Current, former employees raise concerns about working environment in Carmichael Dining Center 

Dining Hall staff Linda Furgala swipes in a student for dinner in Carmichael on March 28. (Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily)

Earlier this month, Linda Furgala, a former Carmichael Dining Center employee who was fired and then reinstated two days later by Tufts Dining in April of this year, left her position. Furgala, along with other current and former employees of Carmichael, have raised concerns about workplace environment and poor management.

Furgala explained that she resigned as a result of a series of miscommunications between her and management and a toxic work environment that began to affect her health. For her, the root of the problem commenced when management began cutting her hours and when, later this summer, her position was terminated without any notification.

After not receiving a letter confirming her employment would continue past the summer, she sent several emails to Carmichael management and an email to Human Resources (HR). Furgala said it was not until she visited the HR in person that HR Business Partner Joseph Downey told Furgala that her position had been terminated.

She was reoffered her position by Director of Dining and Business Services Patti Klos on the day of matriculation. She accepted it only on the condition that she would not return to the same unhealthy working environment.

However, she said that conditions this fall did not change. Furgala noted that one problem is management punishing employees they don’t like.

“[When I worked there] if you ask a manager a certain question and [they] don’t like it, they’ll have nothing to do with it, and they’ll cut your schedule back, give you fewer hours or punish you with shifts that are worse,” she said. “There’s also some bullying that goes on that makes it very hostile and uncomfortable to work and yelling in front of students and other employees.”

Furgala said the treatment by lower-level management undermines her dignity as a worker.

“I give over 100 percent when I’m at that job, and I will help anybody, but when you are not respected and somebody yells at you in front of people and embarrasses you, that’s very disrespectful and that’s a form of bullying,” she said.

A current employee at Carmichael who spoke anonymously out of concern for losing her job corroborated Furgala’s claim about poor management and an unhealthy working environment.

“Management is just not the best,” she said.  “It definitely can feel like a toxic environment a lot of the times because people don’t know how to speak to each other or respect one another. It’s [subliminally] hostile all the time, which is frustrating.”

The employee said she felt like management is scrutinizing her work constantly and is looking to criticize.

“I have been under this microscope and everything I do they’re watching, and I’m constantly running into problems and being criticized,” she said.  “It’s really frustrating … They do this to a lot of people.”

Jacob Katsiaficas, a former student manager at Carmichael, who graduated in the spring and worked at the dining hall for all of his four years at Tufts, said he felt that he saw evidence of  favoritism.

“Sometimes you have coworkers who have disagreements, purely on a personal level, and then that evolves into rumors which can then end up in very real workplace consequences,” Katsiaficas said. “I don’t have any tangible proof that scheduling is dictated by favorites but it’s always felt that way anecdotally.”

He said while this behavior does not necessarily come from a bad place, it can have negative consequences in the workplace.

“I feel that people participate in this out of necessity, not out of legitimate ill intention. But it does feel that there is this kind of bullying where sometimes employees are pitted against each other by their peers or whatever or sometimes by management,” Katsiaficas said.

Katsiaficas said that Furgala was always treated particularly unfairly.

“There were some people who just didn’t personally get along with [Furgala], but as a result she was always under heavier scrutiny,” he said.

He noted that her role as a temp worker, instead of a full-time employee, may have contributed to her poorer treatment.

“There was also a disconnect in how temps are treated and other workers,” Katsiaficas said.

Furgala said she raised concerns about the working environment at Carmichael to lower- and upper-level management and said she was ignored. She and the anonymous employee added that the only forum to express concerns was one-on-one with managers and at employee meetings, which are poor avenues for doing so.

The anonymous worker said these conditions make her dread going to work at Carmichael every day.

“It’s definitely something that needs to change because I dread going to work. I absolutely hate going to work now, and it’s really annoying,” she said. “I shouldn’t just have to force myself to do the work and most of the time the only reason I get through it is because I have so many friends that work there [and the struggle of] trying to find another job to be quite honest.”

When Furgala complained about these issues with the workplace, she said management offered to transfer her to Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center. However, she declined the offer and decided to leave her job at Carmichael.

“What [management] did [when I arrived] was they pulled me in and tried to shuffle me out the back door by putting me in another location, but I was really feeling so sick and stressed. I had to go to the doctor. I can’t afford to live this way at this point in my life,” Furgala said.

Peter Soucy, Carmichael’s unit manager, declined to comment on the matter.

Patrick Collins, executive director of public relations, told the Daily in an email that the university could not publicly comment on personnel matters.

“We are committed to treating all employees fairly and in accordance with our stated policies. Because this is a personnel issue, and in order to protect the privacy of all involved, we are unable to provide additional comment,” he said.