One advocate’s experience of ongoing workplace abuse

I believe lots of people whose lives have been affected by workplace bullying or have witnessed/heard about it, and I am one of those people. Here is my sad story to chew on:

A company hired me in January 2013 as a resident services coordinator/social worker. I was one of only a very few Black (African-American) employees with an office position at the company. Black employees comprise a disproportionately small percentage of all employees.

Six months after I was hired, I had an argument with my boss regarding the disposition of donation checks written to the company-authorized solicitation by me to contractors asking for support of an annual cookout for residents. I notified my manager and his assistant manager that the donations were made payable to “Company” and gave it to them. My manager and his assistant told me that they wouldn’t notify the company about this money because the company may not give back the money. The cookout took place, and the donation money was not given to the residents. I talked to my manager and his assistant and told them that the checks should not have been retained personally and, instead, turned over to the company for proper processing and accounting. Unfortunately, my manager and his assistant refused to cooperate with my request for proper accounting and instead ignored me and refused to interact with me in the course of future business at the office. I perceived my office-isolation treatment as retaliation against me for making an issue of, and threatening to report, the mishandling of company funds by my manager and his assistant.

The hostile treatment continued and accelerated during the last quarter of 2013. In January 2014, a series of adverse, “retaliation-type” events then occurred against me, such as the disappearance of a USB drive and documents from my office desk and the vandalizing of my car. The most egregious of all: my office carpet was urinated on, and my manager refused to attend to, remedy, or even address the situation for several days. I was appalled at the urine (my manager and his assistant knew I am sensitive to odor because of my asthma disability) and was overcome by extreme anxiety, intimidation, and stress from management’s indifference to the occurrence of the disgusting, severe hate crime and hostile behavior directed toward me. I sent an email to the upper management, who called my manager to call a company to clean the carpet of my office, and my office carpet was cleaned. Additionally, I asked the company to view the video footage of the three cameras to investigate who entered my office (except my manager and his assistant, nobody had the key to my office). The company admitted that video footage of the incident existed but refused to allow me to see it.

The aftermath of the above-described events provided for a continuing and ever-increasingly hostile work environment for me throughout 2014, especially with my ongoing work-relationships with my manager and his assistant. In May 2014, my manager came to my office to tell me that he wanted to bring his mother to attend a Mother’s Day gathering coordinated by me and that she “doesn’t like Black people.” I didn’t say anything. The same month, I learned that another Black employee had experienced his work area being urinated on under similar circumstances as those of mine (only my manager and his assistant had access keys to his work area). I took this event as evidence of hate crimes being committed against Black employees. In June 2014, my Manager came to my office to inform me he wanted to go on a boat trip organized by me for my residents because he wanted to “throw me off the boat.” I took this as a “veiled threat,” and it caused me extreme anxiety. I sent an email again to the upper management, and nothing happened. 

In January 2015, again for the second time I found my office carpet urinated on. I was not allowed by the company to view the security video footage showing who entered my office. With no meaningful response by the company, I resigned because of the hostile work environment, having exhausted every conceivable means of reasonable action to remedy the adverse conditions I was forced to endure without relief. The company discriminated against me because of my race, African-American, from the moment I asserted equal rights as a Black employee. From the inception of my employment, I was subjected to a work environment permeated with race discrimination. Throughout my employment with the company, I was subjected to repeated racist slurs, taunts, false accusations of lesser status based solely on my race, and anti-Black “jokes” uttered by both co-workers and supervisors. As outlined above, I participated in protected activity when I complained of race discriminations by my manager to the company, but they refused to investigate my complaints or remedy the racism to which I was subjected to further and instead increased hostility within my workplace. I was injured by and through company’s intentional infliction of hostility toward me. I was fearful for my physical safety and of what actions they might say or do to me.

As a result of the continuing and escalating racial harassment and the company’s failure or refusal to protect my well-being, I was forced to leave my employment. In September 2015, I participated in protected activity by filing a Charge of Discrimination with the MCAD. Regardless of my emails, incident reports, and witnesses I have, I am still disappointed by MCAD’s decision to throw my case out. I filed in the district court, and finally my case got some credit. The case still going. Thanks to my dear friends who are also survivors of workplace bullying who helped me out in terms of where to file and proceed with the case. As a direct and proximate result of the defendant’s discriminatory and retaliatory conduct, I has been greatly damaged. I lost the wages and benefits of my employment, incurred legal fees and costs, and have endured significant damage to me. I suffered severe emotional distress. All damages continue to this date.

Mark my words on this. I am telling you from my experience:
1. The worst-case scenario is to stick around in a situation that is causing physical and mental health to rapidly decline. The only demise I got a front-row seat to watch was my own.
2. Document every event because it is the holy grail that shows the intent behind the bullies’ behaviors.
3. Workplace bullying has reached epidemic status, and it’s time to bring an end to this once and for all. We together have to bring awareness and save lives.
4. Many have suffered for far too long in silence at the hands of these psychopaths.
5. The future of workplace depends on all of us. Call your state legislators!

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