General Question

gemmasgma's avatar

My best "work friend" was promoted 6 months ago, and I was just terminated.

Asked by gemmasgma (254 points ) May 23rd, 2014

She is young, about 32 yrs old. This is her first management job. We had shared an office for 2 yrs. She never indicated to me that she was unsatisfied with my performance, in fact she hadn’t spoken with me much at all in the six months prior to the firing. I have been at this company for 22 yrs, and have always received good reviews.

When we shared an office, and we were “friends,” she shared personal information with me that, in retrospect, she probably wished she had not. I am not a gossip, and i would never have repeated anything she told me in confidence. I was genuinely happy for her when she was promoted, and I treated her with respect. I was never in consideration for the job, as I do not possess the level of education required for a management position, and I lack the desire to be a manager. I LOVED my job, and I was good at it.

I recently missed about 3 weeks of work because my mother, who lives in another state, was hospitalized, but this absence should have been protected under FMLA, and many employees have taken much more time off, and are still there. So I don’t think that was a factor.

I am bewildered. The reason she gave me is that I violated a company policy. I did NOT violate said policy, at least as it is written, but according to her interpretation, I did. That notwithstanding, this policy has been violated by at least a dozen people that I know of, and these people are all still there. Is it possible that she would fire me because she was worried that I might share her information?

Is it possible that a 32 yr old could not understand the devastating effect that being fired “for cause” would have on the life of a 52 yr old woman with a mortgage, and 2 kids in college? I don’t even qualify for unemployment. Unless I get another job immediately, I will lose my house. Why wouldn’t she just have asked me to transfer to another office if she simply didn’t want to see me? In the 2 yrs we spent in the same office, I never sensed that she was mean, or cold hearted, but when I asked her to explain the factors which she took into consideration she simply told me that the only factor she considered was “did you violate the policy or not.”

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23 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

You must be pretty upset. This totally sucks. Had you ever had a warning about what they fired you for? What was it that you did? I know you said many people do the same thing. You might have a law suit. You are a protected class, and if they are applying rules differently to than they are other people they might be vulnerable. However, cases of discrimination at work are rarely won, just so you know.

You should definitely apply for unemployment. The notice will be sent to the employer and it is up to them whether they deny it or not. Maybe they will let it slide.

Darth_Algar's avatar

I’d look into a wrongful termination suit if I were you.

jerv's avatar

Then she can prove it in court and prove that said policy is enforced equally.

josie's avatar

See above. You have all sorts of avenues of redress. Go ahead and pursue them.

gemmasgma's avatar

I am a telephone advice nurse, and i took a call from a patient that rents a room in my home. We are friendly, but it’s mostly a financial arrangement. We are not allowed to access medical records of “friends or others” for “personal purposes,” only to provide care. My entire job is to take patient calls and answer patient questions, which is exactly what I did for this patient, no more, no less. While not prohibited, caring for family members is frowned upon. This manager feels that because the patient and i share the same address, that she is “the equivalent of family”

chyna's avatar

Start with Human Resources and have all of your facts lined up and in front of you before you call them. You deserve a complete explanation of your termination, what this means in terms of unemployment, retirement, etc.
Also, this seems a bit odd if, as you say, others have used this FMLA and not been terminated. Your age and length of service could come into question and I would look into this as well, perhaps with an attorney. It will look bad on the company that with your years of service and age, you are closer to retirement benefits, that they chose you to fire.
Good luck and let us know how this all plays out.

JLeslie's avatar

@gemmasgma It doesn’t sound like you crossed a line, although it is sort of is skirting the line. Did you talk to HR? Don’t say to much if you choose to talk to them. Just present the facts and ask them to show you how you did something against policy. Make them defend themselves. Was HR present when you were fired?

The thing is, at this point, would you want to go back there?

filmfann's avatar

She may feel that, because you are friends, you are taking advantage.
She may feel that this violation is best addressed by firing someone she is friends with, to prove how fair she is.
Fight your dismissal in court. You will get your job back, and the violation will be clarified.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Seeming like family and being family are two different things. If that is what they are hanging their hat on, I say the wind could blow that hat off. I would point out to them this fact. If they insist on you losing your job, well…...if it is in the US, do as many when they need to get the attention of another’ lawyer up. I am sure there is a some prick of a whore lawyer out there that will see this as a cash cow of a case even if they settle to avoid losing big at a trial.

