Here follows what is certainly a cautionary tale-- one from which I hope I have managed to withhold most of the despair and self-pity I fully admit to having wallowed in for some time, which made me no fit company for other human beings:
I lost my job. Or rather, it was stolen from me. I'm not trying to be melodramatic here. Back in May, I mentioned an incident during which there was a phone-altercation with a suspected check-kiting scammer. My entire department-- a group of about eight people-- spent all of the Monday after Easter being harassed by an intensely unpleasant woman attempting to open/access a checking account in the name of a young man, with a social security number that was issued in 2005. She had managed, through the inattention of some other part of the bank, to open an account last June. After she used it a few times, our internal auditing board shut it down for a variety of reasons, including the fact she kept submitting forged driver's licenses (in a man's name), kept bouncing the few checks she did write, and was attempting to funnel in funds from a rebate scheme to receive actual cash, which can be a sign of money laundering. We suspected she was taking advantage of a minor. She'd been calling in fairly regularly (about every three months) to berate, threaten, and order us to open her account.
On that particular day, she called eight times. She spoke to three of us in quick succession. There were no managers available (all on vacation or out sick), and she continually accused us of lying. She used a racial pejorative on on my friend Tremaine, and called me the 'c' word several times. Finally, we managed to round up a director from elsewhere in the building, at which point she accused me of lying again. I asked her if she wanted to speak to someone with more authority, and told her that I needed her to lower her voice and change her tone in order to help her. She was finally passed up the chain.
The three of us who talked to her were myself (Jewish Lesbian), Tremaine (African American, Muslim) and Bess (white Pentacostel, who goes to church with and is a close friend of our new manager). A week later, Tremaine and I were both on probation, with pay frozen for a year and mandatory "zero" scores on our next two quarterly reviews (which basically amounted to more than a year without a raise, the way our system worked). Bess, who the "customer" had accused of hanging up on her, went along her merry way.
Tremaine and I were very upset. He had worked for Nameless Co for ten years, and I had worked there for six. We were the only non-Christians in the department, and the only persons with any minority markers. In February, we'd gotten a new manager-- a young Pentecostal woman. She was already friends with Bess, and quickly made in-roads with the upper echelon, socializing outside of work, buying presents for their children, and babysitting. She let Bess make daily, hour-long calls on the company phone to her sister, and they often sat and shopped or browsed online. Though very partial to Bess, she was also very friendly with the other two Christian girls, and tolerated Joe, our resident "favorite cranky uncle" (who happens to be Catholic). Meanwhile, she continually referred to Tremaine being 'dangerous' and needing 'to be watched'-- supposedly jokingly, but always with that undercurrent that being Muslim made him a terrorist. The fact he had converted as a young man seemed to make it all the more offensive to her. I avoided her as much as possible, and she did the same for me-- there were only two points of friction. During Passover, she bought pepperoni pizza for the department. I was observing the specific kosher diet for the holiday (and try to keep kosher in general, though I admit I'm not always successful), and respectfully declined. She was very offended. Then, when I offered to work a few extra hours so another girl could go rehearse with her choir before Good Friday, she made some off-handed comment about people who didn't recognize the messiah because they were so stuck-up they couldn't stand to see he was poor.
Oddly enough, Tremaine and I got along great. We had rousing discussions about conspiracy theories and Sci Fi and Joe, a lover of Flash Gordon and old radio programs, sometimes joined in. Joe teased me about being able to "part the Red Sea of Tape", and we quickly adopted GFTW (G-d, Fate, Time, Whatever) from Quantum Leap as a sort of catch-all for any metaphysical topic. We had all been working together for almost two years with no problem.
I fully admit to crying when I was put on probation and "escorted" out to my car, having been told to take the next day off to "think about my future with the company". Tremaine was pissed, and so was I. We both filed grievances with the "open door policy" (the lousy corporate "replacement" for a union). Part of the reason the arguments with the "customer" had gotten so heated was because our manager had spoken with her the week previous, and had completely failed to note anything about it on the account. We both pointed this out in our complaints.
My manager then "loaned" me to another department for a week, do perform a job function for which I was last trained in August of 2011. I felt like I had to step up and perform without complaint, or risk being accused of being sullen and upset about the previous incident.
A week later, I had my quarterly evaluation. My manager went through the whole rubric with me (perfect in personal management, perfect in quality and quantity of work, perfect in job knowledge) and then told me my 'grade' still added up to a zero because of that one call. Then she told me she also failed me in the Team Relations category, claiming that I was disrespectful, negative, and did not respond well to feedback. I asked her for specific examples, because I have always called her "Ma'am" and been very polite in my emails (and, as I said, avoided being alone with her). When she made her nasty comments, I never said anything-- I just wrote them down in Japanese in a little book I keep of things I see/hear/know about that may someday come up as an issue. (Yes, I am paranoid. As it turns out, I was not paranoid enough.)
My manager said she had no specific examples-- it was a "feeling" she got from me, "hard to put into words".
I went to HR the next day and filed a discrimination claim.
