Q: It’s actually been several years (close to 4?) since I first came up to meet and film with you. At that time you were moving South to try to find work. People who have seen TRACEY’S LAW have been deeply moved by your story and I was wondering if you could tell us what your situation is now?
Tracey: When I left [upstate NY] 5 years ago for North Carolina to find work, I was very excited about starting a new life in a new area. I had always loved NC and had family living there as well so I had no doubts that everything would work out. I was so wrong. My timing could not have been worse. The economy had just hit its first traces of the recession and jobs in NC were not as plentiful as it had always been. I sent out 100’s of resumes and met with dozens of agencies and was unsuccessful in finding work. I had the skills but there were no jobs.
After six months of seeking employment there, I moved down to the Atlanta, GA area where I had more family. For six months I looked for a job there and it seemed the job market was even worse there than it was in NC. I finally gave up and returned to my own family in [upstate NY], feeling like quite a failure. My family was very welcoming as I had expected and I immediately picked up some temporary positions that I was overly qualified for but grateful to accept.
Once those dried out I interviewed at a retail chain and have been there for nearly 3 years. It has been an eye opener in the different workplaces I have been in to see that workplace bullying is so common and occurs in so many forms; primarily, however, in the form of psychological bullying which is so hard to prove. Documenting psychological harrasment is difficult because it happens behind closed doors most of the time. People are afraid to speak out because they are afraid for their jobs. I have worked with several people who were currently being psychologically abused in the workplace and they were miserable and afraid – which led to them making silly mistakes in their jobs and giving their bully even more ammunition to use against them.
I, too, took over a temp positon that others in the department called “the dart board”. Wow. So others in executive level positions could see what was happening to the person in this role and they too were silent about it. In this position I was cursed at and yelled at and told I was not good enough for the position as a full time permanent. At another time, the same person told me I was over-qualified for it. One thing that did change, however, I didn’t take the abuse sitting down and faced it head on when it happened. I was in charge of how people were going to talk to me and if they didn’t like it, it was just a temp job anyhow. Currently working at [name withheld], I see mostly age discrimination. Being 52 years old, I am supervised by executives more than half my age who know a fourth of what I know about managing people. They call each other and sales floor employees names, but I don’t forget to tell them how unprofessional it is and that seems to be all it takes. At least it doesn’t happen around me. I continue to be depressed and have times when I feel post traumatically stressed. I have migraines that last for days.
In March of 2011 I was awarded social security disability benefits retroactive two years. I am now on disability but continue to work about 20 hours a week. I went from being a successful single mother who owned my own home and had a career that paid me 56K/yr to a person on disability working [retail], and filing a 2010 income tax of just over 9K! I live with my mother and my daughter.
Since the documentary was made, my mother had an addition added on the house and I have a beautiful bedroom with a private sitting area for my own privacy. I have been to my State Capitol to testify and lobby for a workplace bullying law, but have decided it stirs up my emotions too much and I feel helpless in getting a bill passed.