To everyone else, If this happens to you, I implore you to get legal counsel ASAP, and keep it quiet. Find out all your options and strike a quiet deal with your employer. That is the best you'll ever get.
Almost any large company has much deeper pockets than you do and their reputation is more valuable that their ethics. You'll rarely win in the court of public opinion and you'll probably never get hired anywhere again. I say this even if you were 100% in the right.
By keeping it quiet, the company would be simply getting away with their unjust practices and unprofessional management.
If it's clear that the company cannot see that they are doing something wrong... you'd be keeping it quiet to get exactly what from them?
Don't be like this, don't corrode the commons for personal gain. By not speaking out you are endorsing a harmful asymmetry, make no mistake about your personal responsibility for perpetuating hostile norms.
Some other reason? Meh, it's just a job. But getting thrown into distress, financial or otherwise, warrants looking out for oneself (and family) first.
Choose your battles.
Calling for universal absolute behaviour from everyone is unkind, and, statistically not necessary for the outcomes you want.
Basically; it’s easy to say “call them out!” when it’s not you and youre not taking any risks.
Pretty nice and comfortable to sit in your armchair and say that…
I think there are a lot of people here to want someone else to do it, but aren’t willing to do it themselves.
I had a somewhat curious personal experience at Uber. I went to interview there circa 2016/2017 and got an offer but had to wait for a visa to come out. In the meantime, the Susan Fowler scandal exploded. The hiring manager reached out to me out of his own accord to express his own outrage and how he'd absolutely not tolerate toxic behavior within his area of reach, and that many others within the company shared that feeling.
Turns out he was right: the team I eventually joined was fantastic and indeed there was a very large part of the company that was deeply troubled (and often quite vocal!) about the growing accounts of harassment and injustices. Driven by pressure to get the house in order, this eventually culminated in hundreds of separate investigations, and various degrees of corrective actions (including firing several perpetrators)
Since then, I've heard my share of complaints about higher ups as well (being in a role that involves quite a bit of cross-department communication), so it's not like it's all rainbows and roses, but my main point is that if you ask the average joe in a company, they're often happy to be straightforward with you.
I'd be probably not be speaking about toxic behaviour with a hiring manager, during a high-stake hiring process. Maybe you wouldn't have either if it wasn't for her whistleblowing.
FWIW, I'm involved with hiring and have on occasion been asked by candidates about company culture (and in one case, specifically about the Fowler case). I try to be as candid and transparent as possible with these sorts of topics, because that just seems like the natural thing to do.
Just be careful so it can't be traced back to you. That can be pretty limiting, but it's better than nothing.
GP's statement has a lot of merit. Going on the attack against a well-resourced opponent should only be considered after long and deliberate consultation with legal counsel. Even if you don't involve an attorney, your opponent may/will. Attorneys are expensive and proceedings may take far longer than someone who believes themselves to be in the right may expect.
The system is imperfect, but it abstracts conflict to a higher and more-deliberate plane than bludgeoning one another with sticks or urging a mob to pick up torches.
You don't do this out of the goodness of your heart to inform other people how bad the company is, you do this purely to maximize the probability of receiving any sort of compensation from the company. Most people (?) would only consider this route if they genuinely feel that the company has egregiously wronged them, because it's a big, low-probability-of-success pain, and airing dirty laundry is easier and often more cathartic.
If you have already decided that informing other people is more important to you than a settlement (or have concluded that the effort is not worth your while), then fine, you've made a different decision, and perhaps the commons are better as a result. But if you decide to air the dirty laundry, you'll usually lose the ability to change your mind later.
That sounds like blackmail/extortion. I'm not a lawyer, but the first amendment should protect you pretty well from merely making truthful accusations, but once you threaten money in exchange for not making them it could be construed as a very serious crime.
Avoiding bad PR is one of the reasons most settlements have non-disparagement clauses, usually paired with a confidentiality clause that says you can't even talk about the settlement (and therefore you can't mention or imply the existence of the non-disparagement clause therein).
"Hey thought you should know, my 'security' company is currently for hire for businesses around town. We heard through the underground grapevine that a lot of folks may lose some product in their bodegas next month. Anyway, nice to introduce you to my 'security' business -- have a great month!"
If you revealed that your true intent was blackmail, and that's what this is, to your lawyer or anyone else then I imagine the intent in combination with the act is enough to nail you.
