Caitlin Nelson's frustration peaked as her physician's advice bounced around the exam room: Nelson and her husband should look into donor eggs or adoption. For the 35-year-old Austin resident, the moment catalyzed Nelson to tackle infertility head on.
"It was hard," Nelson said in an interview. She and her husband miscarried and tried in vitro fertilization, IVF, four times before having a successful pregnancy.
According to the international journal Fertility and Sterility, one in six couples are affected by infertility. Despite the commonness of infertility, some say there is a stigma around talking about it. Families often have a hard time finding useful resources and a supportive community.
As Nelson researched her options, she consulted her coworker Emily Ellis, with whom she had a close relationship. Ellis, a 34-year-old Maryland resident, said that she had similarly found the process challenging.
"Should we just build something?" Nelson asked Ellis. In May, 2018, the two began to write a business plan for an app.
Two years later in November 2020, they launched Posy Fertility. The app contains infertility resources, community discussion boards and a scheduling component to keep track of ovulation, medication and more.
Nelson and Ellis have sought to do the research for app users by partnering with fertility experts like Fertility Within Reach, a nonprofit dedicated to improving access to fertility treatment and preservation.
"There needs to be resources that empower people to get the information that can help them ask the right questions of their doctors and nurses," said Davina Fankhauser, executive director of Fertility Within Reach.
Misty Reed, owner of Austin Acupuncture Studio, has used traditional Chinese medicine to help Austin families with fertility for over a decade.
She found that some people found shame in discussing infertility. The shame dissipates when families, and women in particular, discover that other people around them struggle with the same issue, she said.
"It's so sad. It's all compounding the issue of not enough communication," Reed added.
Some see slow improvement in the openness of discussing fertility. Dr. Nicole Noyes, system chief for reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Northwell Health in New York, said the stigma has faded during her almost 30 years of practice. However, she often sees her patients turn to the Internet to help inform their decisions and keep track of their ovulation cycle.
Emily Ellis and Caitlin Nelson
"Women are incredibly resourceful," Noyes added.
Nelson and Ellis now have toddlers, meaning they juggled childcare amid a pandemic and their current jobs while launching the app.
The pair's successful pregnancies further motivated them to ensure families experiencing problems with their fertility have access to the resources they need.
"The app launch has been a huge creative relief for me in one of the most challenging years of my life," Nelson said. "I'm excited to bridge the communication gap and remove the stigma around talking about infertility."
It's been a few weeks since a viral TikTok revealed poor working conditions at the Montopolis Dollar Tree in southeast Austin, and employee Maggie Lopez is still feeling its effects.
Lopez was filmed working alone at the location May 1 in a since-deleted video that saw 2.9 million views and over 450,000 likes.
In the video, stacked boxes littered the floor, shelves were left unstocked and a leaky, broken air conditioning unit welcomed customers into the understaffed storefront.
@trishmartinez32#x_bazan06#fyp#fypシ#tiktok#friends#like#comment#4upage#4u#share#viralvideo#trending#wow#4upageシ♬ original sound - Patricia Martinez
Lopez, who now works at the dollar store's Springdale location, says she was left with the aftermath of a 90-hour workweek, lost wages and a mystery illness after the store closed a few days later.
"Nobody ever told me... that there was no air conditioning. They didn't tell me there was danger of getting robbed," Lopez told Austonia. "Nobody said anything... they didn't care."
The location didn't shut its doors because of the TikTok exposure: instead, an AC unit specialist doing routine maintenance found employees working in extreme heat and said it was too hot for employees to continue working.
"To operate a business, you have to have your temperature within a certain parameter," Ikaika, the specialist who didn't disclose his full name to protect his job, told Austonia. "As soon as you walk in, you start sweating... it's not good at all."
Lopez said working in 90+ degree heat became the norm in her two months at the location as air conditioning units remained broken for months before the closure. She added some employees, including her former manager and several customers, passed out in the store due to the heat. But she said company leadership remained unresponsive.
Lopez said she sent her district manager, Veronica Oyervides, screenshots of 90+ degree temperatures inside the store. (Maggie Lopez)
Four days after the air conditioning repairman told employees they should no longer keep working at the store, Lopez said her district manager, Veronica Oyervides, was asking her to come back in to prep the location for reopening. Lopez worked May 8 in the shuttered store prepping it for a reopening, which has yet to happen. Oyervides has declined to comment.
Ever since she started working in the deteriorating Dollar Tree, Lopez said she often wakes up with nosebleeds. She said she's constantly thirsty, her hands shake, and she's experiencing headaches and mood swings—symptoms she believes are due to long-term exposure to mold.
Former assistant manager Linnea Bradley told Austonia she has been hospitalized with symptoms linked to heat and stress after working at the store.
"We are sick and corporate does not give a shit," Lopez said. "What kind of damage did these stupid units do to our bodies?"
Lopez hasn't sought care for her symptoms. She says she makes $13.50 an hour and doesn't have health insurance.
Former employees have more complaints than just the heat: Lopez said that personal safety became a concern in the understaffed store. Catherine, a former employee who wished to only reveal her first name, said she's witnessed large-scale theft and instances of mismanagement in her months as a stocker at the location.
