How can you protect yourself? We’ll discuss that in a two part series. Please contact us with suggestions so we can get the information to others. WeCare@TheSandiaTreatment.com
Are you getting the treatment?
First, make sure you are getting the treatment before you take the actions suggested below. If you’ve had a concerning incident – a bad appraisal, a comment in the hallway, a discussion with your manager – go home and think about it for a couple of days before you take action. Most importantly, make sure you really have been put on The Sandia Treatment path to joblessness.
Some things to consider: Is the criticism about you valid? Are others in your org receiving the same kind of treatment? Is the criticism vague, changing and inaccurate? Did you receive similar criticism at other companies?
Those kinds of questions will help you sort out whether or not you are really on The Sandia Treatment path. You don’t want to find yourself there, but if you do, there are specific actions you can take to help your situation. If the criticism is valid, then address that directly.
How are you going to react?
There are three main ways that you can react. Which way you choose depends on your career choices, your financial situation and your willingness to stand up to Sandia’s illegal and unethical actions.
The easiest way out: Get a new job
This is what your management wants, and it is the path of least resistance. The new job may be within Sandia, but frankly, if you’ve gotten the treatment once, you’ll get it again in the future. Move to another company while you can. You will likely get a better salary and a more interesting job with less discriminatory treatment by changing companies. Most companies these days actually want to treat employees fairly. Sandia is an out of date hold-out.
If you choose this route, please consider making your story public along with names of the management who pushed you out the door. This serves as a warning to others to carefully consider working for those managers. It also sends a message to Sandia that they need to finally stop The Treatment.
The worst way out: Do nothing or complain ineffectively
If you’re getting the treatment, it is very likely that you are going to end up without a job if you do nothing about it. Don’t do these things:
- Hope you can hang on until retirement
- Go to your manager’s manager for help (they won’t)
- Go to HR (they have stated they are there to protect management)
- Go to the ethics office (a great way to attract retaliation)
- Complain to DOE (they don’t care and they will refer it back to Sandia – see the line above)
These four paths WILL lead you to severe and illegal retaliation and ultimately the door.
The best way: Stand up to unfair treatment. Here’s how…
If you want to keep your job or you feel that Sandia really ought not treat people so unethically, then stand up to The Treatment. Here’s how.
Don’t Quit! Document! Challenge! Publicity! Legal Action!
Sandia managers have honed The Treatment over the years. They know how to apply pressure. They know how to make you very uncomfortable, and they will attack your reputation, your psyche, isolate you from your colleagues and your work. They know how to turn up the heat.
You may find yourself thinking you should just quit. Seeing how distressed you are, your friends and family may even encourage this. But it’s not a good idea.
If you quit, then you voluntarily left the company. That lessens any future damages you can potentially get from Sandia. There is something called constructive discharge where the company forces you out, but you voluntarily said “I quit”. This is harder to prove in court, so avoid it if you can. That can be especially difficult in a place like Albuquerque where your salary is likely well above the people who will sit on the jury to decide your case. It’s not hard for a lawyer to make you look like you’re gold-digging on the way out the door.
Let Sandia fire you. If you’ve taken the Document! step below you’ll be a better position to fight them.
It is absolutely critical that you document very carefully and in specific ways what is going on. Read the lawsuit stories, and you will see repeatedly that Sandia does its own documentation but that is frequently falsified. If you are discharged, your documentation can mean the difference between receiving compensation for your discriminatory treatment or being in a tight spot financially. If you don’t have it, but Sandia has their falsified documentation, you’re not going to be in a good spot. Believe me, they will falsify, exaggerate and trump up evidence against you. Your manager’s job is on the line if he/she doesn’t produce documentation against you.
You’ve probably heard you should keep a log about what is going on. This is true. It’s hard, but write down immediately after, each night or the next day what happened. Write down exact words your manager or someone else said. Write down exactly what you said. Put those things in quotes. Date and time it. Print out your calendar to show you actually had a meeting at that time.
While I don’t recommend you keep your log electronically (dates and changes to files could be challenged), do consider emailing these log entries from your Sandia email to your home address or to yourself at Sandia in addition to keeping a paper copy. Scan it or type it in an email. This makes a record that is legally discoverable. Keep track of the dates/times you sent these emails. This makes discovery much easier. You can refer to specific emails with date and time if you ever need to. Goes without saying that you need to be cautious of security level of the email and that Sandia can see everything you send if they choose to look.
Document when you are absent from your job and why. Sandia will frequently try to use this against you. If you are sick, document it carefully, especially if it is extended sick time. Document when you go to the doctor so you can prove it if they ever challenge you. You can use this down the road to show that your absences were in accordance with company policy. Be especially careful of your time charging. Don’t give Sandia an easy way to legitimately fire you. Even if everyone else is doing it, don’t you falsify or even stretch the rules about time charges.
