Why I Was Put on Administrative Leave Toward a Termination

Planned Parenthood, A Vaccine, Doublethink Alive and Well in the World of Non-profits

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

— Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, London, part 2, chapter 9, pp 220

Part One

I was taking a sex education class with 40 other social workers in Seattle, Washington, at the Planned Parenthood office, this past sunny October 16. It was innocuous, infantile, silly and with a room-full of young (except me, my colleague and the trainers) social workers and providers for youth – young folk, teens, into their twenties. Homeless, drug affected, with mental health issues, identity questions, you know, youth at risk! I was cooperative, not argumentative, and rather “chill” to use the parlance of many generations.

At the end of the day, less than two hours after the session, I was called by my boss in Portland and I was told not to return for Day Two of the training. In her words: “You are not to go back to work Wednesday until I find out ‘what was going on in Seattle.’” That phrase, “what was going on in Seattle,” is one key element of how a 32-year-old supervisor with a master’s in social work from the so-deemed liberal social work program at Portland State University sees the world. She never told me what it was that got me expelled from the second session of the two-day mandatory training.

This story is on-going, unfolding, a sort of discombobulating process even (especially) innocuous non-profits, run by social workers, engage in when they want to sack someone who has shown passion for the youth and the work, created radical (social justice leftist radicalness) work around’s dealing with bureaucracy after bureaucracy, and who is loved by his clients/youth. I have been told to stay away until further notice. I even missed out Friday on a yearly retreat with my cohorts from other Portland area sites whom I have never met before.

Moreover, even under the precarity of my position (this is a ‘we got the right to fire and frog-march ya’ right out of the premises on a whim or a prayer’ state, and this behemoth of a non-profit is not worker organized; i.e., unionized), I have to believe it’s okay my sticking my head out there on the proverbial chopping block – writing about it — since it’s now October 21 and I have three days before I have a one-on-one behind closed doors meeting with the HR Director. I’ve been on paid administrative leave since October 17 (my sister, the social worker’s birthday); forced to drop my appointments with youth in crisis and others I depend on professionally; been informed to wait for the head of HR to return from vacation (this from a non-profit with over 700 employees, and only one person can hear me out, so I’ve had to stew and stew and then second- and third-guess what is the actual “charge” against me by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest to Include Washington, Idaho and Hawaii, Alaska).

What A Wonderful Day of Sex, STIs, and LGBTQI Training Turned into a Storm

We had all sorts of fun activities and ice breakers and plenty of Seattle food during the tax-funded training. It was a mix of what we might have to tell our youth in times of trouble; i.e., possible STIs contracted, possible pregnancies to be faced, possible physical abuse endured, possible queries into what to expect during first-time sex, possible questions about sexuality and sexual identity. It was taught at times in that silly sort of way, as if we were the youth.

I went with the flow, and while I was one of only three males as students, and while my grizzled beard and sport coat put me into that other protected class – anyone over fifty – I did blend in fine. Or at least I thought I had . . . .

I headed back to the hotel 19 blocks away, with my African-American colleague, female again in that protected age class. We decided to meet up later, for a drink. However, the supervisor in the program for the non-profit I work for in Portland called me up 90 minutes later and said I was on administrative leave and to not to return to work until the HR director could be contacted and then “my side of the story” would be aired. My supervisor was dry mouthed, didn’t give me a chance to ask “why” and was curt. End of debate (sic).

In the scheme of things, one 60-year-old socialist/Marxist getting sacked – this is what the unfolding reality of what’s occurring – is nothing. No tsunami, no reverberating story of my house burning down in the Columbia Gorge, or three nights weathering a hurricane hitting Puerto Rico, or surviving a Las Vegas mass shooting spree.

High turnover rates and no cause dismissals and pile-on workloads is the defining characteristic of social work/mental health healing. This is typical in my field – social services – where people in their mid-twenties are coming onto the job market with big hearts, a dedication to social work, and a big school debt load for their vaunted masters in social work, AKA MSW. Coming out of the flagship university of Portland, PSU, they might have $50K or more for debts incurred for tuition, books, living – i.e., rents that Robin Leech from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous would have been citing as his millionaires’ monthly mortgages for regular lower middle class youth and adults. Make that a master’s degree holder getting $12.25 an hour working with some very challenging cases of people on the edge.

