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to be fuming after being fired because I look like a junkie ( apparently)

(39 Posts)
cottycandystick Thu 20-Feb-14 16:18:58

As to not drip feed, I will point out some salient points.

I volunteer ( so do not have employment rights about discrimination)
I have \mental health problems ( now much improved and I no longer see a psychiatrist and have been tapered of anti deps, I occasionally see a cpn with a view to be cut of from services completely in the near future
and most importantly - I do not do drugs, not even alcohol or legal highs etc.

5 years ago I started to volunteer for this organization that helps drug addicts, as I enjoyed it so much, I stayed for for more longer that what I was planned to, plus in 2012 I won volunteer of the year. I got on well with everyone including my line manager that really boosted my self esteem and trusted me with a lot.

He left and a new manager took over, she was always quite aloof with me and I assumed that was just her personality and did not take it to heart.

over the past few months she reckons that she has had complaints about me and that she herself as saw me look like I am on drugs.

she reckons that she saw me being half asleep/drowsy/out of it/slurring my words/ unsteady on feet etc. and that I was to leave the building and am not allowed back on site.

I was gobsmacked by this and said that there has to be some mistake and told her that I would take drugs/booze test and see any of the medics that we have on site( we have testing facilties and so forth on site) I told her that I simply do *not *take any drugs, and I was not happy with this implication that I do take drugs and that I wanted my name cleared. I even got one of the workers to test my urine which came back clear from everything, she is a nurse and she signed it, so I had proof that I could not have been under the influence of drugs on the date where the manger claimed to see me being under the influence.

she then switched tactic to my history of mental health. When I started 5 years ago, I was at uni and was taking anti deps, sleeping tablet, etc and saw my mental health team once a month. since then I have been weaned off my meds and no longer see a psychiatrist. I told her that I would be happy to get a note from my GP to confirm that I am well enough to work.

she told me that she wanted to discuss my future with this organisation on a certain date, I found out from a colleague who is also a friend that she told my work mates, not to contact me and to not invite me to a particular work nights out. He also said that she was going to finish me as a volunteer and give me a thanks for your service but you are no longer required here type of meeting and if advised me that it would be better if I resigned, so on the morning of the meeting Informed HR that I was resigning and the official letter is in the post.

At the meeting she basically said that she has too many complaints from people including service users, members of staff and others that the girl ( meaning me) looks like she is on drugs, I explained AGAIN that I do not do drugs, she then switched to mental health and said that I obviously did not have the insight to recognise that my psychiatric meds were causing me to present in a way that caused others to think I am on drugs.

I am now paranoid and embarrassed. I don't take any medication with the exception of sleeping pills for when I really cant sleep. I am reluctant to volunteer for any other place or carry on looking for work as I don't want people to think that I am either on drugs or am a mantel patient.

I am pretty chilled and talkative to the right people, so I don't know why people would say im on drugs.

I have listened to my voice and watched my pupils on vids etc and I appear normal, I take pride in my appearance and do not behave wacky or overly shy.

The manager has no reason to dislike me or to fire me. I have worked hard including working in weekends/evenings on projects and I was made to feel awful. I had to be escorted out the buildings. when I asked about references she said that companies were not allowed to give bad references, so she would not do that to me. she said that HG give out standard references in those situations. I am annoyed because it feels like a real kick in the teeth, because I wanted to work within that field, because I enjoyed it.

I honestly don't know how to approach this.

xkcdfan Thu 20-Feb-14 16:41:20

Hi there - you should not take this personally. YANBU. She is being a total bully.

I've been there before where a new manager has come into where I work and sets about getting rid of the "old guard" including me, just because they didn't like the look of us.

What's the chances that she has a mate lined up to take your role?

Even in voluntary organisations it happens unfortunately and I'm staggered that someone who is working in your field has such a deeply-held suspicions over anyone who appears different - she seems really intolerant and totally in the wrong job!

I doubt very much that she is picking solely on you - you should speak to the other people working there and find out if she's being rubbish to them too. If you're not the only one, you should all approach the people who took this lady on and say that she's been making inappropriate comments and making a hostile atmosphere. Only state facts and reference to specific occasions where she was being a bully. If they back her up instead of you, it will be sad but you may wish to consider volunteering somewhere else if only for your own sanity. It's your health at the end of the day and that's more important than getting into it with this bully.

Who knows? Dealing with people that she doesn't like the "look of" might actually wear her down and make her leave. Yours isn't what is considered to be a "cushy" voluntary role (if any of them are, really).

FYI: I had to leave my own job because of a bullying manager who promptly replaced my behind with her best friend.

Mumoftwoyoungkids Thu 20-Feb-14 16:42:09

Hair strand test can prove you have never taken drugs. (Not sure if you can get it on the NHS though.)

Can you contact your old manager, explain what happened and ask if he will write you a letter of support.

Contact other volunteers and ask for similar.

Get together all this info plus details of you winning volunteer of the year and write a complaint to her manager.

