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I'm a former Miso engineer and the founders screwed me out of 10k (jzhwu.blogspot.com)
488 points by rremoncake on May 10, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 370 comments

First step after an employer says no to paying you money owed should ALWAYS be a letter on dead tree saying exactly what your email said, signed by your lawyer. You'll come out $9,700 ahead because folks understand that fobbing off lawyers has consequences.

Your lawyer would have printed out email #2 ("You nuked a DB. Screw you."), called it a pretext to deny you rightfully earned wages, and told the company to have their legal representative suit up because he'd be happy to take his chances with any judge in the state. (Edit to add: Technically, that is a couple of increasingly pointy $300-a-page letters later in the sequence, but the threat of it is implicit from the first time he signs his name with Esquire.) A check would shortly arrive in his mail.

People generally think "well, if I take it to court, I'll never see the money anyway." They're right...but 98% of these cases never get in front of a judge. A few well-placed letters (with quotes from your emails) and an actual filing will generally get you most, if not all, of whatever you're asking for (if you're in the right).

Legal action is expensive for everyone, so most companies threatened with it will just send a check in the mail with a contract saying "don't sue us again." Any smart businessperson will check emotions at the door and do what's best for the company.

The exception to this is if someone at the company does take it personally and actually decides to fight it, in which case you then cut your losses and move on...but never roll over without at least getting your lawyer to write up a letter saying "fuck you, pay me."

I understand it's emotionally nerve racking to be involved in litigation, but as someone who has been involved in a few lawsuits, it's very worth it to your wallet and self-esteem if you don't just shrug your shoulders and say "gee, it's only $10K."

The point about illegal retribution is really good. Notice how email #3 walked it right back and came up with an entirely different argument. They knew they screwed up.

Yep. More to the point, when a letter from a lawyer comes in, they're going to ask their lawyer for his opinion, and he is going to say "#$()! Why did you send that!?! That drastically complicates things for me. Just pay the kid or we're going to run up quite the bill fighting him and may yet lose."

(If you don't understand why that email is radioactive, here is a joking-but-not-really exhaustive list of things US courts will find as being sufficient reason for denying employees earned wages: )

Did you forget a link?

His point is that there are no valid reasons to deny an employee earned wages.

It's an empty list.

This is great advice.

I just wanted to make the typical legal fees clear to keep things realistic. I'm not sure if it's the same with this type of case, but for personal injury claims, the typical lawyer contract entitles the attorney to 1/3 of the dollars won plus fees.

Of course, 2/3 of 10k is still > 0.

Lawyers typically work personal injury on a contingency basis because they have a high percentage win ratio and because, all things being equal, the person injured is likely to be poor. There may well be lawyers who take employment law cases on a contingency basis, but there will also be ones who simply hire out their services in formal letterwriting on an hourly basis, broken down into six minute increments. That is, overwhelmingly, the most common billing arrangement in the profession. You might even find a lawyer willing to do that and defer the payment until after the check had been received, but I do not anticipate the legal bill here being a prohibitive amount of money for an American professional.

"Of course, 2/3 of 10k is still > 0."

Depends on the language.

Thank you for posting this. As a community of entrepreneurs and hackers it helps all of us know what happens behind the scenes. Some people may view it as airing their dirty laundry but I see it as a way to keep people honest.

The fact that you dropped the production database sucks. However you stayed around and fixed it. I can't really say anything more. My bet is we all handle lots of sensitive data around here. Our worst nightmare is to drop that data by accident. Stuff happens...fix it and move on.

I understand we are a litigious society but if your knee jerk reaction is to bring in lawyers something is wrong. My hope is this post will make it around to Somrat and Tim (I've never met either of them) and you two will resolve it amicably. Maybe I am delusional but good character still counts for something.

Based on the post, it doesn't sound like he stuck around and fixed it.

To set the record straight I stuck around to fix it.

What did you end up doing in the end once you made the mistake? As in, what did you do to help?

Irrelevant, and completely inappropriate for you to ask. The article writer disclosed that something bad happened for which he is to blame, which is a good thing ethically. He has no duty to tell a complete stranger what happened. Not only that, if he does then he may disclose confidential information.

Bottom line: don't answer this question.

Unless you're just generally curious of the company's internal process the details of his action/inaction to resolve a DB issue are completely unrelated to the dispute on wage.