Document when your manager fails to respond to you. Perhaps you’ve been given an assignment you know is not possible to do and you’ve been set up to fail in order to strengthen Sandia’s justification for illegally firing you. Document carefully when you ask questions, when you raise concerns, and especially if your manager fails to respond to you. Document if he/she fails to answer a question you have asked. If you’ve been put on a performance improvement plan, this is absolutely critical. Saying that you repeatedly asked your manager to clarify an unclear work expectation is far weaker than producing a log where you immediately documented each time you asked and received no answer. If your manager says things like “you should know that” or “at your level I expect you to understand xyz” then write down those exact words. It shows you tried to do your job but he/she blocked you.
Document when you talk to coworkers about what is going on. They could potentially corroborate your situation down the road. By the way, I don’t recommend that you do this with many or even any coworkers. Coworkers will generally not support you because they know their job will be on the line if they do. However, if a coworker says something positive about your work, write it down. If they email it to you, forward it to your boss and bcc yourself.
Basically, document EVERYTHING related to the treatment you’re getting. Mail it to yourself at Sandia or at home, but be sure to keep a non-electronic copy away from Sandia. If you are suddenly walked out the door, you won’t have the opportunity to pick up your log and you may find it mysteriously is lost.
One technique I’ve seen Sandia use to avoid discovery is to interact on the classified side with criticisms against you, allegations, and falsifications about you. It is thought that this is not discoverable. It also should cost them their clearance to falsely classify information, but again, NNSA doesn’t generally care about these kinds of things. If something is said to you on the classified side, you absolutely must take note of it (careful of writing it down – you can’t declassify it yourself). Send an email on the low side to your manager stating something like: “You made allegations about my work on the classified side which I believe are not in fact classified. This limits my ability to respond to these allegations which I believe to be false. Please reconsider your classification level.” If the manager doesn’t, you may have to go to the classification office to have it declassified.
If there is anything your manager has said to you that you are unclear about, document it in an email to him/her.
If you have a verbal conversation, document it immediately in an email. Also include words to give the manager the opportunity to respond to you if he feels it is inaccurate. For example: “You said in our conversation that I must do xyz by 1/5/20 and I must get feedback from the following four people and hold a review by 1/15/20. If you disagree or I have misunderstood you, please respond to my email and clarify.” You will find it almost comical the extent to which your manager may go in order not to put something writing. Very likely they will not respond to your email but will claim they stopped by your office to tell you something but you still didn’t do it. If they respond verbally, document it again and send it for clarification to your manager. A repeated pattern of failing to clarify or correct in writing will ultimately make them look bad.
If HR shows up to a meeting with your boss, they will take notes. Don’t be intimidated. Speak up for yourself. Especially watch out for “uncomfortable” areas where your boss will say that xyz is classified so you can’t discuss it in front of the HR rep. It may be a classified subject, but your work actions may well not be. Challenge this. State that your concerns are not classified and need to be spoken for all to hear. You may well see the HR rep get up and leave at this point. Remember, they aren’t there for you. They are there against you. They are there to document and make the case to fire you. Don’t be lulled into the belief they will help YOU in any way. Stay calm and follow up with an email to both about your concerns that you were not allowed to state. If you are sure that your manager is mis-classifying your information, follow up with the classification office. State your version of the events in an email.
Let’s give an example that actually happened. A manager claimed that a work assignment was late when in fact it was completed prior to the due date. The details couldn’t be discussed in front of the HR rep because it was a classified project. This was used to show the employee could not perform their job. However, the timeliness of the classified project was not itself a classified discussion. Also, it was falsified. If this happens to you, and you have carefully documented when you submitted the work, false allegations from your manager about its lateness, and have at least kept track of the dates/times of emails concerning this work, then you are in a strong position to refute this. If you email your boss and say “I am done with xyz which is not due until next month” it makes it very risky for them to allege you were late. They may do it in front of HR to prove how horrible you are, but that will not stand up in court. Don’t get distracted by the attack against you. Pull back and try to be objective and see it simply as a tactic. Don’t get involved. State calmly that is inaccurate, provide proof, and document.
Consider asking if you can have a representative present if HR is there. Likely they will say no. The reason will probably be that it is classified. Just document that you asked but were refused and that the conversation was not classified or the HR rep could not have been there.
Documentation is tough to do. It’s unpleasant to relive what happened. It takes time. But you must do this if you want to succeed in a legal action against Sandia. What you are attempting to do is to establish the truth in light of what will almost certainly be Sandia’s distortion of your work, your character and your skills.
Coming in part 2: how to effectively challenge Sandia and why you must do it
There are deadlines you need to be aware of. There are processes you must follow. This probably never happened to you at another normally functioning company, so be aware and be prepared when they come for you!