notification. I was totally isolated. These are only the highlights of a year of harassment and intimidation. Naturally, my health suffered. At one point, I weighed 90 pounds and my physician prescribed medication for stress. In fact, he recommended that I take a leave of absence.
    When I returned from that leave, my classroom was bare. My personal possessions were boxed. Student work had been removed, was missing or destroyed. Grades had been awarded in my name that I had not authorized. In response to all of this and other forms of harassment, my union representative said simply “They can do what they want. They’re administration.” Finally, I was terminated.
    While doing discovery, I learned that members of the Montana Human Rights Commission, members of the school district’s law firm, the Montana School Board Association and Montana Teachers Union all had political ties with the superintendent who terminated me. To make matters worse, he chairs the Board of Public Education. All of these people met to discuss my complaints against the administration. These meetings were not publicized and I was not in attendance.
    During the same period in which I was under daily scrutiny and discipline, male employees were allowed to use corporal punishment, have inappropriate relationships with students and drink alcohol on school sporting trips. Other topics brought to the attention of the administration during this same period included the treatment of a Native American paraplegic paraprofessional and her Native American students as well as the use of derogatory names referring to women, ethnic groups and special needs children. All these were dealt with behind closed doors. The public was never informed and no other teacher lost his job.
    Even though I received a settlement, I have been blacklisted and cannot be employed in my chosen career. Sadly, I have lost my passion for classroom teaching and find myself fearful of those who work as administrators in the field of public education. This entire scenario could have been avoided had the school administration been willing to discuss openly and frankly the events that led to my filing the first grievance. It was filed only after the administration refused to listen to my concerns and only after I was told to “keep quiet”. At one point, the administration represented me as a hysterical female whose problem might be “hormonal”.
    All this was done with union knowledge and while I was under a Collective Bargaining agreement. The union was in contact with the administration and was contacted by the administration. They did not protect me nor did they stand up for me. I believe this would not have happened had the Union done their job and not breached their contract with me. Again, these are only highlights.

  7. My coworkers and I were subject to a workplace bully. This individual was a department chief – and was NOT my supervisor. In fact, she and I both reported to the CEO of the organization by which we were employed.

    The problems began early one summer and reached the insufferable stage by that same autumn due to her behaviors at a week-long national conference. In fact, I found her interference, her wicked tongue, her attempts to intimidate my staff, her breaches of protocol and her careless execution of her own responsibilities (she was too busy intruding on ours) SO DISTURBING that I literally gnashed my teeth in the night until I broke two molars. I had to endure more than two days of excruciating pain until I returned home and had my dentist extract the damaged chompers!

    Upon getting home from the dentist’s office, I immediately e-mailed my supervisor to request a meeting with him and the HR director. This was arranged straight away. I walked into that meeting with an EIGHT-PAGE spreadsheet of every offense that had been committed against me and other staff over the preceding six months. Supporting e-mails, a list of witnesses and other forms of proof were supplied with the list of complaints. Complaints included:
    Intimidation – physical and verbal
    Physical threat or sense that physical well-being could be at risk
    Disrespectful treatment – physical and verbal
    Slander or “spinning” the truth

    The supervisor listened intently. The HR director who, as fate would have it, was friends with the offender interrupted and tried to dismiss my assertions. She was quick to point out that my complaints weren’t covered under the discrimination laws that would “allow” for her to take action.

    I indicated that I was speaking on behalf of MANY – and that I, along with those others, were very much afraid of retaliation (I’m in two protected classes, so my chances of pulling this off unscathed was better than some others’ chances would have been!). I was told the others would have to come forward on their own but – not to worry – no one would suffer retaliation.

    While I wasn’t fired, bit by bit, my duties became fewer and status in the organization became diminished. One of my staff was “loaned out” to another program. The allegations made were NEVER investigated, which I know because the witnesses asked me why no one had come to talk to them. As a logical consequence, no one would risk the exposure to lodge their own complaints because they knew that HR would not investigate their claims, either. I concluded that my only recourse was to leave the employ of this firm.