I disagree. Handling things professionally and keeping people honest are two different things.

There is no "service to the SV community" that this guy is doing by airing dirty laundry. If you've been wronged by your former company, handle it on your own. Shaming the company is not going to help you, the company, or anyone else. What you're effectively suggesting is that your "service" is to warn everyone to stay away from Miso.

Unfortunately, as a hiring manager, I'm going to stay away from you. While I wholeheartedly agree that you should have gotten your $10K referral bonus, I also believe it should have been while you were still an employee there. Once you leave, you're not entitled to anything more from the company.

I argue that if he didn't do it -- it would be a dis-service to the community. I look at it like if it were simple assault involving you and an assailant. Since you were not really injured you decide not to press charges against them.

Let's say the assailant does this again in the future -- hurting somebody marginally. And they do press charges.

To the court this looks like a first offense and they let the assailant off gently.

Now suppose the assailant attacks again and this time causes significant injuries.

Had you originally reported your attack, then it is reasonable that the court would see a second minor attack more seriously and could bring more severe charges, deterring the assailant from subsequent assaults and improving the not only the assailant's life, but also the community (as a whole).

This is a specific instance of the more data a deciding entity has, the better chances their making the right choice.

I agree with your central theme that more data is better. That's why as I suggested, he should have handled it on his own and taken legal action against them, so that there was a clear legal record of such behavior by Miso.

Whether or not he should have taken legal action against them, the important thing is to get the data out on a wide public forum like HN. Information benefits us when it's widely distributed, not when it's only confined to a private lawsuit.

> Once you leave, you're not entitled to anything more from the company.

Can you explain how this works, exactly? How does quitting one's job wipe clean any debt from the company to the now-former employee? Can they refuse to send him his last paycheck too?

No they cannot refuse to send him his last paycheck.

I can't speak for the paperwork involved when leaving Miso, but most companies make you sign an agreement (often in the exit interview) that you are not entitled to/owed anything more than X, Y, Z items that are explicitly stated (which usually included the last paycheck and any unpaid vacation days).

Huh. Why would anyone sign such a thing?

Usual practice in most companies. It protects them from exactly these sorts of things.

Most companies that have this agreement in place also have a similar agreement when joining the company that if you forego signing the exit agreement, you forego any outstanding debts owed to you by the company.

Can an agreement signed when you start working really erase debt from agreement made after you started working? Seems like the second one would take precedence there.

There's also the question of labor laws. I bet this is considered wages under the law and probably impossible to sign away.

So, basically, the company can dictate the exact debts in its exit agreement? And if you disagree, you forego all claims anyway?

This sounds a bit illogical, but I'm not a lawyer. Another poster said it wasn't the practice at all in his years of experience, so maybe your experience does not generalize well.

You're also making an assumption that such a contract was made in this case - and it clearly wasn't, since the Miso people acknowledged their mistake here. So the guy absolutely deserves the bonus payout, even if he didn't submit the administrative form to claim it while he was still there.

Funny how everybody on the employer's side likes to grab hypothetical agreements and contracts out of thin air.

Wow this is a super horrible post.

Stop calling it a bonus, it isn't, it's payment for your services of recruitment. The offer came as part of a written agreement from an officer of the company in relation to the duties required by employees (adding the optional duty of recruitment) and their remuneration for performing said services (your payment for recruitment). Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck.

Bonuses are when you receive additional pay for performing your required duties as an employee. eg. you were hired as a programmer, you've doing great work, here's an extra 10K.

Not only did they fail to pay your wages within X days of termination, an egregious violation of the labour code but now they are misrepresenting the employment agreement as not including written amendments made by officers of the company.

Furthermore this policy they speak of has altered the employment agreement with out consent from the employed, and failure to disclose the policy at the time the offer was made constitutes negligent misrepresentation of the contract. I'm sure if you had known that you would have only received payment while still an employee, the offer would not have induced you to perform said services for the company. Failure to inform employees of changes to the employment agreement is also likely a violation of labour law.

File with your local labour board for unpaid wages, dealing with this should cost them easily more than $10K. The last thing they want is bureaucrats around their business.

Then file in small claims court for lost wages and breach of contract.

Attach the directors of the corporation personally to the suit as directors are liable for unpaid wages. (This may not be true in your jurisdiction)

Find the statute that says that all unpaid wages must be paid within X days of quitting / termination, add damages.