Fighting for the Young-Old, Tired, Hungry, Poor, Disenfranchised, Houseless, Young, Misbegotten isn’t Radical, it’s Normal

I am not laughing, but the insanity of what happened to me in a 12-hour period also shines the light on the corrupt Planned Parenthood, specifically the trainers and development directors at PP who see anyone who might be both against a Trump and an Obama (me) and a dyed in the wool Marxist (me) and doubter of Western medicine (me) and this boondoggle Gardasil (me) — [more on the vaccine now forced on young girls and boy at an early age to prevent HPV — Human Papillomavirus] — as a threat . . . . But a real threat to what, that’s the question?

First, the very nature of what I do in social services is suspect every day when I work with non-profits and some of those MSW supervisors who not only make life a living hell for their workers through impossible caseloads, impossible work hours, obscene paychecks, but also through very little emotional or institutional support. We are always on the chopping block, cogs in a social services scheme that ties state-federal-philanthropic funding to our jobs – this is a veritable shitstorm of begging for funding from various agencies like Planned Parenthood (who gets money from Bill and Melinda Gates, Starbucks, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Unilever, Wells Fargo, Stanley Morgan, et al) and federal and state entities to smear on the Vaseline and adhere the Band-Aids to a very stressed-out/underfunded web of mental health and addiction issues killing this country.

We all should be on the streets during breaks, in between client visits, around town with sandwich board signs espousing an end to exploitative criminal capitalism; tooling around in our private vehicles plastered with all sorts of political and social justice billets glued on – “we are social workers and the mental health and homelessness and drug addiction and medical health issues are a crime, perpetuated by Capitalism, and in the case of Oregon, by Intel and Nike and the others who fight paying their fair share of Operating Their Billion Dollar Industries in Oregon.”

Instead, we work our caseloads with a passion and continuous trauma cortisol-laced operating procedure while in many cases the entire rotting non-profit affords us zero agency, zero trust, and in my case, my word (and the words of two colleagues who were at Planned Parenthood training, at my same table, perfect witnesses to my stellar behavior) against whatever word the Planned Parenthood trainers (three total with a fourth PP observer – we’ll get to her later).

You don’t have to get the Catholic Worker or World Socialist Web Site to see which profession is the number one stressed and most difficult in America – try CNN:

Median pay: $43,200
% who say their job is stressful: 72%

Social workers step in when everyone else steps aside to help people and families in vulnerable situations. They provide patients with education and counseling, advise care givers and make referrals for other services. And with social workers in short supply and programs underfunded, few must juggle the work of many, while reaping little reward.

Just ask Heather Griffith, a social worker who works with children in intensive foster care in Boston: “You’re getting paid $12 an hour and kids are screaming at you, telling you that you are just in it for the money and you’re just like, really?”

Portland is plagued with a huge class divide while homelessness, addiction recovery, physical/emotional trauma and mental hygiene are churning up a bloody storm of Biblical proportions, precipitating this glasshouse we are living in that shines the light on the fallout (victims) of Capitalism and neoliberalism. But, also, this quadruple storm and tsunami is illustrative of the inhumane nature of so-called liberals, white liberals, and in my field, mostly white female liberals, who have set up so many chinks in the armor of safety nets and true communitarian support and radical social work (there’s really no radical social work being done in the USA) that the people working with youth and adults in crisis are then put into crisis after crisis, daily traumas from management, threats of firing, and in my case, warning after warning for disagreeing with police who laugh at youth drug addiction or individuals with Department of Human Services branches who continue to propagate the virus that Donald Trump is good for homelessness because he is picking up the local economy.

I’ve been called on the carpet by my much younger supervisor with her shiny MSW and white privilege smirk actually because I was advocating for my foster youth, for not accepting misstatements and for denying the ageism-sexism-racism that comes from so many people’s mouths – those in some minute form of authority. I’ve been called on the carpet for voicing both a wise and no-backing-down support of my caseload – young kids and those up to age 21 who have been in foster care.

If you think I’ve strayed from the current thesis of my job now in the balance because of an outside non-profit, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest (I do not work for PP), think otherwise since I have to get to the nuts and bolts of my current fight to stay employed not only with L———-W, but in the field of social services. Count the number of men social workers and DHS case managers in any given organization or county-city-state agency on your hand. Some meetings I go to and the trainings like this one held in Seattle by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest reflect a less than 9 percent (or less) male attendance or worker ratio.

I have been with 60 case managers, and was only one of five males in the crowd.