Give me money or I will tell the public that you did me wrong -> not extorsion
Give me money or I will tell the public that you did someone else wrong -> extorsion
I believe that the litmus test is whether you are entitled to a compensation or not.
Either can be defamation though.
In my previous classification it would be extorsion to say "pay me or I will add those things to my accusations" but not to say "pay me or I will drag you in the mud as much as possible", that is it would matter whether you keep them bundled together or not.
Why do you imagine non-disclosure agreements are standard after an out-of-court settlement? It's because "pay me or I'll badmouth you" is essentially always one of the implied threats.
You can call it blackmail if you want (and I'm being deliberately glib here, because I also think it's at least blackmail-esque), but your lawyer and the company's lawyer will absolutely understand that this is how things are done.
Also, this isn't an issue of a company doing something illegal or immoral. We are not talking slave labor or dumping toxic chemicals. This is an argument over compensation levels and therefore I don't think he owes the world his story for the cost of making himself a pariah.
Knowingly missrepresenting the working condition is exactly that: immoral.
INAL but is see no way this would damage his legal leverage... actually the opposite.
IANAL either, but I imagine posting this gives an opening for Atlassian to sue for slander and ruin the author by taking forever to debate minutiae of every sentence in the article - whereas if the author went after Atlassian directly, the case would be only about what the company did or did not do to them personally.
That's one quick police response. Regardless of the merits of the case, I'm scared of the headline itself.
Knowing that I have legally mandated sick leave with pay that covers me for some time has helped immensely while going through this ordeal. Not to mention all healthcare costs taken care of by the state (rather than via some weird golden handcuff scheme with my employer).
I simply can not imagine how vadly workers in the US are exposed when the unexpected happens (and it does, unexpectedly).
Also, even though most Europeans like to say what you said, the fact is still that, as a young healthy individual, the possibility of you even getting sick and needing to go to the doctor is actually incredibly slim. I haven’t visited the doctor except for the dentist in a few years but I’ve paid massive amounts into the German health care system, and I would still much prefer the American pay to the European social system. Maybe when you have a family the European way of life would have more appeal, but even then the system is somewhat collapsing as we speak, e.g. the horrible wait to get an appointment at NHS and also to some extent for the publicly insured Germans. I would still trust having resources at my own disposal instead of leaving my fate on a big, public system working the same for decades, which never happens in history.
I've also done this on yelp when I was working as a contractor when I should have been an employee. The company informed yelp I was an employee, so my review was removed (yelp only has a policy employees cannot leave reviews, they had no such policy for independent contractors at the time I left the review). This was doubly insulting because I tried to inform yelp the entire reason I left a review was because I _should_ have been an employee and not a contractor, and yelp informed me I was actually an employee so I could not use their platform!
I also disagree about it being a career ender to publicly reveal serious dishonesty in your employer. The company I work for now usually laughs when I talk about all the shit I've been through and spoken of ( I worked for two very dishonest companies, out of the dozen or so I've been with). If you work for honest people, then they have a vested interest in the dishonest being exposed (its good for their business).
Atlassian discriminates against parents – by not promoting someone right after they get back from a long parental leave.
Atlassian discriminates in hiring – because a candidate the author liked didn't get picked one time.
Atlassian discriminates on PTO – because the author was denied vacation time right after he got back from medical leave.
If you go to a lawyer they will ask for one solid, verifiable claim, not a dozen vague accusations or angry childish rants.
I've seen plenty of posts like this landing on HN over the years, and it's not always a given the accused party is in the wrong. While my first instinct is obviously to believe the author, I'm withholding judgement until more details are clear.
I keep in mind an old HN drama about AirBnB, I'll try to look up details and edit them in - but what I remember to this day is, there was an angry post vilifying AirBnB, the commenters believed it fully and became very angry. As I recall, pg himself jumped in to defend AirBnB, only to be booed out. I also recall being convinced the company is strongly in the wrong. Then it turned out the situation was entirely opposite, AirBnB was in the right. I felt really stupid for jumping the gun, not waiting for full story to come out.
(And then, of course, AirBnB turned out to be a socially destructive company, so I don't like them anyway - but for different, and better thought out reasons.)
EDIT2: The AirBnB story I refer to happened in 2011, when a blogger described an extremely bad experience with AirBnB, causing one hell of a shitstorm in general startup sphere (with plenty of big names and news outlets getting involved). There was way too much written about this on HN for me to find what was the resolution now - skimming quickly I'm no longer sure which side was proven to be guilty of what. But I do recall the feeling of first being so sure in outrage, and then ashamed after discovering the story is way more complicated than what it seemed at first.
