Tuesday, June 14, 2005

What's Wrong With Big Business Today?

It’s been a busy day for my blog. Even before I posted the last few pictures and the post titled “Fathers, Sons and Family” I had, for the first time since I started this, exceeded 100 hits. I find that surprising only because it’s almost double the traffic I normally see for a day. What’s the reason? I have no idea. The last time I had a big spike in traffic it was because Chris mentioned me in Return to Happiness and linked here. I don’t see anything in the counter logs, so I don’t know what’s going on.

So, with that said, on to the real post.

I haven’t written a lot about the trouble my old company is giving me. First, I’ve heard rumors that they are going to try to fight my unemployment claim. I’m not sure exactly what their claim will be, but it sounds as though they are going to try to claim that because I was on probation for the first year (as are all new employees) that I’m not eligible.

I should be a little more specific here. It won’t be my company making the claim, it will be the company they hire to do it. I found this out today while on the phone with the man deciding my claim. It sounded like good news, however.

Another thing I’m not sure I’ve mentioned is how I was shorted quite a bit of money when they finally did end up paying me out. I called the company to find out why and was told that I had only been paid for five vacation days. This confused me because I had quite a bit more than that, but the woman said that I had lost a lot of it at the end of March. She said that the company has a “use it or lose it” policy. I wanted to say more, but I decided to go and do some research first.

I looked at the state laws on vacation time and payouts and found that the policy is permissible, but there are some requirements. First, the employee must know about the policy. This one’s so important that Massachusetts (my state) strongly encourages employers to have employees sign a statement for the company to keep, stating that they know the policy exists. Second, the employee must be given the opportunity to take the vacation time – they can’t prevent you from taking it and then take it away from you.

After reading this (and there’s more, but these two were what applied to me) I called again. Nobody answered the phones – I’d transfer back to the operator instead of waiting for voicemail and ask for them to try another extension, but I never got a live person. I thought this was strange, so I went ahead and left a message stating that I didn’t know about the policy and that I wanted a copy of the policy and any communications they sent me concerning losing my vacation time.

The next day I got a call from a different woman who told me that the policy was a company-wide policy “that everyone knew about”. She then tried to get off the phone hurriedly. I wouldn’t let her. I told her I had a couple of questions, at which point she tried to ask me to call back because she was on her way to a meeting, but I wouldn’t. I told her I didn’t know about the policy and that I knew of at least one other person in my district (a district is about 10 people managed by a District Manager) who didn’t know about the policy either. I told her that I wanted a copy of the policy and copies of any communications they had sent me regarding the whole issue, as well as an explanation of exactly how many days I’d lost at the end of March. She was NOT happy about this – clearly she had planned to get me off the phone quickly in hopes that I’d just give up. She told me she’d get it all together and send it to me.

That was four weeks ago this coming Thursday, and I’ve received absolutely nothing. I’ve called the Human Resources department several times since then and only once did somebody pick up the phone. The one time that the phone was answered was when I blocked my caller ID and called. The phone was picked up on the first ring. I was told that the woman in question was not in, and to call back. I don’t think so. Tomorrow I file a Wage Complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. That ought to at least rattle a few cages there. Especially when they have to explain why they haven’t provided me with any of the information they told me they would in support of their policy.

Another place they are playing games is with payment of expenses. When my District Manager sent me home, it was by taxi, and it cost $250 (yes, a $250 taxi ride!). At the time, my manager asked me if I would have a problem paying for it. He assured me he would send me a check to cover it the next day. As I’d never had a problem with him doing what he said he would do I agreed. It’s been about a month and a half and I’ve not received that $250. It’s also been almost a month since I submitted my last expense report and I’ve not received the money for that, either. After all is said and done with all of this they owe me over $2000, and I’m not in a position to be waiting for that.

I am usually a pretty nice person. I can get along with just about anybody and my ex-coworkers liked me as much as I liked them. I don’t normally complain about things and it takes a LOT to actually get me angry. One way to get me angry quickly is to play games with they money I need to support my son. If it were just me that would be one thing, but when I think about him I find myself understanding some of the extreme reactions people have in protecting their children. I will be a ruthless son of a bitch if I’m protecting him. If they don’t want to answer their phones in HR tomorrow, then I’ll start climbing the company ladder.

I was in the military for just under eight years. I got out, went to college and got my degree and went out into the civilian world to work. I’ve been shocked at the things companies will do to their employees. I was laid off at my last company last year with less than 12 hours notice. They played games also. I discovered after talking to some people in the department of labor that many companies will put just one barrier in front of you for whatever reason (like not paying you for the correct amount of vacation pay) in hopes that you’ll give up. They told me it works very well. I’ve seen one company that an ex-employee had to take to court just to get their paycheck out of. I’ve seen people who were fired for unbelievable reasons (one woman asked her manager (politely) to stop insulting her in front of her customers and was fired the next day for insubordination). My favorite thing that employers are pulling now is called “managing out”. Basically, the company decides they don’t want you working for them anymore, so they begin a campaign to make your life so incredibly difficult that you leave of your own volition. If they’re successful then they’ve managed to avoid having you apply for unemployment (which will raise the rates they pay for it) and they will most likely have a nice trail of “problems” documented to fight any legal action you might take. It works like a dream – I’ve seen it done several times, and read about a couple of court cases where the employees successfully sued the employer because of the practice.

So what is my point here? I have to think about that – I didn’t actually intend to start ranting here. I guess it’s that I’ve lost a lot of faith in big business in general and in those who support them (like the Republicans). I’m actually registered to vote as an Independent because there are things about both parties that I like and don’t like and I want to vote for who I think is best rather than for a party.

And so I announce that tomorrow I begin my fight against Big Business and their shenanigans with my pay. I’ve got a nice little rallying flag – a picture of my son. Hell, if I can deal with my STBX these guys will be easy.