“Those who tell the truth have nothing to remember.” Mark Twain
It is the most common type of argument between siblings, co-workers and their supervisors, sales representatives and clients. One side claims to have said something or done something, and the other side says “no, you didn’t.” In the world of “he said, she said” it often becomes a battle of wills, reputations, accusations, and hurt feelings by at least one of those sides.
When this type of issue arises in the younger part of our lives, the incident serves no other purpose really, other than teaching us who we can rely on. But in the adult world, situations like this can have a major impact on our daily lives, on our futures.
The first job I applied for post-cancer, was for an insurance company rep position. I was a sure thing as my step-father worked for the same company and had a great reputation. It was a position that required licensing, so that meant studying and taking tests. Of course, I went through all the other steps, application, interview, and had been doing quite well on all aspects of the hiring process. Then they had me undergo a health physical. It had been several months since my chemo ended, and I had been doing well rehabbing at the gym. I had lost nearly half of the weight that I gained (yes, I gained weight during my chemo), and I had really built up a lot of stamina. I was in probably the best condition I had been in for a long time.
About a week later, I got a telephone call. “We wanted to know that although you have done very well with all the testing and preparations, after discussing your cancer situation with our home office, they would just feel better if you were in remission a bit longer.” And there it was, my first taste of discrimination courtesy of a “nation wide” insurance company. As hard as I worked to get back into shape, this is what my life was going to be like?
After speaking with my social worker, he made the recommendation that I file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Labor Board. I have never been a person controlled or motivated by money. This would be no different. The biggest issue was the fact that there was a good chance I would never get hired anywhere, simply because I had cancer. There would be no attorneys supporting me and my complaint, just my social worker. Off we went to Harrisburg.
Neither of us knowing what to expect, we all met in a large conference room, and I was given the first opportunity to speak my case and I basically recited everything that I mentioned at the beginning of this story. Then it was their turn. Just when I thought it could not get any worse for me…
“Mr. Edelman withdrew his application.” And just like that, my case was over. Or so I thought. After all, there was only a telephone call between myself and the district manager for this company. It was my word against his… he said, he said. Of course I objected. I know what I said and what he said. All that I had to do was prove it. It was that simple. Unfortunately, life does not work that way.
But it was not all bad news. As I mentioned, I live life with principles being my main objective. I was about to win at least part of my complaint, perhaps not for me, but for someone else.
There was a new law that had recently passed, that definitely many major companies were not prepared for, called the American With Disabilities Act. The part of the act that this company was introduced to, and was required to make immediate sweeping changes to its hiring practices all across the country, was that an employer could no longer require a physical until after the job applicant was being considered for the job. Seriously, how hard was it going to be to sell life insurance? Companies are not allowed to even ask you anything about your health history until after they have made the decision to hire you. Yes, that is a loophole, but at least you can get in the door a lot easier now.
This behavior by companies of all sizes, the old “he said, she said” trick is still widely used. Unfortunately we are a mostly trusting society. We epxect people to be honorable and keep their word, do the right thing. But how do you protect yourself from not only being denied what you are legally entitled to do, but physically able to do as well? Print.
Put everything down in writing. In today’s media world, everything lasts forever courtesy of the internet. Years ago it was convincing enough to mail something registered mail, and then faxing. But still, when push came to shove, how could you prove what was inside the envelope or what was faxed. Companies are much too smart for that today. But one tool that is pretty much impossible to beat, is email. Your email is mainly your personal access, your words, your time and date stamp, your proof of what you said. Once “sent”, it is out there forever.
Here is how that situation back in 1990 would have been handled by me today.
I would have originally asked for an email address for contact purposes. I would still send every correspondence the way the other party would request, whether it be fax or snail-mail. But today, I would scan any forms and letters into my computer, then attach the document to the email and hit “send”. I am sure that there will come a time, when companies will get around the time and date stamp placed by email, but for now, if someone wants that fight, I am willing to take that step. It is not satisfactory enough to tell me I need to follow up with the submission. If I do what is expected, then I have fulfilled my obligation. That is how I solve “he said, she said.”