  8. Here is what I know. I present Bullying workshops. I lead WIO (Workin’ It Out) workshops. I started doing this in 2006, when I was invited to present for the State of Montana. I tell you this, because I presented before the justice system, higher ed, law enforcement, Native American leaders, Human Rights/EEOC investigators, etc… I make these presentations and tell my story, which is much more complex than the summary provided to this blog June 11, 2010.

    One of the most difficult facts for those that are being bullied/abused at work to understand it that HR’s priority is protect the company. Yes, they protect the wrong doers. Twisted really. In short, here is a little bit of what I know. I learned this by way of taking my suit forward on every level. Read what’s here and I will post more later. I actually present this in power point. If you use my work please contact me and credit me.

    I was sexually assaulted, harassed and bullied in my workplace. I survived.

    I’m one of the lucky ones, I can tell my story and I shall and I shall tell it often.

    Workplace violence robs the victim/target, his or her family and society of talented and bright employees, managers and etc.. And we allow it, because we have no law that protects the worker from such violence. Welcome to “Bullying and What You Need to Know.”

    “ Whilst those on the shop floor have always been at risk of being on the receiving end of unpleasant behaviors of workmates and supervisors to such an extent that it is an ‘accepted’ practice and one ‘just has to put up with it’, the epidemic of bullying that is sweeping the workplace now potentially affects everyone from shop floor to executive levels.” ~ Tim Fields, 1996

    Workplace Bullying Defined
    Workplace Bullying is the repeated mistreatment of one employee targeted by one or more employees with a malicious mix of humiliation, intimidation and sabotage of performance.

    How does it differ from sexual harassment?
    Bullying incidents tend to be trivial and cannot stand alone to merit disciplinary action or grievance action.
    Bullying differs from sexual harassment in that it is not identified after one single incident. It is an accumulation of small incidents which slowly grow over a long period of time. Whereas; sexual harassment can be the result of a single incident.
    Bullying occurs:
    (Usually, but not always) when one person or many persons in positions of power, authority, trust, responsibility, management, administration, etc… feels threatened by another person or subordinate that displays qualities of ability, popularity, knowledge, skill, strength, drive, determination, tenacity and success,which the bully him/herself believes he/she can never possess.
    How to recognize a bully:

    They often have personalities which are described as a Dr. Jekly and Mr. Hyde.

    They are mean and vicious in private, but innocent and charming in public or in front of witnesses.

    They are convincing and compulsive liars that can lie on the spot.
    Bullies display
    Bullies often display high levels of aggression
    Bullies often lack interpersonal skills.
    Bullies often display immaturity.
    Bullies often display insufficient skill levels to fulfill their positions of authority, management, etc…
    Bullies often are unable to accept responsibility for physical and mental well-being of those in his/her charge.
    Why do bullies repeat their process?
    They repeat the process to weaken the target.
    Bullies repeat the process to instill fear and cause the target to lose confidence in his/her self and or abilities.
    Bullies repeat the process so they can gain control and avoid his/her own shortcomings and failings.
    Bullies will go to extreme measures to get what they want.
    Bullies will if necessary recruit help from others in power positions to achieve his or her goal no matter the cost.
    Bullies behaviors often are exacerbated by their own stresses.
    Such stresses include, but are not limited to
    His or her own predominate behavior style
    His or her own changes in personal and professional areas
    His or her own financial pressures
    He or she being bullies or intimidated him or her self
    The inability to discern from his or her own problems of low self-esteem, indecisiveness and the need of approval.
    His or her need to make one’s self feel good about his or her self.
    His or her own addictive or compulsive problems
    How does bullying harm employers?
    It interferes with work performances
    It creates turnover
    It loses the best and brightest
    It strains loyalty
    It fosters distrust
    It exposes employers to legal liability
    It creates an negative image for the business

    to be continued….

  9. I agree entirely with the statement that HR’s priority is to protect the company. Sadly, I remember a time when the “HR Ladies” were advocates for the worker (e.g., making certain they got the benefits to which they were entitled). Somewhere down there was a paradigm shift and the rest of us weren’t copied on the memo!

