I felt like the walls were pressing in on me the day I was told I was being forced to resign. I suspected the reason was that I am a mother. I am a mother of two, stepmother of three, with a biological father who is minimally involved. I have singlehandedly supported my children for several years, no child support in sight. I went to work on my 8-5, did my job well, arranged for school pick ups, got them there in the mornings, completed homework with them at night.
Then things changed at work: “We’re going to need you on-call 24/7, and available to run to the hospital to complete paperwork seven days a week. Oh, and you’re going to need to be available by 5am”.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; how was this legal?
However, being the obedient working woman that I am, I went along with it. I received texts, increasingly condescending, every morning. I was having to juggle how my kids would get to school last minute — I have my husband’s help, but with our children going to three different schools, it was an impossible task for one.
I worked until I came down with strep throat and shortly thereafter had a miscarriage of my 6-weeks along little peanut, the one baby my husband and I would try and have together. I worked 40 days straight without a day off. The strepthroat disagnosis was merciful. With joy I sent a picture of my work note that specified NO WORK for 24 hours after antibiotics started. I would have a WHOLE DAY to recover from strep. Thankfully, I shut my phone and my job off and went to bed, my throat on fire, my body aching, my womb empty and sad.
Within two weeks, as my one year work anniversary approached, another female coworker took a moment to berate and belittle me so severely in front of other nurses around her that her name was taken and the supervisor was called about her abusive behavior. I went home feeling beaten down and worthless.
I kept working. After a 9 hour workday that started at 5am, I would work well into the night from home, tears spilling onto my keyboard as my little daughter asked, “Mommy, are you going to be able to spend time with me tonight?”
The answer, far too many times, was “No.”
I went to my supervisor. I explained that the hours and having to somehow juggle my family life with this new schedule was overly difficult. I asked for help, for someone else to take some days of call, for some occasional weekends off.
“You should arrange for before school care,” was the response.
“Are you going to pay for it, as this was not part of my job description?” I asked.
“No, you’ll have to pay it for yourself.”
I left dejected, going home in tears yet again. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t able to exercise, laugh with my children, or physically connect with my husband. The pressure was pushing in so hard that I felt my skin would pop and I would puddle onto the floor.
That night, I wrote an email to stand up for myself. The email described the abusive behavior of that coworker. My hope was that we could do better. With help, we could improve processes and achieve work-life balance.
I needed to. I HAD TO. I had nothing left to give to them.
The next day, I walked into work to find files I was working on removed from my desk. The office smelled potently of the abusive coworker’s perfume. The HR rep was lingering in our department. I knew something was awry.
Stomach in knots, I desperately texted my husband. Tears burned my eyes and I knew that the mistreatment was far from over.
I was shortly thereafter called into a meeting during which I was advised that I had two options: complete the seemingly impossible task of the worklist they provided, all to be done within five days without error, or I would be terminated. OR, I could resign by the end of the workday.
“I just don’t see that your life will fit in with our work processes," they told me.
“May I have a copy of my job description, please?”
“I’m sorry, we need an answer," they said.
Desperately, I made calls to my husband and family members. Risk missing something on their list and be terminated anyway? Live under even MORE stress for the next several days, and not have a job at the end of it? OR, choose to step free. Terminate this caustic relationship and walk away. Step into the unknown and heal my soul.
And so I jumped.
One week later I sat in an attorney’s office, lists of grievances before me. After careful review, it was determined that I had a strong case for discrimination based on being a mother, a woman, as well as not being paid appropriately and being harassed.
“I tend to believe that they knew after a previous miscarriage, that once you made it to your one year, you could get pregnant again and now qualify for FMLA. So they forced you out before that could happen,” the lawyer advised. The incredulous look on my face said it all.
There is light at the end of the tunnel.
However, it pained me to think that in 2016 it was still possible to be discriminated against by an employer, simply because I’m a mom.
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