I was a registered nurse at the a hospital in Worcester from 2014-2016. During that time, I was injured by a patient on the job. I had previously been involved in speaking out for patient safety and staff safety through our union, the Mass Nurses Association. We were highlighted in a news story by Fox 25 Boston’s Mike Beaudet on the unreasonable amount of violence occurring at the hospital and the leadership’s unwillingness to address the issue. After this, the bullying by the director of nursing, assistant director of nursing, and the worker’s compensation manager who was handling my claim became worse.
I was denied pay for about 4-5 weeks, with no reason given other than my documentation was insufficient (it was not). I retained an attorney who assisted me in navigating through the claims process, had two surgeries to correct the injury to my left knee, and am now left partially disabled. I was accused of ‘faking my injury’ so that I could ‘take time off for school’ (I had started an online masters program in nursing). I wasn’t allowed to interview for a job I applied for and was fully qualified to do. I was also blocked from leaving the hospital to go to a facility in Boston also run by the state. I was told that my assistant director of nursing told the Boston facility that I wasn’t interested in the job and was just kicking tires, which was not true.
While I was able to get the medical services I needed and the back pay I was owed, I never was able to address the bullying that occurred.
I ended up leaving for the private sector briefly and then returned to employment with the Commonwealth in September of 2017. I am happy with my new job and new facility, but I still think of the bullying every day. I needed a second surgery in 2017, which was approved by an administrative judge, and it was proven that I was in fact injured on the job as I said I was. Yet in December of 2017, I received a call from the worker’s compensation manager asking me if I “do this at every job I go to now just to get attention or money.” I was floored and didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t believe that someone whose job it is to handle injured workers claims would say this.
I am certain that I was bullied because I spoke out and seemed to threaten the “old guard,” the senior leadership team at the hospital.
An employee waits for consequences for her workplace bully almost a year later I had worked in state government for about 18 years after having graduated from Boston College with a BS and an MBA from Bentley College.
I had been given a supervisory role within an IT group. Three months later, my director got transferred to another group, and another employee got promoted to be the director of my group.
I thought it was just a personality conflict at first. He started subtly criticizing everything I would do. He made me doubt my ability to do my job. He would ask me to do research, and then when I approached for clarification, he would say he didn’t tell me to do that. He would dictate how I supervised my team of 11 people and insisted on approving every request for vacation. Although I wrote out the performance appraisals for my team, he would not allow me to give the grades I thought were deserved. I was not allowed to put that anyone “exceeded expectations,” only “meets expectations,” even though I disagreed that some deserved the higher comment. In August of 2016, I received “exceeded expectations” on my own performance appraisal from him.
During this time, I began to realize that I was not the only person that my boss was “rubbing the wrong way” and that he was violating the bullying clause of union’s collective bargaining agreement. I met with some others in the group, and we decided we were going to complain about him. Having never had any friction with anyone else in my 18 years in the job, we did not know the process, so I contacted an admin I trusted, and she set up a meeting with HR. Five of us met with HR, and notes were taken.
Five days after this meeting — and one month after having received an excellent performance appraisal — I met with my boss for a weekly check-in. He told me that he was considering a change and removing me from my supervisory position and placing me back as a team member. Oh, and I was also to trade my office for a cubicle as well after this demotion.
After doing some research, I filed a retaliation charge and agreed to mediation. The employer’s representation immediately agreed to return me to my supervisory position if I wanted. But I did not want to work for the same boss. I wanted to transfer. There was an open position within the state that I had already noticed. I was able to transfer directly into that job within almost two months. My former boss was able to stay in his position, and I was concerned that the perception amongst colleagues was that I was demoted or did something wrong in some way. Why would anyone else ever lodge a complaint if they see that I got transferred out of the group while the perpetrator stayed in his position?
Shortly after transferring to my new team, I was contacted by HR to share my story as part of an investigation into my former boss because another complaint was filed against him. Three of us decided to compose a letter to the head of the division and outline the fact that there have been several complaints against this boss as well as several people who had transferred to different groups to get away.
Before sending this letter to the division head, it came to light that this exact situation happened in 2004-5 with an investigation into my former boss. A colleague who was working under him at that time contacted a bunch of people from back then, and several written complaints surfaced. Several people during 2004-5 wrote out complaints about my former boss similar to those complaints from the current team including one letter to the Lt. Governor at the time. We included all of these complaints with our letter to the division head.
Upon receipt of the letter, the division head assigned two people to investigate. This was September of 2017. They interviewed us and several other people, and another grievance was filed against my former boss as the investigation continued. It closed at the end of January 2018, with the investigators making some recommendations as to what should be done.
The investigation concluded at the end of January 2018 and as of the end of August 2018, the Commonwealth is refusing to produce the findings of the report. We are working with the union to file an Unfair Labor Practice complaint to force them to produce the report.
I am lucky because I have transferred out, but I have colleagues and friends who still work for him. I am fighting for them and others who may find themselves in a similar circumstance.