    “[Bullies] are mean and vicious in private, but innocent and charming in public or in front of witnesses.” AMEN! Judging merely from the bullies I’ve witnessed in action is that they’re great self-promoters. So while they’re threatened by the competence of others, even in a situation where competencies are equal, the bully will receive the commendations and the kudos, because they can spin and leverage and elbow their way into the line of sight of those whose opinions matter.

    It is good to know that someone so knowledgeable is conducting workshops so that people can see that the situation they may be facing is more common than they realize and, more importantly, survivable.

    1. To Susan and others:

      While some corporate leaders believe it is HR’s priority to protect the company, that actually is not true. The SHRM code of conduct is very clear on this.

      I also discuss this in my book; it is HR’s job to ensure fairness, ethical and legal compliance, and consistent application of all policies to all employees.

      I thank you both for your contributions to this blog and to the world of work.

      Please feel free to contribute here again.

      Thank you,
      Denise

  10. Denise, I understand that investigations are to be fair. However, for many they are not. This includes the government. During the time of my suits, two of the top HR experts in the nation were my expert witnesses. Sadly, what both discovered was that the investigations conducted by the local HR/Sexual Harassment investigator, the Montana Human Rights Investigators/EEOC were biased.

    1. Lorna,

      I agree this is a serious issue. We have a serious problem with fairness at all levels of the ways these issues are handled. We have corporations that view EEO and all other safety and labor laws as optional, we have internal “investigators” with zero training in sound investigations, we have HR people who falsely believe their job is to protect the company instead of ensuring legal compliance, we have agencies like State Human Rights Divisions and EEOC that are underfunded, overwhelmed and at times biased; and we have corporate lawyers who use very dirty tricks to elicit out of court settlements that hide the truth from everyone about wrongdoing that has occured.

      I’m not sure what the complete solution is, but I do know that parts of the solution are:

      more employees telling the truth about what goes on in workplaces
      more employees demanding legal and ethical compliance
      more HR/OD professionals refusing to protect the unlawful and unethical actions of their companies – even if this means getting fired
      more media coverage of what goes on in workplaces
      more government attention to properly training city and state human rights division investigators and EEOC investigators.

      These are things we all need to be writing to our legislators about.

      There is currently a grassroots movement in NYS and in 12 other states to make workplace bullying unlawful. See http://www.NYHWA.org

      I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on these important issues.

      Thanks
      Denise

  11. Yes, I know about the grassroots efforts of WWB. I actually have presented bills to the state. I have testified, written letters to editors (around the globe) and actually won my law suits. I have no gag order. I have collected data from around the U.S. and have provided testimony and data to the U.S. Representatives and Senators. I have written my story. I just haven’t published the book. Glad we are on the same side.

  12. I was fired after 34 years where I worked in the same hospital as a staff nurse by my new Bullyboss. She fired me from my charge nurse position in middle of the hall at my medicine cart where I was standing. I thought she missed the class on etiquette! A patient complained that she did not get her pain medication on time, which is common on a surgical floor. Bullyboss wrote a action plane that when a patient asks for pain medication I was to give it them within five minutes. Some times on a surgery floor it takes five minutes to check out a narcotic. I can run fast but the only time I can run that fast is if a bear is chasing me. Bullyboss also wrote two false reports about me,therefore I did not receive a raise for the first time in 34 years. I reported her to the Director of Nursing. I told her 3 other nurses had complained of bullying too and gave her their names. She said she would investigate. She never talked to the other 3 nurses. Two weeks later she handed me a letter in the middle of the hall where I was standing at my medication cart and walked away. I thought she must be related to the bullyboss,or she missed the etiquette class, or she is a bullyboss that missed the etiquette class. Her letter said that she could find no evidence of me being bullied. I filled a grievance. I lost.I went to the C.E.O. he agreed with management. To bad the HEALTHY WORKPLACE BILL cannot add a clause that bullyboss NURSES should be sentenced to 2-5 years working as a floor nurse!! I want all NURSES TO KNOW that when you are fired a complaint is put against your nursing license! It take s 6-8 months to clear. Now nobody will hire me! If I do not find a job soon I will lose my home! I went down to 92 pounds. I feel like all my self esteem has been sucked out of me! For 3 months I would not get out of bed. I had to sign a note saying I would not harm myself for my Dr. I did not remember I had a family. what hurts really bad is that my coworkers could not help me for fear of losing their jobs They would not testify for me at my grievance. I felt like they turned against me. I feel like I had a disease that dries up your blood and sucks all the sap out of your lungs. I think Florence Nightingale would role over in her grave if she knew how nurses were being treated.

