You Can Stand for Right And Win! [A true event]
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When I went to work for at Shands Hospitalís Department of Volunteer Services in 1990, I thought I finally had my dream job. What I got was a nightmare that ended up being dragged through four court systems and an operating room at my expense.
How did my good job get so fouled up? Corborate embezzlement and sex discrimination!
Iím a Christian: day in and day out, on the job and at home. So, at the job interview, I mentioned that as a Christian, I would not lie, cheat or steal, either from my employer or for them. I said that if the job involved any of those tasks it would be best not to hire me. The Director must have taken that as a challenge worthy of her attempt to corrupt, because that was the crux of my problems there.
My job as Staff Assistant to the Director of Volunteer Services was wonderfully full, demanding, and satisfying... at first. In my first six months in a position that had not existed before, I used my thirty years of experience and training to organize data processing systems, create three separate data bases that were intertwined, and I learned to use the hospitals regular information systems. I processed several thousand student and adult volunteers, and handled the daily routines... which were many. I worked so much overtime, my overtime pay justified the hiring of another Staff Assistant by the beginning of the second six months I was on the job.
After thirty years of training and qualifying for my job title in minute detail, my male counter-part had never even worked as a secretary... or clerk, couldn't properly address an envelope, and didn't have a clue about a computer. He had no training on any computer, could track only one conversation at a time on the phone (when we had six incoming lines on the phones) and couldnít pass a simple 35 CWPM typing test. Not even after two years of trying! Our pay differential for the six monthís Iíd been there longer than him was eight cents ($00.08) an hour!
To make matters worse, he got an unpaid lunch hour and I was docked for a lunch break but was never given one because he couldnít handle the office by himself! After a year, my bowel perforated on the job because I was not permitted away from my desk! I had to use my vacation leave for the operation to fix it!
Before the final showdown came, toward the end of my second year on that job, Iíd tried to transfer twice. Human Resources policy required that the Director approve the request before it could be processed: she refused. I quietly discussed sex discrimination with several people in personnel, to no avail.
Finally, when I went in for repair of my bowel, the Director made her fatal error! I had prepared all travel vouchers and itineraries for the coming six weeks for all volunteers travelers, including her, before I left, and they had been approved by Steven Sloate, the VP of Marketing and Purchasing.
When I came back and checked through the vouchers, I saw that the Director, Annette Higgins Smith, had revised her ticket (but not the voucher) to include illegal legs of airfare for personal travel to her hometown, a destination not on her business itinerary. Had I let that detail go unreported, and an audit caught it, Iíd have been responsible for the costs of her lie.
I suggested she repay the voucher, but she only threatened me. So, I took that and my other complaints, privately, to the VP, who launched an investigation after talking with the department Manager, Sandra Wigglesworth, who confirmed all my claims in his presence. His investigation, which took three months to document by both the Manager and myself, resulted in proving a staggering penchant for embezzlement and other improprieties.
We were supposedly authorized, without possibility of reprisals, to look any place we thought evidence might be found that would prove my initial complaints of sexual discrimination, grand theft, wage and hour violations and personal injury to me.
Our department always sent out tons of mail, and ocassionally the Director would thumb through it. So, unknown to anyone but me, I mailed copies of it all, in small quantities, to myself under another name and address, directly from the office so no one would know what I was doing. Otherwise, the Director would have found it and confiscated it before I could get it out of the office.
During this time, God began to show me my future in dreams, and by bringing scriptures to my mind when I was in prayer.
Sandra, the Manager, who had keys to all confidential files in the office, offered to provide me with the other Staff Assistantís written job review to compare to mine to substantiate my specific claims of Sex Discrimination. I had access to everything else. Instead of handing it to me, she mailed it through the unstamped campus, and told me it would be arriving the next day or so. When I received it, I discussed it with her in the privacy of her closed office and then mailed myself an incognito copy. I didn't think it mattered that it had no return address or signature.
Several months later, the Director, Annette, fired me for having had it and for discussing it with the Manager. Thinking that had been done without Marketing's Vice President, Steven Sloate's, knowledge or approval, I filed for a Grievance Hearing with him that same day. It was scheduled for ten days from the day I was fired.
My motto has been ďAnger is a miserable master but a mighty motivatorĒ for many years, and my anger over these injustices overruled my fear of fighting with a mighty, deep-pocketed university system. I just prayed to God to help me every hour.
I didnít waste those ten days, either. Just in case Mr. Sloate had known about my termination ahead of time, I prepared the following legal documents: 1) a Small Claims Wage and Hour Action for unpaid lunch hours that Iíd been forced to work, 2) an Unemployment Compensation Claim for Firing without Cause, 3) and an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint of Sex Discrimination: all on official forms. I had them typed, copied and ready to mail when I went to the Grievance Hearing.
Our meeting was relatively formal. One of the women from personnel, Wendy Kissinger, with whom Iíd had the most contact concerning my year-long claims of Sex Discrimination was the VPís assistant, taking notes of our discussion. Before my termination, she had always been very sympathetic to my situation.
I began my presentation by reminding him of the conversation he and I had had which launched the investigation of the Director to begin with, wherein he had assured me that no documentation I uncovered as evidence of my complaints against her would be held against me.
He immediately denied having any knowledge of my claims of Sex Discrimination, originally one of my major complaint! Thatís when I knew this was a real test of what I am made of!
