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Can't get reference(6 Posts)
I'm in a difficult situation and not sure what to do. My last employer ran a small local start-up where his aunt was the HR person and another relative was also employed on the team.
From day one he started hitting on me, flirting, making very NSFW comments, staring at me every time he was in the room, etc. He made it very clear he wanted an affair (I later found out he was recently married but regretted it) and it became increasingly awkward while I worked there.
I couldn't quit immediately, as I had been out of work the year before and needed to rebuild my CV. There was also no one to complain to, as the aunt was very much on his side with everything. I get the impression I wasn't the first person he did this to, as while I was there he asked whether another female employee was single (she wasn't, and coincidentally got sacked a few weeks later).
After a while, I guess he realised he wasn't going to get his affair, so started acting awkward, ignoring me, cancelling meetings (to the point that it became difficult to do my job and I looked bad to other employees). Then started with a lot of passive aggressive behaviour, humiliated me in front of the whole team, used me as a free marriage therapist in meetings, suggested I go drinking with the wife, that I should be friends with her, constantly badmouthed her and told me some really messed up stuff about her having a 'near incestuous' relationship with a male relative, really weird Jerry Springer type things that I had no idea how to respond to! At the same time, another manager who he got on well with also started doing passive aggressive stuff, holding meetings with my employees that I wasn't invited to, constantly addressing me last in meetings so I looked as though I had nothing useful to contribute, I guess trying to 'encourage' me to quit.
It was really insidious and made me incredibly stressed and eventually suidical, as it felt like I was trapped and couldn't do anything right. He then hired the wife so I had to work with her and couldn't say anything. I had no idea if she knew about him hitting on me, which made it worse. She also asked us if we knew any guys with money we could introduce her to. So it felt like I was a pawn in some really screwed up game.
Once lockdown started he switched to being friendly for a while, I think only because he was fighting with the wife so much at home and decided he would try to get attention elsewhere. But that didn't last long and he eventually kicked me out the company with only a few minutes notice with the excuse of 'restructuring'.
I did my best to be friendly and not cause drama, even when he sacked me. But two weeks later I had a bad seizure, heammorhaging in my eyes, and was told I had cardiomyopathy (not a heart attack fortunately) from severe stress. Since then I've had panic attacks almost constantly for several months and nosebleeds where I couldn't stop crying. I've never had anything like that before. It was terrifying and I honestly thought at one point I was going mad and would never get better. I've been in therapy, which has helped and on medication for blood pressure and other things, but I'm not sure I will be back to my old self for a long time if ever. I hadn't had a great time before this happened and it feels as though it has torn open a lot of old wounds.
My original plan was to start my own company since the job market wasn't great. However my backer pulled out due to financial issues of his own and I haven't been able to get enough funds together to do it properly. So I'm looking to get another PAYE type job for the time being.
The issue is that I can't go back and ask for a reference (and I'm fairly certain he and/or his aunt would give me a bad one out of spite). Even the idea of bumping into them in public (they live fairly local) gives me severe anxiety and it's taken a very long time to even get the nerve to leave the house (covid is the least of my worries!). I've tried applying to smaller companies that might not care so much, but they have all still wanted a reference. So I feel like I'm stuck. I don't really want to have to explain to another employer that I was kicked out for refusing to have an affair with the boss.
I've also been advised that while I could take him to court, it would be my word against his (and his relatives would back him up) as he was careful to cover his tracks. For example, he switched over the comms software half way through so the old messages are gone. So it would likely be very expensive and waste a lot of time and energy for nothing.
I'm trying to find another company owner who would be willing to say I worked for them as a contractor, just so I have a more recent reference to give instead. I'm hoping then they won't mind so much if I can't get a reference from my actual last employer. But so far I haven't had any luck.
Who did you work for before this job? Could you go back to them and ask for a reference? Giving an employer a false reference is a sackable offence. Do you have someone who could give you a character reference? I have written those for friends.
The last one before that was a contract job for a team that no longer exists. And I tried the character reference thing, but they specifically wanted an employer one from the last place I worked. They would accept the older reference, but only in addition to the latest employer.
No advice I'm afraid apart from I'm likely to go through the same. Small family business and they are so angry that I'm leaving.
As a hiring manager, I'd be very sympathetic if you explained this to me (an edited version!) and help you work out an alternative.
What do you mean by finding another business owner who would be willing to say you worked as a contractor? Do you mean that they would say you'd worked for them when you hadn't? Don't lie!!