Today’s post isn’t really tea related, but I came across a troubling accusation about a popular tea company that really struck a chord with me, and it’s something that I cant stop thinking about. I lived through an unfortunate experience, and today, I’m here to share with you what I went through…
In late 2015, I graduated from a Texas high school and one week later, I came out of the closet. I first came out to my mother, who didn’t take the news very well. In fact, her reaction was so negative that I feared for my own safety. In reaction, I started applying for work opportunities so I could move out and live away from the toxic environment I was in. While browsing the internet, I came across a job posting from a company called ‘Mary’s Weight Loss’ — a very popular weight loss company I had previously been to (and lost 80lbs with). Since I was so successful in their weight loss plan, I thought it would make for a perfect match. I applied for the job, and a few weeks later, I had two separate interviews. That following week, I got the job.
By the time I was hired as a weight loss counselor, and the only male in the entire district, my situation at home was improving as my mother was adjusting to the idea of having a gay son. However, I just started dating my now-current boyfriend, so I still needed to move out to get much-needed privacy. After being hired at Mary’s Weight Loss for part-time employment, I started training on the other side of town. It was relatively close to where my grandparents live, so I stayed with them all week so I could easily make the commute to training. During that week, I learned a lot about the job of being a weight loss counselor and learned more and more about the program. When the week ended, and before I went back home, I sat my grandmother down and came out to her. I was welcomed with a hug, and after telling me that she loved me, I went back home to start my career in health.
The very next Monday, I was greeted by Heather. Heather was the director of the Mary’s Weight Loss location that I was working at (to be even more sentimental, the same exact location I had visited when I went on my very own weight loss journey). Heather laid out all of the rules of the center and said that we were allowed to keep one memento in our personal office. For my memento, I placed a photograph of my now-current boyfriend to the side of my desk, and from there, started my first day of work.
Over the course of the next month of working at Mary’s Weight Loss, I started building my clientele. At first, I only saw a few people a day. However, after a month of employment, my days we’re being booked. And since I was continuing to see clients, my part-time hours turned into full-time hours. Hell, even at one point, I asked Heather to promote me to full time so I could partake in the company benefits. I was told no because you had to be working at the company for an X amount of time before being promoted.
A month had gone by and I had moved out into a place of my own. I was room mating with a nurse who was always gone, and I had the entire second level of the house to myself. I was actually feeling happy and more confident about myself. Fortunately, one morning I walked into work to find out that, in the entire district of Mary’s Weight Loss, I was seeing the 2nd highest weight loss among clients. Another month had gone by and I had won two in-center sales contests, along with being recognized company-wide for the highest sales in the district. I was receiving the highest possible monthly bonus and was making enough money that I started saving up with the prospect of going to college.
After the second month had gone by, and working full-time hours, I again asked Heather if there was a way that I could officially be promoted to ‘full-time’ status. She said that it was up to her boss, and would report back to me. In the meantime, my co-workers and I were getting closer, and after seeing the photo of my now-current boyfriend on my desk, would often ask me unwarranted questions regarding my sexuality. At one point, they would only talk to me about gay media, and often talk about ‘woman problems’ in front of me and often would say, “Oh you're gay — you don't care if we talk about this stuff openly.” The often talked about sleeping with other men, their hook-up’s penile sizes, and vaginal-related topics in front of me and always would say, “Oh Cody doesn't care if we talk about this kind of stuff around him — he’s gay”.
After having a few more successful months at Mary’s Weight Loss, and after being more comfortable with my identity, I was starting to be bothered by my co-worker's comments about my sexuality. However, only being 19, I kept quiet because I didn’t want to get my coworkers in trouble and create issues between us. Anyhow, I woke up on the morning of June 26th, 2015 to a few text messages saying ‘congratulations!’. It wasn’t my birthday and nothing special was planned in my calendar, so I got dressed and went to work. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by two of my clients with congratulatory statements. Upon asking for further elaboration, they said that the United States Supreme Court had overturned the ban on same-sex marriage, and congratulated me. Throughout that day, I had several more clients express their happiness for me, and how I was now viewed as equal in the eyes of our government. Until Heather stepped in.
I just finished closing the center, and on my way out, Heather stopped me and asked that she have a word with me. When I asked her what it was about, she further demanded explanation on why my clients were celebrating me and asked why they knew that I was gay. I told her that I keep my conversations with my clients on the topic of their weight loss, and admitted that when clients saw the photo of my boyfriend on my desk, I’d admit to them who he really was in relation to me. My boss then told me to keep my business to myself, and that my lifestyle could run-off clientele. She then explained that since we live in a religious community, my lifestyle could be offensive to others and told me that my lifestyle could drive away clients. When I went back home that night, I went to bed feeling confused by Heather’s comments. One week later, she called me into her office for a meeting regarding my ‘behavior’.
In the meeting, Heather wrote me up for having ‘inappropriate conversations’ with my clients. She then explained that I was being offensive, and I should have known better. She then proceeded to tell me that my request for being promoted full-time had been denied, and now that I was written up, I wouldn’t be eligible for any promotion in the future.
