Stairway to Hell

After graduating from college with a mechanical engineering degree, I got my very first job at a medium-sized firm as a junior draftsperson. The several interviewers were charming and polite, remarking that all the employees (about 50) had excellent rapport and were “like a family.” Turns out that was code for cliquish and petty. The employees who weren’t related by marriage all had extensive social contact outside of the business so nepotism and preferential treatment were the rule. I was given nonsensical tasks that did not befit my training. I had no gripes with earning my stripes as the new girl, but making coffee and sending faxes while the receptionist screamed at her fiancé in the office or chatted for twenty minutes on the phone about her manicure made no sense to me.

The quality control system was completely broken and every missing document and inspection sheet was blamed on me, even though they’d been lost before I even started the job. Military specifications were ignored, whited out and annotated with no signatures, dates or reference material. Schematics dating back to the seventies were stored in waterlogged boxes that bloomed with black mold and made my asthma attacks near-daily occurrences. HR ( and I use the term loosely) used my drug-test pee for a surreptitious pregnancy test and threatened me with loss of my job if I refused to get an abortion. I was sexually harassed by the head engineer on my day off and was told by HR not to bother complaining because his brother was a cop and no one would believe me. Vacation time could only be taken in one hour increments and couldn’t be used to come in late or stay early, so essentially I just got really long breaks.

I was an hourly employee and was only paid for forty hours even when I worked upwards of sixty per week. No time and a half, not even straight time. The final straw was when I hurt myself at work. A wooden stair collapsed under me and I fell down a flight of stairs, breaking my arm. After I left the hospital, I was told to come in to the office and was faced by a tribunal of higher-ups, who told me grimly that I should not even think of workers comp or disability pay, because I clearly broke my arm on purpose to get time off, and I would be sued and go to jail if I tried. I told them as politely as I could that I was leaving. Two years later I wound up with a modest settlement and a resulting job offer from an amazing firm that I’m still with, eight years later.

Comments (10)

JillianJuly 2nd, 2010 at 8:06 am

Holy shit…that leaves me speechless! I thought it couldn’t get any worse/illegal after the surprise pregnancy test…but then it did.

Congrats on the settlement and new, awesome job!

KJuly 2nd, 2010 at 8:21 am

yup, sucks for karma! :0

Jade LynnJuly 2nd, 2010 at 8:24 am

Holy crap, I’m super glad you got some legal recourse out of that hornets nest of shit.

AndrewJuly 2nd, 2010 at 10:41 am


I am flabbergasted by everything you wrote, especially the pregnancy test…

MeshellJuly 2nd, 2010 at 11:37 am

oh goodness….

I work for a large energy company, working with engineers as their doc control, safety admin, and general admin when they need. While I do teach them to scan their own documents, the secretary party instantly set me off.

Goodness. Wow. just… Wow. I am so glad you got out of there. That safety issue nearly put me into a frenzy. >.<

ewtJuly 2nd, 2010 at 3:03 pm

How on earth did you survive there for so long? And how long did you survive for? I’m pretty sure this is the worst job that was ever on this site!

Frau BlucherJuly 2nd, 2010 at 5:00 pm

OMG! that really has all the elements of horror.

CodeCartJuly 2nd, 2010 at 10:11 pm

I’m still reeling over reading that bit about the pregnancy test!

Did you know you were already pregnant? How did they explain that (super illegal) shit of testing your pee? And how terrible was that abortion conversation?

Blech. And the broken arm, along with the crap they flung at you, after that! This has my vote for the worst job on this site so far. :(

TMSJuly 2nd, 2010 at 11:58 pm

Wow, I can count three instances of bullshit that would have caused me to quit, and sue the hell out of the company as well.

Glad you’re happy at your current job.

NayNayJuly 3rd, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Oh. my. goodness. Speechless. I really hope the OP returns with more details!

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