An advocate asks: who’s holding companies accountable?

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My son was two years old when I was a temp for a company. It was near to impossible to get hired. I impressed HR so much that within two months, I was officially a full-time employee. For 16 years, I worked as a scheduler for one of the top 30 companies on Fortune 500. For 14 of those years, I was considered an above average or exceptional employee. I was an employee who always stepped up when a new project was on the horizon.

In March 2015, I was TOLD to perform a task that was unethical and against company policy and procedures by a newer member of HR. My company has mandatory training for the Code of Conduct and Ethics Policy. Every employee must sign agreeing to comply. Along with my own integrity and ethics, I refused the instructions and adhered to what I had signed. The decision to follow my companies’ policies was the beginning of the most mentally, emotionally, and financially devastating years of my life.

To cover up the mistake and lack of knowledge by HR, I was escorted off of my company’s property. The level of humiliation as I was forced to walk past my office building was overwhelming. I was only allowed to return by signing a discipline letter acknowledging an investigation was done. I went to my supervisor to show all policies and procedures in order have the false discipline letter removed. I did everything by the book, going up the chain of command, to no avail. A month later, I received an email from HR employee stating “I was correct”. Again, I asked to have letter removed, to no avail.

It was evident that I was being targeted. It started getting more stressful once the HR employee wanted to supervise the schedulers. As a direct report, I started to experience harassment/bullying daily. It ranged from being berated for hours behind closed doors to being singled out for my attire in front of my peers. Every day I would come into my office, I had to let my supervisor know I was there. I started to hate going into my office.

I made a formal complaint to her supervisor, the HR manager. On several occasions, I asked for some type of help to stop the bullying and berating by my supervisor. I made complaints to the Ethic Hotline. The company investigator did nothing. I continued to beg for relief to the HR manager, who did nothing. The more I asked for help, the more bullying was done. The HR manager was now telling me I wasn’t to speak to the local company manger. It became a war ground, and I realized that no one was going to stop it. I worked in HR, and THEY allowed the behavior. HR generally gives the training on ethics and ensures employees are behaving in accordance to the Companies Code of Conduct. They’re the department you are instructed to go to if you’re harassed. HR was not only allowing it. They were the bullies, the harassers, and the employees not adhering to the policies.

It finally broke me when I was told to either do as I am told or be terminated. I sat in my vehicle in hysterics for four hours unable to move. I called the company’s Employee Assistance Program as I couldn’t take the hostile and toxic environment anymore. That day I had thoughts of suicide. I couldn’t understand why this was happening or why my company was allowing it to happen. I started seeing a company-approved therapist who would send monthly updates of my status.

In the two years since that day, the bullying and coverup of the unethical behavior didn’t stop. I received FMLA letters stating my job was being filled, only to find out two months later that the letter was fabricated as I had been FMLA protected. I was denied on returning to work. I then reached out to Executive Board Employee for assistance as well as the corporate HR manager, the person who oversees ALL HR mangers. I requested a face-to-face meeting to eliminate any confusion. His response was to deny me a bonus and give me a non-performing review. I reached out to the CEO and sent him documentation that showed I had adhered to company polices and was being harassed and bullied daily. The Chief Compliant Officer threatened me to not contact anyone within the company again.

Here I sit alone, still an employee but not allowed to contact my employer and denied any form of income. I am an employee who was diagnosed by two separate therapists with C-PTSD and PTSD, a diagnosis that everyone from the local HR manager to the CEO was aware of and continued to not acknowledge along with the unethical treatment and mental abuse from the bullying and harassment. I have experienced nightmares, insomnia, depression, hostility, hopelessness, weight gain, financial devastation, and foreclosure of my home. I have lost my self-esteem and confidence and don’t go out in public due to shame. The legal definition of murder it the taking of one’s life. It doesn’t define life as physical. My life has been taken — emotionally, mentally, and financially. My employer has no less than committed murder.

