State job offer rescinded after Groton native relocates from Florida

Groton native Sophia Butler, who has been residing in Florida and trying to cobble together a living with temporary and part-time work, thought she had finally landed a full-time job, with benefits, with the State of Connecticut.

Butler, 32, packed up her belongings and headed north from the Tampa area last week after receiving a phone call, and then an offer letter, from the Department of Social Services for a trainee position for which she had applied a year earlier.

She was scheduled to attend orientation on Oct. 27, but her hopes were dashed when, after 19 hours of driving, Butler hit the Merritt Parkway and received a phone call from the DSS personnel office. 

"She said, 'There's a mix-up,'" Butler said via phone. "She said there's no job, because I didn't interview. The point was, don't show up."  

Butler, polite and soft-spoken, is continuing to pursue a career "wherever the opportunity is." She said she thinks the agency could have used more empathy and that somebody from management should have spoken to her "face to face" about the mistake. She said she hopes that speaking out can help prevent the same thing from happening to others.

"I do not expect to get a job unfairly," Butler said in an email. "The issue is the state's lack of organization, even when there are checks and balances that should trigger the realization that an error is underway."

Department of Social Services spokesman David Dearborn declined to comment. Butler contacted state Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, who told Butler that she had spoken to Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby, who is looking into the matter.

Butler has a bachelor's degree in liberal studies from Southern Connecticut State University, with minors in public health, interpersonal and relational communication and psychology. She said she has taken a year's worth of courses toward a master's degree in human resources, but put it on pause due to financial reasons.

After applying for about a hundred jobs in Connecticut, Butler said she decided to try her luck in Florida and moved there in March 2017.

"I need a career," she said. "I'm not getting younger. I took the leap. If it's not going to happen in Connecticut, maybe it will happen in Florida."

She has been working at part-time and temporary jobs in the Sunshine State, most recently working as a receptionist at an architectural firm, working at a pizza place and doing captioning for the deaf/hearing impaired. She said she lived with a roommate to afford housing.

Butler received an email from the Department of Social Services on Oct. 12, asking her if she was interested in a one-year training position that would, if completed successfully, lead to a permanent position as an eligibility services worker.

She followed up the next day with a phone call, during which she said Kelly Geary, a DSS human resource specialist, offered her the job. She received an offer letter from Geary, dated Oct. 13, confirming her acceptance of the position with the department's Manchester office. It laid out her work schedule and salary — $1,696.17 biweekly, or just over $44,000 a year — and instructed her to show up at the department's central office for orientation on Oct. 27.

"Again, welcome to the Department of Social Services and congratulations," said the last paragraph of the letter. "I am confident that your assignment with the agency will be both challenging and rewarding."

Butler packed, raised money for a deposit on an apartment and headed north.

"The only reason I came back is that it was a state job, and I would be silly not to take them up on the offer," she said.

Butler provided the DSS with the names of references and information for a criminal background check. She has no criminal record, according to public records.

She left Florida on Oct. 25, two days before her scheduled orientation. When she got the phone call en route that there was no job, her grandfather advised her to go to the orientation the next morning. She said she went and, much to her surprise, was given an employment packet with her name on it. She said she met someone with the same last name and wondered if that could have led to the mistake. She told a facilitator about the call she had received and eventually was told, "Yes, there is no position, because you didn't interview."

"I said, 'I can interview now,'" Butler said. She was told no.

Butler said one of her references told her somebody called and asked for a reference for somebody with a different name. When the person asked if they were calling about Butler, the caller said yes.

"My reference said they attached my paperwork with someone else's," Butler said. "I was told something about a mix-up and that the names were similar."

Butler said she was told the state would send her a formal apology letter and she was welcome to apply for other openings.

On Thursday, she received via email a letter from Geary, the human resource specialist, dated Oct. 27, that said Butler hadn't had an interview and that her application had "missing components."

Butler said she was unaware of any "missing components" besides an interview.

k.florin@theday.com

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