Add up all your time spend dealing with the recovery of this money, as well as reporting this to the authorities, add costs.

Hopefully after this you've reached the max allowable for a small claims suit.

I am not a lawyer, this isn't legal advice.

For not being a lawyer, this is an awesome reply.

I've probably missed a bunch of stuff, a real lawyer would have no problem getting that $10K with a letter. They fucked up big time by tying it to the db deletion.

i really liked this response. your last sentence about your legal advice is priceless ;) i did not know all these options were available either, so thanks!

It actually /is/ a bonus – because you're already employed, and salaried, there's no obligation for your employeer to pay you more for services rendered. I'm no lawyer either, but Google seems to think "Referral Bonus" is a common thing.

Then they should stop creating an expectation of pay in relation to the referral and make it clear that the company pays these in capricious manner which will depend on how much the CEO likes you that day instead of relating it to the performance of your job.

If the CEO sent an email about new "Capricious and Arbitrary Referral Bonus" then I'd tend to agree with you that the OP should have expected to be treated in a capricious and arbitrary manner in regard to the payment of the bonus.

For example in my options contract with my last employer it stated that the options were part of an employee retention program and should not be construed as remuneration.

After reading those lines I knew the options were a ploy to retain employees and not to actually expect to make a cent from the options. Upon quitting and being offered to buy out my options I said "The options contract states that it's for retention and not remuneration, why would I buy something that you've warranted as worthless?"

It's no different than an employer offering a 'bonus' for hitting a certain date for code. If I quit day after delivery it should make no difference as to whether I'm paid.

Following that logic, a sales guy get paid with the minimum wage should not be paid with his sales commission and bonus for his additional service in getting additional sales.


I had someone not pay me $9k, and have filed a lawsuit. We're closing in on 4 years now (aug 2008) and still no court date. Courts take time.

I wrestled with 'name and shame', and in some respect, wish I had named. I found out that this company/person had done this to others, and one of the guys 'named' him publicly on a blog. He got a threatening call, telling him to take it down and he'd get paid. Of course, he took it down and didn't get paid - that was < $1k from what I remember.

I hear this a lot - "don't go public with these sorts of things, you'll get a bad reputation, blah blah blah". I'm really torn. I get it, but... if more people started doing this - going public when BS like this is perpetrated - there'd be far less resistance to hiring/contracting with people who have air this sort of stuff.

I've been self-employed for 5 years, have contracted on dozens of projects, and have 2 instances where I got shafted out of money owed. If I was to publicize those, but also have, say 25 other projects under my belt with fine referrals, wouldn't that say more about the 2 shafters vs me? And again, if everyone was doing this, it would seem a lot more normal.

Yeah, if I publicly trashed every company I worked with, my 'trashing score' would be pretty high, and people would want to stay away from me. But really, I'd prefer people know that I publicly praise good clients and trash bad ones, and if they think they're going to be a bad client, to not bother reaching out. I'd rather there be a filter there which keeps crap clients away in the first place.

The thing is, we all have to start doing this at the same time. I do agree that legal proceedings are worthwhile in some cases, in many cases, people are getting shafted out of hundreds or thousands, and it's often not worth the time to 'go legal'. The habitual scumbags know this and take advantage of it, continually rolling through contractors. They know most of them will just leave and won't make a public fuss, because they want to be 'employable' and not be known as a 'troublemaker'. Someone who doesn't pay me for contractual work done is the troublemaker, but somehow that seems to get lost.

Thanks for sharing your personal experience with this, I've also been through similar things.

On the "take it down and he'd get paid" issue, one has to be very careful. There have been a few news stories where this has happened, the ex-employee agrees, and then the company goes public with a "employee was attempting to extort $10,000 from us" angle, painting the employee they cheated as some sort of criminal. The spin is they try to make it seem like the bad report was false and the employee was extorting money to take it down as some kind of protection racket.

Yeah that would suck, and I wouldn't have put it past that individual in question.

In my particular case, I had all my documentation in a row, but still didn't choose to 'go public', tho in retrospect I somewhat wish I had.

First off, Screw those guys. Anyone who holds back money like that is someone you dont want to work for anyways.

Employees make mistakes and to punish them for it is insane. If you were purposely trying to screw things up and were fired for that, of course thats a different story- but it sounds like you were just trying to do your job and made a mistake, it happens. Also, seeing as you were supposed to have been paid the bonus while you were there, it makes it twice as awkward.

