So then...

About Me

Welcome to my blog. My pen name is Eva James. I'm an aspiring writer paying the bills working as a legal secretary. Bullied by my boss in 2008, I looked for another job but the recession hit. Feeling trapped, I started this blog. Trevor Griffiths, legendary theatre, TV and film writer said at the outset, "I like the writing a lot: smart, cool, placed. If you were prepared/able to take your prick of a boss on, you'd marmelise him." I was unaware back then that it would catalogue one of the most extreme cases of workplace bullying in the UK. I've found another job, but am subject to a gagging order. I'm still blogging, of course. Just don't tell the lawyers!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The More Things Change...

That temp agency I wandered into the day I left my job was founded by a woman who successfully sued after being bullied in work.

I had no idea of this when I walked in clutching my resignation letter. She’d used her settlement to start her recruitment business over a decade ago and the solicitor she phoned on my behalf was the very same who’d originally won her case.

When she read my resignation letter she’d wanted to kill Howard and was determined to get me back on my feet and employed again.

I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t want to be a secretary again. I quelled my panic by telling myself the jobs market hadn’t picked up. However, I’d overlooked my new friend’s ability to pull some strings and champion my cause.

The interview I went to yesterday for an employment secretary was sprung on me by the recruitment agency at short notice. The manager of the agency told me to call in and see her first, where she promptly read me the riot act. I was not to let Howard ruin almost a decade of experience. I was not to let him win. I was to go and put on a brave face and get the job. She told me exactly what to say if they asked about my previous employment and she gave me a reference.

I almost fell over when they offered me the job half hour after the interview ended.

I cannot believe I’m going to be working as a secretary again after all I’ve been through. I can’t believe I’m going to have to put on a brave face and pretend I’m alright. I’m reminding myself I’m in this position because of someone’s kindness and that’s the main thing.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’ll keep you posted

Eva x

Monday, 19 April 2010

The Crepe Crusader

There can’t be many women forced out of a job because their boss was so offended by their ugliness. Imagine feeling hideously ugly, divorced, living in one room, and unemployed. I’ve lost hope, I’m living from day to day and I’m crying all the time.

Ollie's ex-secretary met up with me and we discussed the stress of clinging to such an awful job and the effects of eventually walking out. She confessed after she left she’d begun obsessively cleaning and had begun hoarding anti-bacterial wipes. I nodded.

I have my own confession. Two or three months ago I started obsessively buying pancake mixes. It doesn’t matter which brand (although Betty Crocker is my favourite). The funny thing is, as I’ve mentioned, my flat is quite small. When I ran out of room in my cupboards I arranged the batter mix on top of the units. My mum was concerned for my mental health and ordered me to stop buying them. I couldn’t. The stockpile grew. I worried about what would happen if I ran out. I told my mum the pancakes weren’t hurting anyone.

Even depressed, I can see the funny side. Wherever you sit in my flat you can’t escape the Betty Crocker boxes above the kitchen units.
I guess it’s no co-incidence that the strap line reads “Betty Crocker – Stir in the Smiles.”

I wish.

See you soon

Eva x

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

I Quit

I’m in shock.

There had been whispers for months, but no-one believed it would happen. Yesterday it did. The Office Manager handed out our contracts of employment. I stared at my skinny envelope in surprise.

There was no mention of the legal assistant/paralegal work I was doing. The Contract confirmed I was a legal secretary again. It was a lower wage than Howard had stated.

I went cold.

I felt sick to the pit of my stomach.

There had to be some mistake.

I didn’t have time to ask Howard because we were called into a department meeting. I tried to concentrate on what Philip was saying about aggressive marketing. When he spoke of an advert in The Law Gazette I assumed this was another aspect of raising our profile. However, when he unfolded the proposed advert and slid it towards Howard I realised I was wrong.

It was an advert for the job I'd been doing up - until that morning.

Once the meeting was over I asked to speak to Howard about the advert. Amused, he told me I was getting above myself if I thought I’d ever make a fee earner. Later, I found out that he'd told colleagues I wasn't capable of progressing.