  13. I was fired after 34 years of working in the same hospital on a medical-surgical floor as a floor nurse. I could start a IV with my eyes closed,put in a feeding tube,give a blood transfusion all at the same time! MY new bullyboss took away my position as charge nurse in the middle of the hall were I was standing at my medication cart. She might as well have announced it over the intercom. I had a feeling she skipped the etiquette class. A patient reported I was late with her pain medication which is not uncommon for a surgical floor. Bullyboss then wrote a action plan that when a patient asked for their pain medication I was to give to them within 5 minutes! If you ever worked on a surgery floor it takes 5 minutes sometime to check out a narcotic. Bullyboss also wrote two false evaluations about me. I reported her to the Director of Nursing. I told her three other nurses were bullied beside me. I gave her their names she never interviewed them! Two weeks later she handed me a letter in the middle off the hall at my medicine cart were I was passing out medication! I thought Bullyboss and her must be related the both like to stick to people in hall while your working. Of course the letter said she could find no evidence of bullying. I think these two bullyfriends should be sentenced to 2 to 5 years working as a floor nurse. I did every think I could I filled a grievance and lost I went to the C.E.O. he agreed with them The hospital also put a complaint against my nursing license so nobody will hire me and it take 6 to 8 months to get it back

    t

  14. Since moving to the US from a European “social democratic” country many years ago and joining the US workforce I have seen and experienced some strange labor practices in person. My first job in the US after receiving my greencard was as audio/visual engineer at a newly built conference center in Washington State, working for $7.50/hour to start. When the employees tried to join a labor union, we were blocked on all levels. A year into the process, and after I had already left, my colleagues had found out that the conference center was really a city owned building, and that the city had put up a “fake” front, called “the XXX authority” to run and employ people, to avoid having to pay city benefits to employees. I don’t know where they left off, but this experience left me with the clear impression that US labor laws seem to have been written for the sole benefit of employers over workers.
    Another sad example is the wellness center I am working right now at as one of over 100 therapists. The owner “employs” all of us as independent contractors, meaning we are not eligible for unemployment benefits during slow times, our “employer” doesn’t have to pay any benefits whatsoever (health insurance, social security, vacation,…), and we even have to pay our so-called employer for trainings, massage oil, and the use of massage sheets and other supplies in his spa. Isn’t that something? And on top of it, if we get sick and are unable to work, and unable to find a substitute to cover our shift, we will have to pay a fine for not showing up. Also we have to attend staff meetings without getting paid, and do either free massages or some kind of “in-house” community service to receive company credits to be allowed to keep working there. Since it is the only busy place in town, so may of us call themselves “privileged” to have “a job” there.
    Where I come from, labor practices like these would not be possible, because the laws were written with the interests of the workers in mind (hence social democracy).
    The US seems to be founded on and run by greed and exploitation, and I wonder how this is ever going to change, since the majority of Americans is made to believe that all of this is happening in their best interest, and that the rich will continue to invest and create new jobs and products to “enjoy” life for the rest of us.

  15. I submitted a Letter of Complaint to the Ombudsman for the Federal Government’s Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”), regarding the egregious conduct of three former Federal contractors and expressing my frustration that they were recently hired as Federal employees for MCHB/HRSA. I found the Ombudsman’s response less than helpful and expressed a lack of concern and respect for the issues that I raised. OPM’s commitment from its website includes: Advocating for innovative human resources practices; Attracting and developing the best people for Federal service; and Being accountable for our actions. After reading the Ombudsman’s response I find this difficult to believe.

