August 20th, 2013
Let’s Talk with Kalola: Past Experience Helped Me Fight Back
It began as a dream job, taking care of disabled children in a home, hospital, school setting. The pay was average but finally had adequate insurance for me and my three children. I had been a widow about a year.
The first day outside of training I was ignored by a teammate. It was overlooked as a bad day for her. Within hours of my first few days off, I was told by another employee they thought I had quit and couldn’t believe I came back. My first clue! As time went on it became a mobbing event. I was ostracized, ridiculed, yelled at, etc. I helped everyone despite the cruelties.
After visiting HR on several occasions to warn them of fear of physical abuse, and requesting to be moved to another facility, a chair was pulled out from me causing physical injury. I then filed a grievance and workman’s comp claim. This stirred some administrators who then began their bullying tactics. I was then terminated, while under their workman’s doctor care.
I couldn’t file a bullying case, so I filed a wrongful termination case. I suffered a physical and mental breakdown as well as a financial breakdown. Thank goodness I had gained the knowledge to file with the EEOC (You see, I had been sexually harassed 21 years prior by a male manager and learned a little lesson). An attorney was hired and we filed a wrongful termination case, which has been in the works for several years now. While recovering, I was able to draw unemployment before returning back to work. Of course it was for another employer.
It has been an exhausting roller coaster ride and although I will never fully recover, I have gained much insight into the mind games of bullies. I advocate, meditate, and appreciate as much as I’m able. My youngest son has autism and I was hoping with that particular job, to get him some help as well. What a disappointment since that is their business! Life goes on for them but it stopped us in our tracks.
Legislation is a must! My belief is more families are harmed by workplace bullying than any other hazard known. The safety and environmental specialists have missed the boat on this. Thank you for educating those who haven’t had to endure the harsh reality of workplace bullying as well as those who have!
“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear (or evil) in the face … we must do that which we think we cannot.” … Eleanor Roosevelt, an American First Lady
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), U.S. workers have the right to a safe workplace. The general duty clause of the OSH Act, however, doesn’t include workplace bullying. Your employer did not provide you with a safe workplace, and did nothing to protect you from the malicious behavior of the co-worker who pulled the chair out from under you when you were about to sit down. You suffered a needless injury as a direct result of the intentional, malicious action of that worker.
You reported the abuse to Human Resources. You also asked to be transferred to another location. You filed a grievance as well as a Workers’ Comp claim. You were being treated for your injury when the employer terminated you. What’s wrong with this picture?
You did nothing wrong. Despite the bad treatment by your co-workers, you continued to do your job to the best of your ability. You didn’t ask to be injured. It would seem that it would have been in the best interests of the employer to discipline and/or terminate the worker who intentionally caused you bodily harm. Instead, your bullies went unpunished while you lost your job.
The employer ought to have a duty to care about workers who are injured on the job. Employers need to put a stop to harassment and abuse in the workplace. Employers who turn a blind eye to this behavior need to tally up the costs of keeping the bully, and look at how they may be contributing to the health-harm of Targets. That bully will likely be a repeat offender.
Due to the untimely passing of your husband and partner, you are now left to raise your three children. As a mom, you are the sole caretaker as well as the sole breadwinner for your family. On the job, you put your best foot forward and did the best job that you could possibly do even under the circumstances that you had to work under. Your bully co-workers must not have been accomplishing much work if they had time to harass you.
In reading your story, I found this to be a story not only about bullying in the workplace but about resiliency. Your experiences, I believe, have made you a stronger person. Yes, you have had more than your share of setbacks in life and maybe more than any person ought to have experienced. Yet, you are going forward with your life. You have a strong will, and you know the difference between what is right and what isn’t. You have much integrity.
“If you don’t have integrity, you have nothing. You can’t buy it. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are not a moral and ethical person, you really have nothing.” … Henry Kravis, American Businessman
What does it cost to replace a worker? The Center for American Progress released a November 2012 report that discusses the cost of employee turnover.
