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Feb-25-2010 23:50printcomments

Employee Injustice: Revealing a Tale of Two Tyrants

I learned the hard way that injustice in the workplace is far more common than we acknowledge.

Workplace discrimination
Courtesy: wonkroom.thinkprogress.org

(SALEM, Ore.) - While we often praise our country as a "true democracy", on the workplace level I've found fair play is usually a myth. To be very direct about it, many "bosses" at work abuse their authority by substituting their personal opinions for best practice policy.

Now that I'm retired after some 50 years as a journalist and mental health professional, I'd like us to examine the moral deficits I've uncovered during my exciting career. I'd love to share with you the true stories of two particular tyrants encountered some years ago.

For the sake of confidentiality, let's use substitute names.

CASE NO. 1 -- Hospital Hot Shot

Many moons ago I was employed as a public relations director at a hospital near the ocean. My main job was producing the newsletter for the facility. In addition, I was responsible for nurse recruitment.

My supervisor was a fellow named Oscar who evidently felt that the ends justified the means.

Competence does not guarantee ethics, I learned to my chagrin.

The nursing department was short-staffed, especially for night shift. We decided to recruit through the classifieds. My task was to draft an appropriate ad, which Oscar would review.

In my draft copy, I specified our need was for night-time nurses and that they'd be picked up at the train station for added security.

That ad was revised to say "all shifts available". Oscar told me that if we said that, candidates seeking day work would come and we'd wind up saying those slots were already filled.

That was devious if not at outright lie. I could not be complicit. Therefore, I resigned.

CASE NO. 2 -- Treating Patients As Robots


Few us of have ever experienced election season employed in a nursing home. Candidates come to make speeches before these captive audiences. The nursing home administrators do their duty to help pave the way. But ulterior motives lurk in the wings.

I was present one day when a city council candidate was scheduled to appear. The wheelchair patients were gathered as an audience. Some were heavily into dementia; others had chronic pain issues. They were totally dependent on nurse aides who handed them signs to wave and plastered their wheelchairs with election stickers.

This was repulsive to my concept of democracy. Those sick as well as those too impaired to think or speak out were being exploited. At a staff meeting, I brought this up to Dana, the chief administrator, and she instead used the line that the patients should be grateful to us for whatever we do for them, and nobody objected but me.

My reward for being upfront was being dismissed for something not proveable either way. I accepted my fate. To do otherwise would be a disservice to my clients.

If I had to be sacrificed in the process, I was perfectly willing. Neither site was situated here in Oregon.

The stories of Oscar and Dana probably have sequels elsewhere.

I learned the hard way that injustice in the workplace is far more common than we acknowledge. Investigative reporters could well have a field day in uncovering many other workplace abuses.


Salem-News.com Community Writer Barry Lee Coyne brings to our readers stories from his combined career of journalism and gerontology, and explains that these paths shaped his values. This writer-therapist often views the world as the masks of comedy and tragedy placed upon the scales of justice. For him, optimism inevitably wins. "Lyrical Lee" has traveled to 30 nations aboard and was once a press intern at the UN. His first published article was in The NY Daily News in '59, dealing with the need for integrity in public office.

He also launched the nation's first tele-conference on health education for shut-ins, created the Eldermentors project in VA to pair retirees with immigrant students needing role models, and was the main catalyst behind CCTV's "Public Public" panel show here in Salem. Lee received his BA in International Relations and an MSW in community organization. He currently serves as a member of Salem's Library Advisory Board. To send Lee an email, please write to this address: notcoy@netzero.net




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Natalie February 27, 2010 9:55 pm (Pacific time)

Many would have their somewhat similar stories to tell, but only a few do so(out of fear, perhaps) and have the courage to stand up for justice...


Jeff Kaye~ February 27, 2010 12:41 pm (Pacific time)

Nice to see there are still humanitarians in the world. I have suffered similar retribution from employers for standing up for the down-trodden, the less-than-able to stand up for themselves, the have-nots in our society. Sadly, corporate America is almost completely profit-centered, without the common decency you exhibit. Thank you for standing up for them, when nobody else would. You're a credit (albeit an anomaly) to the human race.

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