To Whom It May Concern:

I accepted a position at a downstate New York company in August of 2008. I had strong qualifications and a great deal of enthusiasm and couldn’t be happier for the opportunity. Instead of a fair shot at a decent job, what happened during the following 17 months turned out to be the most difficult professional experience of my life. Over time I would tremble driving to the office in the morning wishing I would never get there. I would begin to spend my evenings and weekend not seeing friends and being too drained to even get out of bed. When I confided to my doctor that I didn’t think I could not bring myself to return to the office another day, he prescribed sedatives for me.

If you take a job where a manager has a very demanding ego and she targets you, you may a target of a workplace bully. She can ostracize you, train you in a very loud and demeaning way and make you the target of office jokes and gossip. If it’s a small enough company and the managers and owners are old friends they can do so with impunity. As well as just bullying and embarrassing you, she can work with this group of friends of hers to make sure you are kept isolated, overworked, mistrained, and humiliated with no where to go for help.

From what I understand this is called “Workplace Mobbing”. In workplace bullying, it can be your word against a manager or coworker. If that manager or coworker is bullying others, you may be able to find support. In workplace mobbing, it can be your word against a group of people who are mistreating you as a group but will all lie to cover for each other and it can leave a person with no where to go for help. Examples of this are cropping up all over the nation and even internationally. Well, my name is not really Mary. But this is my New York story. I hope and ask that you will pass legislation so no one will have to experience what I did when there is no were to go to ask to be treated fairly, to have my work evaluated according to its merits, and to go to work each day without fear of being humiliated.

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Mary’s Story:

In August of 2008, I was forced to leave a career that was severely affected by the weakened economy. I took a position in a company would benefit from my specific knowledge and to my surprise was not affected by the economy but thriving. It was my impression I was transitioning into a professional environment and I was very positive about the level of contribution I would be able to make. Although it was initially a cut in pay, I looked forward to plotting a career path that would use more and more of my skills.

I noticed almost immediately that the environment was anything but professional. I noticed that a coworker sitting behind me was imitating my mannerisms (I have a disability that affects the way I stand and sometimes they way I hold my hand) and repeating things that I’ve said, but in a very loud, ugly way. She didn’t care that it was in open view and ear-shot of me and the rest of my co-workers. My manager also started speaking to me very harshly. She commented to this same coworker, “If she doesn’t want me speaking to her like that, she shouldn’t be asking me stupid questions”. Again, I was sitting right there shocked.

I started to realize that the employees of this small local office were comprised mostly of a group of people who were very similar. They were all about the same age and ethnic group, thinner than I am and all have been friends with each other for quite some time. I was determined to fit in here and did everything I could to turn the situation around and make it positive for everyone.

For the next three months, I tried very hard to restrict the kinds of questions I asked as I was learning the ropes. I tried to not give the impression that I was “stupid” and also tried to befriend, cajole, and support this “group of friends” and to keep a positive but low-key demeanor. However the problems continued and even escalated. When I tried to establish a friendship or even engage in a conversation with someone in the office who was NOT actively harassing me I was prevented from doing so. One of the more hostile co-workers would YELL across the office for that person to stop speaking to me. This co-worker would continue to yell until the person who was speaking with me, STOPPED, and in mid-sentence and walked away from me.

One day after being publically (again) berated for something, I left the area. I must have returned more quickly then expected; as I found the manager who had just berated me was now singing “I just feel so sorry for her” to my coworkers obvious enjoyment.

Also as time went on I caught on to a pattern of behavior within my work environment. I was trained on various office procedures and would follow what was directed. Later I would be berated in front of my coworkers and told I was wrong. When this happened at first, I second guessed myself. Later on however, I began to realize I WAS doing things correctly. The pattern was very clear within the company to train me to perform a task a certain way, and when I did so, berate me publicly in front of my coworkers and then tell me something totally different and even illogical. I often was forced to do things in a way that took much, much longer than my co-workers. Was I being treated this way as entertainment?

I have a lot of documentation showing I was being trained differently and told to follow harder, more time-consuming methods, receiving less help when overloaded and flat out being told things by my manager that were simply not true.

