Wayne Michael Reich

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Hart-burn (Carry on, My Wayward Engelsen)

“If workers are more insecure, that’s very ‘healthy’ for the society, because if workers are insecure, they won’t ask for wages, they won’t go on strike, they won’t call for benefits; they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that’s optimal for corporations’ economic health.” – Norm Chomsky

Hello Blogiteers!

Today’s screed is all about responsibility, and how some corporations avoid it much in the same manner that I tend to shun gas station sushi. I’ve previously written* about how the Arizona Attorney Generals Civil Rights Division (AZAGCRD for short) dropped the ball regarding my claim of diabetic discrimination against my former employer and immediate supervisor, but their inability to do what they were supposed to do can easily be ascribed to a perversely bloated bureaucracy and alleged incompetence, versus an actual focused unethical intent. While technically not a corporation, in my POV, they’re as useless and corrupt as any of the ones who are.

Sure, AZAGCRD may have threatened me with a Class 1 misdemeanor if I wrote anything about the case that I alone filed, but despite my repeated requests for clarity, they failed time and time again to directly inform me exactly what law I would be breaking that superseded my first amendment rights. Therefore, I didn’t lose any sleep over it, as I laid comfortably secure in the knowledge that at best, I was being attacked by an impotent porcupine, that was all gums, badly matted fur, and posessed no actual claws of note, with the odds in my favor that I’d soon have a really nice matched set of quill-free pot-holders as a consolation prize for all of my troubles. I also purposely avoided using the real name of the company I worked for, along with giving the two arrogantly asinine employees I was forced to work with on an almost daily basis pseudonyms, as a means to tell my story without the concern of snaring myself in any legal issues.

But I’m now of the belief that this self-imposed ball-gag of sorts needs to come off, and that right quick. After I wrote my fact-based tale of alleged ineptitude, definite inanity, and defended myself against the wholly ludicrous slander of my former supervisor, I felt there was nothing more to say, or more to the point, do. The Phoenix chapters of my days were over, and I had to move on to the next phase of my new life in New Mexico, land of the “we put green chilies on everything” mind-set that I’ve come to love. And for a while, despite all the health issues I’ve suffered through the last couple of months, there was what can sometimes pass as relative peace within the Lair of Snarkitudes’ storied halls, and to bolster this, just read the previous blog where I wrote extensively about my inner Zen as of late.

Oh, how the times do change.

So what brought about this shift back to my switchblade tongued self of old after months of inner tranquility? In a simple word, ethics, or the lack of them, as displayed by two entities I’ve had the misfortune of dealing with for over a year. The first being my former Michigan-based employer, which goes by the name of Engelsen Frame & Moulding, and the second, collectively known as The Hartford, which allegedly, perpetuates medical grift under the guise of providing insurance. And yes, I can back up my statement, or otherwise I wouldn’t be here at my office away from the office, otherwise known as The Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery, writing about it. Sorry for the shameless plug, but I’m trying to get my future sodas for free, and to do that, I need to whore myself out somewhat. I may not be proud, but if all goes well, I won’t be thirsty or sugar-free either.

As to the first entity, I worked for them as a warehouse laborer for almost a year and a half, and hated almost every second of the job, save for the interaction I had with my first crew, that being a great co-worker named Bernie, and my then immediate supervisor Barry, who despite his somewhat conservative point of view, turned out to be both an awesome person and boss. Deep discussions were had, and we ran like a fine Swiss watch most days, despite the hellish heat in the summer, and the crippling cold in the winter. A team worth being proud of, if I were to fake all shades of modesty.

Our so-called top boss Ellen, who was comfortably entrenched in Michigan, was wholly ridiculed by us in the Phoenix division, due to her stunning consistency at being both a micro-manager and a screeching nag, which led to abominable work delays because my supervisor had to spend as much time on the phone placating her uninformed idiocy as he did working, but I digress for the sake of my sanity. But what’s really sad to point out is that Barry had worked for this company off and on for close to thirty years, and was quite fond of talking about it’s founder (always respectfully referred to as “the old man”) as a paragon of ethics, dependability and loyalty- traits which obviously skipped a generation, if I were to be so bold.

