I am at a loss: my girlfriend works for Lucifer himself.

My live-in girlfriend works for a small five-employee company that sells sno-cone syrup and ice cream machines. She’s been there about a year-and-a-half now, I estimate.

Every day, she comes home exhausted, near the point of tears, and wants nothing but a shower and a long nap. Her job has caused her severe depression (which she is now on meds for), anxiety, sleeplessness, and nightmares. Here’s just a snippet of the things her boss (the owner) subjects her to:

[li]As everyone knows, the U.S. has been going through a serious heat wave. Baltimore has not had a day below 100°F for a month. She works in a tiny un-air-conditioned office (cashiering is one of her duties) in the warehouse. The boss won’t let her turn on the warehouse fan because it’s “too loud”, even though he spends most of his time locked in his air-conditioned office.[/li][li]There is no scheduled leave at her job. Once a year, all employees have two weeks off for Christmas, and that is intended to make up for the lack of leave. She’s afraid to take any sick time or time off for other things because “he’ll get angry”. All this while he cuts out a few days a week to hang out at the bar with his buddies (literally, oftentimes that’s where she goes if she needs something from him).[/li][li]He publicly humiliates her in front of her co-workers and customers, calling her “stupid”, “weak”, “slow”, and “a useless woman”.[/li][li]He flaunts OSHA rules. Wooden pallets have been stacked on their side in the warehouse, which is illegal. One of the pallets fell on her Achilles’ tendon, causing her a lot of pain and some scarring. She’s too scared to file a worker’s comp. claim.[/li][li]She’s the only female in the company, and the boss allows the other employees to ridicule and mistreat her.[/li][/ul]So why does she stick around? Well, she’s a very smart and talented woman, but she doesn’t have much in the way of marketable job skills. He does pay her a pretty decent wage, and she’s had a hell of a time finding a job that can match it. She can’t work for any less or she wouldn’t be able to afford the rent where I live or her car note. He’s makes damn sure that she knows she’s expendable even though she runs that entire company by herself and the place pretty much shuts down if she manages to take an unscheduled day off. Her boss is no shrewd businessman and relies on her for almost everything. It’s amazing the company hasn’t fallen apart already.

I don’t know what I can do. My strongest feeling is to go to his office and show him my tire iron collection. I’ve met this guy a couple of times. He’s the epitome of a Napoleon complex: A small man in his 50’s who pushes people around weaker than he is. I’m not a small guy, and I could very easily get my point across to him. I have a strong aversion to prison, however, so that’s not an option. My next feeling is I can call OSHA, the Dept. of Health, and the Dept. of Labor, but he’ll immediately know it she had something to do with it and since Maryland is an at-will state, he will fire her faster than Gomer Pyle on The Apprentice.

What can I do? I feel for her and listen to her vent about work almost every night. She’s rarely happy about anything anymore, and it’s starting to affect me and our house. We have to think fast, because she’s pretty sure he’s going to get rid of her at the end of the busy season.

If she calls OSHA and he fires her because of it, her next step is an employment lawyer because that is completely illegal. That said, she needs to have the stomach to follow that through, and I understand completely if she doesn’t.

I don’t think there’s much you can do except support her looking for another job. It might be a blessing in disguise if he does lay her off. If she’s laid off, she should be able to get unemployment insurance, shouldn’t she? Also, if she’s documenting all the abuses at the job, she might be able to get it anyway (I did this once, when I quit due to bullying. My government takes it seriously when companies allow bullying, and yours might, too.)

Would it be possible for her to sell her car and go without a vehicle for a while or buy a cheap used vehicle to replace it so that she doesn’t have the car note to worry about? If not would you be able to afford for her to pay less than her usual amount of rent for a while while she finds better employment?

It’s unclear to me what your/her goal is. She has three options:

1. Put up and shut up. Sounds like she’s tired of doing this.

2. Quit. But if she is already expecting to lose her job at the end of the busy season (whenever that might be), then it seems pointless to say she should quit (except to avoid ongoing abuse between now and the end of the busy season). Moreover, presumably she is already searching for another job in anticipation of losing this one.

3. Demand better treatment. If she hasn’t done this after a year and a half, it’s unlikely to happen any time soon.

Bottom line, I doubt anything is going to happen before she gets canned at the end of the busy season.

You say she’s smart and talented? If so, maybe she should look upon this miserable experience as a lesson/incentive to take out some student loans and go to community college or vo-tech school or something to pick up some skills and a degree. That way she won’t have to put up with shit treatment in the future; she’ll have options.

Curious because of the small size of this company… Is there a minimum number of employees a business has to have in order to have OSHA guidelines enforced?

Follow up question, does she at least get free sno-cones and ice cream?

Basically, all you can do is help support her in finding a new job. Staying at that place shouldn’t even be an option, regardless of what kinds of OSHA violations they can be nailed with.

You say she doesn’t have any “marketable job skills”? I highly doubt that’s true. Everybody has some sort of skillset that they can bring to another employer - even if it’s just “I’m smart and talented.” Getting a job is all about who you know these days. Help her network and ask friends/acquaintences if they know of any openings. Something will come along for her eventually.

That’s right, too - since she’s running the place, that’s LOTS of transferrable skills.

