Oh, Supergirl…

TW: workplace harassment


I don’t know what’s been worse for me – watching Supergirl and seeing Kara being bullied at work, or being told every time I bring it up and point it out in some fannish space that it’s not bullying, it’s a positive mentor relationship (or something).


Let’s get something straight – part of the problem is the people who don’t believe workplace harassment is a thing that happens, or that women don’t bully people, or whatever the excuse is. It happens. It’s a thing. Workplace bullying can cause PTSD.


SPOILERS for Supergirl up to the current US airing follow.

So Supergirl was fired, right? For breach of contract.

This is weird, because by saying that her publishing online was a breach of contract, they are not inferring the application of employment law to CatCo.

Supergirl is set in National City, which is a city roughly considered the equivalent of San Diego. Some people say LA. Both are in California, which means we can apply the California Labor Code to the situation.


2924. An employment for a specified term may be terminated at any time by the employer in case of any willful breach of duty by the employee in the course of his employment, or in case of his habitual neglect of his duty or continued incapacity to perform it.

Specified term means more than a month, so this is the section which would apply. By publishing under her own name not in a CatCo publication, Kara positioned herself as competition, therefore breaching her fiduciary duty to CatCo, which she has as an employee.

This would apply unless the employment contract states otherwise – we don’t see it, so we don’t know. I can’t, therefore, say definitively whether the situation was justified or handled legally. However, it would be highly unusual for Snapper to have unilateral control over Kara’s employment, since her contract was arranged with the company by Cat herself, and CatCo is definitely large enough to have an HR department – so they would know that giving Kara her notice like that and without paying her straight away for time worked… well.


CatCo, however, is also large enough to fall under California’s requirement to have staff undergo ongoing anti-bullying education. While only action against protected classes (e.g. discrimination, whistleblowing) is explicitly illegal, the existence of this requirement is an indication that the bullying kind of behaviour seen in the show is not okay. (Incidentally, I was surprised to see they have greater protections for community service and domestic violence leave than we do.)


But yet, people keep telling me that Cat calling Kara by the wrong name, that whole incident with firing her for breaking up with her boyfriend, the incident with the other secretary person and pitting them against each other (paying them differently was illegal, though) is a good example and Cat was such a great female mentor? And they had such a great relationship?


Uh-uh. We saw Kara visibly upset and stressed by the way she was treated. That makes it a harmful workplace. They’re supposed to be educated about how that’s not a good thing. And yet…


People generally tend towards seeing The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly as a not-good boss who caused Andy an unreasonable amount of stress through her also-unreasonable behaviour, but write it off as ‘but it’s good experience’, justify it by what was shown about Miranda’s home life, or ‘women have to be worse than men to get ahead’.


It’s characterised as justified until people, apparently, just don’t see it any more.


That’s how people end up like me -a victim of people not seeing until it’s too late, finding ways to justify it, writing it off. In a world where we’re talking about glass ceilings, we can’t afford to keep doing that. People can’t keep looking at Cat and call her a positive role model while dismissing that she deliberately set out to antagonise and destabilise Kara. People can’t keep dismissing complaints of bullying and harassment because they’re not discriminatory, or writing them off as a bad day or a personality clash or “women’s problems”. (I kid you not, that was why I couldn’t get any help from my old work until suddenly someone else was hurt. No need to wonder why I didn’t come out.)

Kara’s fine because she has an alien physiology which heals her.

The rest of us don’t. We can get PTSD, stress-related physical illnesses, burnout. We can be hurt.

Stop letting it happen.