The second the meeting ended with Heather, I called Mary’s Weigh Loss’s Human Resources department and complained that I was being discriminated against, and claimed that I demanded that the write-up be reversed. HR reassured me that the discrimination would stop and that they would have a sensitivity meeting with the entire staff at my work location. Two days after I called Human Resources, the district manager called me and told me that I should have gone to her and that I shouldn’t have gone to Human Resources. I told her that I was embarrassed, and wanted to report the situation to someone who didn’t know me. Then, a week later, Heather called me into her office.
Heather told me that the entire staff had a meeting with higher up and that I was to no longer invited to weekly in-store sales meetings. When I asked her why I wasn’t allowed to attend meetings, she said it was because it would cause a problem and it was best I not attend. In the following weeks, my co-workers quit talking to me altogether. My co-workers didn’t even look in my direction, much less tell me when one of my clients have arrived for their appointment if I was in the back stocking items. They all started going out to lunch without me, and I made it very clear that I was not welcome.
After being excluded from all further team meetings, I had another conversation with Human Resources. I explained to them that, whatever they did before wasn’t working, and that I was being shunned by everybody. Human Resources said they would investigate as to why I had been excluded from sales meetings.
After I had my conversation with Human Resources, I had sat down with a new client named Penelope. After talking to Penelope about why she wanted to start losing weight, she told me that her husband and son we’re both killed in a car accident, and that she gained weight over the course of her mourning. Penelope began to cry, and in the midst of her crying, I closed the office door to give her a moment to weep. She had continued to tell me that she wanted to make sure that I would stick by her side, because she couldn’t deal with losing anyone else in her life. Right then and there, I promised Penelope that I would be there for her, and we can tackle this journey together…. That was the last time I saw Penelope.
The next morning, I walked into Heather’s office to another write-up. She claimed that one of my co-workers overheard my conversation with Penelope, and claimed that I was running down the company to my new client. Dumbfounded, I refused to autograph the write-up. Heather backed-off and said that she’ll reinvestigate the allegation made towards me. Before I left her office, she told me that she left a copy of the next month's schedule on my desk. I walked into my office to find that, for the month of August, my hours had been cut from forty hours to ten hours a week.
I didn’t know why my hours had been cut to ten hours a week, and upon asking Heather why my hours were cut, she said that she didn’t have the hours to give out. In the meantime, I couldn’t afford my rent, car payment, or even my cell phone bill with my new paycheck. While searching for new places to live, my boyfriend agreed to let me move in with him — an hour South of where my work location was. However, there was a Mary’s Weight Loss located right by where he lived, so I put in a request to transfer. My request was denied because, according to them, written up employees weren’t allowed to transfer within the company.
I was beaten. I used the remainder of my savings, including my college fund, to try to live in my home. When I ran out of money, I was forced to move and moved in with my boyfriend and resign from my position. I lost every cent I owned, and couldn’t make payments on my car or cell phone bill. After losing my home, and being jobless, I almost lost my car. Thankfully, my mother stepped in to loan me the money to make payments until I was able to find more work. In the meantime, I set an appointment with an attorney who wanted to take a closer look at my case. However, while job searching, I came across an ad for a full-time position at Mary’s Weight Loss (which was insult to injury, considering they cut my hours short for not having ‘enough hours’)…
I saw an attorney who took my case, and a few months later, we filed suit against Mary’s Weight Loss for retaliation. After months and months of going back and forth with Mary’s Weight Loss, they refused to settle and argued that we take them to court… Unfortunately, my case against Mary’s Weight Loss was rejected by the courts because, according to Title 7 Discrimination Laws, LGBT persons aren’t protected in the state of Texas. Although we filed for retaliation, there was a discrimination aspect of the suit, which is why it got rejected. Two years after filing suit, and after being forced out of this job, I lost. I lost to Mary’s Weight loss… I was devastated. I felt suicidal and was thrown into a major depression. Feelings of anger, sadness, and loss took over as I stayed in a cloud of misery. I often had nightmares about all of the clients that I let down by not being there for them. I often think back to Penelope and how much I let her down, especially considering I promised that I’d be there for her…
Currently, I’m trying to recover and accept myself as a proud individual. I'm treating my depression, and I currently work at a tea shop where I’m accepted by my boss and co-workers. I stopped feeling suicidal, and over time, started to see my self-worth again. Although I’m still recovering from the incident, It will never leave me and will always be apart of me. I pass the time by writing tea reviews, posting photos to Instagram, and drinking as much tea that I can get my hands on.
Every now and then I see commercials for Mary’s Weight Loss on TV, and even see ad’s posted from them on social media. Hell, I even got an email advertisement saying they wanted me back. It used to really bother me at first, but I’ve since become numb to it. If there’s any consolation to any of this, I received news that Heather was fired from Mary’s Weight Loss two days after we filed suit. Although I lost the case, in some ways, I feel like I won…..