Oh, and once she’s finally out of that place - have Rap Master Mauricecall up the dickweed boss with a custom revenge rap. It’ll be worth the $17.

Huh? Just below the quoted bit, you state that she “runs the entire company by herself”. What makes you think that being able to manage the financials of an entire company results in her having “not much in the way of marketable job skills?”

Huh? again. If she’s sure she’s going to get laid off, then it sounds like what she should be doing is looking for another job now. If the guy is so sure she’s expendable, let him run things on his own.

Note: I despise abusive bosses. No one has to put up with abuse, even in a tight job market. She would be doing herself a favor to start asserting herself, even if she ends up getting fired for her trouble.

I’ll give the OP’s girlfriend the benefit of the doubt on this one, but in my experience - people who think they’re “running the place” are usually overestimating their value to a company.

There’s an old saying that I’ve always found to be true: “The moment you believe you aren’t expendable… you are.”

On the job skills thing: she doesn’t have a lot of confidence and doesn’t sell herself very well in interviews. Oftentimes, she’ll underrate herself to a prospective employer. She also does not negotiate salaries, taking the first offer given to her. It’s been very damaging to her because she’s a lot better than she thinks she is.

First, definitely make sure she’s documenting the hell out of everything. Including photos, tape recordings (if legal in your area), notes, etc.

If she gets fired or quits, she can use that evidence to file for unemployment. She can also use if, if she wants, to file a lawsuit.

Anything else is up to her. What I can tell you from my personal experience is that she needs to grow a spine and stand up to him. Whether or not she can manage that? Up to her. I’m guessing she’s fairly young (say mid-twenties or less)?

If it were me (which it wouldn’t be, because I wouldn’t have put up with his crap from the beginning so he wouldn’t be doing it), I’d be talking to an employment lawyer already. She needs to file the worker’s comp claim and get her ankle fixed. She should report him to OSHA, EEOC, and the state labor board for his other illegal practices.

Generally, standing up to assholes pays off. Usually they’ll back down rather than risk their own comfort. Who’s going to run the place if he fires her?

And even when they don’t, it’s worth it. No amount of money is worth feeling like shit about yourself.

For example, I’d recommend starting small. Don’t try to create some giant Armageddon, just pick something and quit putting up with his shit. Turn on the damn fan and tell him to get over it (politely, of course). Or order a new, quieter fan and use that. If he wants to create a giant scene, that’s up to him. But I’d bet you money that if she just stood up to him, he’d back down.

And if he doesn’t? That’s what all that documentation is for. Sue the shit out of him. “At will” does not mean you have to put up with illegal abuse. At least not yet, thank unions.

Perhaps you should get her into some counseling/therapy to deal with her issues first? While she’s documenting things, of course.

True enough, but if your boss spends most days in the bar, chances are you ARE running the place. :slight_smile:

They melt really fast, though.

AT, I think you know what her options are, and what the possible consequences are with each one. Only she can decide which one is least troubling to her.

I greatly appreciate the reply, but I am not Argent Towers. :slight_smile:

:smack::o I’m so sorry.

Good luck to her in working this out. I realize that my previous reply sounded more dismissive than I meant it to. It sounds like an awful bind to be in, and I guess my point was that unfortunately, there probably isn’t any good solution.

Not sure what she’s being paid, but I doubt it’s worth ALL THAT.

[quote=“Agent_Foxtrot, post:1, topic:591199”]

Here’s just a snippet of the things her boss (the owner) subjects her to:

[li]<snip> a whole bunch of absolute crap </snip>. One of the pallets fell on her Achilles’ tendon, causing her a lot of pain and some scarring. She’s too scared to file a worker’s comp. claim… [/li][/QUOTE]

Ok, lemme start here. “Scared” of what, exactly? Has she been able to articulate her fears to you? Is it just a general apathy towards the PITAedness of it? I mean, people file worker’s comp every day - it’s not a sunny day in a meadow, but it’s not like passing a kidney stone either.

Frankly, it sounds like the problem will solve itself. If so - this is what unemployment comp is for. However, if she was able to pull together even a smidgen of cojones, any employment lawyer would be thrilled to take this case.

Document. Document. Document. Even if she ultimately does nothing with it.

I agree, your gf is lacking in testicular fortitude. You have to pump her up!

You can’t build Rome in a day, but you can buy her a portable fan. Or, better yet, a personal air conditioner.


Not familiar with Maryland Law, but in California they have to excuse you for doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, etc if you have been employed full-time for a year.

She needs to look for another job. She needs to look for places to move if she loses her current job for any reason. Hate to say it, but she is putting herself in a position where she is absolutely miserable. Her boss is a dick, absolutely, but she needs to learn how to be more assertive.

Once she has options, things will get better. In separate times, myself and my fiancee were in similar situations as your girlfriend. What did we do? Looked everywhere for another job. Eventually the bullshit exceeds the inconvenience of a job that pays less.

I hope she’s turning on the fan the second he heads out the door for the bar.

Really, there is nothing she can do to change this situation. She can’t make the man change his basic personality. All she can do is start looking for another job, despite her depression, despite her timidity. She’s going to be out of a job soon anyhow and have to do it then with no money coming in, so she may as well start tomorrow. If the customers like her, she should start asking if any of their companies are hiring.