Dawn M. Westmoreland has joined us before on Mental Health News Radio. She is an advocate and coach for anyone that has experienced workplace bullying. She also works extensively with legal professionals pursuing cases that involve workplace harassment. Her journey from the Air Force to Human Resources expert to Veterans Affairs to “Empowered Whistleblower” is fascinating. In 2015 the Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) compensated her to educate Senators on the need to protect whistleblowers in the Veteran Affairs. She is one of the co-authors of a new, number 1 Amazon Best Seller, “The Strength of My Soul: Stories of Sisterhood, Triumph and Inspiration”.
I have a masters in Management/HR, 22 years of working in Human Resources, I am a professional coach, speaker and author of “The Empowered Whistleblower: A Practical and Spiritual Path to Personal Power”. I combine all of these skills and have formed a “niche” with workplace anti-bullying. I have been through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) process and “settled” with the Veteran Affairs after two years of bullying/retaliation for being a “whistleblower”. I know what it takes to stand up to workplace bullying and how to “settle” without a gag-order to keep me from telling my story and helping other victims of workplace bullying.
What are your strengths and gifts to help people who deal with workplace bullying?
I have the gift of being strong, compassionate for others, and an intuitive nature that supports me in the work that I do today. After passing out at work twice for horrific bullying and retaliation, I landed in the mental health ward for a few days. That is what actually “liberated” me and let me know that one of the biggest bullies in my life was my own self. I am a total “nerd” and have earned four degrees because I love learning and researching. I was able to provide immaculate documentation to my employment attorney and make his job much easier. He was very impressed. It’s not every day that someone with 22 years of Human Resources is a client of an employment attorney.
How can you help lawyers that have clients who are dealing with workplace bullying?
I am able to consult with attorneys and educate them on the proceedings of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) so they understand their protocols. I can teach them how to get their client(s) to properly document their workplace bullying and ensure their medical/mental health records reflect the maltreatment from work place bullying. Weak or exaggerated documentation is a case-killer for an attorney. I am also able to support lawyers who are in school to get their law degree and with educational workshops for employment attorneys.
How do you teach people to document workplace bullying properly?
I created a video that explains it further at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1ZrLOMccHg. This video explains the importance of why and how you should document workplace bullying. I was able to “settle” with the Veteran Affairs (VA) in March 2014 because I had “solid” documentation that supported my case of retaliation for being a VA “Whistleblower”. Two days before my Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) hearing, the VA attorneys were willing to settle with me and without a “gag-order” that would have kept me silent about my case. Documentation is very important when dealing with workplace bullying. Witnesses often become afraid and worried they will lose their job if they speak up for you. Social media can often be unsafe and unprotected. If it is proven that an individual has discussed their case or the individuals involved with outside parties, the case will almost always be thrown out by the EEOC.
Why did Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) send you to Washington D.C. to the Senate?
I remember saying to myself that I would give anything to stand in front of Congress or our Senate and tell them they need to protect conscientious “whistleblowers” like myself. Nearly one year later—that happened! I was in Senator Bernie Sander’s office the day after he announced he was running for the Presidential election. He is one of the best supporters for reforming the Veteran Affairs (VA) and supporting military veterans. I shared my story with over 20 Senators or their appointed staff, explaining the necessity of making stronger laws that shelter conscientious “whistleblowers” who want to expose wrong-doing. At that time, the Senators were reviewing/processing laws to assist “whistleblowers” who brought forth illegal activities or retaliation for exposing the perpetrators.
What is the biggest mistakes that bullied employees make?
They may not keep good documentation records, they keep their documentation at their workplace or they email their documentation to their home email account. Work emails can be monitored. Bullied employees may also let their emotions interfere with making decisions and they may strike back at their bullies. It’s tough being the “bullied” employee, but they must try to stay as calm as possible. Workplace bullies want to cause a reaction that could possibly disable the bullied employee. I don’t recommend talking about the bullies to other people at work because it can backfire against the bullied employee. Be mindful of posting on social media—it can be used against the bullied employee, as well as, the workplace bullies. Anyone can join a social forum and some bullies do!
