Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Regaining Control - Workplace Harassment - Part II

The source of my misery was a coworker. She was supposed to train me, mentor me in all things envelope manufacturing.  Instead she neglected to train me and let me march off to production meetings ill prepared.  My supervisor and the other suits giggled and shook their heads at my lack of production knowledge at those meetings, but I took notes and made sure not to make the same mistakes again.  I laughed with them and faked a lot, just to get through the day.  The customers liked me because I was honest and attended them well, inexperienced and all.  They forgave me if I 'dropped the ball'.  Mostly.

And I made little mention of the 'episodes' for the first few months. I call them episodes because I am sure she was a sociopath off her meds.  They consisted of answering personal phone calls and carrying on inappropriate conversations with her many boyfriends for all to hear.  Clipping her toenails in my presence and letting the yellow, diseased (I think she had an STD) clippings fall on my desk.  Berating me while I was attending customers on the phone. Cursing at me.  Answering my phone calls and commenting to my customers about my supposed lack of work ethic.  Making disgusting comments about my personal life and religion. Barking orders at me for all in the office to hear.  Criticizing my phone manner and threatening to go to the supervisor for neglecting her phone while she was away which was often.  Taking unauthorized breaks and making me cover.  And a slew of other hateful things to sabotage my stay there.  You get the picture right?   She existed only to punish me for her miserable existence and probable childhood traumas.

She thought she could get rid of me much sooner.  I held on tight for 11 1/2 months. It was a stressful and trying 11 1/2 months.  If stress takes years off your life, I certainly managed to shave off two to five in those months alone.

I didn't go silently. I yelled back. Proved my innocence daily. I stood up for myself and made it known to everyone who mattered that what she was doing was illegal.  The downside is that in a private, family owned company, you don't have as much protection. At least not in the ones that operate like a sweatshop.  You are at their mercy and for me they had none.  I was patted on the head and was told to soldier on, so I did.  I did it my way.

I covered my back to the point I was practically paranoid. I had to have everything in writing and well documented.  I could not leave the walls of the city unprotected - my defense had to be impenetrable.  Her advantage was her seniority, knowledge of the business and she was sleeping with a "higher up" but I was younger, smarter and stubborn as all heck.  My offense was better thought out than hers and I took the legal route. I blindsided her a couple of times leaving her feeling less confident, less immortal.  She took my inexperience and innocence for granted and I hit her, continually, where it most hurt.  I made her look bad in front of the ones that so protected her. And I documented everything - even the meetings with my supervisor.  I took this fight to heart.  Maybe too much so.

By this time I was getting heart palpitations during work on a regular basis that would leave me out of breath and soon I found patches of hair missing. I ran out into the parking lot once when I felt I couldn't take it anymore and I screamed in absolute anger.  I cried out of anger.  Nobody saw me.  And I cooled down and went back in to finish the assault.  But inside I started to hate what she was making of me.  I couldn't sleep peacefully and would have dreams of knocking her head into her desk repeatedly.   These thoughts made me happy - that honestly worried me.  I was never that person before.  I knew how to take the high road but I felt that option had been taken away from me and I had to fight dirty.  Although my home life was normal, healthy and my refuge, I began to suffer there too.

That is when I decided the fire pit needed an ice water bath.  I had gathered all my evidence and I had witnesses.  I walked into my supervisors office and dictated to him what my rights were, what the labor law said and how my rights and the law had been abused.  And I told him my lawyers would contact the company.  That sent his  brain into a panic, I could see his pupils shaking. He called in the  Sociopath and tried to hash it out between the two of us like preschoolers at the principals office.  This was no kiddy spat and I was not going to let him off the hook.  My eyes must have looked like they were sending out sparks. 

None of this, however, was good for my health.  So I decided against suing the pantalones off of them as long as I could leave peacefully and collect my unemployment.  They had shady lawyers that would have dragged this out for years using every shady loophole to ruin me.  They were very close though - I had my lawyer on hold awaiting my decision.  I instead filed a complaint against them with the Labor Department for workplace harassment and gave the case worker copies of all my documentation.  I gave them the Sociopaths name.  I also listed all the violations from sexual harassment to smoking in the office which also affected me and others left behind.  I wanted them to writhe in pain. Then I quit via resignation letter sent to the higher ups and not my direct supervisor and I took a 6 month paid vacation. 

I slowly recuperated but every now and then I am reminded of how I have changed.  Every now and then I can see that I haven't completely taken back control and my happiness at work sometimes suffers.  But more on this tomorrow...

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