This is also the terrible nature of the beast – out of balance demographics. Youth and adults want-need-should have male workers as well as female ones. But, the nature of this field as a female field over time has ratcheted up the idea that women are givers and men aren’t. Anyone with a socialist underpinning knows that the fields with nurses, teachers and social workers have largely been populated by women because of the patriarchy and outright misogyny of a white Christian-Jewish male dominated upper echelon in the fields of education, medicine, psychology/sociology. Low pay and no power, that’s the jig in social services, education, journalism, and now, almost in every field in America, counting 80 percent of us as members of  the precariat. The elite class and upper echelon of the fields I have worked in have largely been from Ivy League schools, and many are self-described Jews or Democrats. Count other professions I have been a worker in to include English studies, higher education, journalism, mainstream novel publishing, union organizing, environmental activism, urban planning, and now social work.  Many fields are populated largely by women, and our pay is obscene.

Back to Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest – Sasquatch Ate the Homework!

The Seattle Planned Parenthood office looks like it was designed and built for Patagonia executives: lots of old growth beams, exposed cedar wood, metal I beams and tons of windows from floor to ceiling. This is not a welcoming place, but I did what I was supposed to do as a social worker for youth in foster care: these incredible 16 to 21 year old’s who I help with mentoring, health, education, employment, cultural, physical and intellectual and spiritual pursuits. I manage funds and sources of support for them, too, as well as provide invigorating, thoughtful and fun conferences and outings and the like.

This Planned Parenthood training is a curriculum that is two days of exposing social workers and youth advocates on the basics of sex ed. It’s a cross between adults – us—getting a childish bunch of things pressed upon our brains and then some up-to-date’s on STD/STI (sexually transmitted infections) and contraception.

We do some really juvenile things as ice breakers, and, well, I am a team player and active kind of 60-year-old, and my belief is that if I am being paid to go to a training, getting a fancy hotel to stay in and per diems, then I throw in with an open and engaged mind. But I am no wall flower.

What will follow will be highly informed speculation as to why I am currently on paid leave from L———W and am faced with a Monday morning HR visit tantamount to a termination hearing:

And that’s the problem I am facing – I threw in and took the PP spiel and promise about safe space and respected opinions and in the case of my situation, anonymity, seriously. Again, I work for L———W, not for Planned Parenthood, and as of Tuesday October 17, my job was on the line because Planned Parenthood called my boss (a white thirty-something Portland State University MSW graduate) who put me on notice I am in deep shit.

I have to riff here with some common threads in my life as an activist and leftist-socialist: This is the epoch of the neoliberal and Political Corrupted left, and it’s a world of warped Political Correctness, Identity Politics, and a lot of bullshit ranting at cocktail parties, lots of railing against the Orange Monster, but in public, these people are bereft of voice, passion and spine. Few I see in the social services rail or rant or debate against the Trump-Pence-Neoliberal insanity of this world. How is this, when the reality TV Dystopian outgrowth of elitism and corrupted patriarchy power, this obvious creation of neoliberalism and anti-worker Democratic Party, Trump et al is front and center and no one tackles his presidency as an obscenity, in the lines of previous presidencies?

Our field of social services and in PP’s case, reproductive health services, is tied to the almighty government dollar entwined to the power brokers who fund these outfits and ask for all leftists’ mouths to be taped shut: Here, Planned Parenthood’s money trough: Adobe, American Cancer Society, American Express, AT&T, Avon, Bank of America, Bath & Body Works, Ben & Jerry’s, Clorox, Converse, Deutsche Bank, Dockers, Energizer, Expedia, ExxonMobil, Fannie Mae, Groupon, Intuit, Johnson & Johnson, La Senza, Levi Strauss, Liberty Mutual, Macy’s, March of Dimes, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Nike, Oracle, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Progressive, Starbucks, Susan G. Komen, Tostitos, Unilever, United Way, Verizon, Wells Fargo.

Now, I believe this is a tale of Big Pharma and Big Non-Profit colluding together to write a false narrative about one vaccine that has gotten a lot of negative press and more negative testimony from young women and their parents on the vaccine’s debilitating and life altering (negative, full of chronic pain/fatigue, sterility!). But, that’s part two of this story – after I end up in a one-hour fact-finding meeting with my non-profit’s HR to “discover” exactly what went wrong in Seattle October 16. On all accounts, not a single untoward or odd or explosive or demeaning or contentious thing occurred in my physical participation in the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest training.

