Friday, August 21, 2015

The Familiarity of the Workplace Scandal

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that is one of the worst places to work. Upon reading about the conditions that made the employer so horrible in the first place, many Americans found they weren't learning anything new about the retail giant. Many working American could recount their own horror stories from their current and former employers. The CEO of, Jeff Bezos seemed shocked and appalled at the negative reviews that current and former employees gave his company. The New York Times quoted his response which included “I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t, either.” But how could he not? There were so many detailed, horrendous complaints. Those however don't even account for the many complaints employees choose not to disclose for fear of retaliation. Although it is true that because some people are unhappy with a company, does not mean that the company is necessarily one of the worst. The concern is what made those few complaints about which we read, sound so horrible in the first place. One woman complained about her job dedication being in question simply because she had a baby. This is both misogynistic and discriminatory. I'm sure any Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) will tell you, where one person has experienced discrimination or harassment, there most certainly will be another.

Before we paint as the devil of all employers, consider the number of large corporate organizations there are. Bank of America regularly receives awards for being one of the best places to work for women with children. Yet, many of the women terminated from employment were reportedly terminated for issues directly related to motherhood. Women found themselves terminated for tardiness, even if they were a mere 1 minute late, and absences in excess of 7 days. Bear in mind that a child who has contracted the chicken pox or the flu may be out of school for up to two weeks. Multiply that by more than one child, and you've lost your job before the first child has recovered. Yet, this is an organization that has been awarded for being the best employer for people with families.

Owens Valley Career Development Center, a tribal TANF organization prides itself on helping the Native American community become self-sufficient. They often offer "safe spaces" for employees to vent about issues that need to change to help the organization better achieve it's mission statement. "Safe spaces" are intended for employees to speak freely without fear of retaliation. However, the moment a member of tribal council is offended by an employee's honesty, they are terminated for "at-will" reasons. Over the past year there have been over 200 isolated complaints of sexual harassment, bullying, nepotism, public drunkenness, theft, and welfare fraud that resulted in whistleblowers being reprimanded or terminated. What many non-employees do not know, is that as a tribal entity, OVCDC is not bound by the labor laws that bind all other non-tribal companies. Many employees have complained that they never received their full final paychecks, have been wrongfully terminated, and have been barred from re-hire. There is no recourse for these people as tribes are sovereign nations and govern themselves. So even though you were interviewed, hired, employed, and even fired on non-tribal land, you as an American citizen are not protected by the United States labor laws. This is one of many reasons the State of California suffers such a high unemployment rate. Yet this organization is revered as one of the most successful tribal TANF organizations in the country.

This takes me back to my initial question. How could the CEO of an organization be so unaware of the atrocities taking place in their own company?


We all know there is a chain of command when filing a complaint against an employee or making suggestions regarding workplace or policy improvements. But what if the person to whom you are to direct these concerns doesn't send that information up the chain of command for their own selfish reasons? Several employees at OVCDC reported that they were reprimanded and saw stellar employees terminated for speaking out about policies and procedures in what was supposed to be a "safe space" free from retaliation. Members of tribal council reportedly did not like hearing about grievances for the first time in public. Rather than resolving the bottlenecking that prevented this information from getting to them in the first place, they allegedly chose to reprimand the whistle blower for saying anything at all. In the end, employees say that the issues where never resolved, the employees who caused the bottlenecking and caused other employees to be disgruntled in the first place remained employed, and the whistle blower are now collecting unemployment. All of this happens on a level that all but excludes the involvement of the CEO.

Bank of America employees reported that after filing complaints about harassment or bullying from their supervisors they found themselves being written up for offenses such as being late by 1 minute, being 1 account below their sales goal even though they were the top seller, and the style of their nails. By being written up, an employee may not transfer to another banking center or be promoted, no matter how petty the write up is, or willing the next supervisor is to overlook the write ups. All a supervisor need do after frivolously writing up an employee is request permission to terminate which is always granted when a write up is involved. None of this information will reach the CEO.

Bottlenecking is a result of policies designed to streamline minor issues without them having to take up the time of corporate level employees. The CEO is paid the largest salary but they don't necessarily do the most work. Lower level supervisors are to resolve ground level issues. Human Resources is designed to resolve employee issues that may result in litigation. More often times then not, the resolution is termination under the at-will law. No employee issue should ever reach the CEO with Bottleneck Polices in place. The television show Undercover Boss was a success because CEOs could talk to their ground level employees first hand and improve their company's image. This show circumvented the Bottleneck Policy that is so popular in the corporate world.

What Can I Do?

Every month I am asked about how to file a complaint without losing a job. The answer is, don't. When it comes to employment remember that you are free to quit at any time, though you may not be able to afford to do so. This is the attitude that you must always assume your employer will have. They don't always want to hear the truth. Sometimes they know the truth and have no intentions of making changes. They don't always care that you are being harassed, they do care if you are a litigious liability. No matter what they tell you, they want you to do the job for which you are being paid. You are not being paid to improve the company for which you work. If you want to see a change, work somewhere else, or start your own company that holds higher standards. If you make it your mission to stick to your job description, you will find longevity in your career. Very rarely is innovation adequately rewarded.

Even though you may not complain, document everything down to dates and times. You never know when you may need it.

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