Foundry worker Freda Whaley falls into early retirement

Patricia+Vigil+gives+Alfreda+%E2%80%9CFreda%E2%80%9D+Whaley%2C+a+residential+dining+employee%2C+the+Multicultural+Staff+and+Faculty+Network

Patricia Vigil gives Alfreda “Freda” Whaley, a residential dining employee, the Multicultural Staff and Faculty Network Award in the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom May 9, 2019. The Celebrate! Colorado State Awards focused on recognizing a wide variety of CSU faculty, staff and students for their service and many accomplishments. (Collegian file photo)

Samy Gentle, News Reporter

Freda Whaley had been working at Colorado State University since 1989. Most recently, she worked for Housing and Dining Services at The Foundry dining center. That was until Sept. 5, 2022, when she quite literally stumbled into early retirement.

Whaley was looking forward to eventual retirement. However, she chose to retire early due to university treatment following an injury suffered on the job.

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According to a CSU Police Department case report, a group of students forcefully removed two bollards in the area outside The Foundry Sept. 3, 2022.

Two days later, Whaley tripped and fell on a metal stud that had been exposed. This caused Whaley to seek treatment, but she was told it was not a workers’ compensation situation.

During her time at The Foundry, Whaley was appreciated by staff and students alike. She has been a recipient of the Everyday Hero Award from the university and appeared in articles and multiple @BarstoolCSU Instagram posts.

“Freda was an especially beloved member of the Housing and Dining team, and students and staff miss her,” a university spokesperson said. “She had a gift for creating relationships with students, whom she often greeted by name when she saw them in a dining hall.” 

Whaley did not feel this same support from CSU after her injury.

“The university did little or nothing for me,” Whaley said. “Nobody’s doing anything. No one. Even my supervisor didn’t even fill out my paperwork for me. He didn’t call me for 20 days. When he called me, he said, ‘Oh, you’re out of time.’”

According to the university, The Collegian‘s information is different from their accounts, but they cannot go into details due to privacy concerns. 

“I had a gaping hole in my knee,” Whaley said. “It took probably about eight weeks to heal, and it’s still scarred.”

Whaley said she then went to the CSU Workers’ Compensation team to attempt to receive an MRI for her injury, where she was then told multiple times that her case was not a workers’ compensation situation.

This treatment of her injury by the university was when Whaley opted for early retirement following a long history of poor treatment of employees.

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Whaley experienced and witnessed sexual harassment, prejudice and lack of compassion from authority figures during her time at CSU.

“This is what I know about the university: They do not protect women, they do not protect people of color, they are racist and they also violate federal labor laws,” she said.

According to the university, the institution does not discriminate based on any identity in its programs, admissions or employment.

“CSU is unaware of specifics that underlie Ms. Whaley’s claim, and to our knowledge, she has not filed a complaint of discrimination with the university,” a university spokesperson said. “If she believes that the university has acted in a discriminatory manner, CSU has policies and procedures designed to address such claims and requests that she notify CSU’s Office of Equal Opportunity regarding the specifics of her claim so that the university may review and address it.”

In regard to labor laws, Whaley said she felt Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards had been violated during the summer when the university shut off the water for maintenance in The Foundry, reducing potable water access for staff. However, OSHA does not apply to the university as it is a state institution.  

“The university occasionally suspends water service to buildings while it makes repairs to water lines,” a university spokesperson said. “Water must be shut off when water lines are being repaired. These interruptions are planned, and building occupants are notified about the outages.”

Whaley said she faced other difficulties over the winter as well.

Whaley said on a particularly snowy day during 2020, she could not come into work due to her route being snowed in. She said a letter from CSU Human Resources confirmed that the day was considered a “snow day,” and essential employees would still be paid even if they could not show up to work.

Whaley’s supervisor attempted to pressure her to come to work despite unsafe road conditions. Her supervisor said she would not get paid if she didn’t come in and she would instead have to use a sick day, Whaley said.

Whaley also claimed that workers were not getting to take breaks during the work day.

“I was speaking to both Steve Kelley, the chef, and to my supervisor, David, and I said something about breaks,” Whaley said. “And Steve said to me, ‘Freda, not everybody gets a break.'” 

According to the university, the guidelines that were in place during Whaley’s employment treated breaks as encouraged rather than mandated. 

“Dining Services tracks when employees do not receive a typical meal break so that they are paid for the extra time they worked in the rare case that a break was not possible,” a university spokesperson said. 

Whaley said since her retirement, she is in a better place and is enjoying a happier relationship with her family as she is no longer dealing with the stresses of work. However, she does miss a certain aspect of her old job from before her injury.

“I miss the students,” Whaley said. “I love the students, but because of what happened, I had to leave.”

Reach Samy Gentle at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @samy_gentle_.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to clarify that difficulties faced by Whaley in the winter did not involve OSHA standards.