A few months before my illegal and discriminatory firing [see previous blog link] Barry gave his notice, due to Engelsen coldly reneging on a false promise they had made in exchange for his uprooting his life to run the Phoenix branch of this once proud company, and with that, my troubles began.

[The following is paraphrased from the previously mentioned blog, hence the reason for the use of Italics]

At first, my new supervisor Antonia (“Toni”) Ramirez, came across as somewhat sweet, even with her internal Damocles sword of self-doubt that was fairly and markedly displayed from day one in regards to how she ran our day to day operation. To be fair, there was a good chunk of days where we ran like gazelles, but on a majority of the days, it was akin to trying to swim through molasses with concrete blocks tied around your feet, as you try in vain to settle down a headstrong three year old who’s having a full-on meltdown, as they grab all the candy out of the racks next to the cash register at WalMart. In addition, Ellen also foisted upon us a dense slab of idiocy in barely human form known as Rick, who in my opinion I’m pretty sure, is the missing link that paleontologists have been searching for all of their professional careers.

Held together primarily by Monster energy drinks, pain pills, and sheer hubris, Rick presented as one of those people that all those after-school specials tried to warn you about. Arrogant as hell, he often clashed with Toni, and visibly chafed at having to take orders from her, as he helped push our customer product return rates through the roof, due to the fact he spent most of his time on the production floor running his mouth and acting as a vulgar distraction to my actually competent co-worker, Bernie. And nothing else by the way, makes you want to work alongside your co-worker on a commercial saw, then their constant bragging about engaging in hard drinking before 9 a.m., let me tell you.

And as an aside, now might be a good time to mention that Rick was also obsessive, engaging in unhinged meltdowns with the local homeless population as part of a clearly well thought out strategy of personal diplomacy, because nothing represents your company better than an employee threatening a dispossessed person that lives rough in the causeway behind your building who’s trying to just get some sleep, with a totally unprovoked beating because they dared to attempt doing so in “your” alley. But maybe this all stemmed from that A.M. drinking he liked to brag about- I honestly don’t know.

Granted, I did expect somewhat of a sea-change given the new line-up, but I didn’t foresee what would eventually happen in regards to my work schedule, my responsibilities, and most importantly, my sense of self-worth. At the time, long before Toni and Rick would go on to darken my metaphorical doorstep, I had already seen my hours cut way beyond the normal parameters of what constitutes a standard part-time schedule, the excuse being that we “didn’t have enough work”, and yet, Rick was given a full 40 hour work-week laboring at most of my previous responsibilities, despite Ellen’s claims he was only there to build storage bins and perform general duties. By the way. we had a full capacity of storage structures already built and in place long before he arrived, but I digress, as I hate glorifying obvious falsehoods.

In addition, let’s all just forget to note the phone call and text he placed to me one day while I was thankfully off, asking if I could score him some pain pills, because fully unbeknownst to me, us Diabetics apparently are on some seriously heavy narcotics, if you exclude our predilection for mainlining Coca-Cola and Ding Dongs, along with our several standard daily shots of Insulin. That’s heavy sarcasm by the way, for those of you in the back who arrived late.

Now at that point, I was still grinding along with a serious shoulder injury I had suffered earlier while in the employ of the company, but as of then, had not yet filed the workman’s comp claim in regards to it, as I immediately did after my illegal termination. Why, you ask? Well, I needed the job, and prior to the management shift, I was essentially an assistant manager, in all but name only, and was tasked with product shipping and tracking, material inventory, overseeing the receiving of deliveries, opening/closing the warehouse, and filing the crucial end of day paperwork. Rick by the way, wasn’t allowed anywhere near the access to the procedures like I initially was, but I’m sure Ellen has a rationalization for that too, if I were to hazard a guess.

However, by the end of my employment, my daily obligations had been brusquely abridged to sweeping the floor and occasionally doing the most basic data entry that Rick, the walking meat slab could not be trusted to do. I was also originally, the lone official

key-holder, but after Toni arrived, that responsibility was, without any form of rational explanation, taken away from me and never returned. Keep in mind, the entire time I was under employ there, I never once received any official rebuke, write-up, or period of suspension- EVER. To this day, I strongly believe that for whatever reason, Ellen was, previous to the hiring of Toni and Rick, trying to get rid of me by a form of not too subtle attrition. And to be quite frank, I wasn’t going to give her the surplus ammunition she’d require to fire me.