Atlassian should have been more flexible given the circumstances (and maybe they were! The author didn't mention the leave of absence they took, but it's mentioned in their manager's email denying them taking "Vacay Your Way" right after getting back from a leave), but asking for 2 months of PTO all at once is a lot different than taking 9 weeks over 1.5 years. The author did not say they were denied taking any more than 10 days of PTO over that 1.5 years, they were pissed because they felt they were "accruing it" when they were, in fact, not.
This article should be read with a huge grain of salt.
They forget to mention (or I missed) the 30 odd days of “no questions asked” special leave we got over the past 2 years.
They also don’t mention how, by policy, small leave applications are approved, no questions asked.
I’m a current P5 SWE at Atlassian and whilst I agree that going from P5 to P6 tends to be difficult, I can’t say I’ve observed any of the other aspects mentioned in this post.
I personally have a larger frustration with there being too much time off as I actually enjoy the work I do
Neither invalidates the other, because a large company is perfectly capable of both at the same time.
I have no connection to Atlassian, but I've been "forced" to take time off, which I neither needed nor wanted. If I'm working a lot it means I'm enjoying it.
I have also taken quite a bit of PTO when needed by the way; I'm not afraid of doing so. But I don't really like the "one size fits all model" when it comes to this kind of stuff.
Can't you just not take the time off? If it's mandatory I'm sure you could still work while "off". Honestly I have an extremely hard time relating to this sentence.
For people leaving, accrued leave is something that the person could ask to be paid out in cash, or they can take the leave prior to quitting.
As an org grow larger and larger, they'd need to prepare for these to crunch together - and thus, by forcing leave, they can cap the amount of reserves (cash, and people to take over) they need. It's understandable, but of course, frustrates the employee.
Which... is fine? It should get harder and harder to climb the ladder the farther you climb, because -- especially as an individual contributor -- it's hard to increase your impact on the company more and more as you climb. And on the flip side, I see plenty of people getting promoted before they are really ready, and become ineffective -- and worse, counter-effective -- in their new role. Then they either languish, get fired, or get fed up and quit. Or worse, they stick around and make things more difficult for everyone else.
Or those "no question asked" is unpaid time off? But then it wouldn't make send because if you already have unlimited PTO why would anyone take unpaid TO.
A different manager can make a completely different experience in a single company. A rule of thumb when things blow out of proportion is that the manager is quite likely to have been a catalyst.
Even if it’s ill advised, and even if it’s likely to harm OP more financially, only a response as strong as this will make a them think twice about their policies.
What Rosa Parks did wasn’t advisable, but it was the right thing to do. The same can be said of many human rights activists. Not that this is comparable to those struggles, but we all have our part to play in creating a better world.
At least by exposing it publicly, the company is now forced to address the issue in front of... well everyone. And, other people can see if they've been screwed over as well. After decades and decades of employees trying to resolve matters internally and quietly, and just getting retribution, does anyone actually think being quiet is still the way to go?
I mean, that's how #metoo got started, by going public and getting people together to push back on corporate BS. Same applies here, and for all corporate issues.
No they don't. They'll just release a statement saying "to protect employee privacy, we don't comment on any employee's situation, but we will say that we are committed to treating our employees well and blah blah blah". It'll blow over after a few months, and everyone will forget it.
Here's a perfect illustration: You know that recent article that came out about Google not paying their temp employees fairly? Well were you aware of that problem before that article came out? If not, apparently full time Google employees weren't either and are now organizing to fix that.
It's win-win for employees to go public.
Maybe for people of privilege this plan works. But it's at the expense of others without.
This situation is a dispute over compensation (PTO), not an accusation of abuse. I stand by my premise that the best way to help his wife would be to further negotiate with Atlassian for unpaid time off w/med benefits or something similar.
All I see here is "cower and whimper like a kicked dog, roll over on your back and present your belly".
- (Quiet, Lawyer) Watch your target carefully and, when the opportunity presents itself, go for the throat
- (Publicly Yell) Bark loudly at your target with your teeth shown, so that everyone sees you, and the have no choice but to treat you like a rabid dog and put you down.
