Three years ago, while living in New Mexico, I was gainfully employed as a graphic designer, but I needed to land a part-time job to earn some extra cash. I set out on my journey to find this part-time job and fortunately found one fairly quickly at a brand new Kohls store that was just getting ready to open. I was thrilled to have gotten an offer so soon after starting my quest for cash. I filled out the paperwork and agreed to jump through all of their corporate hoops in order to start getting that additional paycheck. These “hoops” included a criminal background check (no problem), employment history check (ditto), reference check (call them up!)… and a drug test.
Here is where I should probably mention that like many other “chemically-unbalanced” Americans, I was under the influence of some prescription medication that helped me to feel a little happier… A little less like sitting in a corner and crying… and rocking… and talking to myself… A little less like setting my hair on fire… A little less like ripping everyone’s head off or crashing my Wal-Mart cart into their cars… A little more… shall we say… balanced
One would think that this medication, being prescribed by a local and reputable doctor, should not and would not pose a problem on a drug screen. But just to be on the safe side, I took my prescription with me to the facility on the appointed day that I was to—eh-hem—produce the sample. I told the girl behind the counter (who looked like she should be drug-tested herself) about my “situation” and showed her the prescription. She made a photocopy of it and recommended that I inform the store management to cover all my bases. OK. Not a problem. I called management as she suggested. Surely this would be OK. I cannot be the ONLY one out of 150 new employees taking legally-prescribed, mood-altering medication. And besides, who can argue with the virtues of honesty and openness?
However, much to my surprise, management asked me to provide them with medical and pharmaceutical records for the past 18 months! 18 MONTHS!?!?! I was beginning to wonder if that task alone was even worth the $7.35 an hour I was going to be making?!?! But I complied. The records were obtained and presented and then I waited.
And I waited…
And I waited…
Bear in mind that other people I knew and had met along this journey toward part-time-minimum-wage-retail-imprisonment (I mean employment) were already getting calls about scheduling their training and orientation, etc. And yet I waited. While I waited I began questioning the ethics of what the management team was actually doing. Were they even allowed to peer that deeply into my medical life story? And so, while I waited some more… I conducted some independent research on EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) regulations and compliance.
I won’t bore you with what I found there… but suffice it to say that if they did NOT hire me over this prescription-drug-laced urine sample and my “questionable” medical history… I actually had a real case on my hands. And believe me I was considering it… I would have made A LOT more than $7.35 an hour and then I wouldn’t even NEED the damn part-time job. I had the name, address and phone number for the nearest EEOC office—located in El Paso, TX—in hand when I finally got the call that they were ready to schedule my orientation and training.
Lucky for them. <cue Law and Order scene change music>
I attended my orientation at Kohls. It lasted 4 hours. More paperwork. Laughable sexual harassment videos. Stupid Get-to-Know-Your-Team-Member games… Then I found out what I’d really been anxious to know: the department I’d be working in! They passed out work schedules to everyone with their name and the name of their department in the top left corner in big, bold letters. I was so excited! Would it be Misses Apparel? Accessories? Maybe Lingerie? Or Bed & Bath? I was imagining the possibilities when I got my paper and it simply read: Shoes.
Yes, shoes. I almost laughed out loud when I read that at the top of my work schedule. The people around me all had sophisticated, multi-syllabic department names on the tops of their papers like: Junior Menswear, Intimate Apparel & Sleepwear OR Jewelry & Accessories… but on my paper it just read: SHOES. And ladies, I love shoes as much as the next gal, but let me be clear: We’re not talking Prada, Gucci or Manolo Blahnik here… we’re talking affordable-practical-department-store-shoes-for-the-whole-entire-family type deal. Needless to say, I was deflated and disappointed.
Wait a minute! I see what’s happening here!
Sure, sure, Kohl’s Department Store… AVOID a potential EEOC lawsuit and go ahead and HIRE the psycho drug user… but let’s put her in SHOES. She can’t really do much damage there. It’s literally stacks upon stacks of numerically-arranged pieces of leather and rubber, held together by synthetic glues and gels wrapped in paper and encased in cardboard. I’m sure we’ll ALL be MUCH safer that way. The worst thing she can do is wing some Sketchers at someone’s head. If she comes in strung-out, hung-over, or wound-up, she should still be able to eek out the phrase: “Ma’am, can I show you something more like a wedge in, say… a size 7?”
Accessories and Apparel are too “out front.” Housewares is obviously too dangerous, for all the knives and glass that are around. The Bed & Bath Shop is out because she might figure out a way to hang herself with the sheets and towels… And Home Decor is a no go because perhaps she would set fire to the whole damn place by lighting an obscene amount of scented candles… no, no, no… Let’s put her in SHOES.
So for several months, I stood amidst towers and towers and stacks and stacks of shoe boxes for 6 hours at a time… for $7.35 an hour… occasionally fetching a different size from the stockroom and once assisting in the investigation of a shoplifting incident. At least I didn’t have to touch anyone’s feet. And I never felt like ripping a customer’s head off… well, almost never. Maaaaybe once or twice… 3 times MAX. But that was the great thing about the prescription medication… I may not have been working in a cool or glamourous department—but then again—I was probably too medicated to care.