Ironically, I was actually writing a different post about advocacy when this happened today.
Yesterday was a day that many of us were watching, a hearing involving a whistle blower complaint, pertaining to issues related to the handling of the Covid19 crisis. Now, because my post is seriously not going to have anything to do with the hearing or politics itself, I still need to make at least some reference to it. But as you will see, what I am discussing is not a limited type of behavior.
So during the hearing, one US Representative, Mullin, pictured on the left, resembling a cross between Triple H of the World Wresting Entertainment (WWE) and another jacked-up angry US Senator Jim Jordan, questioned the complainant, pictured on the right, Dr. Richard Bright. But instead of asking questions pertaining to the complaint or at the least going for a conspiracy approach of being a bitter employee or anti-president, like representatives on both sides of the aisle were doing, this Hulkablowhard went for straight character assassination. This is the problem that I have. And it fired up the advocate in me, because what happened was just plain wrong. And it has nothing to do with politics. Mullin was nothing less than a monstrous asshole for the way that he displayed himself.
In going after Dr. Bright, he began questioning his current work status, then his payroll status, then his health status. What did this have to do with Dr. Bright’s whistle blower complaint? Absolutely nothing. It was a straight up attempt to assassinate the character of someone.
What position was the doctor currently in? What is his current attendance status? Questioning the transition of sick time to vacation time? The doctor’s payroll status? Health issues of the doctor? And then the biggest insult, and one that should forever label Mullin as the ultimate scum, implying the doctor’s health was too ill to get to work, but not to testify before Congress. Not one question about the actual complaint or anything about the current crisis and any role the doctor may have had.
It is clear what Mullin was trying to do. I have seen it many times over my years as an advocate. Pain in the ass does something wrong, gets punished, but does not cower like a beaten dog in remorse, resulting in an even stiffer penalty. Employee defends himself, perfectly as the employee has done nothing wrong other than to draw the ire of a superior who wants things done differently. Then the attacks become more about the individual, and not the work history, or even the incident itself. We have all likely been there. And we cannot help but want to stand up and cheer on the victim of this bullying.
Years ago, I was a union shop steward for a major company. For those unfamiliar, the shop steward is representative for the union member, somewhat like a lawyer, there to defend the employee with a bargaining unit contract, regardless of the infraction. How hard are supervisors driven to “get” employees? It all depends on how much you have irritated that supervisor. A friend and former co-worker used to describe me as “an asshole.” But followed it up with this comment, “but you know what? You are a stand-up guy. You stand by what you say, and you support everyone equally whether you get along with them or not. You do your job as a steward and no one can ever question that.”
One incident involved a co-worker who was out sick. Having only one car, and needing to go to the doctor later in the day, she dropped off her husband at work, then dropped her children off at school. But, instead of going straight home, get this, you might want to sit down for this, she pulled into a Dunkin Donuts to get a cup of coffee. She was spotted by one of our supervisors. I felt we should have notified Graterford Prison to alert them of a new inmate coming for the crime that had just been committed. Management did not appreciate my cavalier attitude any more than I appreciated wasting my time having to defend someone who claimed to be sick, and being sick, should have not been drinking coffee.
Another incident involved another co-worker, that I had represented through the various grievance steps, only to be removed, um… deterred by supervision and made unavailable to attend the final grievance meeting, leaving someone else to attend in my place. I had been successful up to that point in protecting the employee, and clearly, management was really intent on making an example, and not at their expense. I made the decision that I would use personal time, that I could not be denied, and then attend that meeting after all. At the door, I was denied entry, stating that I was not on company time, therefore ineligible to attend. After a lengthy protest, company and union officials went back inside to discuss the situation that I had presented in my insistence. Ironically, or strategically, this went on for over an hour. The attempt was to get me to spend and waste the personal time that I had taken, now expiring. Obviously underestimating my morals, I requested additional personal time, clearly willing to spend it all if I had to, to defend this employee, which now clearly, I knew, a fight I was winning.
Personally speaking, following my open heart surgery back in 2008, after spending a week in the hospital, I was sent home under strict recovery orders. One of which, was to make sure that I took some walks, not faced paced, but just for the point of keeping my body moving, not to mention that getting outside, would help keep my spirits up. During that first week, I probably did not walk more than a hundred yards, but it was a long a busy street, a street that many of my co-workers traveled to get to work. Yep, you guessed it. My phone began to ring from both ally co-workers, and one supervisor who looked out for me. I was being warned that I “look great” after being spotted walking and that “there was no reason he should not be back at work.”
Now, forget the fact that less than ten days prior, I had my breast bone cracked open and a major heart surgery performed on the heart. Anyone who has ever suffered a broken bone, know, bones do not heal overnight, usually requiring a cast, which clearly they cannot put on a person who has had heart surgery. But evidently, all of these passersby had enough medical knowledge, and about me, to determine my work status. Of course, that set off a whole other set of challenges, as my doctor had ordered me out of work for six months to allow the bone to heal, compromised by the very thing that caused the need for the surgery in the first place, radiation damage would hinder control. I now had my employer insisting on their own surveillance of my recovery which they insisted on my doctors seeing me weekly, though my doctors stated they had only intended to follow me up in three month periods. Definitely a waste of my cardiologist’s time that he could have been seeing other patients, my status never changed, and I would still remain out for the recovery plan as prescribed by my doctor.
So of course, when I saw this jackass from Oklahoma attack, and that was what it was, attack Dr. Bright, my advocate bat signal went full blast. But of course he has a team of people looking out for him. Clearly Mullin violated Dr. Bright’s HIPPA rights, not necessarily as the doctor, but in continuing to express Dr. Bright’s personal health publicly. And he should face repercussions for that. It should also be noted, Mullin is not a doctor, but a plumber. Yet Mullin felt qualified to interpret and explain the impact of hypertension, even if spontaneous and the dangers posed when not managed.
We are dealing with a very serious crisis right now. And dealing with anything other than science and facts is only adding to the complications and wasting time bringing an end to this pandemic. What Mullin did was a travesty and embarrassment to himself, our government, and the people of Oklahoma.