My temporary boss was abusive: What now?
(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,
In my last temporary assignment, we were required not to work above 40 hours, but our assignment company made it difficult to complete the increasing workload within that time period. I arrived early as a courtesy, although we were told not to work above 40 hours. I was also given more work with an advanced specialized position without an increase in pay. My recruiter told me to alert her of position changes, so I can be compensated; nothing was ever done to compensate me. I also told my recruiter about the toxic work environment and workload.
The assignment company was a state agency, and due to cuts and lean staff, I was overworked, bullied and sabotaged. As a temp, I couldn't report the abuse to human resources at the state agency, so I reported my experience to my recruiter. My agency's recruiter cared more about keeping contracts with this company, and did nothing to protect me. The assignment company with the abusive staff wanted to hire me, but entrap me in a position with less pay and more specialized work. I ended my assignment due to an onset illness, and at the advice of the recruiter, who retracted her suggestion when I decided to leave. I also documented this abuse and onset illness in my exit interview for the temp agency.
I discovered 14 months after I left the assignment that the recruiter placed a termination mark on my record and banned me from working with the company. It was evident in the few call backs I received for work. I had to seek legal counsel and send information to senior human resources management at the temp agency to get the "termination" and "banned record" removed. It was removed and I could work at the agency, but the damage was done.
I experienced a case of slander and defamation from my recruiter; bullying and sneaky workload time abuse from the assignment company. I believe my experience ran past the statutes of limitations.
What can I do avoid explaining this false termination?
First, if you were working and not being paid for it (or working over 40 hours a week and not receiving overtime --assuming you were non-exempt), then you can file a complaint with the Department of Labor. You have two years (generally speaking) to file a complaint, so if you want to do so, do so now. (If it was only a small amount it may not be worth the hassle to you to do so. Up to you.)
Second, being treated poorly, having the recruiter care more about the contract then about you, and having the staffing firm mark you down as "not eligible for rehire" are all legal things.
They are not nice things. They may be unfair things. But they are legal things. What is not legal is giving a false reference for someone. For instance, they can legally say, "Sheila was always late, complained about everything and produced terrible work," in a reference check, as long as those things are true. If they are not true, then you can make a case that they are slandering you, but only if that is the case.
I think you need to make a big mind shift. What happened to you was terrible, no doubt. But it's over. When you use phrases like "entrap me" it indicates that you feel like you had no power, and furthermore that you still have no power. This is what will damage you, more than the actual bad management. Nobody can trap you into a job. You can quit, which you did and you are still alive.
This whole episode was over a year ago. You need to remove this temporary agency from your list of places you want to work for. There will be another temporary agency. Apply there.
What you do need to think about is references. You can call the temporary agency and ask what they will say in a reference check. If there was someone at the state agency who can give you a good reference, ask that person. As for what you say as to why you left the job, you can say "I left for health reasons. Now that I'm healthy again, I'm happy to be back in the work force!" (For most temp jobs you can simply state, "assignment ended," as your reason for termination.)
You do not say, "The recruiter was incompetent, my manager was a bully and they refused to pay overtime!" All these things may be true, but the hiring manager has no real way of determining the status of that, and since there is always a possibility that you're the crazy one in that situation, it will be a big black mark against you.
The big thing is, though, let this bad experience go. Lots of us have been through really bad bosses and bad coworkers and all sorts of nasty things. If you focus on that, you won't be successful in the future.
Have a workplace dilemma? Send your question to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.
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