Am I fooling myself in that I can get justice?
September 5, 2014 6:03 AM   Subscribe

I was forced out of my job about a year ago. I am being treated for PTSD due to the crappy way I was treated. The ongoing symptoms and the waiting to hear back from the latest lawyer that I gave all my info to have a ripple effect in how I am dealing with personal relationships including my marriage. Am I foolishly expecting too much here in that I will get justice?

I was good at my job, I worked for the company for over 6 years. I was the only woman in the sales department. I know that I was being paid less than a man that that the same job description as me. I was constantly denied raises in salary, there were blanket cost of living adjustments across the whole company, but nothing for me based on my value to the company. Even after training, additional responsibilities, and great profits on all of my sales. I was treated like I was not at the same level as all the male staff in meetings and was out on my own most of the time.

Things really took a turn for the worse when my husband and I got pregnant and then welcomed our first child. I was not allowed the same accommodations that a man was a few years earlier for a flexible schedule where I would work from home half of the day.

I was forced to clock out for breaks to express milk for my daughter while I was at the office. I would later be charged PTO time for this as I would fall below 40 hours, I was salaried. I was not allowed to make up for this shortage at home, even though I had the ability to do so and all other sales staff were able to do this. I was unable to continue nursing my daughter.

My job duties changed. I was constantly being picked on for things outside of my control.

I was given an ultimatum either improve my attitude, or I would be gone. I was not able to speak up for myself. After a horrible "meeting" where everything that I worked so hard for was destroyed by accusations and untrue statements, I was asked if I still wanted to work for them. I am embarrassed to say that after an hour break where my husband coached me, I went back into that place and said yes. That I still wanted to work for them and make them money, like I always had.

During all of this I was interviewing and got another job. When I resigned to my supervisor I cried. My formal resignation letter was short as I needed a week to close projects and to be earning that salary.

I am appreciated at my new job, I earn a better salary, I have a much further commute so I have little time with my family during the week. All of which "doesn't help me" according to most of the lawyers I have already spoken with.

I tried to move in with my life. I would have panic attacks every time someone from my former employer would look at my Linked In profile. I would have panic attacks just while making dinner. I was prescribed antidepressants, and started talk therapy.

I found out through a chance encounter with a former coworker that there the head of HR, who I know was the reason why my life became so hard there, was dismissed. Their spouse had been stealing from the company. If I had still been employed for them, I would have noticed it for sure as one of the new jobs for me after I came back from leave was to inventory stock that was being stolen.

I documented all of this very well with supporting documents, dates, and other evidence.

I am ready for the "trauma that will resurface" as it hasn't gone away for me. It's there as a constant reminder when I drive around where their office is or I see something about the company cross my newsfeed. The anger of not being able to nurse my daughter resurfaces every time I see a study about the benefits of nursing babies to one year or whenever.

This is the background, this is my story. Am I totally off-base thinking that a lawyer would take my case of wrongful termination and workplace harassment? I need some feedback to see if anyone else thinks that this is worth pursuing. Or am I just going to come out looking bad/greedy?
posted by comicgirl001 to Work & Money (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well, lawyers haven't agreed to take your case yet. Keeping meeting with plaintiffs' side employment lawyers, and maybe one will. Or maybe not. AskMe can't really answer that, although you have one answer from the lawyers you have met so far.

But if you're looking for a lawsuit to resolve your trauma, you might instead look to therapy.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:08 AM on September 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

You are going to get recommendations here to ask a mod to anonymize this question since you're pursuing this legally. I just want to say that this sounds awful and I hope you get to sue the pants off these shitheads.
posted by phunniemee at 6:09 AM on September 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

It is really really hard to wade through the hurt, injustice, and adrenaline that surges with PTSD as a result of work bullying and discrimination. (Feel free to memail me to ask me how I know.) My heart goes out to you. But in order to get a lawyer to take your case and get monetary damages, you're going to have to try. It's possible to find a good lawyer who will take your case, ask you questions in a caring way, and tease out what is actionable from the emotion-soup of the situation, but you may have to go to a few to find him or her. IANAL, but it sounds like there are a couple of actionable things in your story (men treated preferentially, lack of accommodation for pumping) mixed in with things that probably aren't. Only a lawyer will know for sure.

