Standing Up For What’s Right

I’ve a thickly ingrained sense of right and wrong. For that, I blame my mother. The poor woman was socially ostracized for her courage to fight for what she believed: sex education in schools, gay rights (even before there were gay rights!) and women’s rights.

That I inherited - to go against the grain for what I believe is right. Despite what may occur...

Around fifteen years ago I went for a job interview in White Plains, an interview I secured through the New York Times classified ads. It was to head up the receivables area for a company that sells space for tv commercials. The job itself seemed boring, but the money was right on line.

I took the train and then a cab to the office which was surprisingly empty. I first met with the head of human resources and that’s when I knew this was some shabby outfit.

He sashayed down the empty hallway and chattered about his ‘wife.’ Now, I’m no stranger to the gay world. In fact, at the time, I lived in an apartment building nicknamed, “Tarantula Arms,” with ten gay friends and one lesbian. My gaydar at this point was impeccable.

“Mary, please take a seat!”

“The name is Maura.”

He winked. “It’s okay, Mary."

The guy, flamboyantly gay, had photos of his humongous lesbian wife and their two children all over the office. To me, this facsimile of a straight life and believing I couldn’t see through this charade was nothing, but distasteful.

He pointed to the photo and went into another shpiel about his wife and kids until my eyes rolled up in their sockets. Then, he switched gears and explained the parameters of the position where I would be in charge of all incoming revenues. The most challenging part was getting companies to pay.

“What happened to the former manager?” I asked.

“Oh, she’s here. She did a terrific job over the past ten years, but we don’t want her any more.”

“Why not?”

He had the temerity to sneer. “She went to Russia to adopt a baby. Now she’s going to be a single mother and work. How dare she!”

Holy shit! A gay man trying to pose as straight in a sham marriage mocked a woman who wants to be a mother even if she’s single? That made my bullshit detector ding so loud, I lost my train of thought.

I must’ve passed the initial interview with flying colors because I was then directed to a conference room where I met the CEO, a corpulent toad of a man.

“You met with the head of our HR, right? Good man,” he pontificated. Then, he discussed the parameters of the job.

“What about the woman who currently holds the position?”

He sneered. “Oh, her. We liked her until she went ahead and adopted a Russian baby. Despite our warnings. Now that she’s a single mom, we don’t believe she can do the work.”

The back of my head exploded.

Here’s the thing - if they fire a loyal employee because she adopted a baby and wanted to be a single mother, lord knows what they would do to me.

I returned home and then phoned my friend, Rob Drew. Rob and I met on the phone in the mid-1970’s. He was a recruiter specializing in my particular field of finance. Even though the man never got me a job interview in the decades that I knew him, we developed a tight-knit relationship that lasted until his death in 2013 although we never met face to face.

“Rob, you’d never guess what happened to me today!” I crowed. “I went on the weirdest interview at Iplotz in White Plains.”

“Iplotz? What kind of position?”

“Receivables Manager.”

“Wait a minute - I know someone there.” He fumbled around until he came across a name. “Kathy. She’s a wonderful manager and has been there for a very long time.”

I filled him in with what transpired. “Listen, Rob, do me a favor and warn her that her job’s on the line. I don’t want to scare her, I just want her aware.”

He phoned me back the next morning. “She thanks you. She had an idea they were up to something.”

That afternoon, I got a phone call from the head of human resources. He shrieked, “What did I ever do to you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Great. Cause of you, I’m being sued.”

Turns out that Kathy ran up to the HR guy and the CEO and said, “How dare you tell my personal business to a stranger!” She slammed them with a mega-lawsuit for that and her illegal subsequent firing.

Over the following days, my phone rang off the hook from him, the CEO and their lawyers. Years later, I was subpoenaed in a lawsuit. I went to a conference room in midtown New York where I was greeted by a score of lawyers for both the defendant and the plaintiff. All men.

“Have a seat, Ms. Stone,” they said. And then they grilled me. The defendants insisted, “This is bitter grapes because you didn’t get the job!”

I laughed. “Nope, that’s not why."

At the end, both sides asked me, “Why did you tell her? What have you to gain from this? We know you aren’t being paid, but why did you stick your neck out for an absolute stranger?"

“Because it’s the right thing to do,” I said.

They simply stared at me.

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