gemmasgma's avatar

JLeslie, I would never go back to that department, but I would like to go back to the company. I will take a huge pay cut starting over somewhere else. And my entire retirement strategy depended on receiving the defined benefit pension offered by the company.

gemmasgma's avatar

Filmfann, I think you gave a point. The general consensus among the staff was that she was not ready for this big of a job, and that it was inappropriate for her to be evaluating the work of nurses who trained and mentored her only 2 years ago. This manager has 50 people reporting to her. The written requirements call for a Masters degree, and she has a Baccalaureate. The job requires 10 years of nursing experience showing progressively increasing responsibilities. She has zero healthcare management experience, and has only been a nurse at all for 5 years. I have watched my colleagues be very nasty to her, just a but shy of insubordinate, and i have ached in my heart to see it. She has no clue about the number if times I challenged co – workers to be supportive instead of actively trying to sabotage her. She possesses many leadership qualities, and she is smart, but i don’t think she was prepared for the level of animosity she encountered. Imo, she fired me partially to establish a position of power, and as a “shot across the bow” to let the staff know she was willing to fire anyone, even “her best friend”

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

There was someone like that who was the boss lady at my work in her early thirties. She was just fine until her promotion. I think the “C” word is entirely justified in her case. Your story sounds familiar. I’d be talking to a lawyer if I were you.

GloPro's avatar

File for unemployment anyway.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It really floors me that your boss can be so nonchalant about what she did to you. If things are as you state, she has probably cost her company a BIG pile of money as well as considerable embarrassment and bad press, in which case it will almost certainly be her own job that vanishes. Follow the advice above, and don’t forget the labor board. Make some noise. I’m really curious to discover what actually prompted your firing. I’m wondering if she was told to let you go. Who filled in for you while you were gone?

JLeslie's avatar

She would have to do this with the approval of HR. Was there an HR person present? Unless the company is so small there is no real HR.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

It seems most likely that your friend was following orders from above.

Do you have a contract for employment or were you an at will employee? “If you are employed at will, your employer does not need good cause to fire you.”

Hundreds of thousands of companies have been firing older (more highly paid) employees so they can be replaced with younger, much lower paid employees. It sounds like you are unfortunately caught in the net of this insidious practice.

If this is the case, file for unemployment. If your company fights you, be sure to appeal.

As a side note, it is quite possible that this younger person is involved with someone in management.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I think you should obtain legal advice regarding your options. I don’t know what the legal situation is where you are but surely she would need to prove that you violated company protocols. If the rules do not specifically say you can’t give advice to someone who shares the same address, and you did not access the person’s records, it seems you have been very unfairly treated.

Surely she would have had to get advice from your HR department before terminating your employment?

I hope you can resolve this and I’m very sorry you’re having to go through this very stressful situation.

funkdaddy's avatar

I’m so sorry, this sucks and there are better ways for them to handle it. Obviously you know more about the situation than we do, but I would guess it has little to do with your performance or even your friend/manager. I’d guess her lack of justification and empathy tells you what you need to know.

You made more than the person who will come in and do the same job, probably due to small increases over a number of years. You may have made more than your friend even after her promotion. Someone reviewed a spreadsheet and you stood out.

Maybe those retirement benefits came into play as well, depending on how that is funded, and whether you were on the current plan or grandfathered into an old plan no longer available.

Everyone has some violation of company conduct, and so they found something and fired you. It sucks.

If you have a nursing license, usually there is a review or appeal process there so this doesn’t go on your record with the license. A number of experienced nurses were fired from the same department in one of our local hospitals. People were fired for things like estimating times on charts, which was inflated to be “falsifying records”. It was almost certainly a cost cutting measure, the hospital did not make much of a case when people tried to remove the “for cause” firing from their record, so it was much easier for everyone to find other jobs.

It sucks if numbers made this decision, but you can use that to get what you can out of the situation. Know they probably won’t do much to justify their actions if it’s cheaper not to. In fact, sending someone to your appeal, or fighting you on anything you decide to do will cost them money. Use that, your tenure, your past review record, and that same employee manual against them.

