Work overload for female engineer: Any recourse?

Ellen Kramer was an experienced engineer and regulatory issues specialist. When hired 2-yr before to work under Special Projects Supervisor Jerry Bambers, paperwork had been neglected for years.
By Raymond Dreyfack August 1, 1998

Ellen Kramer was an experienced engineer and regulatory issues specialist. When hired 2-yr before to work under Special Projects Supervisor Jerry Bambers, paperwork had been neglected for years. Continued negligence would have meant major fines and penalties for the company. One of Kramer’s chief duties was to straighten out the mess.

She worked hard and made a good deal of progress. One day her boss approached her with a special project he said had to be completed in 6 wk. When Kramer reviewed the assignment she couldn’t believe her eyes.

“There’s no way this could be done in 6 wk.”

Bambers shrugged. “The order comes from the top.”

“It’s impossible.” She urged him to negotiate the time frame. “I’ll need 8 wk at least.”

“I can’t do that, Ellen. An order’s an order.”

“Then at least hire an experienced consultant to help.”

Bambers refused that too. Kramer’s first impulse was to quit. But she needed the job. In the next 6 wk, Kramer put in 170 hr of personal overtime including weekends, evenings, and two national holidays. Somehow or other she completed the assignment on schedule.

“I told you it could be done,” Bambers said casually, when Kramer handed him the 256-p report.

That was all the thanks or recognition she got. The next day Kramer told him she was suing the company.

Bambers laughed. “For what?”

“You’ll see.”

Question : If you were in this situation, what would you do?

O’Brien’s verdict: Plant Engineer Jim O’Brien summoned Ellen Kramer to his office, and got her story confirmed by hard evidence. He called Bambers to his office.

“I don’t know what Kramer’s chance of winning might be if she sued. What concerns me more is the way she was treated. I won’t deny the importance of getting that report out on schedule, but a consultant’s help would have been quickly approved under the circumstances. I’m going to thank Ellen personally for the job she did. I’m also going to authorize an extra week’s vacation, and put her in for a $500 bonus in appreciation for her service. Finally, I’m keeping a close eye on you, Jerry. Unless you can humanize your treatment of the people who report to you, regardless of sex, creed, or color, you won’t be long for this world.”

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