May 1, 2019

Retaliation: Untitled B

This week, we're sharing stories about retaliation from workers at Google and Facebook.

A few months ago, I volunteered to take a public internal action that had the stated and hopeful goal of gathering information and improving working conditions for contingent workers and allies.

Within minutes, a representative of HR was messaging me over our IM platform, asking me remove the materials.  When I did so, they then asked me to tell them who created the materials.  When I refused to tell them, they became aggressive, asking me ten times in fifteen minutes to give up the names of the people who were behind the action.  The only way I could get them to stop was to say that I could not be compelled to give up the names, and that I refused to answer any more questions until I had a lawyer present.  The panic I felt during those fifteen minutes is hard to put into words, and it was days before I felt like I didn’t have to constantly watch my back at work.

A little less than a month later, my HR representative reached out to me again and told me they wanted to have a one on one meeting with me.  During this meeting they told me that since I was a full time employee and I was working with contract workers on this, they could compel me to give up their names.  I still refused, and after fifteen minutes the meeting ended.  A week after that, they sent me a follow-up message saying that not only could they compel me to give up the names of any contract workers who I was working with, they could also compel me to give up the names of any full time employees as well.  I didn’t answer their message, and I still haven’t.

I spoke to a labor organizer and a labor lawyer (separately), and after giving the details both of them told me that this was a textbook case of retaliation, and that my employer couldn’t compel me to give up any names, even though full time employees and contract workers don’t technically work for the same company.  By this point I was so stressed out waiting for HR to escalate that during my weekly one on one with my manager I told them that I felt unsafe at work.  I didn’t know that California law requires managers to report when their workers say they’re feeling unsafe, at least until I got a message from my HR representative that they had heard I was feeling unsafe.  I didn’t respond.

Getting more attention from HR was the last thing I wanted.  I scheduled a meeting with my manager and told them that the reason I felt unsafe is because HR was retaliating against me, and that I had gone to a labor lawyer and the lawyer had agreed with me.  A week later, I got a message that HR wanted me to meet with a new representative who specialized in tricky situations.  I’m not sure if this was due to my continued stonewalling or if it was due to my manager reporting that I felt unsafe, but I agreed to have two half hour meetings with the HR specialist.

Those meetings went well, and the HR specialist told me that HR was going to stop trying to get the names from me.  We went our separate ways, and I haven’t heard from HR since.

While my experience with HR retaliating against me is over, it has irreparably destroyed my relationship with HR at my company.  I have occasionally complex health needs, both physical and mental, and many times when I check about getting accommodations for them our internal handbook will tell me that the only way to receive them is to reach out to my HR representative.  This has left an ongoing impact on my work, and through that the rest of my life.  When I first started this job I was excited to think that I was working at such an exciting company.  Now, I just feel betrayed.