Hopefully someone else will come along soon with better advice.

chesterberry Thu 20-Feb-14 16:44:14

It sounds like this woman is a bully. It sounds like she has taken a dislike to you for reasons that are definitely not her fault and I would say the problem is almost certainly on her. It sounds like you were very well liked and successful as a volunteer within the organization, could she have been jealous of that? It sounds like she has a very poor understanding of both drug-use and mental-health needs and that she is judgemental about both of these things, I cannot think she will make a very good management.

Unfortunately as you were a volunteer and not employed by the organization I don't know whether there is anything you can do, they are probably within their rights to ask you to leave even if it is unfairly. I would try to focus on the positives, it sounds like you have made huge progress in terms of your mental-health (congratulations, I know it is not easy) and are in a good place right now. You also have five years experience in the area you want to work in. You know you can't be given a bad reference so perhaps now is the time to look for another organization you can volunteer at to broaden your experience or, even better, to look for paid work in a similar area? If you know where your old line manager has moved to perhaps you could even ask him to write your reference as he knew you longer anyway.

I know it is hard but please try not to let this set you back and I don't think you should feel paranoid or embarrassed about your behaviour, if your behaviour really was erratic or like somebody on drugs no doubt somebody would have picked up on it previously. It doesn't sound like your old line-manager ever had to manage complaints about you so it seems unlikely suddenly when this new manager took over there would be a wealth of complaints, it sounds more like she is making it up. She sounds like a bully and, unfortunately, being a volunteer and not an employee she probably saw you as an easy target because you wouldn't have the same employment rights. I think this was very bad luck on your part but unlikely to be because of anything you did wrong. I'm very sorry you had to go through this with somebody so awful and I wish you good luck in finding work in the field because you deserve a job you love and which you are good at. thanks

mrscumberbatch Thu 20-Feb-14 16:44:51

That's appalling. I would go above her head and contact her superiors.

To make such an allegation is a serious serious thing.

NaggingNellie Thu 20-Feb-14 17:13:35

That is really appalling, I'm so sorry op that you are dealing with this,

I would make a serious complaint, i really hope this is resolved , this is just awful.

sorry I cant be more helpful.

ilovesooty Thu 20-Feb-14 17:15:45

I work for an organisation such as the one you're volunteering in and I'm appalled. It sounds as though the woman really has it in for you. I'd be asking to see the anti bullying policy and the diversity policy and some specific details of the complaints made about you.

cottycandystick Thu 20-Feb-14 18:09:55

I lovesooty, she said that policies only related to "staff and not volunteers"

I am starting to think this all started because I made a comment to a social worker (that I knew) about staff ( never mentioning any names) seemingly ignoring/being afraid some of the service users ( court ordered to attend) that were dealing drugs/ selling drugs and stolen property on the premises.

For example, i once witnessed in front of staff, a female sex worker on a meth programme go up one of the dealers practically begging him for gear, he made it clear he wanted money - they went into the toilets ( only place with no cctv,) - not for sex, they came out seconds later

The place I volunteered for have a contract with the court and. if the court is not happy it can give the contract to a rival service.

I think that ( and the fact she maybe scared ) is why she ignores the dealing/using etc.

so according to the " statistics" the place seemed to be doing a better job, but in reality the dealers know that staff will ignore because they don't want another organization to get the contract which may lead to them losing their job.

Is this something you can relate to ilovesooty?

FelineLou Thu 20-Feb-14 18:26:07

First of all Well done for coming as far as you have with your health issues.
If any of your last post is true and I do believe you have seen some dodgy events, then you are best out of it and seeking similar work elsewhere.
Just put it behind you and get moving on a new post - maybe paid this time so that policies do definitely apply.
Best of luck with a positive future.

BrianTheMole Thu 20-Feb-14 18:34:26

I would make a complaint anyway. She has no right to treat you like that, and she is discriminating against you by trying to turn your mh into something it isn't. You have nothing to lose by complaining. She doesn't sound suitable to be in this job.

PenelopePipPop Thu 20-Feb-14 18:39:27

Can't comment on the reasons why the manager behaved like this. But it is total bollocks to say you are not protected by anti-discrimination law because you are a volunteer. The Equality Act applies to you as much as anyone else. So they can sack you for actual problems with your work as long as they apply a proper transparent procedure, but they cannot possibly sack you for a history of mental health needs because that would be a clear violation of their duties under the Equality Act. Look it up and write to their HR asking for copies of their volunteering policies on disciplinary offences and details of exactly what the disciplinary offence you have committed is - because if there is nothing you've got yourself a civil action for discrimination under either s.13 or 15 Equality Act and given they are contracted to do their work by the courts they have almost certainly breached s.149 too (this would not be relevant to your claim but would certainly be of interest to whoever is contracting them to provide the service so I'd mention it in your letter to HR).

The idea that you can discriminate against volunteers with a protected characteristic just because they don't have a contract of employment - how fucking ridiculous! People this stupid need to be stopped, I hope she wouldn't sack a volunteer for being black or a woman or gay but the logic of her argument is the same and the protection you have in law if you have a disability is the same.

Helppleasaadise Thu 20-Feb-14 19:10:23

Poor you sad

Please don't feel paranoid, but if you can't shake the feeling, then ask a few people who might be honest, like the mh team? Sometimes its good to get clarification off other people, especially as its something so undermining.