The problem is that people tell themselves this is what they're going to do and never follow through. It's the perfect way to do absolutely nothing and convince yourself it's the right thing to do.
Given the choice the offer made, the more likely outcome here is that Atlassian will give him nothing, and he'll suffer some hard-to-detect discrimination from other companies for the rest of his career. To use your analogy, he walked into a room full of sword-wielding wolves, stuck out his belly, and said "cut me, I dare you"... after which they said "sure", and disemboweled him.
Hitting them "hard" in a way that would be painful for them would be extremely unlikely in court. He hit them hard in a way that could actually impact their company's ability to retain and attract talented people. He also demonstrated some self respect in the process. I have to think that to many people that - combined with a giant megaphone for telling their story - is worth a lot more than a payout.
I've known people who transition to get a great new job, then pursue a pretty clean case (quietly) against their old company - often with pretty good results.
This demonstrates you have power of choice in your destiny (the opposite of cowering and whimpering) and it's practically much easier to job search while employed. And I've seen old managers let go, not because of the case per se but because they were losing staff.
This type of thing? There is going to be some sympathy for their manager having to manage someone like this (who does not sound very professional).
The case is also easy after you leave. You don't need the money as you have a new job, you don't need to keep your (old) job - you've already left. So it's simple, so and so kept trying to get one room for both of us while travelling, here are their nasty text messages, work environment was not healthy, would prefer not to litigate the issue. Done. Now you are really set.
It's clearly not in your (or any of our) interests to do this, as the obfuscation perpetuates these problems. So what is the motivation behind this kind of post?
This should have been a letter from his lawyer to his ex-employer, probably HR.
Considering this company directly interfered with his ability to care for his wife, it makes sense for him to write this.
It’s worth remembering humans are not entirely rational. The most rational thing would be for him to of simply quit when they weren’t treating him right.
I’ve done that a few times. And it’s worked very well for me.
IMHO, the actions taken by the author, while possibly noble, did nothing to further the benefit of his wife while potentially risking his future employment opportunities. I genuinely want he and his wife to have the best outcome and I just don't see how his actions achieve this goal - in both the short term and the long.
I would have asked for unpaid time off and for Atlassian to continue to pay my medical insurance. That would be a deal which I think could have been reached.
The risk of you becoming so popular that hr will remember your name and blacklist you everywhere is lower then you think.
Speaking out is freeing and healing. That may be part.
People are fed up being told “heres your options take it or leave it” first by slimy managers, then by people like you pretending to be the voice of reason.
The author was fired if you believe the title of the post, so it's way past asking for time off or insurance coverage.
I thoroughly disagree with both these points.
I guess the question is, is it the worst your employer will ever get? Sometimes, if you want to win, the opponent just has to lose more. It might not be a good strategy for improving your own life, but it might be a good strategy for doing as much damage as possible to the organization that has wronged you.
Personally, I generally feel that life is too short. But I think the more belligerent approach is probably better for society in general. If everybody went full Michael Kohlhaas when wronged, the world would be a much better place, and people that do so should be commended.
If I take what is written at face value, and assume it's true, I think it's pretty bad, but unfortunately not that remarkable or unusual. Unless he's holding back some damning evidence of actual law-breaking, I don't really see how Atlassian will be all that hurt by this.
I already wouldn't want to work for Atlassian because I think Jira and Confluence are the some of the worst products I have to use, and working on those would probably drive me to drink. Reading an unsubstantiated, biased account of their employment practices (practices which may not be "practices" but more an unfortunate one-off edge case) doesn't really move the needle much for me.
The four lawyers who would even talk to me basically said this:
Even if you have documentation, there's nothing stopping a company from producing an "HR file" that shows they tried to correct an employee's course, and the employee failed to meet expectations.
There are laws in some states where, if you ask, a company is required to send you all documentation they have about your employment. So I did, and was shocked at how out of sync their records were with reality.
What their records showed was a belligerent, reluctant, and untalented employee, one who was given many many warnings.
Which is not what my actual experience. I was routinely praised by my manager for exceeding expectations, had great relationships with everyone I worked with, could prove that my contributions made the company 3x more than they paid me, etc, etc.
But when struck with pancreatitis, they let me go. While I was in the hospital. Their reason: I didn't request the time off. As if that's a thing you do when you nearly die and are saved by emergency surgery.
TL;DR - it's easy to say "lawyer up", but in reality, much harder to fight than you think, even when you lawyer up.
