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Break My Soul

On August 28, 2021, I walked out of the Florida Blue building for the last time as an employee. Although I was feeling nervous and uncertain about this decision, I also felt a sense of peace. I left in the middle of COVID without having a full-time job, but I knew this wouldn’t break my soul. I can honestly say I loved working for Florida Blue until everything was revealed.



I began working at Florida Blue on June 3, 2019, as a Community Specialist. This was a new role for the company, having social workers in the Florida Blue retail center to assist Florida Blue insurers with social services such as food stamps. The role also had us in the community attending events to encourage the uninsured to enroll in health insurance. I was immediately intrigued by this opportunity and the impact this could have on the community. I love my community and I am so passionate about helping people. I was told training would not begin for another two months, so I started working on a county wide resource list. I wanted to be knowledgeable about which resources were in my county that could assist our members so I researched services like food banks, senior services, etc. I approached management about my idea, and they were thrilled. In fact, my idea was required for the other 12 women in my role. Shortly into my role, I spoke on behalf of the company at the 2019 South Florida Gospel Awards. I also, earned my Certified Health Coaching License and became co-chair regional lead for the Mental Health Collaborative team for the company. And then, COVID happened.




On March 18, 2020, we were sent home with laptops, phones, and other work from home equipment. What we believed to be for two weeks ended up being 16 months.


Two years into my role as a “Community Specialist” at Florida Blue (BCBS) and amid COVID, I found out from an employee I was making $10,000 less than the women in my role. Unfortunately, in the United States of America the average black woman gets paid 64 cents to every white man’s dollar. Whereas white women make 83 cents to a white man’s dollar. In the state of Florida, black women make 60 cents to every white man’s dollar. I am a social worker, so I feel it’s my duty and obligation to advocate for others and sometimes that starts at home. I followed the chain of command and discussed it with my new supervisor. She then directed me to human resources where I was told to write a “justification letter” and attach my LCSW license, any relevant certificates, and my college transcript. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Certified health Coach (CHC). To be an LCSW, I must have my master’s degree in social work, work under a supervisor for two years, plus take a national board exam. I EARNED everything I have. Out of 12 women in my role, I was one of three that was an LCSW. A few of the women did not have their master’s degree. Yet, I was getting paid the least. After my justification letter was approved and my credentials were up to par in their standings, I was given a salary increase months later.


At the time my salary was increased, the company began talking about returning into the office. Here’s the catch, to return to the office, you must be vaccinated. I am not one of those conspiracy people who believes the government is inserting a chip into our bodies. However, I felt very uncomfortable getting the vaccine because my body is very sensitive. After discussing my fears with management, I was informed there are no other options I must be vaccinated, or I will lose my job. On Monday May 24, 2021, I got the COVID-19 vaccine. When I got into work that day, I was told I no longer needed the vaccine. Unfortunately, it was too late I had already gotten the first dosage and the next day I was rushed to the emergency by my partner because I began experiencing adverse reaction to the shot. Again, I know my body and I knew my body would not react well to this new shot. Throughout this time I was chosen to participate in the Florida Blue Future Leaders program. A program that trained employees for management and leadership. Like I said, I loved my job and I wanted to be involved in every facet. On my first day back into the office after working remote for 16 months (March 2020-July 2021), I had a seizure, fire rescue came and I was hospitalized again. I must admit I was very anxious and nervous about being back in public and being away from my comfort zone. We were told for 16 months not to be in small or large groups, only hang around the people in your home, and that COVID can kill you. Month 17 the government wanted everyone to “go back to normal.” How could I not have anxiety? This was my second time in less than two months I was hospitalized after the vaccine. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy and told I could not drive for 6 months. I was also told I would have to take an Epilepsy medication for the rest of my life. The medication was only 73% effective and increased anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations and IF I missed a dose, it could cause seizures. I felt like my world was crumbling under me. I lost a sense of independence, self, and now all my thoughts were concerns I would die. Anytime, I felt anxious or strange, I began having a panic attack because I became fearful, I was having a seizure. I began to be afraid of being home alone because if I had a seizure, who would help me? My mom had recently retired so she began taking me to and from work daily. During times my mom would be out of town or busy I had to make other accommodations. I then reached out to my managers and accommodations to arrange a work schedule that would work for me and my new disability. I asked if I could work in the office Monday through Wednesday and remote Thursday and Friday. By this time, I was co-chair for the South Florida Mental Health Collaborative team, I was in the Florida Blue Future Leaders program, and I had just created and presented “How to Cope with Burnout” statewide for over 500 employees for the company. I was also the highest producing Community specialist in my role. Yet, I was denied my accommodations and told I needed to come into the office because Open Enrollment was approaching in two months and that was the busy season for the sales agent.


I was left with a decision, continue to work at a job that despite my credentials or things I have done for the company; I still would not be accommodated for my disability or leave. I decided then and there to resign. I was unhappy and my mental health was impacted drastically. I began having panic attacks and became depressed and struggled with my new life. I put in my resignation letter with no other employment or solid plan in the middle of the pandemic. On my last day, I walked out of the office for the last time with a sense of peace. After I left, I found out from a previous employee that the company accommodated a sales agent to have off every weekend because he has children. Again, a slap in the face since I was told I would not be accommodated because we were approaching our busy sales season. However, I had to realize I would not be broken. Regardless of what obstacles I face in life, I have control over my life. The day I walked out of that office for the last time I choose to focus on the people, opportunities, and responsibilities that serve me and make me happy. I only have one life and I choose to be happy. I am not sure where this journey will take me but I am open to whatever life throws my way. I am creating my own foundation, I have a new motivation, and I'm on a new vibration.


"Alexa play Beyonce, Break My soul."



Resources

https://www.aauw.org/resources/article/black-women-and-the-pay-gap/

https://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/resources/economic-justice/fair-pay/african-american-women-wage-gap.pdf

https://www.americanprogress.org/article/women-of-color-and-the-wage-gap/

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