From this stranger on the internet, I will say that suing my employer and having them settle did make me feel better, but it was the actual act of settling that finally closed the door and let me start to heal. The part where my lawyer said, "For this amount of money, which my client will take as an unspoken apology with no admission of wrongdoing on either side, we will drop our suit." And they paid me that money, and I did drop the suit. Continuing to pursue punishment for the injustice I faced was not worth the rigors of an endless court case. I still get little surges of anger five years later, like when I see someone from that job on the street or something triggering, but it gets better with time. My heart goes out to you.
posted by juniperesque at 6:23 AM on September 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

Just one thing to note -- you probably won't get "justice." You may get money and/or a written apology or whatever your demand is, but "justice" isn't something that's going to be at the end of this. Your former employer won't be repentant and/or learn a lesson or even think about you after the case beyond a cost (hopefully) to them.

I think you should pursue this, at least to see if you have a case, but remember that what you'll have will settle what was legal and illegal, not what was right and wrong.
posted by xingcat at 6:40 AM on September 5, 2014 [13 favorites]

Based on what I'm seeing here-- and standard disclaimers apply-- you will probably have a lot of trouble with your claim, starting with the fact that you voluntarily quit your job to take another one. This gets rid of your wrongful termination claim unless you can show you were "constructively terminated" which is a harder thing to prove. Your damages are difficult too, because they mostly are in the category of emotional damages and would need expert testimony and a raft of causation proof to get there. I think your story is terrible but frankly it's par for the course in this crappy, rigged system that is the US economy.
posted by norm at 6:45 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have handled a few employment cases, but I do not hold myself out as an employment law lawyer. My non-legal advice would be that you need to consult with an employment law lawyer in your jurisdiction, but you say that you have already spoken to some and they are telling you the same thing. This website is not a place where you can get a better legal opinion than the lawyers you have already spoken with.

I bet I can guess how those conversations went. The biggest thing I see is no mention of contact with the EEOC. Generally, an aggrieved employee has to go through the administrative complaint process first, at which point the employee might receive a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue that gives the right to file a suit in federal court. That would be necessary to file a Title VII, for example. The only exception I can think of that is relevant for your fact pattern is the Equal Pay Act. But, the EPA only compensates you for the difference in unpaid salary that you should have received. For example, if you should have received $50k per year but were only paid $45k per year, your damages are $5k per year that you didn't get the correct pay, plus an extra $5k per year as liquidated damages. An EPA claim will not compensate for pain and suffering.

As noted, you resigned, so I do not see how there could be a wrongful termination claim, which already has a set of challenges if you are in an at-will state. I think your failure to contact the EEOC is likely fatal to any sort of workplace harassment claim. But again, that is for your consulting lawyer to tell you, which I suspect each one already did.

I am sorry to read your story but I think the lawyers who have spoken with so far have probably got it right. At some point, all those consultations become a consensus and if so, you need to accept that. I would also join in J. Wilson's comment - a lawsuit is not therapy. I guarantee you that anyone who wants her "day in court" has never been there.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:10 AM on September 5, 2014 [13 favorites]

I assume you are in the United States, which is a statistically likely assumption that I am comfortable making.

My primary answer is that you should continue to go see employment lawyers and see what they say. Employment law cases are often taken by lawyers on contingency ("we don't get paid unless you win!"), which means they are wary to take cases that aren't likely to win. You can use this as a strong hint to the strength of your case when viewed by a neutral party with evidence specific to your case and to your locality. If you are not able to find lawyers to take the case on contingency, it's likely your case is not worth pursuing. If contingency employment cases are not allowed in your locality, you can still use this principle - most lawyers are fairly vocal about what you will likely get out of the case (even if that answer is nothing) and what the fee for the case could be.

My secondary answer is that you need to define a redress for your complaint. The justice system does not dispense justice. It dispenses money. Now, money is a good thing, and getting money in response to your employer's actions is almost definitely better than not getting money. However, I'm saying this because that's all you'll get from the case. You could conceivably get your job back, but all the harms that occurred to you will not magically disappear and your employer's attitude towards you will not change by judicial fiat. If you go into this, you need to be comfortable with completely addressing your past complaint with a sum of money and you need to know what sum of money is sufficient to resolve your issues. If you can't do that, the justice system can't help you.

