Friday, June 05, 2009

"I Spy" All Around The Office

The EEOC web site contains an example of an adverse action (threats, increased surveillance, termination, unjustified negative performance evaluations, etc.) that reminds me of illegal corporate behavior that is very familiar to me. The EEOC example is this:

A Black worker has filed a charge alleging that he was racially harassed by his supervisor and co-workers. After learning about the charge, the Black worker’s manager asked two employees to keep the Black worker under surveillance and to report back about his activities. According to the EEOC, the surveillance constitutes an "adverse action" that is likely to deter protected activity (opposing discrimination/harassment), and is unlawful if it was conducted because of the Black worker's protected activity. The statutory retaliation clauses prohibit any adverse treatment that is based on a retaliatory motive and is reasonably likely to deter a complaining employee or others from engaging in protected activity.

Some of you may have experience with complaining about racially-based mistreatment and then suddenly having coworkers subjecting you to heightened scrutiny at the employer’s request. Suddenly, everyone thinks they are starring in "I Spy."

Some companies will go all out in their recruitment efforts to get corporate spies, particularly in race-related incidences. If the employer is convinced that someone in their employment did violate anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and/or anti-retaliation statutes, the employer may feel compelled to do a James Bond in order to find anything that can provide the company with cover.

All many employers can think of is how they can pull a bait and switch. Instead of focusing on accusations of race-based violations, the company may focus on presenting the complaining worker as a habitually problem employee. It is not uncommon for employers to come up with negative patterns of behavior to use against a complaining employee. So, they may ask coworkers to watch the complaining employee and then they may try to use anything perceived as ammunition against the employee as justification for the treatment of the complaining worker.

A harassed employee may be having problems sleeping, may be physically ill due to the stress of their work situation, may be depressed, etc. This employee may have a day or two of getting into the office late because of the dread they feel about being a target at work. Coworkers who are assigned to watch the employee may report two instances of lateness in a 2 week period, for example. An employer might then use the spies/coworkers as evidence against the complaining worker. They can do this by presenting the complaining employee as someone who’s had a chronic problem with attendance, which is a lie. And, then they can use the spies as corroborating witnesses to their position. During an investigation, even without written documentation citing a problem with lateness, an employer might be deemed credible, when making false accusations about work attendance/punctuality.

Now, accusations of lateness have nothing to do with the allegations from the employee that they've been subjected to race-based mistreatment. However, an employer would rather have that discussion (about fake performance issues on the part of the complaining employee), then deal with the realities of their work environment.

This may sound paranoid, but it’s not. I had a coworker, who couldn’t keep it to herself that she was coming into work early and staying late to spy on her manager at the request of authorities within her department. She was told to rummage through her manager’s desk for anything that could be used against the manager. Previously, this manager was accused of playing the race card and of being a race-baiter, who was only interesting in filing a race-based lawsuit against the company. So, the company wanted this manager’s office nearly ransacked in order to find out what she was up to, if she was informing anyone of her issues in the office, if she had sought outside assistance against the company, etc.

This is just a warning that you should be careful with how you judge your relationships at work. It is fine to trust some people you work with, but you should remember that many people can have their heads turned by promises of promotions, bonuses, etc. Be careful about sharing private information about your complaint and about speaking about your mistreatment with coworkers. You don’t know who is a company spy.

If you do have suspicions that you are being watched by corporate spies, you should document any behavior, words or actions that support this perception. You should be sure to include these suspicions in any report of potentially illegal behavior as adverse actions are illegal.

If you are being watched, it may be part of your employer’s efforts to stop you from engaging in the protected activity of complaining about racially-based mistreatment/violations of civil rights statutes. The use of corporate spies can also be used as a signal to other employees that they will receive the same treatment, should they ever decide to complain.



Anonymous Anonymous said...



1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frankly, they might as well take the CRA and just flush it down the toilet because it has no real teeth in corporate America. The only way to crack the animal of human rights violations in the workplace will be put to an end is to send in a troop of undercover FBI agents that will not be compromised. Only then, will the truth of the conspiracy to GET RID OF THE COMPLAINANT be exposed all the way up to and including the President of the company.

Yes - People, believe it or not - in the raw 2009 - there are EYE SPIES all around the office--

A silent war exists and has been waged against human rights in the workplace. Most employees are held captive, they are afraid to even talk about it for fear of losing their livelihoods. So, when EEOC investigators ask them if they can corroborate any of the information supplied by a Complainant most will just deny-deny-deny! Here we stand in the generation as beneficiaries of the CRA, yet people would rather chime in with Corporate Americas games and put on white sheets rather than tell the truth.

I cannot tell you how many times people were terminated in the insurance company I worked for under the perfect pretext – the Employee Handbook. The Employee Handbook was like a New York City storefront – one week Taco Bell the next week a chi-chi-poo-poo clothing store - changed to reflect whatever employment challenge the corporations on-staff employment law team had to address that week. They have their fight down to a perfectly well-oiled wheel and down to a science to the point that they never wrote up any white folks for their bad behavior in order to bury the paper trail. Most of the information about white employee’s outlandish behavior would be conveyed if you happened to be at the water cooler when Grapevine Gladys was giving the latest news report.

The Employee Handbook became their legal means to take the "sting" off the "real" reason someone allegedly got fired: (1) they filed a complaint , (2)abused of FML or (3) they got tired of covering up for a manager who had been running up their human rights violations tab too far and showed them the door.

Most of the employees fit into two categories when it came to corporate shinanagans: the ones who are “afraid for their livelihood victims” and the ones that work as corporate EYE SPIES. The one’s who were afraid know what’s really going on but just would not admit it if the were called out on the floor by the EEOC. They would tell me things like “I would never trust Human Resources, because I’ve seen them to alter company documents” or “I’ve seen them terminate people for fabricated made up exaggerated things, yet cover up for managers.” The EYE SPIES are a different sect – they are willing to do anything --- ANY thang! --- It makes my stomach turn at the thought of a white manager who encouraged a willing black supervisor to help her target employees for a simple pat on the head, a wink and a couple of bucks. This black supervisor was an opportunist willing to give targeted employees unwarranted negative Performance Appraisals, alter their computer entries and/or mess up their files so that they could not do their job properly and then write them up for it. I was appalled to find out first hand what people are willing to do for a couple of dollars.

I have a little empathy for those in fear, but to all the EYE SPIES – “Shame on You!”

If you don’t have the guts to speak up, just send an anonymous letter to the EEOC from another state and have a friend send it. Do something, don’t be a worm your entire pitiful life…

9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was recently fired from The Conference Board in New York City, is there a way to file a complaint anoyomous to the EEOC, sever racial situations are happening there in addition to thing the IRS should know about.

3:01 PM  

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