Not At All About Makeup

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that there had been some fallout from a workplace sexual harassment case.

I feel particularly talkative about it, because I could use some help.

To start, I’m honestly not sure how much I can say about the situation without jeopardizing the investigation/case. That’s why it’s taken me so long to even start mentioning it online; in my paranoid head I’ve compared my mess with those horror stories about employees that run their mouths on a social networking site and their employer finds out. The rational side of me says it can’t get any worse at this point.

Mid last year, a former supervisor started being a little too forward with me. Small things, like asking about my love life, to which I responded by telling him it wasn’t any of his business, or wanting to hold my hand, to which I responded by jerking my hand away and telling him not to fecking touch my hand. Long before that I had witnessed him being overly flirtatious with anything pretty that walked into the place, and heard rumors of him asking other employees out on dates and such. I don’t even like to think about how he randomly tried to friend my (5 years) younger sister on Facebook, although he’s a good 10+ years older than me.

Eventually it got to the point where, in February, another supervisor, lower on the ladder but supervisor nonetheless, hit his breaking point and called the company’s HR department on behalf of the female employees.

HR proceeded to interview female employees, myself included, there, at work, when the supervisor was present. I was the third in line, and spent the wait listening to him hound me with questions about what was going on. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I told HR that I feared, and expected, retaliation.

Retaliation came. Hours got cut, we were treated flat-out rudely while on the clock, and the harassment got worse. So much worse, in fact, that in April I hit my breaking point, and went to the EEOC. (The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces employment descrimination laws, including sexual harassment.)

Crap really hit the fan there. When my case was opened up, the company was informed and given X number of days to respond with, more or less, an explanation of what was going on. HR sent the same person who first “interviewed” us back to speak to me, once again while the supervisor was present.

It was made very clear to me that 1) I had absolutely no business going outside of the company to report the issue, essentially “ratting them out,” and 2) it was my fault the harassment had continued, because, and I quote, they don’t know it’s still a problem unless they’re told it is. I informed the HR person that when they made it worse the first time, none of us wanted to talk to them again and have even more retaliation. I was so upset after the verbal attack that I tried to call someone in to finish my shift for me.

Either way, the supervisor was let go over the summer.

Fast forward to September. I walked into work for my shift and was promptly handed my termination, the reason listed being “insubordination.” I went home and found out that supervisor who called HR was terminated just days before, for the same vague reason.

A request placed the following week to the head of HR got me a copy of my employee file – and the falsified corrective actions that were in it.

I’ve been denied unemployment, because the employer claimed “declining work performance” to the state, in spite of my telling the state, very clearly, that I had proof otherwise. The termination itself looks bad on my record, and, at best, I’ve not gotten callbacks after interviews. I’m not even getting responses to inquiries about my applications, even for entry-level positions in retail (oh, I wish I were kidding). The temp agency has been…unhelpful, because the only spot they seem to have is for someone who speaks Mandarin.

EEOC investigations take about a year, sometimes longer, which wasn’t hard to agree to when I was still employed. An investigator was assigned to my case July. All information sent to said investigator about the multiple retaliation charges I’ve had to add to my case has gone without response.

So, after that tl;dr, all I can say is I feel like I’ve just about hit as low as I can go. And if I’ve hit that point, I need to try something different.

Got an idea for something I can try? I want to hear it. And if not, just tell me I’m not pathetic because I’d rather have a little ego-stroking than self-medicating.

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~ by shatteredshards on November 28, 2010.

15 Responses to “Not At All About Makeup”

  1. What a mess you have to deal with. I really do feel for you as you haven’t done anything wrong. The company obviously wasn’t dealing with things or you wouldn’t have gone outside and nothing is ever going to be solved by having the perpetrator present so people are afraid to speak. In my case the fellow did eventually quit but not for many years. Someone was sent out from Ottawa (Head Office for govt department) and was genuinely concerned however this was over a year after things had finished so it didn’t really do me any good.

    Do you have any lawyer friends who could write a letter to your former employer?? I know of two people for whom this has worked. Also, do you have any contact with the other individual who was let go – there IS strength in numbers and this person may be able to help you.

