Harrasement and/or Discrimination Or Personal?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about  language difference and certification.

I currently work in a surgery center, for 2 yrs. Recently my boss was angry because I had requested to leave early on a day on which we had 4 patients who are Spanish speaking only. (I did make arrangements for patients to bring a translator with them). I notified my administrator who approved my request. My boss then accused me of not telling anyone, and because I am the only Spanish-speaking employee, he told me I was “only hired because I speak Spanish”. I replied to him that I was hired but because I met the qualifications for the position. I then asserted that I was not a medical certified translator and that technically I am not to translate medical conditions, complications etc.

After this meeting, he told my administrator to start looking for my replacement because he didn’t like the way I answered him. Now he wants to demote me, and he says lies, saying that my previous employer, his manager, and staff fired me because they didn’t like me, he also says, ” I can’t stand her” (meaning me). What to do?

Signed, Can’t Stand Me

Dear Can’t Stand Me:

From the description you provide, it is evident that your continued employment in your current position is at risk. Can your job be saved? I don’t know because your assertion that you are not a certified medical translator for Spanish-speakers provides a rationale for seeking a replacement by someone who has that qualification.

Apparently, you made that assertion in anger when arguing you shouldn’t be required to translate that in light of your request to be absent on the particular day in which both your medical capabilities and your ability to translate could have been needed. Even if you has arranged for a translator to accompany the four patients and you had permission to do so, that argument opened you to demotion and “I can’t stand her.”

You shot your self in the foot; or to put it another way, you put an uncertified Spanish-translator foot in your boss’ mouth. From your last paragraph, I can’t speak to the matter that you stated your boss told lies nor do I know the truth of if you were fired from your previous job. Was there not something more negatively going on before between your boss and you had this run-in?

Possibly this confrontation with your boss was the only time he was displeased with you, but it seems to me that more than that was going on. He must have come the conclusion “I can’t stand her” before that.

What to do? 1. Schedule a meeting with your administrator. Explain to him/her that you are distressed over the conflict with your boss and pledge to do your part to resolve it. Up front, express your commitment to patients, your coworkers, your boss and your place of employment. This is not a time to come in defending yourself. That can come after you demonstrate your concern for doing good work. Then in light of the conflict probably you should ask your administrator for an investigation of the matter by the proper authorities, in particular because now the fact that you are the only Spanish-speaking employee at this surgery center has become an issue. You can make the case that you were hired to for the medical job description, not for your Spanish-speaking ability, and therefore should not be demoted because of the conflict that ensued over that matter.

2. If there is an investigation, your administrator will need to determine if you can remain in your current situation. Be as efficient, effective and valuable as possible during this time. You probably will be expected to prepare a description of the situation as you see it. To do that, review interactions with your boss and recall to the best of your ability what has been going on. Be explicit as possible when detailing the words of your boss and your self at various times; both those that were positive and troubled. Make notes of incidents that illustrate your cooperation and expertise in the role for which you were hired and also when you assisted by translating. If you have periodic evaluations that back up your strengths in either or both of these areas, make copies of them.

3. You say your administrator had approved your request to be absent on the day when four Spanish-speaking patients were scheduled. That is on your side. Make a note of what was said when you got her/his approval. Also make a note of whom you got as a translator to accompany the four patients.

4. You assert, “I was hired,¦because I met the qualifications for the position.” Prepare a statement with evidence backing up that statement.” Here is where good evaluations of your work in your previous job and current job would be helpful.

5. Cooperate with the investigation. If you have the impression that you are being demoted because you don’t have certification as a Spanish-speaker, you might quietly consult with an attorney. Guard against talking about this and don’t commit yourself to hiring one; a consultation with most attorneys is without charge. We don’t provide legal advice and that usually is a long and costly last resort way to resolve workplace problems.

6. Ideally, a work group has a boss that encourages team-mindedness. Quality of service and high performance are ever on the agenda and all those on the team are engaged in that pursuit. Skull sessions with your work group probably has been missing. If team communication was the norm in your work area, likely the conflict that occurred wouldn’t have happened and you would not have come to the desperately ask: What to do?

Is it too late to talk about the kind of talk that can prevent problems in your work area? Maybe, maybe that is a topic you can think through and in a small way, do your part to be a team communicator. You can meet with your boss. You can apologize for allowing this matter to escalate. Without groveling you can be firm in your resolve that you were qualified for the job and that Spanish-speaking translation was not an original job requirement, but that you are willing to do that along with your other duties. You can suggest dos and don’ts rules that you think could make working with each other free from conflict. Such a meeting might not work, but it is worth discussion with your administrator.

Do any of these suggestions make sense? If so, think them through and talk them over with your administrator. Don’t become so obsessed that you become a basket case. Keep your head up and be of good cheer in spite of it all. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is what is much needed in a surgery center.

William Gorden