They have a number where procedure tells them it’s not worth their time to fight you. In your shoes, I’d be looking for that number, and trying to walk away with a clear record, some sort of severance/retirement/unemployment package that skirts that number. It’s not as satisfying as laying waste to people who have harmed you, but it lets you get on with your life.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Start looking for a job is all I can say. You might get something right away, then unemployment wouldn’t matter. You might want to talk to an attorney too; you need to talk to someone who is up to par in employment law.

gemmasgma's avatar

Update—I did appeal the decision on unemployment, and the company never bothered to show up for the hearing. In an unusual move, my lawyer asked the judge for a finding that no violation of company policy occurred, and this finding was indeed documented in the judges ruling which entitled me to receive unemployment back dated to my original filing date. I also filed a grievance with my union, SEIU, and although it took 5 months, I have been offered a reinstatement to an equivalent job ( my old job has been filled by another nurse). The company, however does not want to admit that they fired me in violation if my contract, and does not want to pay back wages. I’m torn, because I have not found a comparable job, salary wise, but I believe I would prevail at a wrongful termination lawsuit, since at least one judge has already agreed that I did not violate the company policy. Back wages add up to about 22K, which is probably less than they would pay an attorney to fight the wrongful termination lawsuit. On the other hand, an attorney is not interested in a case that won’t amount to a big settlement, which is fine, but I still would be out of a job (albeit with a big check). I also worry that they might only want to rehire me only to get a chance to build a better case for termination, and I could be fired again inside of a year. I’m not sure hat to do. I really want them to admit, in writing that I did nothing wrong, but both options (a settlement, or reinstatement) seem to come with the agreement that they don’t admit fault.

chyna's avatar

I’m glad some of it has worked out for you. My question would be: Do you really want to go back and work for people that treated you so badly in the first place?
Although since you haven’t found a new job, you have to take what you can to pay the bills and feed yourself.
Congratulations for sticking in there and standing up for yourself.

JLeslie's avatar

Overall, it sounds good. I am so glad the judge agreed with you. My gut feeling is don’t go back to the company, but as @chyna points out, we don’t know your financial situation.

I really understand the drive to want them to admit they fucked up, but pursuing that will probably only bring you misery. Let it be enough that the courts said it.

If you file a wrongful termination suit might they offer something to just settle the case and you would never have to go to court?

gemmasgma's avatar

A wrongful termination suit would more likely than not end up with an out of court settlement. My attorney will ask for the calculated difference in salary between my old job, and the prevailing wage for my skills and seniority for the remainder of my career, approximately $5 per hour for 2080 hrs per year for 17 years, which us just shy of 180k. Also, Although I have no idea how it would be calculated, one huge difference between any job I find in the future and my former job is the defined benefit pension I was entitled to. Everyone tells me that these types of pensions simply don’t happen anymore. I imagine that would be another 100k at least. I would also ask for compensation for my credit being utterly shredded, with a fico score going from 720 to somewhere in the 500’s. It will take a long time to get it back to 720. I’m not sure if pain and suffering factor in, but this incident has severely affected my relationships with my college age children. One dropped out of college, and the other dropped from full time to part time, because I was not able to pay for tuition for fall. I have been depressed, and in one very dark period, suicidal. Like everything else, I guess there’s somebody, somewhere, who can place a dollar figure on this.

Of course the attorney would get ⅓ of everything. Probably 40% because he would get ⅓ of the settlement, plus “expenses.“That’s a pretty large chunk.

This didn’t have to happen. They could have provided supervision and guidance to their new manager in the first place. I begged HR to have an experienced manager review the termination, and I was told my only recourse was the union grievance process, which was delayed on the part of the manager, and her manager (who has since then been terminated himself) at every step of the way. It’s a 3 step process with 14 day response times at each step per the contract, and they took a month or more to respond at every step. It took 5 months to wind its way back to HR instead of the 6 weeks it should have taken. If it had been resolved in 6 weeks, I would have been able to return to my previous job, because it would not have been taken by another nurse.

In me, they had an experienced, engaged, devoted employee, the type every company, including this one says it wants. But when it came right down to it, nobody really cared, and they didn’t seem to be willing to communicate with each other. I have no illusions that somebody finally looked at the facts, and said ” oh my, we made a mistake which affected our employee greatly, and we want to make it right.” All they really care about is the fact that if one judge found that no violation occurred, and they cannot prove that a violation occurred, they would lose a lawsuit, and they would lose more money in a lawsuit than by just re- hiring me. The more I think about it, I can’t really believe that they want to balk at the 22k.

I guess I’m just not done grieving the career I thought I had at a really cutting edge healthcare organization with a mission I fully believed in. I thought I mattered to them, and I just don’t. That being said, I’m not likely to be valued as an individual at any other company either.

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