    • Unfortunately I don’t know anyone who so much as leans into law. What sort of letters were written to these employers?

      I have had contact with the supervisor. We corresponded heavily at first, and it was his recommendation that I even request my employee file. He suggested I let the EEOC run their investigation (instead of closing it and getting a right to sue notice), but he also mentioned to me that he was getting a lawyer or attourney on contingency. Either way, the last time I had emailed him, it got ignored.

      • In Canada we have Legal Aid which is a free service – do you have access to anything like that??

        I believe the letter to the employer was something to the effect that bad/incorrect information is being passed along and they may wish to look into things in order to avoid a lawsuit. You should also check with EEOC as someone should be able to tell you where your case stands.

        You could always tell a prospective employer that they will not receive a good reference from your former employer & if you tell them an investigation is ongoing that should help.

        Also you might contact the other female employees to see where things stand with them.

        • I tried looking again, and I think I’ve found someplace in my county that might be able to help me. Most organizations/firms in the state only help with domestic issues or civil matters. Tomorrow I’ll try calling them.

          The employer was actually already informed of that. When I got my employee file, I submitted a written notice specifying the false write-ups and requesting that copies of my notice were added to my employee file as well as given to the district manager (who was present for my termination). I did get a letter from HR stating this was done, but at the time I don’t think a lawyer and legalese would have made much difference, especially when HR is the department who would handle that and they were just as entrenched in the plot against me.

          I’ll have to doublecheck for some way to find out the status of my case; for as much info as I’ve sent the EEOC since May, the last I heard from them was July, with the letter telling me my case was assigned to someone.

          Sadly, I’ve already been warning prospective employers, because I’m so paranoid. They seem understanding when I sum it up as there being retaliation issues for a harassment claim I made, but not understanding enough to hire me. The supervisor they brought in has his own issues, incompetence being towards the top of the list, so regardless of the harassment situation, I don’t trust him to be fair or honest in any reference requests.

          I might be able to get ahold of the other female employees involved, but there’s some backstory there:

          – One knew all of what had been going on, but was on the receiving end of very little, and was in a supervisor position. She threw me under the bus to save herself, more or less.

          – Another had dealt with a sexual harassment problem at a former employer and wanted as little to do with the case as possible. She talked to HR but refused to say anything when the harassment continued, and had other employment when her hours were cut.

          – Another told me she would go to the EEOC after I had, but quickly found another job through her family when her hours were cut.

          The others all left on their own before we spoke with HR in February. I did inform HR of former employees they should talk to about the harassment, but I have no idea if they actually did.

  2. Honestly, I would talk to a lawyer,or legal aid or someone about suing the company. What they did was immoral, illegal and unjust and you are genuinely due compensation for your loss. And I’m not the sort of person who thinks every dispute can be solved by a lawsuit. Speak to local legal aid, speak to law departments at your local universities and see if they can recommend someone/something. I assume you’re not union, or you could speak to a representative there. You could always try contacting various groups such as National Organization of Women (NOW), Equal Rights Association (ERA)or groups like these: http://employment-law.freeadvice.com/sexual_harassment/. Seriously, they’re hoping you’ll just buckle under like a good girl and let it go. That’s what they’re counting on – making you feel like it’s all your fault. I say make a stink. If they’ve done it to you they’ve done it to others and will continue to do so. Same as with rape cases and similar situations, they just want to sweep it under the rug and make it your problem, not theirs. Don’t let them.

    • What makes me even more mad than the loss of income due to loss of job, is the fact that my yearly review and raise were due back in the beginning of April, right before I went to the EEOC. Every single time I inquired about it, I was strung along and lied to (“we’ll do it next week, I promise”), even up until a couple weeks before my termination. The company basically jipped me out of wages for 5 months.

      I did look at NOW about a month ago; their website disclaimer is they can’t offer advice, only point you to other organizations that might be able to help. Even the local website focuses on helping activists make noise more than offering assistance to victims (unfortunately!).

