Part 2. DON’T QUIT! Challenge, Publicize, Take Legal Action!!
Read Part 1.
It’s critical that you challenge unfair criticism and treatment, and especially critical that you do it by email or in writing. Challenge the person being unfair to you directly. Do not rely on conversations or promises by HR or your line of management to fix things. Do not rely on the ethics office or the ombuds office. If you are being treated unfairly, you must challenge it yourself.
Here’s an example of a text you can alter for your own needs.
I am writing you to try to correct an unfair impression of my work you stated on 9/18/19 during a conversation in the hallway of building 836. You stated “your work is always late”. In fact, this is incorrect, and I hope to rectify your impression of that. My work on Project X is due 9/30/19 and I anticipate meeting that schedule. My work on Project Y and Z was completed by your expected due date. My work on Project A was past the original deadline, but you directed me to delay the work until clarification of requirements from the customer which arrived two months late per your email of 8/1/19.
What’s important in this text? Dates. Specifics. An attempt to rectify an incorrect impression on the part of your manager. If you’re getting the treatment, this won’t be an “impression”. It will, in fact, be a deliberate attempt to start a documentation trail against you. When you repeatedly challenge these incorrect and unfair attacks, you create your own document trail. It shows harassment by your manager if these persist or grow, which they are quite likely to do. It’s very simple – if the criticism is valid, fix the problem. If it is unfair, challenge it in writing.
Specifically mention projects, people, whatever you need in order to be able to remember this a few years down the road and in order to challenge legally if you need to. A vague answer “My work has always been on time” is not a strong if you ever have to take legal action. An email, electronic and log stating “Project A was due on 1/15/19 and was completed on 1/10/19….” is strong. When they come to fire you for falsified reasons, this will serve you very well.
Make sure you email these challenges and keep a paper copy away from your office (assuming you can do so legally), because when you get walked out the door, you won’t have access to these things.
If you can’t keep a paper copy offsite, then at least keep a log of your emails and what, in general, they are about. For example: 9/18/19 – challenged Joe’s incorrect statement that my project was late by email. That way, Sandia cannot easily make the evidence go away.
Don’t forget to challenge even more vague and prejudicial comments. Here’s some examples that employees have heard:
- You don’t work well with the guys.
- You don’t go to lunch with the guys.
- You never smile.
- We just asked you to make coffee. It wasn’t anything about women.
- I don’t think saying you’re an Indian giver is bad.
- What’s wrong with calling you a girl?
- You have personality problems.
- None of the guys like you.
- You’re just getting ahead because you’re a minority.
You get the idea. These comments need to be documented and challenged. If you’re being faulted for not getting along with the guys, but they don’t invite you to lunch or chat with you, turn it around. Tell the manager he has created and is continuing to allow an environment where isolating an employee based on gender is acceptable. Be specific with examples. Maybe you asked to go to lunch with the guys, but they told you that you wouldn’t like where they’re going or they can’t go out to lunch with you because you don’t eat meat, etc. If you know it’s prejudice, challenge them!
Challenge criticisms that are not related to your job. If you work in the lab and never interact with customers, then criticizing you for not smiling is not related to the job. State that. Criticizing you for not smiling enough is vague. Respond and ask for written clarification of when you should be smiling and how it is relevant to your job.
If they say you aren’t capable of doing your work, make sure they specify how they reach that conclusion. Respond with your training record, your degrees, your past performance ratings, and generally anything that challenges their falsehoods.
If they say that you appear to have drug/alcohol/mental health problems, do NOT rely on Sandia Medical. Their history is not so great recently which you can easily find online. Get your own evaluation. Pay for your own drug test, alcohol abuse assessment, mental health assessment. Get the documentation. Supply the overview of it to your management chain, to HR and insist a copy of it be placed in your corporate HR file (not just the “HR file” your manager keeps on you – that’s frequently “lost”).
