"...once, if my memory serves me well, my life was a banquet where every heart revealed itself, where every wine flowed..." -Arthur Rimbaud 1873
If you are thinking about whistle blowing against your employer or colleague(s), think twice. In speaking to women on this this topic I came face-to-face with the awful truth... that when you file a claim and/or settle what is called a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim that you could be blacklisted and certainly be on the road to ruin. Apparently, you are in double trouble if you consider that your formerly loyal peers and colleagues will stand by you -- because that defies reality.
About the EEOC
Founded in 1965, the EEOC is celebrating its 50th anniversary. By enforcing your civil rights with regard to workplace discrimination the EEOC wants to know if you have a complaint based on race, ageism, sexual harassment or retaliation to sexual-stereotyping, disability and discriminatory practices contact them. http://www.eeoc.gov/
In 2014, sex discrimination comprised nearly 30 percent* of the charges filed with the EEOC under all the statutes the agency enforces. Of these charges, -- you guessed it -- women filed a whopping 74 percent**. The issues most frequently alleged in these charges are discharge, harassment and sexual harassment. *EEOC 2014 & *EEOC 2014
I casually queried women and the consensus was that most had not heard of the EEOC, making it a sleeping giant for all employees in need of their services. And that implies that most HR departments are not doing its' job of informing you of your civil rights.
Filing a Claim
After filing a claim, word may get out in your workplace, the prevalent notion is that everyone at work is not out to get you, but those affiliated with anyone named in your EEOC claim become knowledgeable about your claim and sadly are no longer your ally regardless of your previous alliance. From what I heard, it appears to me that HR tries to downplay the scenario if you reported a senior level executive prior to filing and that is why now more women head to the EEOC to claim alleged charges and then retain legal counsel.
The women I spoke to who filed EEOC claims wished to remain anonymous. They were employed at different levels yet unconditionally described the feeling of being an outcast and not in control of their presence, productivity and challenges at work once they filed. They described situations such as being uninvited to crucial work related meetings, engagements and that most subordinates and counterparts started to treat them inappropriately. With the ease of a pitchfork in the gut, they were stripped of their responsibilities and their authority was no longer considered relevant. They felt that going to work was useless.
These are not narcissistic women, but realists who felt the whirlpool of rumors seemingly ruin their chances of gaining future employment. Specifically because some are still unemployed after a significant period of time, others have come very close to an offer letter and with a fuzzy swirl of innuendo their reference checks proved to be fatal. So, it is safe to say that a woman may win the battle but lose the war after filing and winning an EEOC claim. With both shocking and unthinkable behavior in the workplace, are we becoming The United States of Inequality?
If you don't retain a reputable attorney and know your rights, this could happen:
• Your hard earned reputation could be destroyed
• You may be called crazy, hard to get along with or ineffective
• Although there is a gag order, anyone not named in your claim can and generally will talk about the allegations, therefore look to subordinates and peers with a defective moral compass to possibly make your story a point of contention, gossip and worse, humiliation
• Retaliation is a reality. With few exceptions, you have 180 days to file a newly related claim based on where you reside http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm
• You may head into a free fall of despair, frustration and possible abject poverty if your attorney does not handle your case correctly
Believe It or Not:
• Early in her career, upon entering her direct reports office, her male boss pointed to her to go under his desk and verbally asked her "to do push ups in the cucumber patch." Clearly edgy.
• In an effort to try and force this woman out of her executive position, her male direct report told her she could only communicate with with select executives about her cats... now that's a huge meow to swallow
• One female expressed that both male and female colleagues became obsessed with her appearance, posture and the notion that she was "having work done" -- when in fact she was one of the best dressed and more attractive female influencers at her level
• I spoke with someone who experienced being hired as a diversity quota. Something she noted that she only became aware of long after accepting her offer letter. Subsequently she experienced a white washed environment that had a hard time of accepting her, regardless of her creative talent and masters degree education
• You can probably forget about your formerly friendly colleagues and peers, because they are not going to be socially responsible as they run for the hills when you come around. You will not receive return emails or phone calls.
• One woman asked a female counterpart to advise her on how to handle the obvious discriminating behavior of their shared male and female direct reports...and was told that in fact she had noticed the targeting...but did not want to get involved -- now that's girl power
• Soon after departing her company, word got out about her claim and this woman was told by a former colleague from a snazzy client event that people wondered where she was, and she was sadly told that she was earmarked as being "institutionalized and laughed about" by someone named in her claim. Yet her attorney who had an affinity for letter writing did not file a retaliation claim with the EEOC "for some reason..." to her, this one event cemented her road to ruin...
In fact, the gag order imposed by claimant and defendant is apparently a joke and at best ineffective. Know that it is up to your lawyer to enforce and it doesn't cover anyone other than who is mentioned in your claim when you settle unless you specify. So don't think that the assistant to someone you named in your claim or even more damaging a mislead gossipy subordinate throwing back a few at the Irish bar around the corner is not discussing the buzz-worthy charges put forth by you.
How Did I Get Here?
You are now feeling like you are living a reality version of the Talking Heads song "Once in A Lifetime" as you ask yourself "how did I get here?" because you are on the road to ruin and blacklisted.
If you feel you are being discriminated against, head over to http://www.eeoc.gov for information on how to stop the madness.
To find your local EEOC office you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org