My tertiary answer is that you should be considering future employment prospects. It sounds like you are better off now than you were before. It is distinctly possible that pursuing a legal case against a previous employer will make you a less desirable employee in the future, either by your current employer or possible future employers. Although this is by no means legal, it is unfortunately common for employers to discriminate against employees/potential employees who litigate against other employers. To the employer, an employee/potential employee who sues their employer is too much of a liability to accept. Unfortunately, employment law in the United States is not self-enforcing. It may be the case that your previous employer is acting entirely illegally, but you may have nothing to do about it. I realize that's a harsh thing to say, but it is responsive to your question.
posted by saeculorum at 7:13 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

That's a terrible experience, and I'm sorry you went through it. What you describe is awful and wrong, and I have no doubt you were treated unjustly.

However, I think maybe you're approaching this in the wrong way. You were the victim of injustice and so it's natural to believe that the solution is to seek redress of that wrong - justice. But, as the lawyers keep telling you, the legal situation around this is murky and complicated. If you pursue this, you might be able to get some kind of redress, maybe, eventually. But it will definitely be a long and drawn out process, whatever happens will probably seem lacking to you in comparison to what you suffered, and the end result will probably not fully remove the bad feelings you have about your experience. And in the meantime, that process will drag this out and keep that stressful experience on the front burner of your life long after you've left that terrible job and found a better one. We can feel it pouring off the page you've written. You've left that job and that company behind physically, but emotionally you're still letting them bully you.

I think you should weigh your need for "justice," for consequences for the people who treated you this way, against your present happiness and the opportunity you have to make a better future. I suspect the best thing for you might be to accept that an awful thing happened to you, but that it is now over and you're in a better situation (though I feel you about the longer commute) and focus more on creating joy in your life with your family.

Like they say, living well is the best revenge.
posted by Naberius at 7:43 AM on September 5, 2014 [11 favorites]

I have a weird sort of trick that I use whenever I feel myself getting totally indignant about being treated unfairly (or, at least, my perception that I'm being treated unfairly). I think about those times in my life when I may have been the offending party -- the times when I lost my temper inappropriately, or jumped to (erroneous) conclusions, or whatever. I also think about those times when I totally lucked out, because someone gave me a huge break when I may not have deserved it.

In some weird sort of way, thinking about these things reminds me that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you're the victim, sometimes you're the victimizer -- and perhaps it all balances out in the end. (Actually, I don't really believe in karma, or fate, or any sort of guiding force in life, but I kind of trick myself into believing it temporarily.)
posted by alex1965 at 7:58 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

You will never get justice, because the only available punishment is monetary, not legal. You will never get fairness, if that's what you actually mean by justice, because the unfairness already happened. There is no lawyer that can undo the damage, there's no settlement that's going to make it okay. You're not going to get a day where you walk out of court (you yourself will probably never go to a courtroom over this, even if the case does) and everything's perfect. Even if you won a case, you'll still have PTSD and all the other problems.

The problem with US employment laws is that at the end of the day, if they weren't doing something to force you to stay, you could have left. This is why lawyers are not taking your case, because it's difficult to impossible to prove most of the things that often create a hostile work environment, and the question is always going to be: if you didn't get a raise, why didn't you find a job that paid better (which you did, but only after years of putting up with what you already knew to be a bad work environment). If you wanted to breastfeed so badly, if you were treated so poorly, if you were blamed inappropriately... I totally understand why you didn't, nothing will fuck up one's head like a shockingly bad work environment, especially if you're a people-pleaser and they are gaslighters.

But nobody actually has an entitlement to be treated well and only a limited right to be treated fairly, so you can't just sue for that. That's why there are protections for some of the most egregious situations (ADA, OSHA, IRS, state laws regarding breaks and scheduling, etc). The stuff they did to you is all legal. There is no breastfeeding protection, for example, and you accepted the terms they imposed on you. There is no law that one person has to get paid the same as another. An employer is not forbidden to torment an employee until they leave instead of firing them (which would actually put them in a worse position anyway), so long as they do not torment them in certain ways that violate laws.

Your best chance to heal is going to be if you pursue treatment for yourself and hang no hope that you're going to retro-fix yourself by punishing the employer. All that energy should be directed to finding therapies that work, and addressing the damage done and figuring out whose side your husband is actually on, and giving yourself defense skills in case someone tries to abuse you like that again.