Arizona is sadly after all, a right-to-work state, and I’m sure if she had been made aware of my limitation, a dire tidbit of knowledge I suspect my ex-supervisor Barry neglected to inform them of on purpose, she would have fired me on the spot, and of that, I have no doubts whatsoever. Keep in mind, that working with said injury only aggravated it more, but I had no choice. as there was literally nowhere I could go, and I had been SERIOUSLY looking for a new job since the first week I started there. But from the start of her tenure, besides being in way over her head, Toni also took a highly inappropriate interest in my ongoing health issues way past what some might consider to be the normal boundaries in regards to what truly constitutes the boss/worker relationship.

Toni was (at the time) morbidly obese, and came to work daily, wearing a knee brace, compression gloves, talking at length about the salves she used for her bad back, so naturally, she was an obvious go-to for asking how I should tackle my various health issues. Once again kids, that’s sarcasm, and no, I’m not deriding someone’s serious lack of wellbeing, I’m just pointing out that somebody suffering with such, should keep their unsolicited and erroneous advice to themselves, since at that time, I already possessed a cabal of white-coated professionals trained in the medical dark arts.

Not to mention her penchant for eternally composing (on company time, no less) a never sent missive to Ellen, basically telling her to go f**k herself twelve ways to Sunday. That’s definitely an ethical way to justify earning your paycheck, no matter which way you look at it. And as an employee, it definitely boosts one’s morale to have your superior constantly ragging on the top boss as if they dumped you at the Prom. As I noted earlier, we all used to take great joy in mocking Ellen, but none of us ever approached it as if it were a viable career option. Shockingly, I don’t need to be told by what is essentially a total stranger, to “eat better” or that I “should be at home working on my diabetes” nor am I open to any suggestions that Ashley (my GF) “doesn’t know how to take care of me“, a trio of stated discourtesies that if Toni had been a dude, would have been refuted by receiving both of my size 10&1/2 work-boots straight up that mass of extensive cellulite she refers to as her ass, without question or concern on my part.

I’ve already noted my assertion that Toni had no business being placed in a leadership role, but as evidence for what I consider an alleged lack of character, I would like to reiterate that in the official statement to AZAGCRD regarding my illegal dismissal, she talked at length about her not caring one bit about my diabetes, whilst constantly obsessing about my diabetes throughout it’s narrative. Then, after being questioned, Toni abruptly quit working for my former employer, a detail the AZAGCRD investigator somehow missed, despite her inherent Jello-sharp instinct for ferreting out obvious contradictions within Toni’s official retort.

Once again, that’s heavy sarcasm for those of you in the back. And thus, the ending of the Italics proceeds.

But even with all that, I still was willing to let Toni’s slanderous lies slide, as I had a new future in New Mexico to look forward to, and what would be the point of going after a person who along with her lack of credibility, also lacked anything financially worth taking? When I appear to be more fiscally stable than you, odds are pretty good you either need a better accountant, or need to snag a sugar-daddy who’s into both congenital liars and betrayers of trust. But as what I thought was soon to be a settled issue (more on this in a bit) reared it’s ugly head yet again, I realized that walking away was the wrong thing to do, given the principle of the thing, and the harm it’s caused. So, while I’ll be focused primarily on dealing with the soon to be discussed issue first, I’ll concurrently be seeking legal damages against Toni personally as well- that means she won’t have the cover of her former employer to hide behind, and I plan to use every legal method at my disposal… and that’s a guarantee.

And if you’re wondering why I just don’t file an appeal with AZAGCRD, I counter with this thought- why would I place my faith again in an agency with an impotent bureaucracy, who couldn’t do their conscripted jobs properly in the first place, and why would I depend on the naive belief that they’d do it correctly the second time around? Fool me once, that’s on you. Fool me twice, that’s either my personal idiocy or Tequila Jesus taking the wheel. Heck, maybe it’s both, since they do have a legacy of working together as a unified team.

