This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, legal services or legal anything else. Don't sue me. All I have is debt anyway.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Early Morning Insecurities

I woke up this morning (unfortunately before 7am) and my initial thought was that I have no idea how I'm going to practice employment law. How am I supposed to tell my clients that they should fight for their rights against their employers, when I've never stood up to do the same?

I was thinking about those assholes who promised my mom a job four months ago and then changed their minds. It was a really dick thing to do. And my mom's reaction isn't to lawyer-up and make them own what they did, she's just sad, because she was looking forward to the job, and she thinks it's her fault that the husband didn't like her and that they have a right to treat her this way. Just like she thought it was her fault that her last retail employer found an illegal way to push her out so her manager could hire a friend in her place (and for cheaper).

Then I realized that I rationalize the same way. Blame the victim, blame myself. When my previous employer pushed me out during my maternity leave, I didn't stand up to them. I let them treat me like that, and damnit, I didn't deserve it. In the back of my mind, all I could think of was that I must have done something wrong. I must have made someone angry, or messed something up, or didn't work hard enough, because otherwise, they would have valued me enough to keep me. And that simply isn't true. They're assholes that staged a coup on a named partner soon after they pushed me out the door. They're assholes that are filthy rich, while their associates make barely more money than secretaries. And I can rationalize it all I want to that I didn't stand up to them because I didn't want to harm my career in the long-run, or ruin what would still be a good reference. But the truth is, I didn't stand up to them because I was afraid, and because deep down I blamed myself, or at least felt that I had done something wrong. The idea of having every mistake I'd ever made paraded in front of me in response made me sick to my stomach. What was a supposed "mixup" about my continued employment would become a harsh evaluation of everything I did. I didn't want to face that. I let them have their "mixup" excuse, didn't call them on their emails of promised continued employment, or any of their other lies I had documentation of. It cost me full time employment over the summer, and definitely ruined any chance I might have had of finding a job in that city. But I just didn't want to face it.

And that's what I'll be expecting my clients to do. To stand up to their employers and demand to be treated fairly, to receive just compensation. To believe it wasn't their fault and still have to face all of it.

I just hope I'll be a better advocate for my clients than I have been for myself. I've always had an easier time standing up for other people than for myself. I don't feel this insecurity with other areas of law, just with employment. I've never had a problem calling up a hospital or an insurance company and demanding anything and everything, for me or anyone else. But employment law does scare me a little and I'm still feeling a bit insecure. Anyone else out there felt the same way when they first started practicing law? Anyone out there practice employment law? Thoughts?

1 comment:

G Love said...

My company - man oh man. If I took more than 6 weeks maternity leave, I would be fired (12 weeks is the law.) Meanwhile, they paid a man his full pay while he was out for 10 months on some mystery illness. He has been out several other times, for 6-10 weeks each time - they pay him in full. Regardless of his hours. Or performance.

Any male manager hired received $20,000 relocation pay. Any woman manager hired was told for her relocation, we'd "pay her utility fee hookups." When I asked why, they said - obviously! she's a woman! Her husband can take care of that stuff! (they are not American, so they speak freely.)

When I complained that I made in the 20th percentile for my job, and my male coworkers at the same level made in the 120th, I was told "you make enough for a girl your age."

When we found out a new coworker was pg with triplets, they told me to find a way to fire her. I didn't. At least I had the balls to tell them if anything happened to her, we'd be in court.

I ask myself daily why I didn't go to a lawyer. I had a seriously open and shut case. I still have the pay records. It is a clear case of discrimination - of 10 managers, the only 2 people who didn't receive bonuses or a contract with promise of a bonus were myself and our Controller. The females.

But - all the things you said. While the case was being decided, I'd be out of work and money. The husband is a grad student - I was the only money. We'd default on . . everything. They'd question my integrity. They had money to hire good lawyers - I, underpaid as I was, was broke. A big kicker, too, was that they told me if I sued, they would close the plant down and leave the country. 80 people would be out of work. I believe they would do it, too - they are a stubborn people.

The straw that broke the camel's back? The reason I'm going to law school and not still working? I was harrassed - a coworker decided I was beautiful, and that because I was polite to him, that I loved him and we had a "thing." Corporate sided with him, and told me to be friends with him.
In this recession, I decided I would rather be bankrupt than continue working for this company. Or - and this is the kicker - or to sue them.

What. Is. Wrong with me? I read all the stuff about the women who blew the whistle on Enron and arthur Anderson - sole earners in their family, the eldest child in birth order (like me) - and how they regretted it. Wished they'd just walked away. I decided to walk away myself.

Now, poor as dirt, ready to start law school, I still wonder if I made the right choice.