What happened to you is gruesomely unfair and I hope that everyone involved karmically reaps what they sowed, but your legal recourse is so thin that you run the risk of damaging yourself even further if you hang expectations on getting any satisfaction legally.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:07 AM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

You may be able to report (what appears to be) the clocking-out-to-pump violation to your state civil rights office.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:11 AM on September 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

(Disclaimer: I am a lawyer and I work for a big company. I make decisions related to employee discrimination complaints and lawsuits. So depending on how you feel about this answer you may take that either as evidence that I have some knowledge here or that I am hopelessly biased in favor of management.)

(Other disclaimer: not your lawyer, not legal advice, and all that.)

First and foremost, I am very sorry that you had such a difficult time at your prior job and that it is still affecting you in this way. It sounds like the management there were assholes, and that sucks. Work should not make people feel that way.

If you are intent on pursuing a claim, I have a few specific points on your expression of the facts:

(1) I was forced out of my job about a year ago. The EEOC typically requires you to file a complaint within 180 (or 300, depending on the state) days. If you are already beyond 300 days, that might be an absolute bar to a number of discrimination categories. That would make your claim very difficult to pursue as you'd need to find non-time-barred claims that may have a higher threshold of proof.

(2) I was forced to clock out for breaks to express milk for my daughter while I was at the office...The anger of not being able to nurse my daughter resurfaces every time I see a study about the benefits of nursing babies to one year or whenever. Some (but not even a majority of) states have breastfeeding laws that require an employer to accommodate a nursing employee, but I believe that none of them require an employer to pay the employee for that time. And the federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires it too, but it specifically says that "An employer shall not be required to compensate an employee...for any work time spent for such purpose." So the framing of the issue that you were "forced" to clock out is easy to refute. That's what the law allows.

(3) I know that I was being paid less than a man that that the same job description as me. This is a good fact for you, but it is not a dispositive one. In my group, we have professionals that have the same title that are paid very different numbers. This may be because of years of experience, negotiation during the hiring process, geographic differences, changes in pay scales (e.g. the job used to come in at $75K but economic changes now start it at $60K or $90K), etc. So long as the employer has a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the pay disparity, the pure fact that you were paid less than a man is not per se actionable.

(4) During all of this I was interviewing and got another job. ...I am appreciated at my new job, I earn a better salary. This is a big one. The "justice" you seek necessarily will include some damages, and if you (a) left voluntarily, (b) had no time that you were out of a job and without salary, and (c) are doing better at your new place, that takes away a lot of your potential ammunition. There are damages available for "pain and suffering" or "emotional distress" but they are more difficult to obtain and they open you up to lots of ugly stuff like the defendant seeking specific information about your mental health or even records from your therapist.

(5) Hopefully this is just missing from your description, but I don't see anywhere that you specifically raised these issues with management while you were there. That's not dispositive, but it makes a claim much more credible where the person has done so. When my company files its response to employee issues, we typically start it out with a big statement about all the things we do to encourage our employees to raise concerns about unequal treatment so that we can deal with them.

I am not saying all these things to say "don't bother pursuing this;" I am saying them to give you a sense of what you may be up against if you do. You can expect to hear your former employer lay out all of their grievances - about your alleged "attitude," about not hitting 40 hours per week, about the things that they picked on you for - and blame you for the crappy way they treated you. And the judge will necessarily be coming at it from a place where your story and theirs are equally true.

Whatever you decide, I hope that you find peace in your new job.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:12 AM on September 5, 2014 [18 favorites]

Others will have advice on the legal issues. I do want to say that in a different situation but one that was similarly triggering for me that a big reason I didn't pursue legal action (a restraining order against my abusive ex) was that I knew it would be harder and more triggering to deal with legally on top of everything else. Not opening that can of worms helped me heal faster. Getting a restraining order is hard where I live and it would have been a lot of drama and trauma for me.

Other stuff to consider: EMDR or another type of trauma therapy. Don't look at LinkedIn views. Don't exchange anything more than pleasantries with former co-workers even in chance meetings. What is going on there or went on there is no longer your business, thankfully! Your business now is to heal. Avoid things that trigger you for now. You can weave them into your life later when you're healed, but for now avoiding triggering things might prove very helpful. It did for me anyhow.

Best of luck to you.
posted by sockermom at 8:25 AM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

More information: A did work in an at-will state, so yes. I could have walked, but it would have been financially devastating for us to do so... I did crunch those numbers. I would have been able to afford if they had just fired me. Unemployment + removing my child from daycare, we would have broken even. I was going another $100 in debt every month that I worked for them. I would have gone $1000 in debt every month if I walked and could not get unemployment benefits.