A bully is defined as a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. A synonym to bully is a tormenter. A tormenter is defined as someone who inflicts severe mental or physical suffering on someone. Then harassment is defined as aggressive pressure or intimidation. Bullying is much more severe. How is it that we have laws that forbid someone being harassed at work due to protected class but no laws for someone bullied? Per the EEOC, you MUST prove it is due to race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, ancestry, or protected whistleblower status. How would someone know WHY they are being harassed or bullied? Yet to get any help under The Civil Rights Act, a victim HAS to prove it was for one of the reasons listed.

Huge corporations almost always have an Ethics Policy, and part of that policy is keeping employees in a safe work environment. Then the public companies have investors, SEC, etc. to be accountable to, too. Yet who is holding the company accountable for the ethical treatment of the employees by the company?

Bullying is a severe enough epidemic that we have foundations/organizations for kids. We have campaigns on TV. While we want to keep kids safe and from harming themselves, what about their parents? Neither kids nor adults know why they have become a target. Kids and adults feel the same emotions. The only difference is that the adult has not one place to turn for help.  My job, my livelihood for 16 years, has been taken from me by a company of bullies who are in management positions, covering up for one another and their unethical behavior. When we can no longer provide for our families and have been mentally broken by bullies, it can lead to families destroyed. The employee either must face it daily or, in my case, mentally break down and go on disability. Some of us actually believed in our companies’ policy, the speeches, and the CEO to keep us safe.

The employees who are victims of bullying all share identifiable traits. Many studies and surveys have been done, and those traits are “skilled,” “hardworking,” “truthful,” “very competent,” “intelligent,” “professional,” and “ethical.” These are the people we are not protecting? How is that even possible? Shouldn’t these be traits that Americans and employers find valuable? In 2017, according to the EEOC reports, there were a total of 340,332 worker complaints. Also in 2017, per a Workplace Bullying Institute survey, there were 15 MILLION workers who experienced bullying and 4.35 MILLION who contemplated suicide. There are more people who are NOT protected because they can’t tell anyone the reasons why they are being bullied and abused. Just because a victim of a bully doesn’t know the reason for the abuse shouldn’t make the abuse acceptable.

Legislation needs to protect EVERYONE. Attorneys won’t take cases against companies unless they have one of those “reasons,” at least not on a contingency. Then when you don’t have income to pay an attorney, where does that leave you?

My life has forever been changed by bullying. Even though I am an American citizen who should be protected by The Civil Rights Act, I am not. Would government act if they woke up and found out that every citizen living in New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Vermont had committed suicide? If action would be taken to ensure that that many lives were not lost, then action needs to be taken to protect those bullied in the workplace as there are more people who have contemplated suicide in 2017 due to workplace bullying than who live in those four states.

I would like to be able to give advice to anyone else who is a victim of workplace bullying. I have read many articles, and most say to document, document, document.  That doesn’t matter. I have an 8-inch binder of documentation including policies, procedures, and admissions of guilt.  Yet no one helps. I have contacted all the government offices, state-elected officials, and the Health and Labor Board, and NO ONE will help.

The only thing that will make a difference is for a law to be put in place to assist.

We shouldn’t have our lives devastated because of bullies. We shouldn’t have to give up good-paying jobs for relief.

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4 comments

  1. theunderestimatedlemonade

    Sadly “the law” does not care about right or wrong, it only cares about what you can prove, if even then. Attorneys will not take on a case unless there are”findings” from a state or federal agency.

    Most bullies have bullied their entire life and are master’s at covering their tracks. Bullyng is usually “intangible” and very difficult to prove even with extensive documentation.

    This bill needs very specific language in which a non-legal professional can navigate how to hold companies accountable to their touted ethics and
    compliance. Otherwise it’s just lip service.

  2. Susan Forster

    I agree with everything you have written. Not every HR is non-responsive, but you can see how important it is for leaders to set the tone for their organization. No one was holding them accountable. Did you go to the CEO?

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