The report notes that in 2011 about 23.6 million workers quit their jobs. About one-fifth of workers voluntarily leave their jobs each year with an additional one-sixth who are fired or involuntarily let go. “While workers who were laid off might not be replaced at all, for other kinds of workplace exits it doesn’t matter whether an employee left a firm voluntarily or whether they were fired—the reality is that it will cost the firm to replace that employee.” Direct and indirect costs to the employer excerpted from the report:
- separation costs, i.e., exit interviews, severance pay, higher unemployment taxes
- cost to temporarily cover a worker’s duties such as overtime for other staff or temp staff
- replacement costs, i.e, advertising, search and agency fees, screening applicants including physicals or drug testing, interviewing and selecting candidates, background verification, employment testing, hiring bonuses, and applicant travel and relocation costs
- training costs
- lost productivity for the department employee who may spend their last days on the job writing exit memos or with reduced morale
- lost productivity due to the need to hire temp workers
- coping with a vacancy or giving additional work to other employees
- costs incurred as the new employee learns his/her job including reduced quality, errors, and waste
- reduced morale
- lost clients and lost institutional knowledge
An example of the costs from one city/county for defending employee misconduct can be seen visually in a pie chart: http://www.workplacebullying.org/2013/04/15/sf-costs/. The pie chart depicts the price paid by the particular city/county for defending indefensible discrimination and general bullying over a period of five years. The chart shows 103 legal settlements that cost the city/county over 10.3 million dollars. Seldom are taxpayers aware of these legal settlements.
Who protects bullies? In a WBI instant poll earlier in 2013, the following question was asked: “Did/does the bully have someone who provides protection against punishment?” There were 593 Targets who answered the question. The results were:
- .346— Yes. Protection comes from a higher-ranking manager
- .319— Yes. Protection comes from an executive or owner.
- .153— Yes. Protection comes from HR.
- .118— Yes. Protection comes from a supervisor.
- .040— Not sure.
- .024— No. My bully has been punished.
Due to what you feel was a wrongful termination, you are fighting back with a lawsuit. I hope that your matter is resolved quickly and to your satisfaction. Do take good care of yourself. In a lawsuit, you will have to re-live your workplace experiences over and over again which can take a toll on your health.
In time, you will recover. When the lawsuit is over, I hope you will then be able to put things in perspective, and move on. Don’t dwell on what happened to you. Don’t replay the scenarios of what happened to you over and over again in your mind. If you could have done things differently you would have. Each person’s recovery from the effects of an abusive workplace will depend on the person. Some people are much more resilient than others. The most important thing the worker should know is that he/she didn’t cause the abuse.
Thank you for your support of the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. Here are some quick facts about the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill: http://www.healthyworkplacebill.org/bill.php
What the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill does for employer:
- Precisely defines an “abusive work environment”—it is a high standard for misconduct
- Requires proof of health harm by licensed health or mental health professions
- Protects conscientious employers from vicarious liability risk when internal correction and prevention mechanisms are in effect
- Gives employers the reason to terminate or sanction offenders (the bully or bullies)
- Requires plaintiffs to use private attorneys
- Plugs the gaps in current state and federal civil rights protections
What the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill does for workers:
- Provides an avenue for legal redress for health-harming cruelty at work
- Allows you, the Target, to sue the bully as an individual
- Holds the employer accountable
- Seeks restoration of lost wages and benefits
- Compels employers to prevent and correct future instances of abusive conduct or bullying
What the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill does NOT do:
- Involve state agencies to enforce any provisions of the law
- Incur costs for adopting states
- Require plaintiffs to be members of protected status groups (it is “status-blind”)
- Use the term “workplace bullying”
Time has a way of passing all too quickly, and our time on this earthly plane is all too short. Time is precious. I don’t want Targets to dwell on what happened to them in the workplace long after the bad experiences. The best revenge is to go forward in our lives, and be successful in what we do. Bullies just hate it when Targets go forward with their lives, and are successful.
There will always be some residue left behind from the harassment/abuse inflicted on a Target. It is ill treatment that can hardly be forgotten. No one can diminish what happened to you. However, my hope is that over time, Targets can close that chapter in their lives and move on. Give yourself time to heal. Workers who are suffering from the health-harming effects of workplace bullying are strongly urged to seek out medical care from their primary doctor, and/or mental health counseling from a licensed professional.
“A successful man (or woman) is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him (or her).” … David Brinkley, Journalist
KM—thank you for writing in and sharing your workplace experiences. A Washington State reader wrote in recently and said that she felt very much alone until she started reading the workplace stories and experiences shared on WBI’s website. For all those who have written in and taken the time to share your experiences please know that you have helped other workers.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 at 4:03 pm and is filed under Let's Talk with Kalola. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.