    I informed OPM’s Ombudsman that my antagonists intentionally violated my workplace rights as they pertain to equal employment opportunity, worked diligently to ruin any and every opportunity I had of having a career at Children’s National Medical Center (“CNMC”) and forged an ugly chapter in my life. Some of their egregious conduct included: making knowingly false allegations about my performance; falsely accusing me of “rolling my eyes” and then severely disciplining me for it; ordering me to refrain from using any body language, something that is impossible for any human to do; investigating and severely disciplining me for knowingly false, negative performance issues; fabricating performance issues for me in order to show documentation of my having performance issues; using negative stereotypes, racially motivated character assassinations, and lies to penalize me for knowingly false performance issues; and intentionally ignoring CNMC’s policies in order to penalize and ultimately terminate me for nonexistent performance deficiencies. They changed the terms and conditions of my employment and forbid me from contacting CNMC’s HR Department or any member of management to complain about their harassing treatment; to mention their conduct to anyone, was grounds for my immediate termination.

    It is appalling that three of my antagonists have been rewarded for their horrendous behavior by transitioning to the Federal EMSC program under MCHB/HRSA; that type of conduct does not belong in a civil society, it does not belong in the workplace, it does not belong in our Federal Government, and it certainly is not the character of someone who is ethical and respectful of our country’s laws. It is sad and disturbing that my antagonists unequivocally and intentionally ignored the very laws in place to ensure equal employment opportunity in the workplace, and are now Federal employees.

    I have not included the names of these “people” because my complaint of racial discrimination is pending in the US District Court of the District of Columbia.

  16. In 2002, I was hired to work for the 9-1-1 dispatch center for a Fire Department at a nuclear weapons lab. In addition to monitoring over 30,000 alarm systems at 4 different national lab campuses and dispatching Fire and Medical for same, we were also responsible for dispatching Fire and medical resources for many other busy Fire Departments throughout a large mostly suburban county.

    At that time I had over 20 years experience in public safety communications and had also served 2.5 years on a State Committee related to public safety, as such I had been successfully backgrounded by multiple federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

    Because of the physical location of my workplace, all employees were required to obtain a US Department of Energy/NNSA security clearance. I remained silent as I watched female employees with felony convictions, shoplifting arrests, gambling problems and other issues obtain their clearances in as little as 30 days while divorced men would sometimes wait several years and would be raked over the coals by investigators before clearances were granted. As a divorced male, I was grateful to have a job and said nothing…eventually, I received my clearance as well.

    Not long after I was hired, I participated in a promotional exam for the position of Dispatch Supervisor. After the written and oral exam I was ranked 1st place. Somewhere downstream from the interview however, the results were manipulated and a female employee who had been allowed to compete even though she did not meet the prerequisites on the job posting replaced me in first position.

    I met with the Dispatch Manager, but he was unwilling to discuss the matter so I went up the chain of command and spoke to HR and the Fire Chief. First mistake. While I was able to convince them to discard the test results, instead of restoring my ranking the decision was made to re-test…but not until after the job specs were re-written in such a way as to allow the same female to compete again. Worse yet, I found out later that this same female was inappropriately involved with the Fire Chief’s son. Like I said, first mistake.

    Interestingly, when we did re-test I was ranked first again and this time I was promoted – but I paid for it every day after.

    Over the years the embarrassed Dispatch Manager, now my immediate supervisor, repeatedly directed me to deviate from past practice/interpret and implement policies differently based on people’s gender, race and sexual orientation. Of course I refused. Not a mistake, I will never compromise my morals or ethics but in my boss’ eyes that was my second mistake.

    I further annoyed my supervisor by meticulously documenting hardware and personnel performance deficiencies which caused hundreds of response delays every year and contributing to numerous deaths. Third mistake.