The good news is I work for a company that doesn't just encourage people to use unlimited PTO, they will frequently pay for vacations for people who go above and beyond. Like, 5 star resort, airfare included for 10 days for up to 4 people.
When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, they said "do what you need to do", as I was his only caregiver. Feeling a bit cautious given past experiences I went on FMLA so that, should things go bad, at least I'd taken the correct legal steps. After being away for two months, when I got back they said "we have unlimited PTO, so we let you use 5 days of FMLA just so it's official, but paid the rest. Welcome back." So, in a way, the first company described did me a favor, since I wouldn't be at my current company had they not fired me.
It was worth every penny I didn't get by telling them I wouldn't sign the severance agreement.
I considered naming my current company but didn't want to be called out for promoting it. If that comes across as a humble brag to you, I can live with that.
If I'm misinterpreting what you're trying to say I'd encourage you to make it easy for me to understand.
To save other foreigners, googling tells me:
1) FMLA: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave per year.
2) PTO is paid time off.
Upvoting because I think it's important to talk about this, not because I agree.
Appreciate everyone else's responses around this being a dark pattern where "bad publicity" gets paid off.
How do we incentivize companies to hire people like this? How do as I founder say "I want people like this so that our company is strong, not weak like Shitlassian?"
Is there a role for more anonymity on the internet?
The whole thing seemed very responsible. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a secret thing, but IDK, some things just work like they say.
I can’t see it coming up in a background check, since I get the results and a chance to defend myself, but who knows? If / when I got “filtered”, it would probably be later in the process. At some point, we did talk about past employers and why you left… really seem to remember nothing until an offer was extended.
I was actually quite surprised by how responsible they were (at a surface level at least).
Employers want to keep things as quiet as possible and will settle and stay out of court even if your chances are very slim because a one time payout is cheaper than gathering evidence, assembling lawyers, sapping admin time, etc. Unless you go big and then they will take you to court and most likely you’ll lose because you don’t have lawyers on retainer nor the bank.
Then, even if you win, now you’re persona non grata for most HR departments because typically only particular personalities will take on a company and the chances of you being unpredictable are calculated to have gone up. So make sure it’s a retirement payout as your chances for employment went down.
So, unless it’s something egregious and utterly wrong, take your losses and walk away with a quiet settlement.
It's not right, but that's just how things are.
No, you'll never get hired anywhere again with companies that employ the same tactics. Ideally you've just developed an uber-filter to get rid of all the terrible companies in one go.
This approach always makes you feel better the second you press "publish" in the post, but regret will seep in every day thereafter.
Appreciate everyone else's responses around this being a dark pattern where "pad publicity" gets paid off.
How is that? I would hire them. Maybe the people who won't hire someone who spoke out against an employer are not the ones worth working for.
I think this is wrong... Likely you could win in public opinion. It will not matter much though because
>>you'll probably never get hired anywhere again.
This is likely true. Winning in Public Opinion will not amount to much when you are homeless and hungry
>>I implore you to get legal counsel ASAP, and keep it quiet. Find out all your options
Which will likely amount of little to nothing... Even if you sue likely the legal fees will eat up much of the award. As with most legal battles the only people that win is the lawyers.
He may have disqualified himself from employers looking for single 20-somethings with a complete devotion to work, but there are managers in the world who are going to understand what he and his wife have gone through. Especially after this last year, we're going to have to understand that some of our coworkers have publicly expressed their pain before.
Perhaps a future employer will include a non-disparagement clause but I'd be surprised if he didn't find a new role that was better suited to his new life circumstances.
I admire what this guy is doing.
Fuck that noise.
They're already well-known as a crappy company.
If you’re a white male the lawyer will politely tell you no thanks because you’ll never get punitive damages. Why does that matter you ask? Well ordinarily wrongful termination is only subject to actual damages. So if you get another job in a month you can get at most one month’s pay in damages. But wait it gets better! If you can’t find another job because you’re not able to perform those job duties, say because you’re caring for a sick loved one, then the court will deem that your actual damages are zero. Obviously no lawyer wants even a great shot at winning 30% of nothing on contingency.
The only exception would be if you’re in a jurisdiction with juries that are exceptionally sympathetic to the plights of white men and will vote for punitive damages large enough to make it worth a lawyer’s time.
In any event the consult is free so by all means talk to a lawyer, but realistically you’ll get better results by just asking nicely for a separation package.