      I am going to give a call to a local legal advice office tomorrow morning, so I’m hoping they can give me some new information. The majority of stuff I’m running into online is FAQ and answer-type, and doesn’t seem to get past the “I’ve been harassed, what do I do?” part of it.

      Thank you for mentioning the ERA; I’ve completely missed them, and it looks like they have some resources that could help me.

      I know they’re only trying to force me into shutting up. They just have no idea that forcing me to shut up in no way actually works. ;)

  3. File an appeal with the unemployment commission. My experience is that employers often decline to participate in the hearings (which are conducted via phone) and the former employee will win.

    Also, I would absolutely not tell prospective employers about this. Again, most employers won’t release why you were terminated, just dates of employment. It opens them up to too much potential litigation.

    FWIW, I’m an HR professional with more than ten years’ experience, so feel free to email me if there are any HR questions that I answer for you.

    • Unfortunately, I missed the time limit for appealing the unemployment decision (30 days). At the time I received the notice I had a number of other issues I was working on, so I put it on the back burner and then forgot about it.

      It is a big relief to hear that most employers won’t get into the details with a potential employer. I really had no clue what info was given or what was said between employers when checking into someone’s work history, and I could trust the manager who fired me, as well as my district manager, about as far as I could throw a house. Just not surprising that I shouldn’t be telling prospective employers, because of course it’s gonna look bad and they’ll make assumptions. My problem there is when I go to interviews, I’m being asked why I’m no longer at my last job; should I be making something up instead of telling them there was a harassment issue?

      Really, thank you for commenting. I’ve very much been up a creek without a paddle here.

    • Good grief, I just looked at the denial letter, and I didn’t even get 3 weeks to appeal, much less 30 days – it was postmarked September 29th, and I had until October 19th.

  4. I got fired from a job for rather stupid reasons (For losing a piece of paper for all of 1 minute that the supervisor had been the last to touch and put away was considered disorganised) and many other things like that. As I was in the job for only a few months I have left it off my resume for some jobs and just stated other reasons for not working.

    I got my dream job and was hired by two companies on the same day so it ended up fine, though months of unemployment didn’t help my confidence. For other jobs where that qualification was relevant when asked, I just said it wasn’t the right position for me and when my contract was up I decided to look for work I would prefer long term.

    Little white lies as my termination had nothing to do with my work and everything to do with a cruddy company.

    I hope you get your dream job soon, I was rejected from very basic positions for awhile because I was over qualified and considered someone who would nto be there long term (why a scientist would stay long term at a lolly shop etc) made sense. Then the right job came and I am happy :)

    • It’s something I wish I had the option of omitting, believe me, but I was at that job for almost 2 1/2 years, plus I held a supervisor position for over a year. I figure not telling potential employers would hurt more than telling them.

      You’re right, the unemployment really messes with your self esteem and such. My dwindling bank accounts are not helping, either. ;)

      Thank you for your kind words, they are much appreciated. :)

  5. I am so sorry you have been put through the wringer this way. I agree that you need to file an appeal to unemployment, and get some legal aid. You also should be protected under the “whistleblower” law, so keep at it.
    The bad economy is turning most corporate employers into sweatshops and they continue to throw their help under the bus, and it needs to be stopped. I’m sure it is the economy and not this issue that is keeping potential employers from calling you back.
    This whole process is going to be painfully slow, and it’s very discouraging. Keep your chin up.
    Please keep us updated.

    • I think I’m going to try reapplying for unemployment, if it will let me, since it’s been almost 4 months. At this point, I think my only option for appealing the original claim is getting an attorney and trying to push that they didn’t give me fair time to appeal, with the whole less than three weeks bit, and of course that won’t get me anywhere anytime soon. As far as anything else goes, I was advised by a lawyer to wait out the EEOC investigation; their findings could help me find an attorney/lawyer, if they don’t decide to take my case on themselves.

      Yeah, this economy is not getting any better. Allegedly it’s not getting any worse, but lack of decline isn’t really an improvement.

      Thank you for leaving a comment; small graces are getting me by.

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