You will be held back, placed somewhere that doesn’t match your qualifications, and left to hang until that one day you make one little error in their eyes and they can blow it out of proportion and get rid of you.
Here’s my story. I tell you this so you won’t fall into the same trap.
On September 5, 2009, I was “let go” for “loafing”. This was worded as failure to provide customer service, and playing games. What was I really doing? Looking up words for garden in Spanish. Spanish was something that was being encouraged in the store, and I had seen a board in the back with some words on it, which gave me the idea to look up the words outside in a translator. I thought nothing of this, after all everyone uses their phones to google garden answers. Ironically now my current job embraces this.
I was on a register, a position I was placed because I am different (more to come on that). That morning I had greeted, helped, walked to, and loaded every person that came my way. Since I was on a register I couldn’t go far. In fact, it was just a week sooner, when I was watching my area and stopped a shoplifter. I was immediately awarded a homer badge, which is an award for following home depot values and recognition. It was my twelfth one and I was extremely proud.
So needless to say, I was insulted when they said I wasn’t providing customer service. My ability to help customers was in no way hampered or reduced, and I was only looking up Spanish words to help my job. Oklahoma is rapidly becoming Hispanic dominated and I felt it was necessary.
Store manager came out and saw me looking up those words and freaked out. Not more than an hour later, our District HR, was at the store, and I was gone shortly after that. This on our busiest day of the week, during peak hours? Over someone who has a plus 9 customer service score? Who has several comments on the board from customers? It always took at least two days for them to fire someone for safety violations. Does that not seem fishy? Fact – they refused to watch or let me watch the camera. Let’s rewind some more.
It’s July 2009. I am very stressed out from being on a register. I have severe anxiety and depression problems. If you don’t believe anxiety can be a severe and disabling condition, then I suggest you find a DSM IV and look it up. Or you know, look at my medical history. Anyway, I was all over the place and not focused. I’ll admit that. I hadn’t been taking meds for a while, due to the Store Manager.
My mind was all over the place and I accidently tossed a bag in our tube system. It broke, and I turned into an evil villain. Apparently I was “malicious” and ignored customers. If I truly thought it would have gone in I wouldn’t have done it. It’s like when you shoot for a basket from half court, knowing it won’t go in but it does.
So let’s go back to August 2008. I was still a garden associate, a dream job for my age. I lacked a garden since I had an apartment, so I made the stores like my own. I loved helping people out there and taking care of the plants. It was something I felt I could do forever. I was on board with selling credit, something no garden associate did.
It was then I had started taking a new medication for my anxiety. I submitted forms to management letting them know (in case drug test came up. Not so cool. My forklift license was stripped away, which severely hampered my ability to perform my garden associate duties. Having that taken away reduced my responsibilities, even though I was more than capable of performing them, and had proven that. In the summer, forklifts are vital to garden. People purchase large amounts of stone, mulch, and rock, and as that gets sold more has to be put in it’s place on a daily basis at a minimum.
This went by for several weeks, and I wasn’t having any side effects. My only thing was feeling nauseated from the heat. This happened again this year in 2009, without any medication. I had gone inside more due to this, but our ASM 1 freaked out and griped at me. What else was I supposed to do though? Pass out? I helped all I could inside, mixed paint and helped new people at the service desk.
Because of this I felt compelled to stop taking the medication. I was getting so much grief for it already, and after being told I couldn’t take it and do my job by management, there was nothing else I could do but stop. I couldn’t risk a drug test coming up in a case a promotion coming up and my medicine coming up, even though I had been asked not to take it. (it would have been legal though and abided by policy as it was prescribed, but they way they thought I knew it would be held against me).
Also because of this, I went job looking, something didn’t feel right, but I didn’t want to leave the place I loved, and I figured once a new cycle of managers came in, I’d have another shot, just had to keep my foot in the door.
