Compliance… August 20, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Employment Rights, Gender Issues.
There’s not a lot that genuinely leaves me open mouthed, but this does. A film has been made of the ordeal suffered by a McDonald’s employee after a prank phone call purporting to be from a police officer, an ordeal that included physical and sexual assault and long lasting trauma.
I have to note as well the gendered aspects of this. In the series of so-called ‘prank calls’ those who were assaulted in this way (and to my mind it is an assault) were female. That is telling in and of itself in terms of the demands placed and the expectations of those who they were placed upon in terms of unable to seek support or expect any to be forthcoming. And indeed in terms of what was thought appropriate on the part of those who colluded whether willingly or otherwise in these events.
Then there’s the issue of authority whether seen or unseen. Those who were involved did so at the behest of a supposed police officer. That too is replete with various expectations, meanings and obeisance to power (scroll down the comments here for some disturbing but not unexpected anecdotes about abuses of power, sexual humiliation and gender). There’s more in terms of how some of those who were involved colluded with the person who made the original call. For them it appears that this was all the excuse they needed to act in truly vile ways however patently absurd the actions they were ordered to undertake.
As I’ve noted previously, workplaces are often run in incredibly dictatorial and unthinking ways where those in management and above are gifted extraordinary latitude. I’ve never seen a range of behaviours as bad as those described here, but I’ve seen pretty bad behaviours from management and bosses, bullying, insults, abuse of power. And what’s telling is how often this is rationalised – a few weeks ago I was discussing the issue of overtime. I’ve seen excessive demands put upon workers time and again. And the stick is not that hard to find.
In the real life incident as Slate notes:
If you’ve watched the 20/20 interview with the real-life Becky, Louise Ogborn—along with the accompanying surveillance footage—you know that the movie is no fantasy. Ogborn says that she begged her supervisor to let her go to the police station instead of submit to a strip search, but that she was ignored—and that ultimately she feared losing her job. When asked why she never tried to run away, she said, “I wanted to so bad,” but “I couldn’t bring myself to humiliate myself worse than I already was.”
That’s an extreme – the fear of losing a job leading even in the face of such egregious demands, but it is an extreme on a continuum of behaviours that almost all of us will be able to identify. And it is notable that in the court case subsequently taken by Ogborn – the worker who was the victim of this assault – against McDonalds, the company argued as part of its defence that ‘(4) the victim did not remove herself from the situation, contrary to common sense’.
Any of us who have any experience of low wage jobs will know the hollowness of that particular observation.
And the point is that whether at the hands of a sociopath who would make such a call, or management who would comply with such calls or more generally in profoundly negative work places there’s something about an area that given its centrality to our daily lives is curiously under thought through and which in some respects remains a realm apart where we must go, some of us at least, with no guarantee that the manner in which we are treated conforms with even minimal standards of human interaction.
In an age of austerity you can bet it isn’t getting any better either.