Then, one Wednesday in June, I was called down to meet with the representative handling my case. She said that my grievance over my punishment had been upheld as "reasonable", and that Tremaine had withdrawn his grievance. Moreover, she informed me that my discrimination claim was being dismissed on the grounds of "having no evidence". She then accused me of trying to get back at my manager. I told her I had serious concerns about the ability of both HR and my manager to perform their functions objectively, but politely accepted her determinations, and left.
I've already been more long-winded than I intended, so why draw out the sad-yet-obvious ending?
I was fired two days later.
Now, what was I fired for? Not the incident with the customer-- that was the only issue I'd had at Nameless Co in six years of working there. No, I was fired for "falsifying company records". It seems that, when I'd been on loan to the other department, I'd filled out a form and checked the wrong box.
I was fired for a clerical error.
Of course I told them it was a set up, retaliation, and part of a personally motivated vendetta. Of course, they told me this was not true, that they were within their rights, blah blah blah. All the while, my manager sat there are smiled. I did not cry this time-- just shook with disbelief and rage. They would not let me go back to my desk. They threw six years worth of stuff into two boxes, and marched me out the door. I told my manager that I couldn't carry both boxes-- she picked one up and walked out with me.
As we approached my brother's car, I told her I was going to file an equal opportunity complaint. She told me she didn't care, because it would "be a cold day in hell" before I worked for Nameless Co or any of its subsidiaries ever again. I told her I was sure it snowed in hell, though I don't think it sticks, and that we would have plenty of time to figure it out, because I would surely see her there.
Yes, it was petty. And probably not even true because, if I did see her in Hell, I'd pretend I didn't know her. (I have standards, after all. *sardonic, bitter grin*
So. In the past two months I have submitted fifty two applications, filed an equal opportunity claim (which was accepted!), filed another grievance with Nameless Co (fat lot of good that will do, but its for form's sake), filed (and been accepted) for unemployment, and found a temporary job that pays within two dollars of what I was making previously. I have also fought with my former employer about said unemployment (they've appealed to have it revoked, and want to force me to pay back the whole $502.08 I collected), and about getting back possessions that they just so happened to fail to put into boxes.
Tonight, I finally bit the bullet and got Obamacare. I have a tooth that needs a root canal (they fired me three days before I was scheduled to have it), and my anxiety/depression meds are expensive without insurance. I have no idea how long this new job (Cargo Theft Analyst for a freight fleet out of Columbus) will last. My new boss calls me his "spreadsheet witch" and seems to like my work, but says he doesn't want to make promises he can't keep. I appreciate that-- it's refreshing to have someone be upfront with me. I am one of only two women in the trucking warehouse and, while every accountant and mechanic there calls me "Lady Meredith" and holds open the door for me, they talk constantly about how much they hate "fags, libs, and sluts" (the last of which seems to mean women in general-- I don't think they'd call my female coworker that, because she'd rip their balls off ^_~). I spend most of my day with my iPod on, working with spreadsheets and listening to old radio shows and audio books. No work place is ever perfect… if they offered me a job tomorrow, I'd accept. It's honest, semi-interesting (if very repetitive) work, and people are decent to me even if they seem to be under the misimpression that I'm this sweet, soft-spoken prairie girl. (I'm in no rush to correct them).
I've actually been very lucky, I know. It could have been a lot worse. I left Nameless Co with six years of 401K and life insurance, both of which I was able to roll over into private policies. I was only unemployed for four weeks. I have a job that pays approximately what I'm used to and, with the Affordable Care Act plans coming out of my income, I'll just about break even every month. I have some small savings to fall back on if things get ugly again. I have managed to curb the majority of my self-destructive anger outlets, and I haven't had to go off my meds. I am still clean and sober, despite the significant stressors. I have a job again, and thus feel like a worthwhile human being.
I have amazing friends, without whom I would not have come out on the other side of this dark valley. Leigh and Amber have been absolutely _angelic_ in their support, patience, and willingness to listen. They've distracted me with M*A*S*H, Dinotopia, Hannibal, and Falling Skies. I have two good friends who left Nameless Co about a year before I did, who have listened to me whine, bitch, kvetch, and otherwise rant about the hell-with-fluorescent lighting we all know so well. I have friends like badly_knitted and Monica, who knew nothing of my predicament, but cheered me up with birthday wishes. "Cranky Uncle" Joe has kept in contact with me, which is really sweet. My brother and nieces have put up with my moaning, wailing and tearing-of-sackcloth with superhuman understanding. For my birthday, they took me to see Guardians of the Galaxy (an absolute delight) and took me out to dinner-- the first real outing I've had in a long time.
I'm going to keep fighting-- both to keep the little unemployment I collected, to draw attention within the company to my superior's conduct, and through the added agency of the Equal Opportunity Commission. Nameless Co is huge and, in all likelihood, they'll win.
I don't think that's the point, though. And who-knows how many decades from now, when I see my manager in Hell, I may not speak to her… but I'll smile, and wave.
Ps. And if you managed to make it through all that, you're a mensch. ;-)