But basically, what a bitch. I'd agree with others that it sounds like a 'out with the old established people' as a way of making her mark. It's so so hard not to take things like this personally, as she's made it personal by her actions, but try to keep in mind that it's not about you, it's about her.

flowers

aroomofherown Thu 20-Feb-14 19:15:14

OP do you have a contract there? Because the Equality Act doesn't actually apply in the same way to a volunteer if you don't have a contract. Which I think is morally wrong.

I can't imagine how stressful this is for you.

Volunteers

HadABadDay2014 Thu 20-Feb-14 19:23:24

Do you know what, you now have time.

Use that time to qualify to become a drugs counsellor.

HearMyRoar Thu 20-Feb-14 19:49:10

I also agree that this woman is basically an unpleasant bully and I would eat my hat if anyone has made any serious complaint about you at all.

I had a similar situation many years ago. My manager just decided he didn't like the look of me and after a period of basic nastiness accused me of stealing. This involved calling police and searching my room as it was a live in job. Nothing was found of course, but it was humiliating and I left the next day. Thankfully another manager who I worked with quite a bit was lovely and offered to write me a glowing reference. Your reference doesnt have to be from your direct manager, have a think if there is someone else you could ask for one in future, or if you have contact with your old manager ask them.

Don't let this horrid person ruin your plans!

cottycandystick Thu 20-Feb-14 19:57:56

peneoplePP and the other lady that asked, no I do not have a countract just a volunteers agreement, so I do not have the same protection as if I was an employee

http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/governance/news/content/14018/volunteers_do_not_have_same_legal_rights_as_staff_rules_supreme_court

I have come across a free helpline to ring on a particular website and they did mention just like PenelopePP ABOUT How orginisations must be careful about using health and safety. \I don't understand about thes.149 thingy tho.

im feeling so much better, it was just a shock to be dismissed so harshly.

part of me wants to fight, the other just wants to forget about it and find another job/volunteer placement that I enjoy. Then I think why should that woman get away with treating me like crap, just because I have a history of MH issues, and she shattered my self esteem.

I know that aged concern like to do there references etc ASAP, I was already thinking of volunteering there, so it be interesting if they took ages to reply or give me a bog standard, we can confirm that cotty volunteered here for 5 years etc.

I have asked for my CPN to see me a lot sooner than march and I asked him on the phone to honestly tell me if I seemed like I was a druggie etc.

he said that I have never presented that way to him, sometimes I look depressed and withdrawn, but never drunk/out of it etc.

princessnumber2 Thu 20-Feb-14 20:12:25

Hi. Sorry you've been treated so badly. If I were you I would contact your old line manager and ask them if you can use them as a referee on voluntary/job applications.

They will probably give a standard reference from HR confirming dates you worked there etc but you could easily explain that your old manager knows your work better.

If you were an employee I would take her to a tribunal but, as a volunteer, I would move on to something better than the stress of being around such a cowbag.

You sound very proactive and dedicated and I'm sure you'll do brilliantly at whatever you move on to. thanks

LillyAlien Thu 20-Feb-14 20:19:28

I'm sorry this is happening to you.

You say that you take sleeping pills. Prescription sleeping pills can leave you drowsy, bleary-eyed and slurring words the day after use. Are you 100% sure that you weren't at work in a state which could have seemed very similar to being high or under the influence?

bearleftmonkeyright Thu 20-Feb-14 20:29:17

I think your post about the dealing that happens on premises is your problem and why she has chosen to pick on you. I am guessing you could probably do her job standing on your head

bearleftmonkeyright Thu 20-Feb-14 20:31:36

Sorry postec too soon, ....and that is why she has picked on you. You sound like just the sort of volunteer the organization needs. Please do not let her comments get to you. She is a bully of the first order. I am seething about this, how dare she!

bearleftmonkeyright Thu 20-Feb-14 20:35:51

I don't think sleeping pills would make you look as though you are high, its just not the same way a person looks as when they have taken heroin for example. So she is vu. She is lying to you.

Bulldozers Thu 20-Feb-14 20:38:47

That sucks!

Speak to citizens advice. They will help you understand your rights.

SeaSickSal Thu 20-Feb-14 20:43:07

I think you need to retract your resignation as it may mean that you cannot take any further action against them for this.

As you have been there for a while you may need to use the organisation as a reference at some point and this will be on your record with them, and she has said things that are defamatory.

I think you need to take this much further. Is it possible that your colleagues or old manager will also write to your head office to complain and back you up?

SeaSickSal Thu 20-Feb-14 20:44:05

Incidentally I suspect because you won volunteer of the year and had been there a long time she may have seen you as a threat to her authority and wanted to get rid.

Blu Thu 20-Feb-14 20:50:19

What a horrible experience - so sorry you have been treated like that.

I would be very surprised if a reputable charity, and especially one which accepts public money in the form of grants, which many which address the needs of drug users do, does not have an equality policy which prevents people being treated unfairly, and a complaints and grievance procedure which is available to volunteers.

Is there anyone above her in the hierarchy? A Board of Trustees? I would go higher and ask to see the complaints policy, and write a formal complaint.

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