Have Your Assignments Been Taken Away?
Often, when a supervisor or a company, as a whole, want to rid themselves of a nuisance employee they will find legitimate means to accomplish the task. The legitimate reason must come across as not having any connection to race or retaliation (e.g., for complaining of mistreatment or inequities in the workplace). They need a pretext without racial overtones.
One of the best excuses, which would appear to be a legitimate issue, is for an employer to accuse a worker of not having enough work to support their position. This lack of work can be the justification for getting rid of the worker through outright firing of the worker, calling the action a “lay-off,” or calling the action a “reduction in force (RIF).” This action presents a good cover story to an external investigator or lawyer. It’s like, “No, we didn’t target her or retaliate against her. We just didn’t have anything for her to do!”
The other benefit of targeting an employee with a hostile environment, such as giving them menial tasks and stripping them of their work, is that the employee could feel completely defeated, find another job (or not), and resign. This, along with other factors, could qualify as constructive termination, where any reasonable person would feel the need to leave a job in which their mistreatment became unbearable.
I’ve had a coworker who was stripped of her work and I’ve been targeted in this fashion myself. In fact, after my sudden lack of work, I had a supervisor tell me she was scared for me because “you know how they do with lay-offs.”
Here are some tips for anyone who suddenly finds they have nothing to do and an employer breathing down their neck about their lack of work:
1) Document your sudden lack of work! Send your supervisor and the director of your department/unit regular emails documenting that you are looking for work. Yes, your employer could use the email to support their false contention that you had nothing to do and they were forced to get rid of you. But, for your sake, and for evidence to provide to an outside agency (e.g., EEOC, OHR, etc.) or a lawyer, you will need documentation that shows that you suddenly had a lack of work and that you notified your management about the issue.
2) Document your previous workload! Collect your timesheets, staff work schedules, etc. that will show that you had a steady work load prior to being targeted or filing a complaint. This will present evidence supporting your argument that after being targeted, you were punished/retaliated against by having your assignments taken away. Collect timesheets for the past couple of years, if you can. You want to show a long-term history of having work to do.
3)Document the work load of other staff! This includes documenting the work load of your supervisor’s other subordinates and documenting the work load of other staff throughout the company, who are in the same or similar jobs to the position you hold. Ask around. See if anyone else is out of work. If everyone else is working and you aren’t, it supports your case that you are being isolated and targeted for abuse.
4) Take extensive notes at departmental meetings! Many employees must attend weekly staff meetings. Work assignments are often discussed, everyone takes a turn talking about what they are doing, new or anticipated projects are described, etc. Take note of how much work is available in your department and contrast that with the fact that you are being told there’s nothing for you to work on. Take notes about what other staff say they are currently working on.
5) Request assignments at these weekly meetings to create a group of witnesses to substantiate your claims that you were actively seeking work! If you don’t have weekly meetings, ask your supervisor for work in the presence of other staff. Create a list of who was present, when you’ve requested work, and present this witness list as evidence.
6) Find your own work and document your efforts to do so! Contact managers/staff in other departments to see if they have assignments you can work on. If your supervisor, HR or anyone else with authority in the company takes you off these new assignments, you will have more evidence that there is an orchestrated effort to keep you from having work. Finding your own assignments also shows that your supervisor, etc. could have found you work…if they really wanted to do so!
If you are coming across a lot of people who have a full work load and can share work with you, that can be evidence of a wider campaign to isolate you and run you out of your job. This is especially true if these people are of the same level/classification as you.
If you are running across a network of managers claiming they don’t have any extra work in their departments, you may also be able to use this as an example of how you are being shut down on a company-wide level.
One of my coworkers could not get a single higher-up or manager at our company to respond to her requests for work because the word had been spread by HR and management that she wasn’t to receive any assistance from anywhere in the company. This lack of response was used as evidence against our employer, who was later found guilty of retaliating against her by the Office of Human Rights.
More tips on Friday!