If I tried to do better and waited it out, I am confident that I still would have been fired. I know that they were trying to build a case against me so my previous years of great reviews wouldn't have mattered.

I had spoken with EEOC. I am still within the statute of limitations. So if I cannot secure a lawyer soon, I will file a complaint. I was told by a lawyer that the case takes a different course once EEOC gets involved and may not work as well in my favor.

This company does have a track record of making people so miserable that they just leave.

Justice in this case for me is compensation for the lost wages, time, and therapy that I am receiving. I also want to send a clear message to the owner of the company that what was done was very wrong on many levels and they can't get away with it.

The heart of my question is I guess, in your internet stranger opinion: "Should I stick this out?"

My spouse is of course very supportive as are some of my friends. Other members of my social circles are saying to just move on, but clearly I cannot (PTSD).
posted by comicgirl001 at 8:58 AM on September 5, 2014

It sounds like getting treatment from the PTSD might be very helpful for you. Treating my PTSD was what saved my life, quite literally. But it was a LOT of work. I am not exaggerating when I say that I spent at least an hour a day, every weekday, for four months, in therapy after I left my abusive relationship (which was the cause of my PTSD). I had individual therapy, EMDR, and group therapy. I was busy, it took a lot of my time and effort and was mentally taxing... but it was working, and every day I felt a little better.

I would strongly encourage you to work on treating your PTSD. I am not trying to imply that you're not working on it, but whatever you're doing right now doesn't sound like it is working well or like it is working enough. Ramp it up. Try another type of therapy in addition to what you're doing now. I personally sing the praises of EMDR but there are many other types of trauma therapy that you can consider if that one sounds too silly or is too expensive or whatever.

Seriously, while it might feel nice to stick it to this awful workplace? I don't think it's going to actually help you recover from your trauma. There's a strong possibility that it will make your trauma worse in the short-term. I don't know you, all I can tell you is what I experienced when I had PTSD, but personally I wouldn't go down this road with them. I would spend my time focusing on myself and my family and recovering from my trauma.

I had a lot of friends tell me to "get over it." I had other friends angry that I didn't pursue legal action against my abuser. All I know is that I did what was right for me and that was taking care of myself and healing from my trauma.

Relatedly, I would try to work on being really, really kind to myself if I was in your shoes right now. Don't talk to your friends who think you should get over it. In fact, one thing that I found worked for me was not talking about it at all. I wanted to talk about it every second of every day, really, I did, but not doing that opened up space for me to heal. Talking about the trauma gave it a voice and made it real and made it exist still in the moment, long after I was actually out of the relationship. Long, long after. That was not healthy. When I stopped myself from talking about it all the dang time, when I didn't give voice to the trauma unless I was literally in a therapy session, that made things a lot better. Now I can talk about it without feeling like I need to talk about it.

But to go back to being kind: be kind to yourself. Don't beat yourself up for taking however long it takes to heal. Do nice things. Soothing things. Be your own best friend. Do things that make you feel loved and cared for and supported and comfortable and cozy and happy. Don't yell at yourself when you have a rough day because of the trauma. Don't beat yourself up if you "mess up" and look at LinkedIn or find yourself thinking about the old job or whatever. Be sweet to yourself.

Good luck. PTSD is a bitch. It takes a hell of a lot of effort to pull yourself out of it. Keep pushing. You will see rewards eventually.
posted by sockermom at 9:11 AM on September 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

The heart of my question is I guess, in your internet stranger opinion: "Should I stick this out?"

My spouse is of course very supportive as are some of my friends. Other members of my social circles are saying to just move on, but clearly I cannot (PTSD).

I'd just say... pursuing this will not cure your PTSD. It sounds like you think "I'll get justice and then this will go away," but it doesn't work like that. Your personal mental health might very well be better served by devoting all this mental energy toward getting yourself well again rather than trying to take your former employer down.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:43 AM on September 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

I have seen several friends -- who had really traumatizing things happen to them -- go to court hoping for a result where the judge took their side, affirmed their view of events, and gave a definitive ruling that the person who had abused them was officially In The Wrong. Vindication, in short.

None of them got that outcome out of the process. In some cases, it would probably have been better not to have pursued it. For one of them it was so crushing having the judge rule against her that that event became an additional source of trauma.