Last night I wrote out my resignation and gave it to the head of personnel this morning who asked me to wait until he took some painkillers for his hangover. I left immediately. I walked aimlessly - ending up at a local river. I froze after sitting on a bench too long as my mobile phone filled up with voicemail messages from the Office Manager and Howard. They sounded worried I would kill myself or something.

A couple of hours later, I headed for a temp agency, telling them I needed work. The manager asked me what happened, but I couldn't speak so I handed her a copy of my resignation letter. She took it from me but halfway through said, “I can’t read anymore.” She picked up the phone and called a local law firm.

“I’m sending her over to you now,” she said. “This is the worst case of bullying and harassment I’ve ever seen.”

I was told to go straight to the solicitors and then come back. She promised she’d find me another job.

“I’ve been an Employment Solicitor for a long time” the solicitor said. “But this is the worst case of bulling and harassment I’ve seen in my life. It’s incredible that it’s happening in a law firm. The crucial thing is, of course, can you prove it?”

“Every word,” I said. “I can prove every word.”

When I returned this afternoon with my folders of evidence, his jaw hit the floor.

I would have made a great paralegal if I’d had the chance.

Eva x

Monday, 12 April 2010

A Collection

Today was my first day back after my operation. I braced myself when the barrage of insults started from Howard. I aimed to write down every one. Sometimes there are so many I can’t remember them all.

At least my colleagues like me enough to send flowers and chocolates, I thought. Last Friday a huge bouquet of flowers arrived from the office - my favourites - pink roses and Stargazer lilies.

“Been anywhere nice then?” Howard asked, taking off his coat. He said he could see I'd put on weight, how the sling was unnecessary attention seeking and how I probably didn’t know the difference between masterbating and physiotherapy.

He expressed how disappointed he was to sign a card he believed to be bereavement, only to find it was ‘Get well soon’.

I was in constant pain, queasy from the anaesthetic, but I was determined he was not going to get to me.

“And did you get the flowers?” Howard asked.

I’d already sent a firm-wide e-mail saying thank you.

Howard frowned and said I shouldn’t look so pleased. He said they’d tried to get a collection together, but no-one wanted to give. He said it was awkward. He hadn’t realised how much I was disliked.

“Actually,” he continued, “it was so bloody embarrassing the Office Manager ended up buying the flowers out of nominal office account.”

The Office Manager quietly told Howard not to be so nasty.

As collections go, I'm not bothered either way. I have my own collection. It’s the evidence of Howard's bullying, his insulting e-mails and offensive amendments. More than once he has accidentally recorded himself on his dictaphone.

And I hope there will be no leaving collection for Howard if it all comes out.

See you soon

Eva x

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Wish You Were Here

Apologies if I’m all over the place. The general anaesthetic is still affecting me so I’ll keep it short.

I’d agreed some time ago with Howard and the Office Manager that, when the operation came up to remove the metalwork in my shoulder, I would take annual leave rather than time on the sick. I didn’t have much choice. Due to our ‘rolling’ sick policy if you take over 10 days then you’re on statutory. Take statutory and Philip wants to sack you. I can’t risk not being paid in the future if I become ill, let alone losing my job.

The Office Manager reiterated last week, while booking her holiday in South Africa, that it would be one thing off my mind if I used my annual leave. Howard smiled, commenting that he is going skiing in Andora.

Yesterday, after two days of staring at a wall in the Trauma Clinic, they wheeled me to theatre to operate.

“Where would you most love to go on holiday?" the anesthetist asked.

Holiday? I groaned and lost consciousness.

When I came round I wanted to get straight home. My mother came to collect me. We passed through the concourse on the way out.

“This is nice,” mum said. “Look, they have Costa coffee, and WH Smiths and Boots. Ooh, and there’s a jewellery shop and a Post Office.”

Shuffling past the Post Office, I thought of buying a postcard to send to Howard. I managed a weak smile at the thought of him receiving my holiday regards.

“Dear Howard, wish you were here!”

See you soon Eva x
Bottom Swirl