What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know

Sexual Harassment and Bullying in Academia

by David
(United Kingdom)

My job or should I say my vocation, is in biomedical research and I have worked in university environments as well as in research institutions. Up until mid 2008 my career was progressing steadily in the right direction, that is performing experiments successfully, interpreting data and giving presentations, followed by writing manuscripts for publication in scientific journals. In fact, retrospectively I realised the work environment was not quite right since ~2000, but did not realise it at the time. The reason for writing this is due to my exasperation with the support and advice I have received not only with my past and present employers, but also with the union and I can easily anticipate my career being completely annihilated.

Towards the end of 2008, my employer approached me to provide information about rumours of impropriety taking place in the laboratory in which I worked. All of a sudden, I realised I was surrounded by members of staff involved in sexual harassment as well as bullying and intimidation including my professorial line-manager. In an instance, I thought at last I had support from the employer, but with hindsight I realised this was not the case. In fact, the employer knew of the serious issues since 2000, but failed to confront them sweeping them under the carpet. An internal investigation ensued that involved the employer encouraging me to provide evidence against my line-manager and fellow workers, as well as advising the victims (mostly female postgraduate students) to come forward. Chronologically, this unsavoury behaviour occurred with more than one group of students and female members of staff. The internal investigation went on in secrecy until the beginning of 2009, when the employer made the perpetrators aware of the investigation.

By the end of 2009, the individual responsible for the sexual harassment was dismissed, whereas my line-manager and a less senior member of staff were protected from dismissal. Furthermore, my professorial line-manager provided a glowing reference for his dismissed employee, allowing him to obtain a position as a safety officer at an institute under the umbrella of one of the UK's top universities. All this had an adverse effect on my health and resulted in the termination of my employment at the end of 2009 and as my professorial line-manager knew of my involvement, he refused to provide me with a reference, causing me great difficulty in securing my subsequent position at a different institution at a different university.

Once I started at my current position in February this year, I have been subjected to bullying by my line-manager. When I informed personnel about this treatment in April, the bullying became institutional and culminated in a probation review in May that was nothing more than a character assassination and an attempt to terminate my employment. If it wasn’t for the union, this would have been the case and I have been on sick leave ever since, where the sick leave certificates are there to protect me from the appalling work environment and feel that my career has been adversely affected and may be irretrievably damaged. The employer’s occupational health service has quoted the disability discrimination act in describing my relationship with my current employer.

There is the possibility of a link between my previous and subsequent treatment as my previous employer knows of my present employment. I do realise that being on sick leave prevents me from applying for jobs supported by medical advice, but more importantly a reference from my current and previous employer would not be forthcoming. Furthermore, in my current circumstances the employer's internal Occupation Health Service has advised me to ignore medical advice from my GP and other health professionals and return to my current position where they would oversea my progress without them confronting the bullying coming from my line-manager. This policy from a major university's health service is worrying and indicates an unwillingness to confront bullying in the workplace and therefore sweeping it under the carpet.

According to the submission guidelines I am unsure if specifics can be included in my submission. Although bullying is endemic in the work place, especially in academia, there are some institutions worse than others and I'm afraid I have experienced those close to the top of the list and if allowed I would have no qualms in providing these details. As the "submission guidelines" state that the website will edit submissions if necessary, the following institutions are the ones implicated above: Previous Employer: {removed} Current Employer: {removed}. More specifics can be provided.

Comments for Sexual Harassment and Bullying in Academia

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Strangled Into Silence
by: Trinity

Hi,
Sorry. You've been f*t over like lots of people. Most of us end up suiciding, some of us who have been sent really insane end up staying alive, could be mascochism, it's totally not normal to stay alive in a state of mind they consider inhumane to keep animals alive in. I am so unforgiving, I was crucified for being better than the best, my diligence and voice destroyed me. I even dream of being strangled every night, PTSD, it's because I've resisted being silenced at school, then at work, and that is what got me into this space. Doctors have said that I am totally incapacitated, permanently, because of bullying. The pen is mightier than the sword. I still refuse to be silenced. The sweetest and best revenge is to live your life so much better than what you did when they targeted you for destruction. Think, breath, live, survive and enjoy your revenge.

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