    I would receive e-mails asking me to stop documenting these problems, or I’d be pulled into menacing meetings where I was told, “we’re not telling you to not do your job but…” well ok, then what are you saying?

    For some reason the Dispatch Manager was unwilling to address the issue of certain employees who had well documented job performance problems. Of those, several were “linked” to Fire Captains or higher and I mean linked in a “wink wink” sort of way though were major cases of negligent retention who were going to get more people killed the longer they worked for that agency.

    Of course nobody really cares about the salacious details-that sort of garbage goes on at every Fire Department but when female employees don’t have to comply with policy because they happen to be banging someone in a white shirt or someone in a white shirt wanted to be banging them it becomes a hostile work environment – if you’re a straight male.

    In 2007 our dispatch center went live with a new multi-million dollar computer system which had failed miserably when installed for other cities and jurisdictions but our department bought it anyway because the sales/project manager was the sister of a local fire chief. I wasn’t involved in that part of the decision but I did write the specs this system was supposed to meet and the vendor claimed it could. When it first went live, the mapping and unit recommendations were roughly 65% complete, and we consistently had failures with Fire Station and Ambulance alerting systems as well.

    More than 4 years later, this computer system still does not meet those specs and people continue to die. One recent case earlier this year made international news.

    Fourth mistake – I began meticulously documenting issues with this new computer system too, even further annoying my boss.

    Retaliation was swift, pervasive and incessant. A classic hostile work environment. I would receive inaccurate reviews from my boss with false, unsubstantiated entries even as I received stellar peer reviews and positive comments were received from people at other agencies we interacted with. Things like, “Geek is the only person there who knows what he is doing.”

    I was frequently ordered to work mandatory overtime and on call out of turn (because the female employee who was up for mandatory OT refused to work it), on one occasion I was ordered to work 11 days straight. That was 9×12 hour days and 2×18 hour days. Sure, they paid me overtime but it’s pretty obvious I was being punished for something. We had over 20 other employees who could have helped cover those slots.

    There was one vacation policy that applied to me, and one vacation policy that applied to everybody else, plus I have additional examples.

    I always thought policies are supposed to be interpreted consistently regardless of a person’s race, gender or orientation but my boss felt otherwise.

    I’ve left out some details so far hoping to thwart even the most determined googler, but from here on it gets a bit interesting.

    In 2008 the whistleblowing retaliation reached a head.

    As the DoEnergy was investigating me for a clearance upgrade from L to Q instead of using the the regular local investigators, they sent a supervisor from three states over to perform the interview.

    I was ordered to work my 12 hour night shift then be at the interview by 8:30am. The interviewer was a few minutes late but we spent the bulk of the day interviewing…we ran past 2pm. I went home, slept for a few hours then went back to work my regular night shift.

    At 1am I received another call, he wants me back at 8:30 that morning for follow up. While no waterboarding occurred, sleep deprivation is an interrogation tactic used at Guantanamo and Hanoi. Not appropriate in the USA.

    Shortly afterwards, my L clearance was inexplicably revoked. I requested a hearing and submitted a FOIA request for my file. When the file arrived it was heavily redacted, but it was clear they were trying to make an issue of my credit report which had improved substantially since the initial clearance was granted.

    Turns out the supervisor DOE had sent from New Mexico placed a large amount of false info in my file so I believed I had a good chance to prevail had we gone to a hearing.

    I re-submitted my FOIA request to include the missing pages and waited. During this time, I received two different termination of employment letters from DOE. “OOOPs”, sorry – those were sent by accident.

    Still waiting for my FOIA request, suddenly out of the blue I received word that the clearance level for the ENTIRE BUILDING was being re-classified to P.

    So nobody who worked in the building, including me, needed an L or higher. DOE cancelled my hearing request.

    Later, I received documents from DOE that confirmed the revocation of my security clearance was due to my whistleblowing activities.

    In the meantime I tried to resolve my concerns through my chain of command. I didn’t go to wikileaks or the news media. It eventually came to the point where I couldn’t even bring myself to go to work, the harassment was constant so I began calling out sick.

