I am a former hourly team member at Store #204 in Camby, Indiana, and this is the story of how Meijer--my former employer from 2007 to 2009 and a place where I once enjoyed working--started treating me like dirt and never looked back.
I'll summarize in parts and be more detailed in others.
This story starts way back on February 18, 2009. Meijer had just started a new service, called SilentWhistle, for team members to report what the company called "ethics violations" (stealing, gambling, cheating, harassment, etc.).
Like most of my employment there, I was going through problems with one Mr. Bob Alumbaugh, Lines Leader for Grocery. Despite the fact that he was not my manager, the man would not leave me alone. He followed me around the store, came in off the clock to supervise my work, and told me to do things that may have cost me my life (really--one day he wanted me to move some empty skids in receiving that were under
a two-ton truck).
With all that in mind, at the urging of my team leader at the time, I came home and filed a report. (This particular team leader actually got fired for being on medical leave, which is illegal in the state of Indiana. That's a huge
oops on Meijer's part! Any further references to my former team leader corresponds to a different person.)
We were told in an ethics policy video released by Hank Meijer in January 2009 that the system was set up so a representative of the company could make contact with us through each individual case in a timely fashion. When it came to "timely", however, Meijer had much different plans.
February turned into March. Nothing.
March turned into April. Nothing.
April turned into May. Nothing.
On May 19, 2009, I came in a little early and sat down in the Service office before I clocked in. Walking in, I was notified by my team leader that there was a shipment of lunch meats and other frozen things that needed to be put in the freezer in the deli and I was to be the person to run those skids. I was not paid any extra to work in the deli, but I generally liked stocking their freezer whenever the opportunity came up. I agreed to run the skids, clocked in, and went back to stock.
No sooner than I went back into the freezer area, a General Merchandise (GM) team leader and none other than Bob Alumbaugh walked into the freezer and began yelling at me at the top of their lungs because I wasn't in my own department. I tried to explain that my team leader had assigned me to the job, but neither person would listen. Despite the fact that Grocery was not the GM team leader's department, she apparently thought she had the authority to tell me to get out or else.
Pretty soon, it turned into a one-sided, no-holds-barred, verbal bashing affair. They were both yelling at me at such a high rate of speed that I didn't have a chance to get a word in edgewise. Because I was more or less confused and humiliated at the same time, not to mention this incident was drawing a crowd of my co-workers and customers, I proceeded to walk away and then walk off the job.
I would say I had quit in the heat of the moment, but I was in a freezer at the time.
A couple months passed. By now it was July 2009. I had kept the reference number to the case I had filed in February just to see if anything had happened. It hadn't, and I can't say I was surprised that it hadn't even been read.
Still, against my better judgment, I decided to return to work in July 2009.
Things seemed like they were going well when I returned. I didn't seem to have any major problems for the bulk of July. August changed that.
It was August 22, 2009--a Super Saturday sale and one of the busiest days of the year due to the Brickyard race. I was behind the service desk gathering the damaged merchandise because I'd been told to do so by the service coordinator. As I walked out from behind the service desk, Bob walked up and began chewing me out because my cousin, who also works at Meijer, didn't have his shirt tucked in. (You can't make this stuff up. It took the team leader from Garden Center to get Bob to go away.) Once again, I'd been humiliated in front of many customers--some who told me on their way out that they would not return to Meijer because of what they just saw--but I stayed.
On August 26, when my team leader had returned from vacation, I decided to talk to her about what had happened on August 22. It turned out that she wanted no part in what I was saying, and she quickly turned over the topic of the 45-minute conversation to telling me how worthless I was to Meijer and that I would be fired if I didn't quit. I didn't quit, but at 2:00 that day, I did get fired.
It is very, very arguable that if the case I had filed on February 18, 2009, had been resolved, I would still be working at Meijer today. Unfortunately, that did not happen. It still hasn't happened.
Meijer didn't even care that they hadn't taken care of the case until I flooded them with tweets on Twitter in late May 2010. I'd sometimes send three or four at a time--and on the rare occasion I was really
upset, I'd send more. I finally got this direct message from Meijer:
Meijer: Hi, we've been looking into your case & wld like to assist. Can you email me: firstname.lastname@example.org so I can get you in contact w/ HR?
The first thought that runs through my head is, "really? You've been looking into my case, and you don't even know who I am?" Biting my tongue, though, I thought this might be the break I needed. I e-mailed the guy and waited for a response.
By then, May had once again turned into June--June 2, to be exact. The "social media expert", however, did keep up his end of the bargain and put me in contact with someone at corporate.
The next day, June 3, I received a call from Greg VanZant. I mention this guy's name because he's about as worthless as an analog television without a converter box; a light bulb without electricity; a lake without water.
You catch my drift?
I begin to tell Greg absolutely everything he needs to know about the two incidents I had described and the other incidents I had reported on February 18, 2009 (oddly enough, there are other incidents in addition to the ones here). I have to admit that he seemed like he was listening to me at first, but I was truly fooled.
Greg then tells me he's going to call me back by June 11 with results of the case. On June 12, I still hadn't received a call back, so I began sending him an e-mail every day asking for any information pertinent to my case. I never received a response.
This brings me to what happened on July 6.
First, I called my former store director to see if Greg had made contact with him on my case. He said no.
Curious about what was taking Greg so long to call me back, I called him. This conversation is the epitome of why this guy is more worthless than a...well, you'll eventually get the drift.
