Posts Tagged ‘health harm’
Tuesday, April 14th, 2020
Conversations With A Coast Guard Whistleblower
by Kelly Richmond Pope, Forbes, April 13, 2020
Meet Dr. Kimberly Young-McLear
1. When did you know that you had to blow the whistle?
After enduring workplace bullying and harassment for two years with no relief informally from the command, in fact just the opposite, I ultimately decided to elevate my complaints to have a formal investigation into my allegations. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard assigned a biased and an unqualified investigator who had an existing working relationship with my perpetrator. The command, led by two Admirals, then subjected me to another humiliating investigation, violating my privacy while the harassment escalated, where they again assigned another biased and unqualified investigator who had a working relationship with the perpetrator. The results of the investigation delivered to me by the command, including an Admiral was extremely intimidating and they told me that the results were “unsubstantiated.” As the psychological toll on me mounted and relationships turned against me for coming forward, I experienced suicide ideation at my lowest point after the two years of abuse, not feeling believed, and socially isolated. I knew that if I was experiencing these there were many others that were also. To make an analogy, there would be enough people who the reporting systems and chain of command failed to fill up an aircraft carrier. I made an intentional decision that if I was strong enough to speak up again then I would. I knew I had to blow the whistle when I realized that the issues were pervasive and systemic and that powerful individuals (Two Admirals) in the Coast Guard were intentionally abusing their power to sweep allegations under the rug and protect bullies. I knew it was our leadership that created toxic culture and that the toxic culture would continue to create more leaders emulating those behaviors. I spoke up to do my part to break the cycle. It’s a culture that impacts thousands of people in the Coast Guard, and many serve in silence, many suffer a severe psychological toll, or they are otherwise pushed out of the service and the cycle continues.
2. Tell me about your job/responsibilities?
I am a cybersecurity professional and engineer in the Coast Guard. I am an active duty Coast Guard service member, and am currently detailed to the Dept of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). CISA is responsible for protecting the Nation’s critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats.
3. How did your upbringing impact your decision to blow the whistle?
I was raised by two immigrant parents from Trinidad and Tobago. They both served almost 30 years each in the US Air Force. My parents taught me about ethics, compassion, and integrity. In my youth, I spent a lot of time in libraries learning about civil rights and social movements. They taught me to be observant and to intervene. Growing up around military bases I would interact with veterans from Vietnam, many were Black men, and I began to sense and understand that society seemed to discard older generations who have served and sacrificed. I internalized a sense of compassion and desire to want to pursue public service in part to honor their sacrifices as with the sacrifices of civil rights activists all the way to the atrocities that my ancestors endured from the Coasts of West Africa. This was reinforced when I studied at Florida A& M University, where I learned more about systemic racism. When I decided to blow the whistle after two years as a professor at the Coast Guard Academy, I reached a point when I decided “no more” not just for myself but for those whose voices and stories will never be known but also for our future generations who deserve better.
4. Who was most proud of you standing up and who was more disappointed in you standing up?
My family, other survivors, and ethical and compassionate colleagues and my students were the most proud. After I spoke up, it was revealed that 7 Admirals, 2 SES, several Captains, the legal staffs, and others despite having direct knowledge of my allegations of bullying, harassment, and discrimination, used their power to protect those who harmed me. The senior leadership of the Coast Guard continues to marginalize and silence me to this day. The Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Karl Schultz, declined to provide me a formal written apology, meet with me to discuss ways in which our service can improve, and declined to hold anybody accountable for violating our core values, policies, and the Military Whistleblower Protection Act. I can only surmise that his lack of public appearance at the Congressional Hearing on Dec 11, 2019 and the above declinations, that he is the most disappointed that I stood up for a better Coast Guard and better military.