    I was having chest pains and my asthma went on the rampage – I had to start using a nebulizer machine. I kept trying to resolve my issues through my chain of command and their eventual response was to terminate me.

    No investigation was ever performed by the department. I was told HR would investigate and contact me, but I was never contacted for an interview, they didn’t want to see my documents nor were any credible witnesses ever contacted regarding my concerns.

    The Fire Department and DOE has tried to cover this up from day one. They wouldn’t even discuss a settlement with me.

    I was unable to find a single law firm in my state or elsewhere willing to take on the U.S. Government even with extensive documentation (which I have taken steps to protect so as not to have a Karen Silkwood problem). Every firm I contacted fled tails tucked the opposite direction like a frightened puppy. Chickens**ts!

    And speaking of Karen Silkwood, not even the Spence law firm would help me though they did send the classiest rejection letter I have ever seen.

    Now that statutes have run out, the public still deserves to know what I went through and that people are still dying because of the tax dollar shenanigans going on at my former employer.

    So I shared my info with a national TV network and they are sniffing around the case right now…and sure enough, one of the correspondents from that same news network (who will be working on the story) had her home raided by a FEDERAL SWAT TEAM recently.

    OOOPs, the SWAT team told her it was an accident. I don’t believe it. Like those two termination letters DOE sent me were “accidents.”

    Meanwhile, the retaliation continued – following me into family court. The same county counsel who refused to discuss a settlement with me directed current and former county employees to 1. award full custody to my ex with no visitation for me and 2. generate an order for retro child support – illegal in my state. But without a job to pay for effective legal representation I’m pretty much hosed at the moment, especially since most prospective employers don’t want someone with integrity.

    Sometimes doing the right thing can be difficult. But if it wasn’t, more people would do the right thing.

  17. denise,I just recently thought I got fired but found out I resigned.
    I am a nurse working at a nursing home and rehab unit.I got into a heated exchange with my supervisor at a meeting in her office when she hit a button on her phone and called the administrator.as we were waiting for the administrator to come up I told her to give me a piece of paper and I would give her my one week notice. she told me i did not have to give my one week notice,i could leave right now,so I left.I thought that meant I got fired.
    I filed for unemployement but was denied because texas workforce commision said the supervisor accepted my resignation immediately.I appealed the ruling but still lost.
    I even had witnesses that were at the meeting testified for me.I could not believe it.TWC said I argued with my boss about not having enough staff.i started telling my supervisor at breakfast that we were short staffed.She lied at the hearing.My co-worhers and I repeatedly told the superisor we did not have enogh staff to do all the work assigned to us.I
    took as much work home as I could and went in on my days off because
    it was impossible to get every thing done in eight hours.My supervisor has
    even offered to fire people in meetings just like that for no reason but
    I objected because I did not want people to lose their jobs.
    I want to change carrers now.I realize after visiting your website my situation is not as bad as some of the other stories I have read.Also not as bad as your situation denise.I do not think there is anything I can do now.i admire the courage of everyone who has told their story.
    Paul

  18. 34 years former federal government employee. Yearly evals, all excellent. Many Many awards. 34th year brought to my knees for whistleblowing, discrimination, retaliation., etc. They used everything but the kitchen sink to constructively discharge me. I took disability/constructive discharge because I knew they were going to remove me. Don’t bother fighting it. You never win. Your health will go bad thats what they want so they don’t ever have to pay you a pension. Do what a famous lawyer says file for disability. He says the disability is a benefit. My only problem was that it was no benefit for me. I had already worked 34 years and four months. I EARNED MY PENSION. YOU GAVE ME NOTHING! I EARNED IT! And don’t bother going to the EEOC. You get no where. As a matter of fact, by the time it was over they posted me on the eeoc appellate page as a non-worker. A non-worker? Come on after 34 years? That’s a little late wouldn’t you say? By the way the EEOC needs to hire someone that understands the Privacy Act in regard to the posting of names on their website.

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