"They have no security, no cameras... they don't want you to have anything in writing," Catherine told Austonia. "It's just complete chaos."
Catherine said that she and other hourly employees were given zero hours for weeks on end as managers, who work on salary, were left to run the store alone from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. She said some managers became so desperate they were hiring homeless people to help stock shelves in exchange for a drink and a bite to eat.
While Catherine (top, middle) often had zero-hour weekly schedules, Martinez, who was paid on salary, worked back-to-back 90-hour workweeks. (Catherine) (Claire Partain)
"They actually did have people willing to work, they just refused to give them hours," Catherine said. "I'm not understanding whether Dollar Tree wants to go under... are they doing this as a tax break?"
Other Austin Dollar Tree locations have reported similar issues. Former manager Jonathan Martinez, who says he was supposed to work 45 hours a week, says he was racking up 90+ hour workweeks and sleeping in the store as he shouldered both the Montopolis and William Cannon locations while his newborn baby was in the ICU in March.
Martinez kept extra clothes in this office after working seven-day weeks at two Dollar Tree locations. (Claire Partain)
Martinez said he slept on boxes as he juggled the job and visiting his newborn in the ICU. (Claire Partain)
Martinez said he slept on boxes as he juggled the job and visiting his newborn in the ICU. (Claire Partain)
"As long as the store stays open, there are corporate people getting bonuses," Martinez, who quit last week after receiving a $100 annual bonus, told Austonia. "Six months ago, when corporate people had a shitload of bonuses, that's when they upped the price (of everything in the store from $1 to $1.25)."
In the six months since Dollar Tree hiked its prices to $1.25, it's gained plenty of mostly negative national attention. In February, the Food and Drug Administration shut down an Arkansas distribution plant due to a massive rodent infestation, and several lawsuits have ensued. The company has also come under fire for selling allegedly expired over-the-counter medicine and its worker shortage at locations across the country.
One employee, who still works for Dollar Tree and wished to remain anonymous, said that they've seen or heard that many area locations are near their breaking point.
"I've seen the good, the bad, the bad to worse," they said. "And it's always a rinse repeat kind of thing... How many more (stores) will go? And what about the employees?"
"Every time I would tell (Oyervides) 'I'm just going to close, I can't stand it anymore,' she would say, 'No, no, no,'" Lopez said. "And I'd be so upset because why? They have my paycheck. It's just been mortifying... the most horrible year of my life."
Dollar Tree's regional director did not respond to requests for comment from Austonia.
- JuiceLand responds to workers strike with wage increase - austonia ›
- JuiceLand workers demand higher wages amid pandemic - austonia ›
- Workers for Austin pizza chain Via 313 stage a protest for sick pay ... ›
- After viral TikTok, an Austin Dollar Tree closes with just one ... ›
The claim came from a flight attendant who worked as a cabin crew member on a contract basis for the company’s corporate jet fleet. Insider reports that she accused Musk of exposing his erect penis to her, rubbing her leg without consent and offering to buy her a horse in exchange for an erotic massage.
The alleged 2016 incident is described in a declaration signed by a friend of the worker and prepared in support of the claim.
The misconduct happened during a flight to London when Musk allegedly asked the attendant to come to his room for a full body massage. When she arrived, Musk was naked except for a sheet covering the lower half of his body. Later on, Musk touched her and said he’d buy her a horse if she would “do more,” Insider reports the declaration saying. She declined and continued the massage.
Shortly after, the friend says the attendant told her about it and was “visibly shaken.”
In 2018, the attendant reportedly felt that by declining Musk’s proposal, her opportunities at SpaceX were diminished.
She hired a California employment lawyer and sent a complaint to the company’s human resources department. The complaint was resolved after a mediator session when SpaceX, Musk and the attendant entered into a severance agreement where the attendant received $250,000 for promising not to sue over the claims.
It also included non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses barring the attendant from discussing the payment or disclosing information about Musk and his businesses. The attendant declined to comment for Insider’s story.
Musk is currently in a bid to acquire Twitter. Today, he posted that Insider published the story to interfere with the deal.
SpaceX is headquartered in California and has key operations in South Texas with Starbase, a rocket production facility and test site.
The company has previously seen allegations of sexual harassment with four women speaking out in December last year. And at Tesla, where Musk is also CEO and recently celebrated the grand opening of Giga Texas in southeast Travis County, at least six women have sued the company, alleging sexual harassment.
- Elon Musk challenges the Kremlin to a fight on Twitter - austonia ›
- Elon Musk reportedly bringing new Australian actress girlfriend to ... ›
- A man near Austin offers land for Elon Musk to move Twitter - austonia ›
- Elon Musk attends Charro Days festivities in South Texas - austonia ›
- Elon Musk announces April 7 grand opening party for Giga Texas ... ›
- What billionaires like Elon Musk look for in Austin real estate - austonia ›
- Elon Musk says rumors about his travel are a security issue - austonia ›
- Grimes reveals secret baby, a daughter, with Elon Musk - austonia ›