Jill Davidson* came from a loving family. She was outgoing, loved people and had a strong work ethic. Her father ran his own earth moving company and from an early age, Jill learned a lot about business and construction.
As a young adult, she got a job at McMahon’s Machinery Hire where her talents leant themselves to a rapid rise through the ranks, becoming a store manager within six months. She was one of five women in a company of 300 men.
She worked hard, earned respect and got on well with customers and staff alike. Until she fell under Gerard Krugerrand’s orbit she never had an issue with anyone at work.
He was the regional manager: a tall, intimidating man, with a pronounced South African accent and a way of barking orders that set everyone’s nerves on edge. “I am God!” he would bellow with rage.
It wasn’t long before he was verbally abusing Jill for not doing what he expected her to do. She took work home, stayed up until 11pm at night answering work emails and was required to do the work of three people because two employees were on leave and her assistant manager wouldn’t pull his weight. When she fell short of completing all her tasks, Krugerrand would humiliate her in front of staff and customers.
She started getting stressed and anxious and had recurring nightmares about being trapped and overworked. Her self-esteem and work performance deteriorated. Eventually, she decided she’d had enough, took out a worker’s compensation claim and won a settlement worth seven months’ wages.
Luckily, Jill was still young, ambitious and energetic, so she went into business for herself, hiring out bobcats and doing excavation work. It was hard going, but she was good at it and earned a reputation as an ethical and hard-working business woman. This won her several prestigious and lucrative building contracts for a luxury holiday resort.
After 20 years in her own business, she started slowing down as her body was paying the price of her doing the work of three men. She had back and knee problems.
She decided to quit her business and find a slower-paced job that would ease her way to retirement. She got a job as a business manager in a failing auto-repair shop and within six months turned their fortunes around so the business became profitable for the first time.
The owner, Chris Barkley, had a reputation as a bad boss. He would yell at the young apprentices and call them names when he thought their work was shoddy. It wasn’t long before he turned his attentions on Jill and humiliated her with a barrage of sexist comments, while also sexually pursuing her relentlessly. He touched her up at work and sent her dozens of text messages a day saying he was in love with her. At the same time, he overloaded her with work, 12-14 hours a day, six or even seven days a week, but he was late in paying her wages and superannuation.
After two years, she’d had enough and quit. She saw her GP when the nightmares and flashbacks got too much for her to handle. She was diagnosed with PTSD.
She went to the Fair Work Tribunal and even though they admitted Chris Barkley owed her for lost wages, they couldn’t obtain them for her. So she went to a lawyer specialising in industrial law, who put in a compensation claim with the government work insurer. They said they couldn’t process her claim because crucial evidence was missing – namely the hundreds of text messages he’d sent her, which she’d deleted.
She found a phone forensics guy in Singapore and paid him over $3K to retrieve the lost messages for her. The insurer offered to pay her $2K compensation.
Next, she went to the federal court. But her lawyers were incompetent and she got nowhere. So she found another lawyer and while she was fighting her case, received no income for almost two years. She had to sell her precious possessions – like her Harley Davidson – just to survive.
Barkley’s lawyers dragged it out for four years. That gave him plenty of time to hide his assets, which would have taken several years to recover through the legal system.
By the time the whole case settled, it had cost her $400K in lost wages, $200K in legal fees and her settlement covered less than half of her losses.
Her mental health was shattered and she was left unable to leave her house, with no companion other than a therapy dog. Psychiatric medication didn’t help and health professionals didn’t understand what she’d been through – or didn’t care. She was left, at the age of 52, an empty shell of her former self with no foreseeable future other than one of interminable boredom and loneliness.
At the end of our conversation, Jill admitted:
“I never spend money on myself, I can’t afford it.”
Can you recognise aspects of your own situation at any point throughout Jill Davidson’s story? If so, get the support you need by joining my free Empaths At Work Facebook Group. Just answer the three short questions that are the conditions for entry and you’ll be let right in. I’m looking forward to continuing our conversation there!
*N.B. All identifying information has been removed from this case study, which represents an amalgamation of many clients’ stories over the years.