institutionaliseddiscrimination

Helen

I was conducting exactly the same role as my male colleague, I was called an Assistant Civil Engineer and he was called a Civil Engineer. I assisted nobody and worked in the absence of a Team Leader and Head of Department for over 6 months. When a position for Civil Engineer came up, the Engineering Manager came to me and suggested if I knew anyone who might be interested, I should encourage them to apply. I considered this and decided to apply myself. Between the application and the interviews, I had my annual appraisal with the same Engineering Manager, who praised all my work, rated me as “exceeds expectations” and said how pleased he was that I had applied for the position of Civil Engineer. He also stated “your interview day will be a very good day”. I went to the interview just a week or two later and it appeared to go well. Almost a month after the interview I got called into his office and told I had been unsuccessful in my application. I was a little confused and asked if there was a better candidate, they said no, they had not filled the position and were readvertising. I asked why I hadn’t been successful and was told “you are not a chartered engineer”, I queried this at the time as this had not been a requirement in the job advert and none of my male colleagues were chartered in the Civil Engineer role. The Engineering Manager changed his response and said, “oh I meant you haven’t got good enough qualifications”. Again, I was confused and pointed out that couldn’t possibly be the reason because again, I had a 1st Class Masters Degree and all my male colleagues merely had Bachelors Degrees. The Engineering Manager then responded by saying “what I actually meant was you don’t have enough experience”. At this point I was really questioning the whole exchange and left his office. I continued to question this rationale with colleagues (including those male Civik Engineers) and none could understand this as I had collectively a decade of experience and was undertaking the same number and value and complexity of projects that they were and was mentoring an Apprentice through her qualification. I then got invited by HR to a meeting “to discuss your job description”. I prepared for the meeting by printing copies of the job descriptions for Assistant Civil Engineer, Civik Engineer and Senior Civil Engineer. I collated evidence of my work for each of the points of the Civil Engineer job description and tried to map out a progression path through the positions. At this point it became apparent that the job description for the Assistant Civil Engineer was far more onerous than that of the Civil Engineer and that the only difference between the Civil Engineer and Senior Civil Engineer was being Chartered. I took all this to the meeting and presented my case to the lady from HR. She listened and then said “I’m afraid I can’t discuss your job description because I didn’t write it”. Instantly I was very confused as she had invited me to the meeting with the heading “to discuss your job description”, so I said as much. She responded by saying “I wanted to discuss another matter, you smell excessively of body odour.” At this point I was flabbergasted. I have never had such a complaint raised in my life before, no mention of this was raised in my annual appraisal mere weeks before and nobody had said a word to me. She continued, saying “Don’t you have anything to say? The least you could do is thank me for telling you in private” at this point I asked to leave and returned back to my office in tears. I felt embarrassed and confused and couldn’t carry on with the day. I thought about it all weekend and booked a doctors appointment immediately to get tested to see if there was an issue I was unaware of. All results came back negative and the Doctor suggested anti-depressants instead. I decided to speak to the Engineering Manager as I felt if it were this big an issue it ought to have been raised in my annual appraisal. He responded by telling me he had noticed it and that my team had complained as well. My faith in my team plummeted and I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. Eventually they began asking what was wrong and I trusted one enough to explain. He said he hadn’t said anything of the sort and he was certain nobody else had either. I decided at this point I had no choice but to leave my employment. My trust in both my management, my team and my HR department had been obliterated and it was obvious I was not going to be treated fairly by the organisation. I raised a formal grievance with my notice and the organisation responded by writing a four page letter saying they had done absolutely nothing wrong and they dismissed my grievance entirely.