I think unfortunately that movies and TV give us the wrong idea of what courts are able to accomplish. Judges can be deceived or biased; even if they see the truth of the matter, the law doesn't always make the case come out in favor of the least jerky party; and even if the case comes out in your favor, that doesn't mean that the other party will feel what you want them to feel as a result of the ruling.

So if you find a lawyer who thinks you can get your expenses back, great. But if your main aim is this: "I also want to send a clear message to the owner of the company that what was done was very wrong on many levels and they can't get away with it." ...then I think you may be better advised trying to come to terms with what happened in some other way.
posted by shattersock at 9:58 AM on September 5, 2014 [10 favorites]

That sounds like a terrible work situation and I'm glad you got out of it. Except that you're not out of it. You're in it every day. Thinking about it. Trying to get a lawyer to take your case, obsessing.

I say walk away. Why are you letting these people rent space in your brain? You got a job you like with people who value you. You have a child and a spouse who love you. Why risk all these good things to be 100% focused on a truly terrible experience.

What if you told yourself, "That was a shitty experience. BOY did I learn from that and I will NEVER be taken advantage of again like that. The next time I even smell a whiff of that bullshit, I'll get another job." And then, that was it? Would that be marvelous?

There are terrible bosses and companies succeeding in spite of themselves out there. It would be great to see them all get their just desserts, but in the real world, those things happen slowly if at all. (Although WorldCom and Enron blew up pretty nicely. Too bad about those of us working there who took a hit when it happened.)

So your former employer looks you up on LinkedIn? Imagine what a sad and pathetic person this must be to be so invested in you after you left. Fuck 'em, let them see that you're doing really well in your new job, making oodles of money for a great company.

I think the most distressing thing about this for you isn't that these people were horrible, I think it's that looking back on it, you wish you had bailed SO MUCH EARLIER. Your description is full of justification for why you stayed. Forgive yourself for allowing yourself to be treated so miserably, and then give yourself the gift of moving on.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:35 PM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

shattersock: But if your main aim is this: "I also want to send a clear message to the owner of the company that what was done was very wrong on many levels and they can't get away with it." ...then I think you may be better advised trying to come to terms with what happened in some other way.

This is a really important point for many reasons. For one thing, as AgentRocket pointed out, your employer has their own version of events, and they're almost certainly going to trot it out if they think they have any chance of defeating a lawsuit with it. It may be a manufactured, self-serving crock of shit, and they may even know that, but as long as they're consistent in the way they tell the story (or unless several people step forward from within the company to testify on your behalf) it will be treated in court as a legitimate argument. People don't always apologize even when they know they've done the wrong thing. Organizations generally do so only in the face of ironclad legal sanction or massive negative publicity--all of which, incidentally, has a way of making the apology seem pretty insincere when/if you finally get it.

I mention this last point because it sounds like the only way you might (emphasis on "might") still stand a chance of getting the sweeping vindication you want is if you could somehow bring a class action suit against the company--if, say, you could prove a pattern of harassment against female employees, or a long history of actionable emotional persecution against large numbers of people. But this would involve lengthy investigations and probably at least some interaction with co-plaintiffs who remind you of this place that hurt you (especially if you're the one putting the initial push behind it), and it would put a huge burden on you and your team to produce a lot of hard evidence of an illegal and systemic problem. And even then, the company might be able to abdicate moral responsibility by blaming a few bad apples.

Honestly, I think it would be more constructive to think of your desire for revenge as a symptom of your PTSD, and to discuss it with your therapist in those terms. If I were in your situation, I would want to grab my boss by the hair, throw him down a stairwell, and stand on his throat until he confessed the deep, dark childhood secrets that had made him into such a bastard. But I hope I would also have the presence of mind to ask whether it was really worth all the drama and the bureaucracy to pry a grudging, insincere admission of accountability out of an office building.

Bottom line: unless I'm misreading you, it doesn't sound like you "need" this money--like your family will starve without it--and it doesn't sound like this experience has permanently shattered your career prospects. I'm truly sorry you had to go through what you went through and I wish I could hug you until the pain went away, but the way you talk about "justice" and your employer knowing "they can't get away with things" honestly does sound a little obsessive, and I think pursuing legal action is just going to feed that pain.

There's a saying I like; it says, "I sentence be yourself for the rest of your life." Think about it that way. Your former employers have to go on being miserable unethical shitbrains for the rest of their lives, possibly without even knowing why or having the insight to stop. You don't. Congratulations on finding your freedom.
posted by urufu at 1:16 AM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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