I wish I had known the law better in 1997 for what I encountered working at Williams-Sonoma headquarters. Because I didn't, they were able to successfully cover-up and victimize me as lacking credibility. At that time I had had no sexual harassment training. I was told upon my employment, to contact HR if I encountered any problems. I didn't know the law to know had I handled it correctly, I would be able to sue them for retaliation against my complaint.
The new V.P. of Retail was causing a huge stir among employees. Many people were upset, in tears, and they were mostly all women. The men were clearly being favored, while new positions were opening up were also filled with men. Not only this, but the overt sexism of the new V.P. was ever so clear. He felt it perfectly fine to touch female employees, otherwise known as "assault" when it is unwanted, unwelcome touching. The image of the father figure con didn't fool me at all, and the intimidation against women was ever so clear as Mr. All-So-Powerful in control requested a box of kleenex for his office for the tears he planned on witnessing due to his decisions. He was the type that enjoyed the tears, enjoyed women being upset, enjoyed the control he could have.
This idiot V.P. came up from behind me at my desk and put his hand on my shoulder. That is assault - plain and simple, in the legal books. I didn't want this man touching me. He was intimidating. He sent me a birthday card I didn't want. My former co-worker friends wouldn't talk to me when I was moved out of their area as Mr. V.P. A-hole made it look like I was under his wing with his winning boy newly promoted 27 year old, with a new company leased BMW, trips to Europe, an on-site girlfriend. The boy had no college degree. They "retired" a high educated woman for the boy's new position, and gave him 3 women. Mr. Boy had a lawsuit filed against him for fraud and breach of contract. His mischief an attitude was all to apparent in the document filed against him that was for the time I was working there.
I felt that I was taken hostage, manipulated by the V.P. and Mr. Boy. When I asked for a transfer to another group, to the woman's who had cried to me in fact, it was denied.
I wasn't getting my expense reports paid in a timely manner. They expected me to photograph their products at their stores, something my previous co-worker in my position didn't have to do. I had to pay for the film out of my pocket, and get to these locations on my own. The V.P. enjoyed holding onto my expense reports, not signing them, and it took a month on average to get paid $40, that was a lot for someone to bear in San Francisco on their $32K salary. Yet, Mr. Boy got a leased BMW, trips to Italy, he was being treated like royalty and I was his manual labor dog at 38.
Basically, I had lost my friends who wouldn't talk with me, many were leaving, others were in tears, one had carpel tunnel syndrome I gave her tips on exercises for. I felt I was taken hostage by the V.P. and his new stud boy who he gave 3 female assistants too. I was being so overworked that I had to come in on the weekends where I was treated hostily by a bunch of men on the property. I wasn't being paid for the overtime even though I was an hourly employee. I worked for the buyers, the assistant buyers and the planners. I started out with a simple filing job and they blew it way up into a huge job without my getting a raise in 6 months.
When I asked for a review, they said they don't give reviews that soon, yet I noted one guy got a promotion in 4 months as a new employee. I was burning out and I wasn't getting any support.
So, I went about complaining about what I experienced, the assult from the V.P., the unwanted birthday card, my observing his assulting my boss in her office, putting his hands on her shoulders standing behind her as she sat down into her chair. I was horrified. I had a camera with me WS gave me and how I wish I would have had the wisdom to snap somes shots of what I observed there.
The problem was, I was distracted by my love interest in all of this, and I didn't go about any of this the right legal way. Unfortunately, I just tried to take care of it by getting a female uprising there like you see in the movies with Sally Field and the Unions, and it completely failed as I made an utter fool of myself. I was stressed, what can I say? Men were definitely getting laid there. It was a very tough environment to be in.
All of this ended up with my complaing in an awkward way to other co-workers, and the company conducting an official investigation making everyone except me innocent, as if I imagined it all, as if I was paranoid and delusional.
I eventually got fired of course, and what followed as a 500 foot restraining order. The company promomted my former friend, and she fabricated, distorted information in a depo about me to try and make me out to be a nut. Both she and I had been traumatized by the company, but she thought I had abandoned her originally in my support, siding with the men, so she was all too happy to get a promotion and testify against me.
I don't take any of it personally, I just think this company was behaving far too sexist and should be monitored by the legal community for violating the sexual harassment laws and retaliating against people who have experienced undue harassment from an executive. It was all too shameful that the women allowed this man to take on the image of a "father figure" and get away with unwarranted touching activities.
Had I known the law back then, I would have had a solid case for sexual harrassment, denied expense report reimbursement, denied overtime pay as an hourly employee. I was assaulted with unwanted touching. Case would have been closed. I should have reported it immediately.
The company did reimburse me for overtime, to its credit, shortly after my termination for $1,200. I then uesd that money to pay for an attorney to represent me in the 500 foot restraining order case. People lied about me, fabricated, distorted information. I'm not saying I was completely innocent, I did send letters to an employee after I left and I shouldn't have but she never responded and I wasn't sure if she ever got them. I didn't get any warning letter fro the company either. The case had 4 depos filed against me and were huge, full of a lot of vindictive lies.
Today I work for a law firm and make far more money. I know the law - it pays to know the law. Everyone should know the law, it can prevent a lot of problems down the line in life.
San Francisco, California