Friday, November 11, 2011

Looking for career advice

So I mentioned a few weeks ago there was a chance I would be laid off. Well, thankfully I still have a job, but I have a problem as well, and I wanted to know if any of my fans/readers had any legal background, especially for employment matters....

I've had my job for quite a long time, and I like it, I enjoy it, and I believe I do a good job, I get all my tasks done, etc... - For the past several years, I have not gotten any kind of formal job feedback or review; no yearly performance review, nothing... I still got the typical raises everyone got, so I assumed that, since my boss wasn't giving me feedback, I must be doing OK.

Now I have a NEW boss, and he has said my performance is sub-standard and he has demoted me. He gave me a few reasons why he made this decision, but I don't agree with them, and even if I did, none of them are impossible to fix with a little guidance and mentoring (something I've never actually gotten here, sadly).

This is really stressing me out, and I feel like it could have a longer term impact on my career path if this demotion goes on my resume, etc... So what are the rules for this? I don't work for some mom and pop company, this is a large, publicly traded company, so I feel like this is violating my rights as a worker somehow, but I don't know enough about this stuff to really dig into it. Can anyone out there help? Is there some sort of rule about this I can look into?

And no, this has nothing to to with my wheelchair, I'm very certain about that.


  1. Is the new boss someone that you can talk to? Explain that you really want to improve and would appreciate the opportunity to learn?

  2. Does this new boss know of your lifestyle choices? You may want to gather any and all documentation from the company. If there is none, and you are dismissed, I think you have a reason for a lawsuit. I was in a similar situation with a Fortune 50 corporation. I was targeted for termination, as well as one superior and at least two of my peers. They were terminated within a three month span, and my boss made it clear to me that I was next by saying, "It's (my termination) going to happen". I left voluntarily and luckily found a better job within three months. Remember, anyone can be made to look like a bad employee, no matter how long they have been with a company(18 years in my case). All they have to do is make goals that are completely unattainable and say you are not meeting THEIR expectations. Please do what Ruth suggested, but also speak to an attorney so that you may better look after yourself.

  3. I don't know that there are any unions for your kind of work, but this is where having one can really be beneficial. Even if you aren't connected with one, they might know a few lawyers who do pro bono work, or some organizations that could help.

    In general, every union I've been connected with tends to be be very much on the side of advocating for the rights of employees regardless of what industry you're in. The I.W.W. is the first one that comes to mind as they tend to help anyone these days. I've worked with them before to try and help people who were getting seriously abused by their employers.

    Good luck.

    - rorschach

  4. If your state is an "at-will" state, you can be fired or demoted at your employer's whim, just cause or not. Hope it works out for you. If your superior has given you specifics, be cooperative and show that you're working on them—and keep track of it. At the very least, this will play in your favor in future proceedings, be they promotional or, in the worst case, in an application and hearing process for unemployment benefits (Hopefully it won't come to that.)
    Off the subject, I'm sorry you've gotten some derogatory communications from others after the article came out. I'm a straight white male, but I've been reading your work for years. I think your writing is exceptional and quite arousing. Don't let small-minded people wilt such a unique and beautiful flower.

  5. Contact your HR person, he fact that you have never been given a "Performance Review" is significant. If you aren't told what your goals and objectives are and the status of your progress/or deficiencies, then being told you're substandard, should elicit a response from you of; "...what standards"? Look in the Community Assistance section of your Yellowpages and find a Free Community Legal Assistance organization to give you some advice from a Labor Lawyer.

  6. Agreed! Find yourself a good legal adviser. Keep copious notes on the individual as well as others in the company who have been terminated, and why. Major corporations are terminating at an astounding rate these days in order to save money by any means. It may not be "YOU" he's going after, but rather the elimination of the position. And, in doing so, he's showing the company HIS worth to them at saving THEM money.
    Discover if your company is ISO 9000/ ISO 14000 certified. (Most large corps are.)If so, frivolous terminations go against those standards and can leave the company with a "black eye" in regards to their own qualifications. Other areas to search...see if your position falls under the rulings of LEAN. Keep detailed notes!!! as they will come in handy later. And IF this situation comes to fruition, just remember that with every door that's closed...another opens. Ask yourself, What else can I do that fits ME,my desires and lifestyle. And then start looking. Much luck to you as I'm in the same situation after 17 years.

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  8. Wow, what a cool and informative comment "Sure" made. I get tired of having to wade through the the vast troughs of spam that infest the Internet, but you have come through with an original well thought out post that not only helps me, but is also relevant to the original post. Thanks!

    - rorschach

  9. I work in the labor and employment law field. (Disclaimer: 1. I'm not a licensed lawyer in your state, so I can't give you advice, only general comments, and 2. this comment is worth exactly what you're paying me for it.)

    A couple points: one flippant, one serious. The flippant point is that if your boss took action against you because he thought you were disabled, you could, in theory, actually sue over it, because one of the protected classes under the Americans with Disabilities Act is people who are "regarded as" disabled.

    Amusing as this hypothetical is, it's of little practical help, partly because you say that the demotion has nothing to do with your wheelchair, but mostly because that suit would, with almost 100% certainty, result in you having to disclose your "status." Which brings me to my serious point.

    Legal remedies for people who are actually fired or otherwise suffer an adverse action based on poor performance (as opposed to it being a pretext for something like race or age discrimination, or anti-union animus) are extremely limited. An at-will employer doesn't have to be objective in assessing performance. It's a truism in the field that an employer can fire employees for any reason or for no reason at all, as long as the reason isn't one that's specifically prohibited.

    The one good thing about being fired for poor performance (as opposed to, say, chronic tardiness, or bringing a gun to work) is that you will probably qualify for unemployment benefits.

    One thing that you can legally do which might help is to discuss your situation with co-workers during breaks or lunchtime. That won't stop your employer from terminating you on "performance" grounds, but they cannot retaliate against you for discussing their HR practices with other employees in the hope of reforming them. (Extremely important exception: if you supervise other employees or you yourself work in the HR department, this may not apply. If you're not sure, contact your local National Labor Relations Board office and ask them to help you figure it out.) If others have similar grievances, you may be able to put together a petition or force a meeting with higher management, which is harder to ignore than a "lone complainer."

  10. Cathy--hope all is well in your life and work. We miss your updates!

  11. Hey there Cathy, just checking in to say hello and that I hope all is well. When you have a chance, please let us know if you're cool.

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  13. Can't believe it's been half a year since your last post. :( We miss you!!