Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Sexual Harassment Victim's Conundrum

he sexual  degenerate boss' ideal work environment of the 1960s - 1990s involved supervising young women who needed their jobs and lots of fondling, groping and occasionally more intense assaultive behavior.  One of the satisfying aspects of representing harassed or assaulted employees is that through time, large verdicts, and publicity, the prevalence of sexual harassment is waning. I look forward to being put out of business because employees fire perverts who assault and harass others.  

Yet, even though sexual harassment has diminished, it, like whooping cough, has not been eradicated. Every once in awhile the family of a 16 year old girl shows up in my office with their little girl who has been manhandled by her supervisor. It is sad to witness a child whose innocence has been stolen from her, and to see the pain in her parents' eyes. 

 From time to time, we see awful examples of women or men, the victims of the workplace bullies, who, because of their own insecurities and meanness, harass to humiliate others.   I've seen cases of male genital exposure, forced touchings, obscene rumors, just so the bully can feel tough.   

All of these cases create great mortification and humiliation and it takes great courage to allow the foul actions to be publicly filed in a pleading potentially for the whole world to read.  Newspapers don't print names of sexual assault victims for a reason.  So what does a weakened yet determined  normal person do when he or she must go to court to stop these awful people because the corporation will not?

Sometimes these lawsuits get press.  Other times, they are spread throughout the workplace where the bullies ridicule and lie about the victims, causing more emotional damage. We need the public to know that juries don't tolerate abuse and punish companies who permit sexual harassment, but at what cost to the claimant?  Oftentimes, plaintiffs are retraumatized just going through the litigation process itself. And, unfortunately, sometimes the employer revels in the retraumatization and either force a trial, which employers generally lose or employers wait until the last possible moment before trial to settle.  The longer the litigation is dragged out, the more trauma to the plaintiff, the less likely someone else will have the courage to fight, unless of course, the plaintiff gets a large verdict.  So the employers plans can backfire. 

As a lawyer, how do we protect a client from re-victimization?  Sometimes we simply cannot.  Sometimes the whole story needs to get out in order for justice to be done.  Sometimes one case needs to be tried, with all it's sordid details, to make employers take discrimination and harassment seriously.  I just hope it is worth it to those who have to split their guts open for the whole world to see.  People do make a difference, but it can get pretty ugly in the process.  

I am truly amazed repeatedly by the courage of my clients.  I hope they can see their courage pay off.  This can be an ugly business.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

OT - Have a Healthy Heart

I know that Rosie O'Donnell survived a heart attack and is in the news.  As many of you know, heart disease can have different symptoms in men and women. 

I bring this up because a month ago my 80 year old mother, who religiously got medical check-ups, had chest pains. She believed she had no heart trouble before. She had never gone to a cardiologist nor had she ever been diagnosed with heart disease.  We thought she was fine. We went to Centerpointe Hospital in Independence. After a cardiac catheterization, the cardiologist on staff told us she has "the worst coronary artery disease the doctor had ever seen" and that she was a "ticking time bomb." He said she needed bypass surgery immediately before she had an inevitable massive heart attack. The cardiologist referred us to the cardiac surgeon who told us her lungs were too weak for him to operate, implying (actually almost expressing) that we take her home and wait for the big one. 

We transferred my mom to KU Medical Center where she had quintuple coronary bypass surgery and is now excelling in rehab. Before the weekend I took her to the ER, she had no symptoms. She said that her breasts hurt and felt heavy and the middle of her back hurt. Her left wrist hurt at times that weekend. KU has wonderful doctors, and, to the chagrin of my husband, I am now a Jayhawk fan.

My mom plays bridge several times a week, went to a gym for older folks, drives, has lunch with her high school girlfriends and goes to dinner with my family once a week.  She uses social media, reads a lot and is very smart.  She lives alone. She got annual checkups and took every test on anything her doctor ordered. 

I just wanted to tell you all this because heart disease can be a silent killer in women, and men.  After this scare, I intend to ask specifically for tests to determine if I have coronary artery disease. I also would not recommend going to Centerpointe for heart problems (or anything else for that matter).  I am very lucky my mother is alive.

There are area hospitals that do cardiac scans for a nominal price - $50. The St. Luke's Hospitals in Kansas City provide this service. This is just a starting point. If you have any blockage, follow up with a good cardiologist. There are a number f tests that can be run. 

My mother was lucky that the 90% blockage in all of her major coronary arteries was discovered before a heart attack killed her. Some people, have massive heart attacks with no forewarning. My husband and I are getting scans next week.  Then we'll see if we need to have further tests. We need to take charge of this issue, especially for those of us in families like my husband's and mine, with long family histories of stroke and heart attacks. It feels good to be proactive.  Coronary heart disease is bad. BAD, BAD, BAD!!!! 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Courage - Looking Death Squarely in the Eyes

We have so little control over our lives and over those of the ones we love.  We have little control over the lives of our clients. We have little control of the future, and we can't change the past.
We can only really exist in the present moment with any satisfaction, the past is gone, the future is uncertain.

My mom is still in the hospital, KU Medical Center.  When she went to the community hospital,  Centerpointe, the surgeon told her she was too sick and her lungs were too damaged for her to survive bypass surgery.  The news was devastating, before that day in the hospital some two weeks ago, we had no inkling that she even suffered from coronary artery disease.  In our (my) defense, neither the internist nor the pulmonologist apparently had that inkling either.  The news from the cardiac surgeon was dire, and his approach was brutal.  "If I were you, I would go home and enjoy the rest of my life (even though the cardiologist confirmed that she was a "ticking time bomb" and she would have a massive heart attack if she were not treated).  The surgeon had no reservation in telling us how fit he was when he climbed the highest mountain in Colorado.  Just what a grievously ill patients wants from her doctor, a whose-in-better-shape challenge from her egomaniacal physician.

So, what's there to do? I have spent plenty of time these past few weeks gnashing my teeth and tearing my clothes (figuratively) fearing the loss of my mother.  This stress and dismay has no affect on what is going to happen. She seems to have survived quintuple bypass surgery, through tough odds.  The stress sometimes gets to Mom, but it is making me sick. It even made me paranoid and a little crazy. My mom took this situation in stride, while I mourned her death, repeatedly, even though she lives. I am thankful she lives and is improving. Why can't I just be grateful for every moment I have with her?  I am fortunate. My mother is still smart, articulate and clear headed. We still talk about politics and which book we will read next.  She can't walk that well right now and she detests being confined in the hospital where she has no possibility of even the most basic privacy. She rarely complains. She takes her challenges one day at a time, as I have instructed her to do. Yet, I am failing at this very task I require of her.

I am tired and worried. I did not have a quintuple coronary bypass. I was not cut from neck to breast nor was my sternum sawed in two. Yet I am the simpering, moaning, crying one of the two of us. I don't moan and cry in front of Mom, just out of her earshot, to siblings, offspring and spouse. She is a widow.  What little complaining she does is to me. And after that first horrible news, she rarely complains.

Our character is revealed most when we experience adversity.  My mother is an unlikely hero.  I never knew she would display so much grace and courage with her existence on the line.  I, on the other hand, am a blithering idiot, sometimes frozen with indecision and despair.

This experience has taught me something. Perhaps I am not as tough as I think and perhaps my mother is courageous beyond my wildest dreams.  Live in the moment and sometimes you discover how your loved ones shine. One thing I know, I love my mother and I want her to stay for a long time. I don't care how old she is. So there!