The VP silently sat and listened to my presentation, and then began, "You donít understand! Youíre just a Staff Assistant..."
"I think not, Sir!Ē I interrupted, emphatically. ďI WAS Ďjust a Staff Assistant!í What I am now is an absolutely irate, victimized United States citizen whose Constitutional Rights you and this hospital have violated! And you, Sir, are the one ultimately responsible for that. I may have seemed like a peaceful dove to you when I worked here but what I am now is a screaming War Eagle! And you had best never confuse the two."
We glared at one another across the table.
"Well, what do you want me to do for you as part of this Hearing?"
"I want you to fire the violator and reinstate me in my job."
He was silent several long moments as we looked at each other. In that moment, while he was weighing Right and Wrong, I heard a scripture over and over in my head, "... one shall chase a thousand, and two shall put ten thousand to flight..." and I knew I was in for the fight of a lifetime! But I had help. I had God and prayer partners!
"I canít do that." He said solemnly after a long moment, without breaking our gaze.
"What you mean is you can but you won't." I rose from my chair with an mighty and unusual calm and resolve in my spirit, reached into my purse for the forms I had prepared, smiled at him and said, "Thatís too bad. Iíll see you in court, then!"
I handed him the hospitals' copies of my claims for Unemployment Compensation, a Small Claims Action for lost wages, a complaint to the Human Relations Board for Sex Discrimination and a letter of complaint Iíd written to an attorney who had agreed to handle my Sex Discrimination suit in federal court... one at a time!
He blanched white, and the fact that he had made the wrong decision between right and wrong was written all over his face!
My Bible tells me that "a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches" and I was not about to permit my good name and reputation to be slandered by persons of lesser principles regardless of their superior title or position. I was out to clear my name at all cost.
I had wondered up until then what this man was really made of. In that moment, I knew he was all hype, visual image and title, with no ethic substance. "By the way," I said at his doorway, turning to look at him. "The true measure of a manís success is the depth to which he will stoop to cover his indiscretions!" I think he knew I viewed him a little worse than pond scum.
Suddenly his face was livid with rage, not that I was wrong, but because heíd been caught with his proverbial pants down, and I knew it, and he knew I knew it.
For spite, Shands Hospital at the University of Florida filed an Appeal to my Unemployment Compensation claim, and representing myself, I countered their claim and filed for a hearing before a judge. God began to show me what to do and say and even where to sit for my greatest protection.
Everything they said made my case for me! My evidence was overwhelming! People seemed to come out of the woodwork to testify in my behalf... even the CEO's secretary! And I won... in spite of their deep pockets and limitless resources!
In Small Claims Court, I did my own legal work again, and won by their own admission of guilt.
I hired an attorney on the federal case, but after opening it, she quit because I couldn't pay her due to a more recent accident. God took over by sending the current husband of the Director who fired me to pay all my legal costs, so he could get all the dirt on his wife to divorce her! I learned there that God always has a plan; and a wonderful sense of humor!
I continued to represent myself in the federal courts, completing the discovery and deposition stages and was days from scheduling the arbitration when they offered to settle out of court: and after negotiating what I wanted, we settled.
In the face of overwhelming odds and unlimited funds, I won: and I won, and I won, and I won! It took only three years and four courts to have all the complaints heard, my name cleared and my personal losses vindicated.
Knowing whatís right, and doing it, builds character and confidence, especially if God's in it with you. I learned to trust my instincts, and Godís word, more than ever before as I chose to follow His leadings. In the end, right and goodness prevailed for me. Both the Director and the VP "resigned" immediately in the wake of that Grievance Hearing day.
I photocopied books of the documents I'd obtained during discovery and sent them and an estimate of the costs of the hospital's litigation in my cases to the Corporate Board of Directorís! After that, the CEO didnít fare well, either.
So, donít believe you canít fight city hall and win! Our state received a bonus from my personal trial. I proposed an "Anti Aiding and Abetting Discrimination" law in Florida to circumvent the low "damage caps" placed on companies who willingly encourage employees to break the law. If approved, it will make law-breaking employees equally responsible, with their employers, to their victims for damages under the law.
I got an added bonus. I get to write it as a movie-of-the-week script and a novel when all was said and done! Maybe Iíll make more from that than they all made with their entire fiasco!
Now, thatís what I call a Win-Win proposition!
End of Article.
Here's the legislation I proposed:
Anti-Aiding-and-Abetting Discrimination Petition for Florida
Prove To The World That You Care: ACT!
Researched and Proposed in 1995 for Florida.
ANTI-AIDING AND ABETTING DISCRIMINATION AMENDMENT
"It shall be a discriminatory and unfair employment practice for any person, whether or not an employer, an employment agency, a labor organization, or the employee or members thereof to aid, abet, incite, compel or coerce the doing of any act defined in this section to be a discriminatory or unfair employment practice, or to obstruct or prevent any person from complying with the provisions of this part or any order issued with respect thereto, or to attempt, either directly or indirectly, to commit any act defined in this section to be a discriminatory or unfair employment practice." [Found in Colorado Rev. Statute Section 24-34-402 (1982).] "Any individual who knowingly aids and abets in a discriminatory act according to the statutes of the State of Florida shall be severally and individually liable for damages to any and all aggrieved persons injured by their participation in the discriminatory practices."
End of Proposed Amendment
If you refuse to act today, whom shall your children blame tomorrow?