Public Service Bullies Rewarded While Target Forced Out
by Cathy Scannell
Hi, my name is Cathy. I worked for the public service for nearly 30 years. A member of management made a sexual advance toward me about 2 yrs into my career. When I rejected him, he started to build up a file on me culminating in him actually physically removing my desk from the office and going to more senior levels of management to say he had no longer any work for me to do.
My desk was removed to a storeroom, with dusty files, a photocopier, very little light or ventilation and no phone. When I went to my union they advised me to take a transfer to another department!! I refused to do this and eventually was accommodated within the same building. Shortly after this I took a career break.
When I returned a similar pattern of behaviour occurred, allegations being made by him that I was not doing my job properly, introducing new members of staff to everyone in the room but me etc etc. Eventually I went to a solicitor/lawyer and he received a letter by registered post. The bullying then stopped for a few years although he still would not speak to me.
Then I got a promotion and he became my immediate supervisor again. I got no help or training from him in my new post and after a few months, the whole pattern began again. My work was given to other members of staff to do on an overtime basis and I could see that I was heading off in the same direction again.
When I complained to two senior members of management, it was suggested, politely at first, that I transfer to another section. What started out as a polite suggestion manifested itself into an order and within a few months I was told that if I did not voluntarily transfer, I would be removed from my job and that it would take a ministerial order to reinstate me!! All this while my supervisor continues with his daily work, unaware and untouched by the whole thing!
I went off on sick leave for almost a year and had the bullying investigated by an independant body, the conclusion of which was that yes indeed I had been bullied and harrassed. I had engaged the services of a lawyer again and when we got the report back I was told that I had a huge action for damages against my employer. Money however was not a huge motivational factor for me, although I am not wealthy. I wanted these people to be held accountable.
Back at work for nearly two years, I could see no visible improvement in the behaviour of my employers and I decided to take an action against them. It took 2 years and a High Court order for them to produce their evidence. All in all it took nearly 7 years for the case to be listed, at which point I was informed by my lawyers that the courts were now inundated with bullying cases, that this was not my fault, but that I would be taking a huge risk having the case heard and would have to settle it.
My employers would only agree to a settlement on the grounds of me taking early retirement. And still the perpetrators remain in their jobs, some of them in senior management have had several promotions since all this started.
I feel so hurt, angry and bitter over this whole experience. It has left me with no faith whatsoever in the judicial system or in any sense of fairness or justice. I had to leave my job. Why? What did I do? I am a single parent struggling on one income, now reduced by approximately two thirds, and these people can stay in their jobs, have no accountability and even get rewarded for their bad behaviour. I am thinking of writing a book.
Meanwhile I would advise anyone in a similar situation to get the hell out while you still have your health and your sanity. I thought I would get justice and maybe prevent other people having to go through the same hell that I went through but nothing could have been further from the truth. Anyhow that is my story, sorry that it is not more upbeat, but I am just telling it like it is.