How Justice Was Served Thanks to My Father

Dad, Father's Day, toasting
Dad blowing bubbles at my wedding.

By Estelle Sobel Erasmus

With Father’s Day right around the corner, I’d like to pay homage to my dad and an important lesson he taught me years ago.

Back when I was in college at Boston University, during the summer of my junior year, I had an internship at a public relations firm (I majored in communications, with a minor in public relations). It was a hip, fun agency with cosmetic and skincare clients; and I’m not ashamed to admit it, I had a huge crush on the handsome son of the owner, which made going to work every day a lot of fun.

What was extra special about this internship was that it was a paid internship; and I relished the $150 a week I made, and felt very rewarded for my hard work, which entailed phone calls, direct mail assembly, curating media materials, assembling press kits, composing thank you notes, collecting and filing clips and even attending brainstorming sessions (which I found really exciting).

I felt I was in my element, and in my customary way of totally immersing myself in an experience I lived and breathed for this internship.

Then they asked me to attend a baseball game client event. Why this happened, I have no idea…not any more, but I do know it was over 90 degrees that day; and I was out in the hot sun.

If you know me, you know that I can’t tolerate the hot sun for more than a few hours. So what happened? Instead of getting soft drinks and water for the client, and acting as a gopher,  I found myself in the midst of heat stroke, feeling nauseous with my head between my legs. My employers quickly moved me out of the sun, and gave me ice to suck on, but were visibly annoyed that I was useless for the rest of the day. I was annoyed at myself, too; but I was also quite ill.

The next week, I noticed a bit of a chill in the air. Then, I went to the copy room and found a piece of paper lying around that had just been copied. It welcomed the newest intern starting the following week, and clearly stated that it was an internship for credit, not for pay. I felt like I had just been punched in the stomach, and knew that I was looking at my replacement. I folded up the announcement, placed it in my purse, and went on with my day with a feeling of dread. The next day,  the Vice President I reported to, called me into her office and told me that they were unable to continue paying me for the internship, so they were very sorry but they were no longer going to be able to continue my employment there.

She saw how upset I was, and said if I needed a moment to collect my thoughts that would be fine. I went into a conference room and called my dad.

“Daddy, they are letting me go. I know it’s because they are getting another intern that they don’t have to pay, but they don’t know I know that.”

This is the advice he gave to me. “Estelle, calm down. Listen to me. Don’t tell them that you know that they are getting another intern. Go back in and tell her that you are upset, but you understand and would like her to give you a reference so you can get another job. Make sure she gives it to you now. Then go around and tell everyone goodbye, and say that you are leaving because of financial reasons. Let them wonder what that means. We’ll talk more about it when you get home tonight.”

I followed his advice, and secured a glowing reference from the Vice President, who undoubtedly felt guilt stricken by the decision to replace me. Then I went home and fell apart. I was inconsolable at the loss of this job, that I was so dedicated toward, that had meant everything to me. Plus it was mid-July, and I had about six weeks left before I’d be heading back to school; what would I do with myself? How would I get another job I loved, like the one I had lost?

I threw myself on my bed, sobbing in agony. My dad quietly entered my room and told me this: “Estelle, stop crying honey. Stop crying. Don’t worry. We’re going to sue them. We’re going to take them to small claims court for the $900 they owed you to finish out the summer.”

With those words, my dad gave me hope. Hope that I would be vindicated. That this experience wouldn’t be for naught.

When we got to the court a few weeks later, the Vice President and her husband, a high-powered attorney looked thoroughly annoyed that they had to sacrifice their time and energy to deal with me.

I didn’t have a lawyer representing me, I had my dad. He told me to tell the judge my story, and I did. I emphasized how much I loved the job and how devastated I was when I lost it. How I had turned down another paying internship to take that one (I had a letter to that effect).

When it was their turn to speak, they overplayed their hand; saying my work was poor (my dad countered with the signed glowing reference), they said they weren’t using interns anymore (my dad countered with the letter I had introducing the new intern, who wasn’t being paid). They said that they never agreed to the whole summer (my dad countered with a letter that I had saved when I was first introduced, welcoming me and  saying that I would be there the whole summer).

Finally, they said that I was shirking my responsibilities that Saturday when I was at the client baseball game, and my dad had a letter from my doctor saying that I had suffered from heat stroke. They looked shocked; confused; and totally blown away by our well-thought-out and well-supported case. The judge asked all parties one final question. If he rules in favor of one or the other, would we be willing to split the money in half? They immediately said No. I wanted to say no, but my dad said, “Estelle, say yes; show that you’re fair,” so I did, no questions asked. That sealed it for the judge.

