My Testimony in Support of Bill 136-2018
June 18, 2018: Testimony of Erin Bagwell, Freelancer from Park Slope, Brooklyn in support of the “Protections for workers under the city’s human rights law” Before a joint hearing of the New York City Council Committee on Civil and Human Rights and the Committee on Women in Relation to Extending Equal Protections of the Law to All Working People in NYC.
Hello, my name is Erin Bagwell. I truly appreciate the opportunity to share my story with you all today.
I’m a filmmaker from Park Slope, Brooklyn who produced and directed Dream, Girl - a documentary about inspiring and ambitious female entrepreneurs. To fund the film, I raised $100K in 30 days on Kickstarter and we premiered at Obama’s White House in 2016. I was also asked to be part of Oprah’s SuperSoul100- a group of 100 influencers making social impact in their industries.
However, before I set out on my own to create Dream, Girl I was working at an advertising company in Midtown as a “perma-freelancer” and was being sexually harassed.
When the CEO would walk by, the women in my department would all pull their chairs in hoping to avoid his unwanted touching. The VP of the company told my colleague that he wished he got in early enough to try to look up her skirt when she plugged in our digital signage every morning. And, my boss told me he almost broke his neck looking at me one day while I was walking to my desk.
I think that comment did it- I stopped wearing skirts and dresses to work. I stopped wearing any clothing I deemed flattering. I stopped speaking up in meetings. I stopped trying to contribute to the growth and the success of my team. I stopped mentally showing up for work.
I also stopped believing in myself and in my ability to move my career forward.
I went into a depression that started to rewire my personality. Which is when I knew I needed to remove myself from the position and the company.
Work is a form of self-care for me. It’s a crucial part of my identity and I felt like if I couldn’t be myself and be taken seriously to do a good job, I shouldn’t be there at all.
Feeling like I had no voice in the workplace, and no clear way to protect myself from harassment as a non-employee, I quit in January of 2014, and I have worked for myself for the past 4 years.
However, three months ago I got pregnant and my husband and I decided I should take on more freelance work in order to create more financial stability. I found myself back on the job boards looking for work but honestly- I’m afraid to go back.
I want to know that this time I’ll have legal, indisputable rights against the discrimination I might face.
I want to know I’ll be able to bring all my talents, experience, and ambition to work without the fear of being taken advantage of.
And more than anything I want to know that this time I’ll be protected.
I urge you on the committee today to believe in my future and those of the freelancers of New York. Vote yes on bill Int 136-2018.