Let’s face it, other than A Clockwork Orange, no truly good story has ever started with a glass of milk. Just saying. But there still was the issue of my filed workman’s comp claim to be settled, and that is why the ol’ Admantium claws have come out of storage, still sharp, rust free, and unlike my partially amputated left foot, ready to dance. When I filed my claim on (or close to) the day I was illegally fired, I assumed it would take some time, but over a year? Either the wheels of Justice turn really slow, or they’re damn outright narcoleptic, a theorem proven after multiple attempts to settle this case with my former employers insurance company, The Hartford, who in my opinion as I noted earlier, is nothing more than an unethical grifting Ponzi scheme. Now, I do realize the sole purpose of most insurance companies is to avoid providing the service that they’re paid extravagantly to supply, but these muck-dwelling carrion feeders take the proverbial cake in this regard.

My apologies. I feel the need to correct myself.

When you look at it more closely, “take” isn’t really the best term to truly describe the absolutely odious malfeasance that I believe they willingly engage in, but I’m trying very hard to be diplomatic in the face of what I consider to be the closest I’ve ever been involved with an alleged white-collar crime ring. Why do I think this? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that they never talked to my first supervisor who was aware of my injury, never discussed my injury at any length with the doctor who diagnosed it, or even bothered to think of questioning the physical therapists who were working with me so that I could hopefully one day, reestablish the full range of motion back to my shoulder.

And in addition, they never once contacted my first supervisor Barry, who was my boss during that time period. It’s known as “due diligence”  and it’s what ethical companies do in order to solidly establish fault or exoneration. But why do that when the employer in question (without any evidence) claims that their former employee “didn’t get hurt here”. I guess I must have strained my supraspinatus trying to move their pile of bullshit out of the path of my life- who knew? A small and unintentionally humorous aside: when one of their treacle-oozing media customer relation reps (AKA: “a professional liar”) called me in a pathetic attempt to cover the Hartford’s metaphorical ass, I made the sarcastic comment that perhaps she thought I had hurt myself at home putting away a dish, and she responded, and I kid you not, with:

“I see nothing in the determination report that mentions any dishes.”

Let’s get real for a moment. We’ve all done dumb things. We’ve all said dumb things too, as it’s a natural part of our being former monkey-brains with opposable thumbs who can occasionally fashion tools and to a lesser degree, television shows starring D-list celebutards. But with the non-existent God as my witness, most of us comprehended sarcasm long before we aged out of that whole paste-eating phase in Kindergarten, did we not? Keep your eyes on this dumb wench, boys and girls, because one day she’s gonna be the Hartford’s newest CEO.

Sigh… if one goes online to see what people think of this company, one can easily find scores of consumer complaints, ranging from the issue of stereotypically poor customer service to charges of outright fraud. No wonder they’re not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, as the BBB generally likes to know their client’s check will clear.

Granted, online reviews are sometimes not worth the pixels that they’re posted with, but there seems to be outwardly at least, the idea that they’re not vaunted as reputable by many. And as someone who spent the last two days on the phone with these parasitic pinheads, I can easily attest that this overall consensus rings true for me. And if I may offer another insight? Soon after I was illegally fired at Engelsen, The Hartford had an open-house hiring drive at one of their locations in Arizona, which I attended, based on the recommendations of two of my GF’s friends, who as current employees, waxed poetically about how great the company was to work for.

The fact that both of these people are as exciting as a glass of sun-warmed milk should have been a tip-off as to what was to come, but I desperately wanted another job where I didn’t have to come home beat to a pulp every day, and so I went to the orientation. First, after being herded into a conference room by a person I would charitably describe as “working off a badly written script”, we were presented with two trays of a refreshing snack combo , that being room-temperature bottled water, and wait for it, individually wrapped, single-serve, LifeSaver brand… mints. Looking back, I can only assume their caterer sent our actual munchies to the retirement community down the street, and we got theirs by mistake.

At that moment, I tried to leave discreetly, but found the only exit blocked by two more barely sentient Hartford houseplants who closed the door, and started the orientation off by playing what amounted to a full-on PR commercial for the company. Let me just put it out there for the future generations of workers yet to come, that nothing makes you want to work more for a company then when it forces you to sit through a narcissistic video circle-jerk, supplemented by unfettered access to tepid water and cloyingly noxious mints. I’m frankly amazed other companies don’t utilize this approach more often, as it seems like a real winner. A casual heads-up? When everyone in a corporate video and the presenters of said video themselves start tossing the buzz-phrase “Work/Life Balance” around as if they own the royalty rights to it, you should be suspicious as all get out.

