A Pattern

I have worked for a large state university for six years, the past five spent in the School of Medicine. Nine months ago, I made a lateral move from Internal Medicine to the Office of Medical Education. I just had my first formal evaluation and my supervisor, (who makes 7.4 times what I do), told me there would be no raise due to the wage freeze currently in effect. Yet my supervisor, (who makes 7.4 times what I do), conveniently received a 45% pay increase just before the wage freeze took effect.

I believe this inequity, alongside the facts below, establish a pattern…

  • Over the past two years for which there is data, this same supervisor gave his staff overall, average 15% and 10% pay increases which looking from the outside appeared to indicate a willingness on his part to take care of his people. I was aware of this data before making the decision to come into this job, so I accepted an 8% pay cut which was explained away as HR bureaucracy. This knowledge alongside assurances from co-workers that I would be taken care of, and the fact that I really wanted the opportunity, believing it would allow me to make a bigger difference, contributed to my decision…
  • Throughout 4 years in my previous position, I lobbied for just compensation, I received stellar performance reviews, I consistently received excellent student ratings, and I was recognized with a Service Champion Award. Despite all this, the department I left 9 months ago consistently paid me less than the average of others in comparable positions and started my replacement at a higher rate than I ever made…
  • Before interviewing for this position, I interviewed for a different position. I am now guiding and training the individual who is in the position I had interviewed for, and they are making 37% more than me…

On four different fronts (four different departments all in the School of Medicine):

  1. Pay cut (HR),
  2. Current job (OME),
  3. Last job (IM),
  4. Job interview (Psychiatry),

I have consistently been left behind.

From multiple angles:

  1. HR Policy,
  2. Comparing my pay to the pay of others with comparable job responsibilities,
  3. Percentage increases,
  4. Hiring decisions.

I have consistently been taken advantage of.

If discrimination is “making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit,” I have to ask, is this discrimination because of my age? Or my disability? My individual merit, to my knowledge, has never been questioned. It might be difficult to prove that this is collusion or a concerted effort but there is definitely a pattern of injustice in which on four different fronts decisions were made to treat me as a less consequential individual. And though the shared mindset may have suppressed age and/or disability as the reasons, it is my age and disability that have made me passionate, energetic, truthful which for a potential supervisor I believe translates to cantankerous and difficult and not easily managed or manipulated. Thus, decisions are made to pay me less than others based on agreeability instead of performance; decisions are made to try and scare me off by offering a job I really want with a pay cut; decisions are made to not hire me. And again, I would argue that ultimately this consistent pattern of injustice is due to my age and disability.

And so here I am. Discouraged and demoralized in my current circumstance, once again sending out job applications, actively hoping to find a workplace with at least some degree of expressive, reciprocal, compassionate, equitable respect and dignity. I have several more years of productive, experienced, knowledgeable, passionate energy to contribute, and I would like to spend that time and energy appreciated.

… … … …

Borrowing some from last week’s post, this week I sent the above to two successive lawyers who (respectively) claimed to speak for “Main Street Americans” and “individuals – not large corporations or insurance companies.” I submitted my plea for help with not much hope for legal recourse. In my limited knowledge and experience I have found most inequity is not illegal, but I was curious about the percentage of these outspoken lawyers’ compassion determined by earnings potential vs. righting wrongs. They did not disappoint; both declined, one clearly stating “this does not sound like illegal discrimination, and I am unable to help you.” If a larger percentage of their concern is their earnings potential, then despite their claims otherwise they are perpetuating the system and don’t really care about Justice. And though I understand that within our system it is challenging to connect dots in an effort to adjudicate just compensation (based on individual performance and peer comparison) and fair wages (big picture opportunity and the ever-widening income gap), to advertise compassion and integrity then act on selfish ambition, is unforgivable. And though my individual circumstance may include more dots closer together (age and disability and excellent performance reviews), to make a case for unjust compensation or unfair wages is made more difficult by our country’s long, proud history of systematized discrimination and inequity. No matter the obvious resulting injustice, to argue against a bureaucracy substantiated and justified by decades and centuries of tradition and belief and/or to try and prove malicious intent on the part of someone who claims they are merely working within the confines of that system – following the rules, is like trying to prove there is no God. When arguing with true believers shepherded by predators, it is an unwinnable argument.

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