Aylen Hidalgo says her supervisor has always been a stickler for clocking in on time and not leaving her desk or making personal calls. As a result, her job in finance at CareerSource South Florida, a county agency with a $70 million budget to help job seekers, has always been stressful.
But she says it got even worse last December when she told that supervisor, Christine Garcia, that she was pregnant. Instead of supporting her, Hidalgo says Garcia wrote her up, docked time from her vacation leave, and gave her negative evaluations.
“I’d tell her that I was not feeling good — throwing up and with nausea — but she didn’t care,” she says. “I was scared that she’d come and see that I wasn’t at my desk and have a fit.”
Hidalgo’s allegations — which are the subject of an ongoing county investigation — are the latest claims of employee mistreatment at CareerSource. A federal investigation recently found that its executive director, Roderick “Rick” Beasley, discriminates against female employees. Hidalgo thinks Beasley is to blame for fostering workplace bullying.
“I was under a lot of stress, and I believe that every problem that happened during my pregnancy was caused by stress from working at CareerSource,” Hidalgo says. “Beasley thinks he’s God on Earth and the supervisors can do whatever they want — good or bad.”
Neither Garcia nor Beasley responded to New Times’ messages seeking comment on Hidalgo’s claims. County spokesperson Michael Hernandez also declined to comment.
Hidalgo, who has worked at CareerSource for a decade, says her pregnancy immediately marked her for unfair treatment. When morning sickness forced her to come in late, the time was subtracted from her vacation. Her regular bathroom trips led to abuse from Garcia, she says.
It got so bad that in March, Hidalgo, then six months pregnant, filed a complaint against Garcia with the Office of Fair Employment Practices. The office confirms it’s still investigating her complaint, but Hidalgo is doubtful it will bear fruit. In the seven months since she filed the complaint, neither she nor any witnesses she listed have been interviewed. At least four other employees who have filed similar complaints against Beasley have been unsuccessful as well.
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Tensions flared again in June when Garcia yelled at Hidalgo, who was eight months pregnant. Hidalgo became visibly upset, so a colleague drove her to the nearest fire station to take her blood pressure. “It was 178/138,” Hidalgo claims. “If it got any higher, I could’ve gotten a heart attack.” She was taken to a hospital, where she remained under medical supervision for three days.
She says the tension ended up complicating her pregnancy: She went into labor three weeks early, and her daughter was born blue and with a serious infection. Doctors diagnosed the baby with meconium aspiration syndrome. “The doctor said it happens when a mother is under severe stress,” she says. “I knew at that moment it was all from CareerSource.”
It’s been three months since she and her daughter left the hospital. Because Hidalgo is still on maternity leave, she says she’s feeling better, but she’s worried about what will happen when she returns to work.
“I’m really afraid of retaliation when I go back,” she says. “I know if we don’t speak up, nothing will happen.”