Tags: abusive work environments, Admiral Karl Schultz, Coast Guard, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Department of Homeland Security, health harm, Kimberly Young-McLear, toxic environments, whistleblower, workplace bullying
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Friday, February 28th, 2014
My bully boss enacted a posse of others to support her gossip and lies. She ran several major grants at a public university. I was her star employee, the go-to for all the hard tasks that she felt she did not want to do (or procrastinated on doing). She relied on me to support more than $8 million in grant-funded project activities. And, she never gave me credit or praise for any of my hard work or dedication. I remained behind the scenes as her “secret weapon.” She called me on weekends, evenings—just about any time she pleased. She gossiped, slandered and complained about everyone in the organization. I listened to her endless lies and complaints—all generated from her own insecurities—for nearly 7 years. I always knew, listening to her, that it was a matter of time before I became her next target.
After nearly two years of working for her, I had my first warning sign that I was under unusual stress. I went the the emergency room at my local hospital with stroke-like symptoms; they told me it was a TIA and sent me home with aspirin. That first warning should have been my last, but it only incited the bully to heap on more responsibilities and a little bit more monetary compensation to keep me in her grasp.
At year five, a fellow employee attempted to expose her bullying and discriminatory behavior. Courageous soul; the university backed her up because she brought in millions from government grants. He left distressed, distraught and demoralized. I knew that I was next—I had complained to several co-workers and one higher-up about her bad behavior. I had started to capture the outrageous lies, the slander, the falsified data she used to support her claims that she was “doing good” for students in need.
My second TIA was more dramatic. It happened nearly two years after the first one. I ended up in the hospital emergency room again, but this time the doctor issued a warning: Get rid of the stress. After that second TIA, her madness escalated. My productivity had plummeted. I scarcely realized that I was depressed and could not focus or function much. Thoughts of suicide were daily and normal. I dreaded each new day … even the weekends, because I knew that she would probably call me to continue her gossip and lies.
When she realized that I was planning on leaving, she resorted to keeping information away from me, using our shared social network to malign me and my good work; she even paid off several of my colleagues with “new” contracts and enlisting them in spreading lies about me, anything to keep me dis-empowered.
I did finally get up the courage to leave. My doctors helped me to make the decision. Medication also helped with my depression. It’s been over a year and a half, and my health has rebounded in the most miraculous ways. My spirit has been set free from the tyrant and her posse. I only hope that I can help others to break free and claim their right to greatness and joy.
Thursday, June 13th, 2013
When I started with this company as a Clerical Assistant for the data team I was happy outgoing and loved going to work. When I made a change because of a financially crisis at home, I was not doing good so I transferred to a FT position. Once I moved into this position I was quickly moved to another position without even being asked. I had no proper training and my manager didn't know much either so it made this job stressful because you had to meet quotas and they based your performance on that. I began to feel really stressed.
For my one year anniversary my manager threw the packet on my desk and walked away in front of my coworkers. I felt humiliated, embarrassed and ashamed. After 3 months of this stress I began to feel sick nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, losing excessive weight, and migraines. I was diagnosed with 2 bleeding ulcers, a gastric ulcer and a condition called gastro paresis which its a condition where the stomach does not empty. After 4 months of hostile environment I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and high blood pressure.
I wrote to HR and I was ignored. I filled out FMLA, I wrote to the owner 3 times but that made matters worse. I am still being written up and ignored. They have succeeded in taking my chance in education, my school flex schedule was taken away, written up with no chance to transfer out of this hostile deptartment. Everyday I am being harassed, abused and humiliated, provoked...I am at the end of my rope sometimes I feel like Im losing my mind...I cant quit because financially I'm suffering with all the hospital bills, doctor bills, procedures and medication.
Because of being absent because of my illness I am not getting paid, my bills have accumulated and I have no money to buy my Rx one at $30 the other three $15 each. My health has deteriorated drastically from someone so full of life, happy and outgoing to a depressed, not wanting to go out, insomnia, worries of what will happen if I lose my job, hard time sleeping and shutting down my brain so I don't think about it. Everyday going to work my body begins to shake, my chest gets tight, I have a hard time breathing, the nausea starts then the vomiting, diarrhea, and migraines begin again I stay feeling anxious and all I do is cry uncontrollably. On the weekends I am fine come Sunday night and everything starts again.