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City Employee Disabled And Bullied. What Would You Do? What Can I Do Without Paying The Price?
This will seem long winded but I was a computer tech for over 20 years. I got tired with the white collar world as a contractor and got a job with the city (in Alberta) as a garbage man. Life was great, no office politics or back stabbing and a great bunch of guys to work with. Unfortunately I was injured and left with a bad leg and now walk with a cane. Under accommodation I was placed in the offices.
At first the assumption was I had a limited intellect and skill set till someone who use to work for the oil industry recognized me and told them what I was capable of. So I was accommodated as a Data clerk then still accommodated because I also had technical writing skills the job of writing the Standard Operating Procedures for ISO 2008.
It was then my present manger, who just received her job as manager from being an Administrative Assistant, asked me to help in a serious backlog of data and as soon as I had caught the department data backlog up I would be given the permanent job as the department’s Technical Writer.
I trained four temporary staff to help with the backlog so that within 4 months the backlog was completed. My manager then asked me to apply for the data clerk temporarily so I would be able to change unions for the job as technical writer as soon as the city budget was completed and the job would be finalized.
As soon as I was made Data Clerk things changed drastically. Even though I’m handicapped, I was now forced to repair printers, pool vehicle maintenance (taking vehicles in for repair), petty cash, manpower, all data entry, reception, kitchen/ lunchroom/ boardroom cleanup, building maintenance issues, office mail delivery, etc. I also endured jokes from my manager and her friends over my walk and names like James walks with a limp and crooked knee even though I asked, being Métis (First Nations and white mix), if it would be possible to refrain from those comments as well as all the gender based jokes, being the only male, jokes such as men are babies when they are sick, can’t multitask etc.. The pain of intensive walking did cause me to miss a few days here and there and was reprimanded by my manager and told I was on HR’s radar. I continued hoping for the day I would return as the Technical Writer and not wanting to cause waves I kept silent.
Finally the job of Technical writer was up but was given to my manager’s friend because I was told she had more experience. I applied as my managers Administrative Assistant but that was given to someone with more seniority. Finally I applied for another job where I had all the qualifications, seniority and knowledge but lost this job to someone I had trained with less seniority and qualifications because of targeted selection. Strange as it may seem, in my mind I honestly thought that I lost the position because they were protecting me from further injury due to my handicap. The interview was done by my manager’s Administrative Assistant, who is also my supervisor.
It later came to my attention that I really lost the job because the person I trained that got the position was my supervisor’s friend and my manager and supervisor believed and gossiped that my diplomas where faked. Also one of my original diplomas was shredded and I had to purchase a new one from the college I attended. I brought the matter to HR and my manager and was told an investigation would take place just by HR and my manager would not be involved.
One week later the same HR person and my supervisor pulled me in a meeting where I was reprimanded for leaving my desk too often, talking too much to customers at reception and gossiping. I tried to explain that I was forced to leave my desk to complete all the other duties that I had, that it was difficult not to talk to customers and other managers that came to me with issues etc and I don’t gossip. I was then told my primary duty is reception. I can only leave my desk with notification even if it’s to go to the washroom. I’m to use scripts, such as I have a deadline to meet, to discourage managers from talking to me and I’m not allowed to socialize at all. Most of all HR and my supervisor told me that my position and I am unique.
I went to my union and was told all the other duties I had performed were under a clause as extra duties as assigned, that even though I had applied as a Data Clerk the person before me that had that position when the department was much smaller also had reception duties. The other Data Clerks were still data clerks. I still forced my union to appear to ask what was going on. Why was HR involved in reprimanding me when I asked for an investigation on my behalf, why was the same HR person involved in both issues? Instead both the union representative and I were now informed there was an investigation against me for gossiping. Two people, both my supervisors friends, one is a FOIP, came forward unsolicited to say I was gossiping that I was not allowed to leave my desk or socialize. Both were true because I did have to inform someone when I was leaving to go to the washroom and I did forget my script and asked someone to talk to me later not at my desk.
The union then sent me to the City’s HR Human Rights Coordinator who told me no action can be taken till the investigation on my behalf was completed, that the same HR person doing both investigation was a professional and unbiased. The comments about James walks with a limp and such I should take with a grain of salt because women can be caddy and I don’t look “Indian”. I wasn’t sure what he meant. One I’m not Indian, I’m Métis, First nations and white. I'm not a drunk laying on a park bench or walking around in buck skin and a loincloth.
Finally my doctor forced me to take stress leave and indicated that the stress was causing high blood pressure issues. When I returned I was given a letter by my supervisor and the HR supervisor of the Human Resources Corporate Health Consultant that all doctor appointments can only be made during my days off or holidays. An explanation was required why I took so long to see the City’s Health and Wellness psychologist since the appointment was only an hour and I took 3 hours. What were the tests I was having with my doctor and what were the results etc.
Finally I was informed no investigation was done on my behalf and my manager had taken care of the problem and a letter was placed on my file that someone said I gossiped and it was creating a toxic environment so I was written up for gossiping?.
Anyways it goes on and on. Even though I receive numerous accolades for my work and am considered the most proficient at all my duties I still get into trouble for gossiping even when I’m gone on vacation with so called witnesses I’ve never seen. My medical information is known throughout my unit , I’m confined to my desk and reprimanded for being late by a minute while all the other staff in my unit can come and go, take long lunches and extended breaks while I’m watched and even followed to the washroom.
The City has a reputation for making life difficult for those they want out till they quit and know the union is, as my manager says, toothless. The union is either unwilling or unable to see the fact that this is workplace bullying. The questions posed by HR are against the medical information privacy act and finally all my dignity is being stripped little by little from me because I cannot fight this alone. It is no wonder I was informed recently because of this situation I have suffered a minor stroke because I can’t lash out. Why I stay? Well I’m 54 years old and handicapped and I’ve worked hard for the city for 8 years and perhaps I’m afraid that being a handicap will limit any chances of other gainful employment. I grew up seeing first hand that justice and rights are for those in power or can afford it. I am Métis, I have seen people like me that make too much noise or challenge authority right or wrong pay a heavy price plus considering the position my union is taking. What would you do? What can I do without paying the price?
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