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Question
This may be outside your scope but I'm hoping you can give me some suggestions or direction
direction.
I've worked as a care giver for the mentally handicap for 5 years in Indiana. 7 months ago, i took a job where the clients are severely disabled and require assistance while bathing. I personally have never felt comfortable bathing and have no experience doing so. But, they hired me anyways because it's a group home setting and other coworkers are available to assist with bathing. I thought my experience gave me an advantage. They were short staffed up until about 1 month Ago. I had been getting 20hrs overtime per week.
Funny thing is that within a month of the company finally filling positions, and after a complaint made b My co worker, I was called into the HR office and told if I refuse to bath clients I must leave tonight.
As you can imagine this has caused me a great amount of stress, especially with such short notice. I decided that i could not lose wages. So, I forced myself to go through with it.... And now I feel so stressed, conflicted, betrayed. I can't do it Again. I feel like I'm being forced into an obviously uncomfortable situation. I can afford to live without pay, i have no savings or support.
My question is can I collect unemployment if i refuse to bath again? I feel as tho that my employer would fight my case. I live in Indiana where you can be fired for nothing and denied unemployment easily.

Answer
Thank you for your question!

As I always note to questioners, mediators act as neutral third parties to disputes and never "get involved" in judging the merits of conflict, but merely use special techniques to help the parties decide how to negotiate their own settlement.

The case you describe here is very typical unfortunately. I cannot mediate this with you alone but I can respond to your question from my business consulting experience.

Note that this may have legal considerations and you may wish to consult a labor attorney.

I often tell people that it may be useful to consider that right and wrong are not always the most useful places to begin in dealing with these sorts of problems.  For most large organizations there is only expedient and inexpedient.  Also, there is a cost to exacting justice and the costs can be quite high.  Remember that your person-hood and your work are not even remotely related and that the most successful people at work are often the least successful with others since they have often become successful on the bodies of those they have slain.

You are dealing with authority figures who are only interested in the path of least resistance in terms of how they manage the business.  I'm guessing they could care less about you so don't put too much emotional investment in your position--its not personal even though it feels like it.  You are being bullied for business reasons and you can only create a business reason to deal fairly with you.

Generally speaking you can only be fired for reasons that are consistent and fair, however there may be employment terms and conditions which are more specific.  You are right to be concerned if you are in a "right to work" state, which more or less provides very little protections to workers.  

Please begin by documenting a very careful chronology of events as they have occurred.  Names, dates and locations.  Put things in writing in a careful chronology.  In RTW states you can be fired for just about any reason without a problem, however, you cannot be treated differently than other workers nor can your contract or CBA be violated, nor can policies and procedures of the company be overlooked.

You must get copies of any employment contracts or policies and procedures and begin to review these.  If you have a clear roadmap for pursuing a grievance, by all means follow that procedure.  I would be especially interested if your job description did NOT enumerate bathing as a specific job duty.

If it appears policies and procedures were violated you would want to send a demand letter by registered mail to the company, stating your grievance and any policy violations (cite the policy) and your demands for satisfaction or compensation.  Your union rep (if you have one) can advise you more fully about your rights and you should use these union resources as much as possible and utilize any grievance procedures available within the CBA.

Many states have Employment Commissions or other employment offices where you can file a complaint for free.  You should contact them right away and explore your options.  You may also be able to file a complaint with the US Dept of Labor.  Find their offices.

If you have Union, industry or trade advocacy organizations available to you that can assist you try to contact them.  If you have journalists or press options available, try to contact them.  If you have representatives or senators or local state or municipal elected officials you can contact, do so.  Your story may play well as an unscrupulous company looking to bully workers.

Be sure to send copies of any demand letters and any other proof or correspondence to all these people when you contact them and note in the letter all the people you are copying.  Your company must see that you are not going away and that it will cost a lot more to deal with all the problems you will cause them for their practices and then they will make a business decision and deal fairly with you.  

These are some ideas.  Feel free to follow up with additional questions.

For your information, the pros and cons of the types of dispute resolution methods follows.

GOOD LUCK!

Arbitration, Mediation, and Litigation

Arbitration: the referral of a dispute to one or more impartial persons for final and binding determination outside of the judicial system

Benefits of Arbitration:
Confidential, no public record
Limited exchange of documentation, information
Quick, don't have to wait for a court date
Arbitrators have expertise in the subject matter and are trained in conflict resolution
Cheaper than litigation
Preserves business relationships

Negatives of Arbitration

It's a compromise, no 100% winner
Complex arbitration can be costly
If not satisfied, may litigate the arbitration procedure
Poor results with an unskilled arbitrator
Both parties must agree to cooperate in the process

Mediation: the process by which parties submit their dispute to a neutral third party (the mediator) who works with the parties to reach a settlement of their dispute.

Benefits of Mediation:

Neutral mediator can objectively suggest alternatives not considered before
Parties are directly engaged in negotiating the settlement
Can be quicker than litigation
Less costly than litigation
Preserves business relationships
85% of American Arbitration Association cases mediated find successful solutions

Negatives of Mediation

may not reach a binding decision
unskilled mediator

Litigation: using the judicial system to resolve disputes

Benefits of litigation:

a clear winner and loser
uses a prescribed set of procedures
more predictable outcomes
is final

Negatives of Litigation:

waiting for court dates can do more harm
usually more expensive than mediation and arbitration
part of the public record

Arbitration/Mediation

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Timmy Chou

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I am a experienced Mediator and a partner in a management consulting firm. As a mediator I work as a third-party neutral and specialize in partnership/shareholder disputes, management/labor issues, company culture difficulties, and family-owned business problems. I can help describe why alternative dispute resolution may be a good choice for you. As an experienced management consultant I may be able to offer creative ideas to help resolve your organizational and business problems and disputes. "If you say conflict, I say opportunity".

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