I. What happened at EMBL-EBI and why are these cases connected?— Serrano lab used to be a part of EMBL System Biology Unit, apparently they foster phenotypes like that.
II. Why didn't you quit on your own once you realized that the environment in CRG, Barcelona, was so toxic?— I did want to, my mistake was that I relied too much on a snitch, was mislead by a «good cop» (Luis Serrano's left hand, whereas his work-wife was a «bad cop») — they all were just a perfect match for each other.
I just could not believe I saw it all real and not in my sleep.I could not accept the idea that the guy was just a cad.
Here are the answers elaborated.
In April of 2013 my boss at EBI-EMBL reports on me to HR after I had used capital letters in one word of the working correspondence: that was the exclamation-like «WHAT?», — he says then that I’m rude and impossible to collaborate (indeed I wasn’t much collaborative in some sense).
HR explains me that writing one word in email using capital letters is equal to shouting. But on the other hand she looks confused and keeps asking me whether I have something more to tell her. I don’t want to tell more.
However, the project coordinator, who was the addressee of that my email, says in the presence of HR that she hadn't considered me rude and inconvenient to collaborate.
Meanwhile I'm excluded from acknowledgement in inner EBI meetings concerning the project: up to the extent that they later say «all right, they took your results and presented them as their own, but they’ve had you acknowledged as they thanked Systems Microscopy consortium and you a member of it» (nice, isn’t it?).
In June of 2013 all of the sudden my Dad falls down in a swoon and cannot walk well after getting back, I’m urgently coming home from the UK. My bosses are apprised.
On 25/06/13 my Dad passes away on my arms in a hospital after having tremendously suffered from the acute AAA rupture.
Staying at home on my vacations (they were approved) that summer and busy with documentations following the funeral I’m getting a quite boorish email from the project coordinator at EBI that I have to correct something in the code ASAP as she's preparing a paper (in fact the project wasn't ready then for the paper and that paper was later written by myself with the great help of my boss of the later time). Also she writes me that my talk on the ISMB conference was prepared badly (it was very soon after the funeral, though she lied, the same talk was also done for the SM consortium spring meeting, later I could bring several references proving her falsehood). She doesn't forget to note that she understands that I'm in a hard life situation.
I tell her to fuck off (i.e. that I won't read her emails until I’ll come back to work).
When I come back I'm told that my contract is suspended for insubordination and unauthorized leave. The custom was that folks at EBI, including bosses, didn’t care much of vacation paperwork, spoken agreement was usually enough. I’m advised to leave the campus ASAP.
Being in the state of shock I do nothing for about week, but my colleague meets me and brings EMBL-EBI’s docs and proves me that their actions against me were in contradictions with their own legislative papers. He urges me «Catherine, don’t stay like that, do something, go to a lawyer».
I go to the Cambridge Citizen Advice Bureau, they ask me questions like «Did you hack them? Did you steal something from them? Who is this employer?» and tell me to write and to call to the EMBL-EBI Head Office in Heidelberg, they also gave me the list of lawyer addresses to visit. I follow their advice.
Next day after I contact with EMBL-EBI HO the Head of Administration at EBI calls me, apologizes for the suspension of the contract and invites me back to work.
All my email/servers etc credentials are withdrawn, I spend some time to get some of that back, but not everything. I’m implicitly hinted that they are prepared to give me an EOC agreement (End of Contract). I write to EMBL-EBI Head Office again.
Administrative Director of EMBL (Keith Williamson at that time) comes to the UK to talk to me. It turns out that he’s mislead about the project which they declare as accomplished (it was just a stupid lie, I wonder how further they’d report about it).
After my talk with him I’m fully restored in my rights. They recognize that everything is fine with my holidays, I was wrongly accused in insubordination and unauthorized leave, though no apologies now, except spoken ones from Keith (he was the one who seemed a gentleman in all that story).
I’m invited for the chat in EBI Director office (Ewan Birney) along with my boss and his proxy on R&D tasks. I’m told that I have «questionable personal qualities» (Birney repeats the same after my boss) and this is me, who had a lesson now and must comply with their way of doing R&D.
I write another email to the EMBL Head Office with cc to my boss and Birney where I ask (at last) why is that me who has «questionable personal qualities», why was I bullied, why did all this happen after my boss didn’t have me responsive to his invitation to private bike rides, I claim for fair employment practice — that was completely ignored, I also ask to change the person who authorizes my leaves — that was accepted after the investigation, see below.
I get a response from Director General of EMBL, Iain Mattaj, where he implies that the bullying was alleged but that I dared to accuse my boss in sexual harassment and that all needs to be investigated.
I reply that I didn’t say that the conduct of my boss was a sexual harassment per se, all I asked: the explanations of the bullying and I mentioned him hitting on me in that context.
This my reply was ignored.
I’ve never got any explanation. I was told off that I brought forward the accusation of sexual harassment with no reason. I was made guilty for the mention of the fact that my boss had hit on me and then bullied me.
However, Iain Mattaj apologized for the bullying itself, he even used a word «harassment» in his apologies. After the investigation I’ve got the apology letter from him where he enlightens me that I took the suspension of my contract, accusation of unauthorized leave and removal of all my credentials at work for the bullying because my father passed away right before that.All the rest was just fine.
Basically, he didn't apologised for the damage itself, he apologised that I feel damaged. Yet better that way, than nothing. He also generously spared me from a discipline sentence for my alleged accusation in sexual harassment™ of my boss.
Nice, isn’t it?
Although they’ve swapped my boss for his proxy and that was the second gentleman in all that story (minding top level).
After I’ve got that hysterical email from Maria Lluch-Senar—Luis Serrano tandem at CRG in reply on my rebuttal to her manipulations and lies, I asked Luis Serrano to behave fairly and that I wouldn’t be just silent and shocked, I’d been prepared by this case at EMBL. Serrano lab used to be a part of System Biology unit of EMBL, they had to follow their rules:
«maintaining a culture based on the principles of good scientific practice, throughout the Laboratory and in their respective Units».I believed that they had to follow that at least to the degree that EMBL was able to.
But Luis Serrano, once Head of EMBL Unit and CRG Director, president of SOMMa said me that he didn't care. Literally:
«I don't care, we are at CRG here, we have nothing to do with EMBL».
- Shortly after that I apprised Luis Serrano that under the conditions he put on me I’d quit on my own at the end of the year.
They ignored that, apparently that was not a way to bring them a satisfaction (however they did try to fire me first as if following my wish: they prepared papers for that by the end of October to fire me in a couple of weeks after that, see below their lies about 3-months term to make me obeying to the Director's favourite).
But then, in the end of September'2016, they were just about to go on their lab retreat, Serrano told me that my presence there would be «awkward» and it’s up to me to go or not, I did not want to go to their retreat, I was preparing to quit anyway.
But a colleague asked me to come, she also assured me in her support (at the end she turned out to be just a snitch).
Better I’d never seen that part of their specific culture on that retreat (so freaking lowbrow level even ignoring complains of the guests of the resort).
That was awkward.If they feel better on the way they have chosen: lying, threatening, making the research labs the places of so toxic ambiance with no respect, no open discussion, licking asses, making folks leak asses, snitching on each other, where even their written code of good scientific practice is violated,
— it's up to them.
Below are the other parts of the story.