The first thing he does that makes me wary of his credibility is that he claims to have called and spoken to "a male" who claimed he was me "two weeks ago" to say he had "investigated the matter and found no violation". I'll post my phone records for you if you want to see them, but I can assure you that I never received a call from him during the time period he had claimed to have called. As a matter of fact, the last phone call I had received from him up to this point was on June 3. Like I said: call records. I've got them if you want to see them.
The next thing he does is tell me that he has spoken to "multiple leadership personnel at the store", causing him to "dismiss the case based on no violations found". The weird thing, though, is that he couldn't name the names of anyone he'd spoken to. As a matter of fact, he told me he didn't need to name anyone he'd spoken with.
I start prodding him. "Do you know who (name) is? He's my former Store Director."
"Yes," he replied, "I've spoken with him on this, and we found--"
I cut him off. "Really?" I follow up. "I just spoke with my former store director, and he says he's never received a phone call from you on matters pertaining to me."
He seems surprised that I'd taken the time to speak with my former store director before making the call.
Just for fun, I threw out my former team leader's name to see if he'd tell me anything. He says he'd also spoken with her on the matter, and he (once again) repeated that he'd found that "my claims were unsubstantiated". I can't tell you how many times during that call he repeated the line, "your claims were unsubstantiated," but he must've said it a million times.
The rest of the call consisted of me trying to get him to crack by reading relevant corporate policy straight out of the handbook. He insists I'm making it up. I tell him to get out a copy of the DRP and turn to page 9. He still insists I'm making it up and tells me, once again, that he's found that my claims "were unsubstantiated". Okay--I know, along with witnesses to both instances, that they're very substantiated, but all right.
In case anyone wonders what Greg was accusing me of making up:
Examples of specific claims subject to arbitration include, but are not limited to...claims of employment discrimination, harassment or failure to accommodate, including, but not limited to, claims based on race, sex, age, national origin, religion, physical or mental disability and marital status.
Meijer DRP, Policy 351; Page 9, Rule 1, Paragraph 7
(Just so everyone knows for sure I'm not making it up, here's a full copy of Meijer DRP, Policy 351
for you to read/cross-reference for yourself.)
Oh, and did I mention that he tried to pass off on me that it had been more than 30 days since my termination, so the claim was invalid? Rain check: at the time the claim was filed on February 18, 2009, I was still a Meijer team member. Therefore, 30 days from the receipt of the original claim (March 20, 2009), I was still
a Meijer team member, because I didn't leave the company the first time until May 19, 2009. Because of those very solid, irrevocable circumstances, I am legally required by Meijer policy to have this resolved. Check out an exact copy of the claim confirmation report above. I've blacked out the case number, but it doesn't do anything to the authenticity of this confirmation. Click to see everything in full-size, 8.5-by-11 resolution.
This is also not to mention that the only resolution method in the DRP that actually has to be done within 30 days is peer review.
After I got off the phone with Greg, I called my former team leader to see if Greg had made any contact with her on my case. She immediately responded with, "I've never even heard of him!" I think I'm safe in saying that's quite an obvious slant towards the "no" side.
The moral of the story is that this...
Meijer values its team members. Treating people with dignity and respect is a cornerstone of the Meijer culture.... We believe that it is important to resolve...conflicts and disputes as fairly and quickly as possible.
Meijer DRP, Policy 351; Page 1
...is the most untrue thing in the world. As a matter of fact, every time I read that, I almost blow a vein in my head from laughing so hard.
First things first, if Meijer valued its team members, none of this would have ever happened in the first place. Next, if Meijer considers a reaction time of 1 year, 4 months, and 18 days "quick", they seriously need to take a look at their meaning of the word "quick". Finally, this is an unresolved case due to the unwillingness of corporate to even do so much as talk to the store about the incident.
Valued team members?
"Valued", as in, "you're so priceless that we fire you for using a 'no-retaliation policy' just so we can illustrate how easily you're replaced"?
Quick response? If you're a snail.
Case resolved? There's obviously been no attempt to show anything visibly resembling work on this claim.
Three strikes, and Meijer's out.
Like the title of this entry implies, this is not likely to be over any time soon for reasons beyond my control. It's my firm belief that if you start something, you have to finish it. Meijer started to "investigate" (even though they really didn't) and stopped. Either way, I would like this situation resolved in some way.
We are required to sign papers when we're first hired stating that all team members must follow guidelines set within the company's Work Rules and Guidelines. If we fail to follow these rules, the policy explicitly states that punishment up to and including termination may occur. If I am correct, Meijer defines "team member" in its policies as any employee working at Meijer. This means that management is not exempt from these policies, and Bob Alumbaugh should be fired as a result of his repeated harassment toward me.
I was never a bad employee. I was reliable, never got any disciplines for insubordination, and did my job to the best of my ability. I even have a hand-signed letter from Hank and Fred (yes, Fred) Meijer hanging on my wall because I was, apparently, the first-ever corporate-recognized employee at my store. I won't lie--I did get written up for being a minute or two late from break on a few occasions, but what employee at Meijer that uses the time clock hasn't been written up for a late break on at least one occasion?
If anyone from corporate reads this and actually wants
to help, feel free to contact me. I am extremely easy to work with and will give any information necessary to get closure on this matter, as other corporate employees probably noticed before they lied to me and I found out.
Thanks in advance.