*The above is advice for workplace, divorce, custody, or other legal investigations. Many of our psychological abuse survivors reach out to monitored forums on Facebook, for example. We certainly support these forums as they are often the first place a survivor finds validation and guidance. – Mental Health News Radio
How can bullied employees help their lawyers produce a more compelling case for them?
Keeping detailed brief documentation, give them applicable medical/mental health records if the bullying is harmful, don’t waste the lawyer’s time with subjective comments or documentation. Only objective documentation or witnesses are going to help the bullied employee. Most lawyers are very busy and need to get down to “business”. Be on time with everything your lawyer needs from you. If you have an EEOC case, timing is very important. All retaliation or bullying after submitting a discrimination case, must be reported within 45 days or it may not be accepted by the EEOC.
Can you give me some “insight” on how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission operates?
(EEOC) handles discrimination and retaliation cases. Anyone who is being discriminated against in the workplace should consider reviewing the guidelines for filing discrimination at www.EEOC.gov. If you feel you are being discriminated based on the EEOC’s guidelines—file a complaint right away! You will be in the EEOC’s system and if you receive any retaliation or bullying, that can be reported to the EEOC within 45 days of the occurrence. Generally, another case is “established” and the EEOC Administrative Judge may combine your two cases for ease of convenience and economic cost. Note: You can claim “retaliation or bullying” with the EEOC after you file a discrimination case, not before you file your discrimination case. Get your case filed quickly—especially if you expect you will incur retaliation or bullying for filing a discrimination case with the EEOC.
Why is it important to submit documentation in a timely manner to your attorney or the EEOC?
According to the EEOC policies, you must file all discrimination charges within 45 days of the occurrence and this also applies to any retaliation/bullying after you have a discrimination case in the EEOC system. If you turn in documentation after 45 days—it will likely not be admitted. Also—when the EEOC asks for more information, you must have it to them in their time request or your case could be dismissed or the new information may not be added to your case. The best thing to do is put the timeline on your calendar and always be on time with submitting documentation to the EEOC or your lawyer, who is working on your behalf.
What are some final tips you would suggest to our listeners?
When you are dealing with workplace bullying, everyone perceives it differently with their own belief system. Each person experiences their own unique understandings of why they are being bullied in the workplace. It’s important that you move through the process from victim to survivor to thriver. This is a time for self-care and being kind to yourself. EEOC cases are triaged by the level of importance or if someone is being retaliated against for filing a discrimination case. Be sure that you are finding healthy ways to cope with the extra stress in your life. Exercising, meditation, praying or finding a support group can be highly beneficial to supporting your well-being. If you have any questions or would like to address your workplace bullying situation, reach out to me at www.DawnMarieWestmoreland.com
Dawn Marie Westmoreland is an anti-bullying speaker, author, “Personal Power” coach, & HR consultant.
After many struggles and lessons, she learned how to achieve everything she set out to do that is alignment with her goals and values. Dawn took her past challenges and made them into triumphs. After working 25 years in the government, she took the initiative and left an unfulfilling career to now help empower others who are struggling to get through their “blocks” and realizing their zone of genius.
Dawn is a retired Air Force veteran, who worked in many special duties and leadership positions. Learning has always been her forte and she studied leadership, earning a masters in management and human resources. Her curiosity of learning enabled Dawn to earn other degrees and certifications such as horticulture, business, life coaching, and hypnotherapy. With many years of experience, she uses these tools to help people “shift” into their true potential, in a powerful and often quick transformation. Clients learn how to command respect and step into their personal power in a shorter measure of time than other methods. Dawn is living her life with passion and designing every day with the alignment of her values as she teaches her clients to fulfill their own destiny as they see fit.