Unfair appraisals must absolutely be challenged. Go ahead and say what you want through the system, but be sure to follow it up with a separate email or hard-copy memo (or better yet, both of these). Be specific and refute all unfair accusations and make sure there is an electronic trail that can be discovered.
If you are given a work assignment that is beyond your education or outside of your expertise, state so. Ask for training. If you are given an assignment because you are a minority group, but the majority doesn’t get the same assignment, state so. In writing. Grow that electronic trail of pointing out injustices, falsehoods and prejudice.
These are just a few examples, but you get the idea. You cannot let unfair comments, appraisals, work assignments, etc, go unchallenged. This will help you immensely down the road if you need to take legal action. You are supplying the documentation of the unfair behavior towards you immediately as it happens, and you are demonstrating any attempts you make to correct the problem. There will also be a record of how your manager responds or refuses to respond.
A key step towards fighting the Sandia Treatment is to publicize it when you are the target of the treatment. Publicize it on social media, with your coworkers, post it on your office door, whatever you can think of to bring attention to it.
You’re probably feeling a little queasy right now. First of all, of course I support observing security rules. But if you’re queasy because you’re an introvert or embarrassed, let me tell you why you need to change your thinking on this. Your manager is publicizing your supposed poor performance to other managers, to your coworkers, to anyone who will listen. Don’t think others in your group don’t know. Your manager has already told them you’re incompetent, always late, promoted just because you were black or a woman, etc. Don’t let this go unchallenged. Point it out publicly for what it is. Bigotry. Illegal.
This will be hard to do at first, but it is actually freeing in a way. Everyone already knows the information because you can be sure your manager has spread it around. That’s part of the Sandia Treatment – to isolate and humiliate you. So publicize! If you are pushed out the door, at least you’ve tried to reform Sandia. You can hold your head up and be proud instead of leaving or taking early retirement and feeling like you’re slinking out the door.
Publicity is the single most effective way to CHANGE Sandia.
Get legal help!
When you first get the treatment, follow up immediately with a visit to an employment attorney. We can help you find one (no, we don’t get any kickback for that). You’re far from a lawsuit at this point, and you may still be able to prevent termination.
Ask your lawyer to send a letter to your manager stating the legalities of your specific situation. If this has to do with being assigned work you are not qualified to perform, you lawyer can state that. If you have a disability and have been reassigned to something you can’t do, state that. If your appraisal was unfair, ask your lawyer to send a letter demanding clarification or correction of the facts. This can have a huge impact, and it tells Sandia you’re not taking this abuse.
Finally, if you are fired, for sure consider a lawsuit. Sandia prides itself on dragging out lawsuits until they wear you down. Don’t worry about that – that’s your lawyers fight. Go ahead and sue. Sue as a class. We weren’t successful at the one thing we most wanted: injunctive relief. A court order for Sandia to change its prejudicial behaviors. But you may very well succeed because there IS discrepancy in salaries and disparate treatment. Most importantly, there is a growing body of documentation about it. It’s a matter of time until Sandia’s outdated 1970s approach to dealing with minorities, women, and the disabled is finally stopped.
What not to do
I had a colleague Angie who invited me to lunch one day and talked about the prejudice she’d received on the floor for being a woman. At the time, my management had told me that no women had complained on the floor about how they were treated, so I didn’t know about Angie. They were trying to convince me it was all in my head.
Over lunch she told me that she is from back East and knows how things work. So rather than complain, she went to her manager and asked for a deal. She wouldn’t complain about the discrimination if she got a new office (it was coming from her officemate) and a new assignment. She got both. Apparently, the manager did nothing to stop the prejudicial behavior except keep the women away.
If you need to do this for your sanity, then do it. But publicize it. Don’t let it get swept under the rug. Don’t just make things better for yourself but neglect your coworkers who are also suffering.
In short, come back hard at Sandia. If you are getting the treatment, there is no reason to take it lying down. If we speak up, Sandia will eventually have to change.