Fast forward back to February 2009. I came into work to look at my schedule. I wasn’t on the garden schedule! What the heck’s going on. One of the cashiers asked me what I was doing on their scheduled. I had not a clue. I went to ask what was going on, my direct supervisor in garden.
He informed me that because of my medication and emotional issues I was being removed from garden by the Store Manager, and he would try to get me back in garden, but I needed to stop taking the medication. I was extremely upset, as I felt I just got demoted. There was a reduction in responsibilities.
This was also confirmed by the Front End Supervisor and ASM 3. ASM 3 later retracted and said I was up there still because I was doing such an “awesome” job. Front End Supervisor had just been told that, nothing more. I accepted that hours were down for awhile, and that the front end needed help. It was like I told ASM 3, there should have been communication to me why and set a plan to move me back out, especially if I was doing something wrong or not up to Home Depot standards.
When I was manager at Blockbuster I was expected to communicate any issues with employees or something drastic that would affect them. I was 20 years old then, and I don’t see why there’s not more communication here. I did roll with the punches long as I could, but I was being hung out to dry.
I requested a transfer to Edmond. I had a friend up there and he said it was a lot different, and I’d move up quick. I was going to move up that way anyway so I really felt I had a chance. I interviewed with the store manager, and he said he’d have to get back with my store manager about it. Guess what? This disappeared into the wind.
I respect the cashier position, but it is just not my cup of tea. I thought about taking medication again, as I knew the cashier spot would be stressful. I decided it against it for the drug test reason mentioned above.
I tried to think positively; maybe they just needed my help. I accepted that hours were down for awhile, and that the front end needed help, but when the seasonal help was being hired and two guys got fired I should have been right back out there. Not to mention another cashier was moved outside to garden. What a knife in the back that was. By May I was becoming very uncomfortable.
Everyday was becoming a constant and increasingly difficult endeavor. Some days it felt like solitary confinement. I worried everyday about losing cash on those registers. I fumble it sometimes and it’s easy for customers to confuse me with it. For some reason it’s infinitely harder for me to push credit and esps on a register, mostly because I get so frustrated as a line forms and I feel I need to rush these people out. I get sick from staying in the same area, I try to sweep and move around but you can only do so much in 6-8 hours in a 5 x 5 spot.
That spot was like being on stage without clothes for me. I’d have to repeated the same phrases over and over all day. I didn’t speak loud, so many people didn’t hear me. Unfortunately I would need a drivers license or something and without getting that the transaction was on hold. My anxiety would shoot up, and I just rushed to get people moving. When you have a whole line of people staring you down it’s hard just to not break down and cry. I was forced to fight these feelings everyday, and my requests to be moved were ignored. I never had these issues on the floor.
Throughout this time, events occur with management that did not make sense. Awhile back I tried to get to the point why I wasn’t still in garden. I asked about interviews and if there was anything I was doing wrong, or anything that was holding me back. The supervisor, ASM 3 just looked at me and walked away. I had been speaking to him since February about this. He interviewed several others, some of which did not show. Then he stated that I didn't show up in the “qualified pool of applicants”.
There is no reason I shouldn’t have. I had been there over 2 years . I am nursery certified and fully trained in garden. I have several customer comments and was the only garden associate to sell credit cards. We had one of the best shrink in the district while I was out there full time. Before Home Depot I was a manager for 4 years in retail, as well as 8 years experience total. I’m also halfway there to completing my business degree. I had no attendance issues. Relatively no discipline issues, except for when I first started during my training period.
Numerous times I went to the aware line and that usually ended up with a conversation with management that I could go to them instead of there. Front end supervisor, would always tell me how the felt I was going out of chain of command. One time I made a simple suggestion to the inbox ( a suggestion form) about small gloves, and even this was blown out of proportion. I think a lot of the retaliation came from this.