Time to cry UNCLE! I thought to myself. I realized I needed to go for help if I wanted to keep my job. I contacted someone I was told was an HR person in our parent company. Within minutes that HR person called my boss and the backlash made my situation much, much worse. It turns out who I was told was an HR person at the parent company was actually some Assistant Controller. I was being set up to send my requests for help to this Assistant Controller who would just do NOTHING but forward my requests directly to my boss who was harassing me. This went on for a year. Consequently, this group of “friends” was free to mistreat, harass, and embarrass me on a daily basis.   They knew the person I was going to for help would do nothing to help me; nor would she admonish them.   When a co-worker moved around me in an aisle sometimes she would sing “she’ll be coming around the mountain when she comes”. When a manager walked by my desk she sang “I’m a whale watcher, I’m a whale watcher”.   The laughing and smirking of my co-workers at these events left me feeling completely isolated. I even had to leave the office and rush to the emergency room when manager sprayed a chemical which can be quite toxic over my work area to such an extent I remained sick from it for some time. Frequent conversations by co-workers within earshot of my desk were about how disgusting fat people are. A co-worker would even YELL out the window to a passer-by, a total stranger walking by, who was overweight, that they “must reduce! You must reduce!” and all the laughing and squealing with delight that followed.

Yes I am over-weight; I became so after breaking my back.   But disgusting?

It was agonizing working in a room full of desks grouped together in an office environment of mostly women sitting and working and laughing together, ordering lunches and making plans for after work, telling stories and sharing information about clients and new procedures and I seeing and hearing all of it, but never to be a part of such. With people speaking over me and around me with my never being able to join in, I sat there feeling completely alone for week after week and month after month. If I tried to join the conversation in some way I was totally ignored. When I HAD to speak to get something done I was snapped at like an errant child. As time went on, something in me just died a little and my thoughts got darker and darker until thoughts of suicide came as my only way out.

As this was all going on, something else was happening. Please know a week or so after I went to this pseudo-HR person for the first time, a new position was created, and a new on-site manager for me was hired. He was represented to me as someone who was very knowledgeable in our field. But in reality he needed extensive training and retraining by me and many others. In almost every respect that I could ascertain, my skills exceeded his. Yet I had to train him to out-earn me.   This non-skilled manager then hired a new team member who also wasn’t a good pick for the job. I had to participate heavily in training and then hand-hold him as well. I have documentation that shows I was assigned more work and received much harsher treatment then my co-workers. Yet I was forced to do and re-do the work of both my manager and this new team mate because they didn’t know what they were doing.

And yet at the end of almost of year of this, I watched as my manager and at least one co-worker received year-end bonuses. I did not.

The end of December of 2009, the VP of the TRUE HR department came to our office and delivered “diversity training”. He seemed casual about my repeated requests for help regarding the taunting about being overweight. This VP had proof in his hand that what happened with the Assistant Controller and the owners of this company showed a severe intent to deceive and prevent me from getting help, this VP was still not taking action. At this time I reminded the VP, I wasn’t just some fat person, I was disabled which led to my weight gain. I hoped once he realized this, he would actually help me. 14 days later I was fired.

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I am currently home trying to put myself back together.   Even though I thought I presented such a good skill set and worked so earnestly to do a good job for them, I was humiliated, forced to train people with lesser skills to out earn me and finally fired. I am trying to regain some sense of dignity and strength but it is very hard to keep going.   I spend a great deal of time trying to figure out what I could have done differently so that this never happens again. Maybe the only remedy is the law. As we all work through this difficult economy together, there may be more employees like me, who feel that if you can get a job you should do everything you can to keep it, to keep a roof over your head, to keep going. Every time I complained, the retaliation just got worse and worse. They played with me. This company just played with me. They had me sending my requests for help to someone at the parent company who was never going to help me and as they are all friends, if they are pressed, their stories all back each other up. It was a game to them.

Going forward from here is difficult. I am single and I am very close to losing my home and car. There are NO jobs in my old field that pay a decent wage and probably won’t be until the economy recovers. And New York State has suspended career retraining programs as the State is out of funds. (As least that is how I am so advised by the DOL.)

Please do consider the reality of what can happen to good people especially now under the stress of a weakened economy. People will try to hold onto any job they can get and employers? Are they really free to do what was done to me?

Thank you for your help.


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