I won the case; and a few weeks later (while at my extremely tedious, and never-to-be-repeated again job in shipping at a local warehouse) a check from the public relations company in the amount of $900 came in the mail. Justice had been served. And more importantly, I had learned a valuable lesson about standing up for myself. Even when faced with a bigger opponent. Especially when faced with a bigger opponent.

Thanks Daddy, and happy Father’s Day. I love you.


How did your father teach you an important lesson in your life?

34 thoughts on “How Justice Was Served Thanks to My Father”

  1. This is an incredible story, both of justice being served, and of a father who is clearly and truly looking out for his daughter’s best interest. Stopped by for Sharefest, I really enjoyed this post. What a wonderful father you have!

  2. What an awesome Dad story! Kudos to your dad for teaching you how to stand up for yourself! Visiting from SITS Sharefest and so glad I did!!

    1. Thanks so much Michelle. When I look back I realize that was such a key moment that impacted how I viewed the world. Thanks for stopping by from SITS.

  3. This is a perfect dad story. Your father came to your rescue BUT made sure you took responsibility for fighting your battle. Everyone should have a father like that.

    BTW my daughter also went to BU, majored in communications/public relations. She graduated last year and has an amazing job (said the bragging mom 🙂 )

    1. Thanks Sharon. I thought it showed a lot of emotional intelligence when he told me that he wanted me to tell the judge my story in my own voice with my own feelings. It was smart, strategic and very real; which I think went a long way toward making my case. Thanks for sharing my tweet with #GenFab.

  4. This is a fantastic story, and what a wonderful man your father is!! Smart, smart, smart and you learned some valuable lessons from him with this event.

    Happy Father’s Day to your dad!

    1. Thanks Jen. I have always wanted to share this story about him and the timing cause of Father’s Day couldn’t be better.

  5. What an amazing story, and a great reminder that staying fair and reasonable (and well documented) gets you further in your goals than trying to beat the system!

    1. Stephanie,
      That’s right. It really hit home to me that day how honorable my dad is and how he wanted to do the right thing by me.

  6. What a great story! Your dad not only taught you to fight for yourself, but he made sure that you learned what it is like to be fully supported and taken care of. He set the framework right there for what you would look for in a husband 🙂

    1. Jessica,
      You said it. That’s exactly right and my husband is someone who does the right thing, is protective and has loads of integrity.

  7. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this story! What an amazing father. He didn’t do the hard work for you, but rather stood by your side and supported you. He showed you that you could take care of yourself. What a fantastic tribute!

    1. Thanks Carrie for your insight. You are absolutely right; I appreciate you stopping by here.

  8. THAT is an amazing story. One of the best gifts parents can give us is perspective and it looks like your Father was overflowing with this gift.

    1. Thanks so much Dresden. I really appreciate your comment, and you are absolutely right; my dad was able to provide perspective and I think helped me see the bigger picture.

  9. WOW. What an awesome story! Justice, yes, but also careful planning, and knowing your Dad was there for you are also important lessons you learned through this. What a wonderful Dad you have – happy Father’s Day!

    1. Jene,
      You are absolutely right; I believe that success is when preparation is paired with opportunity.

  10. Wow, that’s amazing! What a great story, and how blessed you are to have a great dad.

    My dad is no longer with us, but he taught me some amazing things. When he was in his 50s, he was threatened and had awful things done to his property by some guys that were trying to get him out of the “pride” club he was forced to be a part of. He was honest and they didn’t like that. Eventually he left that job and started over as a building super in a new company, at that age. He never faulted; he just cared that his family was safe from threats.

    The new company was great, but a few months before full retirement in his 60s, the stress of having to start early worked on him, so he left that job, taking the hit in his pension but putting his health first.

    When he was in his 80s, my mom , whom he adored, got Alzheimers. He stood by her side day and night and took care of her until he physically no longer could, and that was many years later. He missed her desperately when he had to put her in a care center.

    I learned: always and & work with integrity because no one can take your dignity away if you do. Always take care of your health and your loved first, because no amount of money is worth it. And he was a great storyteller, a gift I hope I share.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Gina. Your dad sounds like he was a treasure and protective of his family. His lesson to you is a wonderful one.

  11. What a story and what a storyteller! I was riveted the whole time.

    But most of all — what a dad, what a man, and what a wise human being.

    Thanks for sharing this and honoring him this way.

    1. Thanks so much Jen for the compliment. I have lots of stories to tell, and this blog is such an important venue for them.

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