While the Store Manager was was gone, things were relatively okay. He left in March 2009 on back surgery. Attitudes seemed to change, and I was getting homer badges about every other week, marching my way up to 12. It was only in July when my requests to be moved were being ignored did everything as a whole change, and when Store Manager came back, it was like a frigid artic blast moved in. I noticed he was always giving me odd looks from across the store, and something just felt off. When this spanish incident happened, District HR initially said he was checking my thought process,(which I showed him the program, obviously not a game) and that he'd have to talk the store manager some more. It was only after that I had a bad feeling, as I knew Jon would try to get rid of me. By the second conversation, nothing I said mattered, it was as written, and they went from being open to closed. Something happened in that conversation with Jon.
After the tube system in July, I went to HR about this whole situation, about what the store manager said about the medication, and me and the EEOC. Human Resources, including Disctrict HR and Store HR 1 pretty much ignored my medical condition, only saying I could take a leave of absence if I wanted to. I felt the whole case was ignored, despite me having several supervisors who had told me the exact same thing that my garden supervisor had said. My accommodation requests were ignored. I requested a review of my write up for the tube system, which was covered in my lengthy note to HR. District HR later said I never objected to this write up, despite me having it in writing to HR. I was also denied viewing the camera, as I had no reason to believe I missed a customer walking by.
That evening, July 16, I had a conversation with our Specialty ASM. It was over the write up. She was over departments like flooring, appliances, and kitchen and bath. I got talking to her about moving to one of her departments. She informed me that because of my anxiety issues she would never put me in one of her departments. Now before this I had never talked to her about those issues, so how did she know?
Shortly after that I was scheduled a lot loader shift. I panicked, and informed HR that I felt unsafe performing this duty. For the past several months, I had been doing everything I could to reduce muscle mass and I felt I lacked the strength to perform the job properly. (I sort of overdid the muscle reduction). It was then I told HR I was transgendered. After this management attitude really started to degrade again, and I started hearing man up more often. Management thought I was having a fit and trying to degrade the lot loader position. How is it degrading to say I’m too weak and that the other employees are stronger and a better fit?
About that training period. During my training I was on Prozac then and had a crying fit one day. This was at the tail end of my rough period (mom died, granny died, girl left, dog died, lost two jobs, house burned down, 3 year period). Our ops manager, said I did not have the mental capacity for the job and moved me to cashier from the service desk. This was the first instance of the medication, and that was after I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
My service desk supervisor then, cut me off training 4 weeks after I had started, and I got in trouble for things I did not know. So this isn’t the first time I had been removed because of my issues. I have no doubt in my mind that Jon Humphreys had been trying to get rid of me, and the event of 09/05/09 cemented that.
I only posted this to warn others who may fall into this trap. There are some really great people at Home Depot, and I hope that you will find them. You will find Home Depot’s values from the CEO on down are a step above everyone else, it’s just a shame you won’t find those from the management team at Home Depot store 3919, 14201 N Pennsylvania Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73134.
Some of you said to ignore it. Some of you have said not to fight it. Some have said to move on. Well, this has ripped my heart out. I love the Home Depot with all my being. Maybe I got too attached, but it was the one friend I could count on. Other than my registers issues I enjoyed everything. From making keys to cutting trees, I was proud of the work I had done. I’d buy as much as I could to support the store, even if that can of bug spray was $1 cheaper down the street. Everything I did I felt it was for the good of the store. After all I am a shareholder, and was devoting 3% of my check into it, during a time when I’ve never been so poor. I believed in the homer fund. I always got something out of the Infocus quiz, even when Jen was hounding us to finish it. I wanted to learn everything in that store and more. Someday, maybe even take Frank’s seat.
I always felt I’d work there. Granted I may veer off into the sciences for awhile but I could honestly work there at least a day or two a week in garden or on the floor helping out customers. It was so rewarding to cut the tree that would be that family’s Christmas, proudly displayed in their living room. Making that key, for that 16 year old getting to drive the family car. Mixing that paint for that couples new room. All this and more made me feel alive and warm inside, and that my friends, is worth fighting for.
Best wishes to anyone going through transition and their employer.