The Underling From Hell

I got hired for MVWJ the summer after I’d taken a year abroad in college. To put things in perspective, I was a good student with lots of research experience and several important fellowships under my belt. When P offered me a position as her research assistant, I was delighted. When I got to the office, however, I was greeted by P’s underling, G, who asked what I’d been told about the job. G laughed in my face when I said I was there as a research assistant. I was set to work, not doing research, but making pointless spreadsheets of random data (phone numbers of inactive members, etc), and re-doing them repeatedly to her exacting and absurd specifications. Everything I did was wrong: deleting spam emails, bringing “stinky” (read: ethnic) food for lunch or using the bathroom during work hours (apparently I was supposed to hold it from 8am to 4pm).

When she wasn’t shopping online, she would interrupt my work to rant about “ugly dykes” (I’m queer), force me to read spam emails or pester me about my ethnicity.  She even phoned me on a day I was home sick with the flu to blame me for breaking the office copier (telekinesis, apparently). Then one day, after a holiday weekend, I came to work tan.

She glared at me and said, “I thought you said you were Scottish. You lied.”

Nervously, I replied, “I am.”

“No Scottish person tans like that,” she said.

Just to make her go away, I blurted out that my dad is Native American. G humphed and walked back to her spam emails. Later that day, she told me to move my desk, as she was unhappy about my “fraternizing” with my (white) co-workers, and declared me banned from that afternoon’s office meeting. Through the paper-thin walls, I heard P ranting about how “Indians steal things” and are “lazy” and “uncooperative.”  As much as I wanted to quit, I was stuck there because of a contract with my college. G, however, was done with me. Two weeks from the end of my contract, she fired me on a bogus claim that I had forged my time sheet and had been failing to come in to work. When I presented proof, she complained to P, who sent a series of angry emails to my college, and froze my last month’s pay (for hours I’d already worked). I was almost relieved at this point to be rid of the job, but it took months to sort out the resulting paperwork from her tantrum. And no, I never did get my pay for that last month.

Comments (17)

Frau BlucherJanuary 30th, 2011 at 8:46 pm

God, what a racist bitch! but did you ever speak to P in person and tell her about what the Underling said? the racist remarks, etc? or did she know about it and not care? If you were working there, didn’t P have any knowledge of what was going on?
If she did, then it’s obviously toxic, but you should have taken some sort of action to get your pay.

KirstenJanuary 30th, 2011 at 10:01 pm

I agree Frau Blucher.I don’t know how anyone can leave a job and not take action against a racist employer.

tronnerJanuary 30th, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Wow – great story!

EllereJanuary 30th, 2011 at 10:54 pm


SurrealJanuary 31st, 2011 at 2:59 am

Agreed, you should sue them! I am a bit surprised you didn’t immediately contact P about G’s behavior and comments. Talk about a toxic environment. That woman should be fired.

JChiefJanuary 31st, 2011 at 7:44 am

OP – you seem to suffer fools gladly – good for you.

I hope you documented everything. It’s important that you bring this up with your college, and that you have documented evidence. You should only stick with things that you witnessed first-hand. If you have any sympathetic witnesses who can corroborate, all the better. This disgusting, ugly human being should be held accountable for her idiocy.

KandyjoJanuary 31st, 2011 at 8:08 am

NOOOO!!! I hate the end of this story! I don’t believe in karma, so I’m stuck with the terribly inconvenient belief that if justice is ever served, it’s the responsibility of the wronged individual to make it happen. Is it too late? Is there no recourse?

TedJanuary 31st, 2011 at 8:36 am

I know it’s way after the fact, but your college wouldn’t have kicked you out or flunked you or whatever if you had gone to them about the situation at the job. I mean really, what the hell is wrong with people that they just let this go on? Use your head! Take action!

JennaJanuary 31st, 2011 at 9:22 am

Agree with everyone above if this is really how it happened it’s almost a responsibility to take action for the sake of the next unfortunate who has to put up with this cr*p. Even if nothing comes of it, it’ll add weight to the argument of anyone who makes a similar complaint.

gtruckJanuary 31st, 2011 at 10:30 am

By just leaving and allowing them to continue with their ridiculous behavior, you failed yourself.

Some situations call for a fight. Even if you don’t win, make their lives hell.

JBJanuary 31st, 2011 at 11:39 am

You need to sue them. Seriously. Otherwise they will continue their wrong behavior and traumatize someone else.

Please at least talk to an employment lawyer.

TedJanuary 31st, 2011 at 12:12 pm

She can’t do anything now and she probably has zero documentation. Hopefully though, this will clue in some other braindead limp-wrist and they’ll be smart enough to nip that kind of crap in the bud.

Frau BlucherJanuary 31st, 2011 at 9:41 pm

to be fair, sometimes people don’t know what their rights are or if they have any rights. In her situation, I would make sure that even if I couldn’t prove the racism etc (and that is hard to do) I would at least contact the EEOC or equivalent, tell them what happened and at least get them to open a file. ANd I would definitely make sure I got paid. I would hound them until they paid every last cent and if they didn’t, I would go to the university. You have every right get paid.
I think it’s entirely possible that P knew about this bitch and kept her there for some reason….my Dr has this idiot bitch receptionist who is mean, stupid and incompetent. But the office is shared by three doctors and he is not the one who hired her. The one who did is obviously totally cowed by her. My theory is that his mother was a mean bitch and she is just like his mother. That’s why I suspect there is something like this going on and it’s probably a toxic work environment.

doriFebruary 1st, 2011 at 10:17 am

Whoa! Frau Blucher I was with you until the second last sentence. Why would you drag out somebody’s mother in it? You would be killed if you dare to say this to anybody in my country.

Frau BlucherFebruary 1st, 2011 at 8:36 pm

I said it was a theory…just an example as to why people put up with toxic employees or friends.

Lisa T.February 2nd, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Totally Toxic!

Harassment is extremely difficult to prove, unfortunately. However, if the OP has the documentation that they are owed for time worked, they MUST pay. I suggest going to the labor commission (or equivalent in your area) to sue for back wages owed. This will get attention must faster and easier, then the OP can tack on the charges. I doubt the college would want this sort of noise.

And if the college has an HR department (and I’m sure they do), they are required by law to look into allegations. As another poster stated, it’s hard to prove, but can make it easier for the next compliant since there will be an established pattern of behavior.

I have to question if at any time did the OP ever talk to P about the situation and what were the results?

ClaireFebruary 11th, 2011 at 5:40 pm

“As another poster stated, it’s hard to prove, but can make it easier for the next compliant since there will be an established pattern of behavior.”

Also, who knows if there’s already something on file for this employer. I had to complain about a guy sexually harassing me and other female interns one summer and they promptly tossed his ass because someone else had already complained and the guy was just contracted work.

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