Also, this is a story of how the Political Correct non-profits do not follow the rules of safe space, anonymity in written comments and evaluations, fail to honor all people in one setting, and go on a witch hunt if even one thread of their nationally made reputation is untangled in the fabric of their overreach. Look, I am one worker, old, through the ringer in other jobs, other professions, who is now awaiting word of my future.

Twenty bucks an hour, some paid time off, health insurance, and an office and a large caseload. I have been left since October 16 to stew, to ruminate, to consult a labor attorney and to visit a psychologist as part of our company’s three free visits with a counselor tied to stress in life, stress at work.

We Are the Gift That Keeps on Giving — Social Services Worker!

I’ve been red-flagged in the minds of my youth, since I’ve never dropped appointments, and now I’ve been forced to. My teammates are left wondering what happened to me and what might happen to them. My office mates from other departments in this non-profit are wondering where I am since I’ve always been a stickler for showing up and not taking time off. I’ve been told no work, no emails, so I can’t even let my teammates know that I am okay, not terminal (maybe terminated) and let them know I am under forced administrative leave.

Here’s the rub about places where the workers aren’t organized, where there is no contract, where the bosses run roughshod over workers, though we outnumber them 100 to one: whatever the bosses do in their convoluted process and whatever they might think is due process, they are wrong.

Due process is not accusatory and is not a process of railroading — setting up an employee as presumed guilty before a fair airing of the complaint. This sort of management and supervisorial style is counter to these non-profits’ (mine especially, since we were trained recently on it) motto that we have to be social workers who use trauma informed care as our operating principle. They in turn have zero sense of trauma informed supervision.

Definition:

Trauma informed care is grounded in and directed by a thorough understanding of the neurological, biological, psychological, and social effects of trauma and the prevalence of these experiences in persons who seek and receive services.

Trauma informed care is about creating a culture built on six core principles:

1. Trauma Understanding: through knowledge and understanding trauma and stress we can act compassionately and take well-informed steps towards wellness.

2. Safety & Security: increasing stability in our daily lives and having core physical and emotional safety needs met can minimize our stress reactions and allow us to focus our resources on wellness.

3. Cultural Humility & Responsiveness – when we are open to understanding cultural differences and respond to them sensitively, we make each other feel understood and wellness is enhanced.

4. Compassion & Dependability – when we experience compassionate and dependable relationships, we re-establish trusting connections with others that fosters mutual wellness.

5. Collaboration& Empowerment – when we are prepared for and given real opportunities to make choices for ourselves and our care, we feel empowered and can promote our own wellness.

6. Resilience & Recovery – when we focus on our strengths and clear steps we can take toward wellness, we are more likely to be resilient and recover.

Recovering reputations, no mater how micro-aggressive the impugning is, directly or secondary, is not an easy thing when management assumes guilt — in my case, something so terrible that Panned Parenthood would ban me — and puts an employee through this process of locking him or her out of the team, out of the unit, out of the safety and sanity of fellow workers who are the front-line of work and of supporting fellow workers in times of need.

Second, having the rules of discovery broken by a non-profit during a so-called investigation is not only unethical but unprincipled. I do not have any sense of the nature of the complaint leveled against me by Planned Parenthood, so when I go into the meeting with HR Monday, it’s cold, lacking context, lacking any ability for me to get my head wrapped around this entire event.

I’ve sent emails to the four trainers for PP, and I’ve sent emails on a very human level to the supervisors’ supervisors, and even one to the company’s Executive Director, who espouses an open door policy on our web site.

Nothing in return. No phone calls allying my fears. Nothing. The Planned Parenthood people who called for my ban from the second day training did not email back, my supervisor has told me zero about the nature of the complaint, and the ED of my non-profit didn’t reach out. This is a 55 year old Portland-based non-profit, and I am being treated as a non-entity. I can’t imagine an HR person holds sway over the ED’s compassion or ability to engage with an employee.

I have two colleagues who were at the Seattle training who have told me in written texts that nothing went awry and they are more than willing to attest to my composure and level-headedness at the training. There were others there, people from Seattle, who would be just as capable as witnesses to attest to my professionalism.

This is the issue, then, a non-profit following some secret plan to investigate me after putting me on forced administrative leave. This is quasi-judicial, and I have no union to back me, no negotiator, no representative or ombudsman. In some circles, this could be called a witch hunt, monkey trial or a rail-roading.

