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A story has been going around lately about a nurse who decided to resign from her position in the maternity ward of an Israeli hospital because they would not allow her to store her pumped breast milk in the staff refrigerator. The irony of the staff of a maternity ward which claims to be pro-breastfeeding being made squeamish by breast milk is lost on exactly nobody. The hospital management was wrong, and the nurse should have been allowed to store her milk in the fridge.

I am very fortunate to work in an office where I have a space to pump for my 5-month-old, and bosses who are fully supportive. The other day, my boss came into my office and asked if I’d heard about this story, which launched a discussion about something that has been on my mind for a few years now.

In my amazing work environment my supervisors and co-workers are all supportive and understanding of my responsibilities and needs as a mother. Throughout my pregnancy and since my return to work, they were all so kind, thoughtful, and respectful of my needs and sensitivities. But I can’t help thinking: what if they weren’t? What can a worker do to protect themselves from an unpleasant work environment?

When I was first married,  I spent months trying to get a job dressed like a religious newlywed with my hair covered, and at every job interview was asked about my plans for children. Sometimes in a direct question,  sometimes with questions that skirted the issue. One place told me outright they would not hire me if I had plans to have a child within the year. Nobody even called me back. Within a week of getting a wig I got two job offers. Once I no longer looked like a married religious woman, the threat of leaving to have a baby was diminished and I suddenly became a potential hire. I knew what was happening, but I had no way to protect myself. I couldn’t prove that any of those places didn’t hire me because I am young and religious. But the worst part was, if I had taken legal action against them or made a public fuss, it would hurt me more than it would hurt them.

When my boss asked what I thought about the nurse that resigned, I said that even though she was completely right, she is now unemployable. She has told the public that if she feels scorned, she will not hesitate to take the story public and run her employer’s name through the mud. Who would want such a disloyal employee? I’ve heard of several cases in which disgruntled former employees sued for wrongful termination and then were not hired for future opportunities because it got back to the potential employer.

If your employer doesn’t pay you on time, or fires you because you are pregnant, or doesn’t let you store your milk in the fridge, or any other such infringement, what can you do? If you are asked illegal questions or discriminated against during the hiring process, how can you protect yourself? Has this ever happened to you or someone you know? How was the situation handled? What were the consequences (if any)? I’m very interested and curious to know how many other people have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment in the workplace and if anyone successfully fought back.

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It’s always important to have a positive attitude. It’s hard to find an upside to being laid off, but until its time to pay the bills it’s pretty easy to find a silver lining in being unemployed.

Despite being home all day, I have managed to find productive ways to spend my time that with activities that I would otherwise have a difficult time doing. For example, this blog. I have exercised nearly every day this week, eaten healthier and found time for writing. I’ve been able to enjoy coffee with friends before beginning my search for work. I’ve begun teaching myself and practicing skills that will hopefully help me with my next job.

The danger of this view, on the other hand, is that it’s easy to become complacent. While I enjoy the freedom of unemployment and have been taking advantage of it, I have to continue to strive to create and reach goals for myself each day. Hopefully with a bit of hard work and dilligence I’ll find a job that will allow me to do what I love.

Today is my first day unemployed in a long time, and I’ve decided to take advantage of it.

After going for a run in the rain, I came home to apply for jobs and write a bit. I’m looking for a job in writing. I don’t care so much what kind of writing; marketing materials, correspondence, blogs or articles. Anything involving writing or editing will do. If you hear of something, message me, please!

There is really nothing as inspiring or exhilarating as running in the rain. It’s quite beautiful. As I dried off and sipped my hot chocolate, it occurred to me that I can use this time to write about whatever I want, to explore WordPress and learn HTML. These are things that I have wanted to do for a while, and I’m excited to have the opportunity. Suggestions are, of course, welcome. I figure I will start with Google and see where it takes me.

I also decided to pay a visit to my former Boss (some of you may have heard of her). My old office is fairly close to home, and when I left about a year ago I promised I would come visit. She was thrilled to see me, and after showing me some pictures from her daughter’s wedding, informed me that she does not know of any openings in the university but she will let me know if she hears of anything.

My lesson of the day is that a good place to start looking for work is through connections from previous jobs, and in the meantime I can work on my skills and improve my marketability. Hopefully something will come of any of the friends and former coworkers who offered to pass on my resume. If you keep reading, you may find out…

September 2017
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