What this innocuous idiom really means is that the company expects you to put your job ahead of your life, that’s why “work” comes first in that word duo. How was this made clearly obvious to me, you ask? Other than the fact I heard it no less that eight times in the video, where at least one of the “employees” made sure to mention that his “work family” was just as important as his real one, it was dropped into conversation at least another ten during the Q&A section of the conference room orientation, where the Hartplant twins kept saying how much “fun” and money was to be had, but only if people were willing to work the multiple 10-12 hour shifts available.

Hard to believe that in the end, I gave all of this a hard pass, huh?

But if you think having no life outside of your job, slaving away for a company that will use your life-essence to sell a service begrudgingly given to the dupes who paid for it, and that only after being threatened with legal action, sounds like one heck of a good time, who am I to dissuade you? And given the fact that they already had an in-house contingent doing that anyways, it was obvious their recruitment pitch worked on some level, that clearly being the one that houses all the lonely people. Sure, we were politely asked not to talk to or ask any questions of the work/life warriors at the facility, but hey… wasn’t that one heck of an employees break-room we just showed you, boys and girls? Now, I won’t as a rule speak for you, my loyal readers, but I’ve always liked to think that my soul and social life would demand a higher asking price for their submission than a foosball table and free vanilla lattes.

Throw in some free pizza, if not an Asian stripper wearing thigh boots, for God’s sakes. Make it worth my while at least.

Now outside of the brainwashing they hope works on their employees, is the mewling rationalizing that they hope will work on you. When I noted that I had not heard anything from them, despite three letters, one inquiry on Twitter, and half a dozen phone calls, I was rudely informed that my claim had been denied months earlier, with no explanation given. It took an additional four phone calls, and the better part of a day and a half, to be informed of their bullshit excuse that because my Doctor had not expressively noted his diagnosis of my injury as a work-related injury, therefore it was not a work-related injury. And no, I’m not making that up. Despite several months of physical therapy for an injury CONSISTENT with the type of work I was doing, once again, The Hartford, without talking to my therapists or my first supervisor, decided that I wasn’t injured at work at all.

Because it makes way more sense that one day, for no reason whatsoever, I decided to go randomly engage in months of unnecessary stretching, lifting weights, having ice-packs strapped to me, and sweating my skin off in order to make sure various assorted personal trainers got paid, and I wouldn’t see dime one. Anybody who knows me that I walk a lot, but I don’t play sports, I don’t hike, I don’t work out, and I sure as Hell don’t lift. If I drop something on the floor, I weigh whether it’s easier to either buy a new one, or actually pick it up. The only time I’ll engage in non-work related physicality is if sex or Ding-Dongs are on the table, and even then, It’s has to be something I really want to do. And trust me, if I had received this injury doing something manly or sexy, I’d have already written about it here, bragged about it on FaceBook, and then posted a hilarious meme in regards to it on Instagram.

But I do have to give The Hartford’s alleged customer service reps one thing, they tried every way to call me a liar and fraud, without using the actual words to do so. But then again, it’s not like they know how to respond with answers that aren’t scripted anyway, so perhaps I’m giving them too much credit to begin with. But on the upside, they’ve seemingly got the “work” part of their bullshit slogan right, because given their inability to come across as actual people, they might need to work on that “life” half when they’re done doing a flawless impression of a RICO case defendant. So this week begins anew, with me filing yet more forms with the Arizona Industrial Commission, tracking down my former supervisor so I can file a claim against her in civil court, and getting a host of other errands done as well, because let’s face it, I love both the art of multi-tasking, and swiftly crossing items off of lists.

Once more into the breech is seemingly where I find myself at the moment, and if I have to go down swinging, I honestly can’t think of a better reason to do so, than in defense of both my honor and my principles, can you? And while I can’t possibly dent the skin of the arrogant human-suit that is The Hartford, I can definitely (and legally) scratch the paint off both my former employer and their deceitful ex-employee, without breaking too much of a sweat, I hope. And if not…

Well, I’ll always have Yelp.

“There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?” – Woody Allen