Assume positive intentions is another mantra in the non-profit world, and again, the positive intent of whatever might be the craw in the throat of the Seattle Planned Parenthood trainers should be on my company to hold to me.

Finally, I gave these people — supervisors, HR, PP, my colleagues the thought experiment: Now, what if I was one of the many Christian social workers, evangelical, even, coming to a training put on by Planned Parenthood and funded by taxpayer money (it is)? What if this person stood up and espoused her opinions about the greatness of the current leader of the USA, President Trump. What if she went further and said that while she is willing to sit through two days of training, she wants it to be known that she supports Mr. Trump’s anti-Planned Parenthood stance. And she continued by saying she supports Oregon and Pacific Northwest lawmakers fighting against abortions and federally funded services around birth control and contraception? What if this person continued by stating that while she will listen to the trainings and participate as best she could considering her Evangelical Christian views, that she also disagrees with the LGBTQI designations bandied about cavalier like by Planned Parenthood? And what if she was in favor of the Oregon baker who refused to make a cake for a same sex couple? What if she added that she was President Trump’s calling for the US Supreme Court to rule in favor of the Colorado baker who too refused to bake a same-sex marriage-wedding cake?

That thought experiment is key to where I stand —  I am the exact OPPOSITE of that hypothetical social worker above, in both my actions, my words, and my writing. Further, I am philosophically and politically and fundamentally for anyone’s right to get birth control, birth control services/education, and to access abortion. I believe bakers or dress makers or baristas have zero ground to stand on by refusing services to African-Americans, dwarfs, people with Down Syndrome and gays or LGBTQI, anyone, including frosting a cake. It’s discriminatory. Period.

I have seen a psychologist, and he’s recommended I do not keep all this in my head. “To find some release,”  Paul. Here it is, in writing. One lawyer I called pro-bono said to keep copious notes and be as lawyer-like as possible Monday. My friends and significant other and relatives all say this is an insanity, whatever I have been accused of to be banned from a mandatory training (for my job) at the Seattle Planned Parenthood.

However, Part Two will be started the hour after HR meets with me. What will happen I can’t crystal ball into the future, but my gut feels like a process of termination, one that looks above board compared to other firings this non-profit has engaged in.

I’m no Karen Silkwood here, or Erin Brockovich. So, on the scheme of things, I’m what Death of a Salesman’s about — small potatoes, nameless worker, one of the masses busting his head against the wall of capitalism, for profit or non-profit.

But mark my words — even if one person reads this, then one person more bears witness to this injustice after injustice. If I’m sacked, the clarity of how Planned Parenthood and Big Pharma are interlinked in a nefarious game, and deadly because of the product both are pushing, will be clearer.

What more can I do in an age of dead journalism, that is, the so-called traditional and mainstream? There’s not a bunch of editors in Portland for the three alternative rags and for the mainstream dying rag waiting to report on my case. You the reader will get my own personal journey and the larger colluding of Planned Parenthood with the forces of Big Pharma. In that process, my catharsis will be evident, and the storied history of Planned Parenthood will be developed.

This is a simple case of an unfair labor practice, a violation of my free speech rights, a violation of confidentiality, and now workplace harassment, wrongful suspension and possibly wrongful termination. In a right to fire/right to work state, no less, my words and my calls for justice crumble and float away like the very parchment of treaty right given to all the great first peoples of this land and of Canada after they were torched! What’s worse is that Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest is creating a specter of insanity, Orwellian, a flipped over reality where someone, me, not even associated with the organization, is being called to task by his employer. What is the definition of insanity? Someone else’s projection?

He [Trump] has stepped out of our celebrity reality-TV screened world to carry on the media’s task of what Orwell said was a necessary task for the rulers in a totalitarian society: ‘to dislocate the sense of reality.’ … We have now entered a new phase of propaganda where sowing mass confusion on every issue 24/7 is the method of choice.

But therein lies hope if we can grasp the meaning of Oscar Wilde’s paradoxical statement: ‘When both a speaker and an audience are confused, the speech is profound.’

Ed Curtin

Paul Kirk Haeder has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. A forthcoming book (Dec. 15, 2016), Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber, looks at 10 years of his writing at Dissident Voice, and before, to bring defiance to the world that is now lobotomizing at a rate never before seen in history. Read his autobiography, weekly chapter installments, at LA Progressive. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.