Re: Massachusetts DMH Human Rights issues

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 3 May 1998 03:33:07 -0700 (PDT)


"Bruce D. Burleson" <anvil@quik.com> wrote about his work with ex-homeless
residents at a residence "for formerly homeless, mentally-ill adults,
privately operated but publicly funded through the Massachusetts Department
of Mental
Health.":

> I've got a Human Rights situation on my hands at work.  Might have to expose
> another staff member for at least one incident of physical and/or
> emotional abuse on a tenant.  [This tenant] arguably can be unpleasant,
> and the tenants and some staff know it, but she's the darling of certain
> administrators, even though they know she was a prison guard before
> taking the job of Weekend Supervisor....   So needless to say, I'm going
> to piss some people off by filing this "Above-The-Line" (Serious offense)
> Human Rights Complaint with the Department of Mental Health.

Bruce, it's very easy for your bosses and coworkers to hassle you, but much
harder for them to fire you.  So stick to your principles.

Report and fully investigate Human Rights complaints by ex-homeless
residents.  Don't let so-called superiors' pressure tactics impel you to
act in ways that might harm you physicaly or emotionally - or silence you.

To protect yourself, don't be late, don't call in sick past your alotted
sick days, and speak your mind without yelling.  Short of  workers stealing
or assaulting someone, it's hard for DMH to fire a union employee.  (My
guess is that you are a nonunion "vendor" contract emoployee.)

Even nonunion employees can only be legally fired for just cause.  Others'
displeasure when you do your job - and follow a legal mandate to protect
people's rights - is not just cause to fire you.  If they fire you,
formally protest the decision and demand your reinstatement.

Unless your bosses finally assist rather than hinder your work, think about
involving the media, the ACLU, and whatever state agencies are mandated to
implement the law(s) that define your duties as a Human Rights Officer.
If you can document that your employer hinders you doing your work, a suit
could pressure the staff at DMH funded facilities to better protect
clients' rights.

Please let us know how this turns out, Bruce.  Be fair to the accused, but
refuse to be silenced!  Speak truth to power!--Tom B


Bruce also wrote:
>I don't ordinarily send out excerpts of
>correspondence between myself and family
>members over the Internet, but this on-the-job
>matter could use whatever advice people
>could give.  For me that includes loved ones,
>friends, etc etc.
>
>The below is a letter I sent to my dad tonight,
>concerning what is going on with me on my job
>lately.  Below I add more thoughts to the
>analysis.
>
>I am gritting my teeth and being tough.  Maybe
>against my own will, maybe not.....  No more
>Mr. Bruce-The-Happy-Smiley-Activities-
>Coordinator.  No more "I'm really an Activities
>Coordinator, and I only do the Human Rights
>Officer thing IN ADDITION to regular duties."
>
>That's all bullshit, and an error.
>
>That used to be my understanding of things,
>until I found out that some DMH-funded
>programs actually have a FULL-TIME Human
>Rights Officer.  So here I am, being the
>Human Rights Officer on top of my regular
>40-hour duties as Activities Coordinator,
>and for that reason struggling to keep up
>with my usual duties, without any extra
>compensation.
>
>AH but I have heard, though, that such extra
>compensation is supposed to occur.  But,
>alas, months go by, and it has yet to show up
>in my paycheck.  Within six months of the date
>of this letter, if such compensation isn't made,
>I will have to forfeit my role as Human Rights
>Officer.
>
>I am tired of feeling that I have to listen to clients'
>complaints and then respond to the feeling
>that I have to smooth everything over, or "work
>things out" (without any real solution having
>been reached);  and also that the pressure is
>upon ME to make sure that the "first priority"--
>that the PROGRAM keeps going as mandated
>by DMH--is ensured.