This should be a lesson to other founders- Treat people good and they will speak highly of you and may stay with you forever, to your next startup or company. Dont and they will do the opposite. That alone is worth more than the 10k you save.

Penny wise but pound foolish, as the saying goes.

They also don't have any systems people who know to run backups.

To my coworkers defense the service was very new and we had plans to put in a backup system. Bad timing I guess.

This is part of risk management of a company. The company had decided to risk the production setup without a backup at the time. Obviously the downtime of the database is an acceptable risk to them. They could bear the consequence when luck turned against them. It should not be on your shoulder.

People make mistakes all the times. What's important is how they recover and be better. I remember a story where a guy was resigning after screwing up a million dollar venture. His boss told him, you have just learned a million-dollar lesson on the company's dime and you are quitting? The guy stayed on and flourished.

Don't feel bad about this. The decision to launch without backups was a legitimate business gamble. Blaming an engineer for the outcome of a business decision is plain bad management.

"With great power comes great responsibility."

No one is blaming your co-workers - but when your founders take investment money and insist on keeping themselves in charge, they also take on responsibility for the performance of the company and its technology. Just because their legal liability is limited, they aren't off the hook for what we think of them running their product this way.

Blowing the production database is bad, yes - but a LOT of bad days for top shelf programmers start with "rm". It sounds like you owned up to your mistake and put in the late nights to fix it in a way that your bosses didn't...best of luck to you.

You don't have to defend people who made a bad mistake worse. It's nothing personal, competent systems people are in short supply these days.

Do you claim of never having made any mistake?

Last I checked, humans do mistake all the time. Not related to systems, or anything really. It's all about being prepared for those and attempting to make as few as possible.

In order to avoid mistakes, you have to know they exist. So either they didn't know backups were important or they declined to prioritize and implement them in anticipation of their launch.

However, I sense you're taking issue with my "bad mistake worse" comment. I don't think anybody is going to argue that dropping a production database is a real mistake. Mistakes happen, and companies (i.e. management) should work to ensure that all the bases are covered, which weren't in this case.

Only important data is backed up. Only backed up data is important.

Everyone has plans to backup data... it isn't until they actually lose data before they think about a backup. This also means that anyone that actually has backups, has probably lost data in the past...

Never ever plan to backup, just backup.

Honestly, the answers that the Miso founders gave seemed very professional and I think am a bit on their side in this one.

If OP had asked for the bonus while still being at Miso, it seems like he would simply have gotten it. Seeing as a non-contractual bonus is an investment in the employee that the company does in addition to the usual compensation, and seeing as OP quit on his own and doesn't have a compensation anymore, I can see that this would seem like a strange investment.

These informal bonuses shouldn't be seen as something you're entitled to, but rather as a nice extra that might disappear any second. If you really want something, it should be in the contract. If it isn't in the contract, you apparently can also live without it.

edit: Oh, downvotes. I really should stop posting my opinion if it might be controversial.

That's not really how it works. If it's in an e-mail, it's a contract.

Me: "Hey, if you do X I'll give you $10k."

You: [Does X.] "Can I have my $10k?"

Me: "Nah, the moment's passed. I'm not really feeling it anymore."

Nope. That's sleazy behavior.

the email could have said 10k for _current_ employees or something to that effect. i am also leaning towards siding with the founders here, not knowing all the facts. how much time and productivity did it cost the company when this employee lost the data? more or less than 10k? either side of it, does it really make sense to hand someone a 10k bonus after they made a major mistake and then quit shortly after?

It's two separate issues. Sounds like they owe him $10k.

If they also want to pursue a lawsuit over his data screw-up, they should. But that's unrelated.

(I think such a suit would be tossed, given his screw-up seems to be based upon Miso not having suitable back-ups, which: The fuck?)

If they file a lawsuit against an employee for losing a database that they neglected to backup, I would love to hear a follow up story.

I'm sure that after it gets out how they deal with routine mistakes they'll have highly qualified database engineers lining up at their door to work there because of the excitement of working in such a high stakes environment.

and they very well might owe him the 10k. i was simply trying to consider the other side, which we don't know as much about, and i am assuming they made the best decision considering all the circumstances. maybe not. really, the employee should have collected this bonus prior to quitting his job. this could have been avoided if he was paying attention. i'd have a calendar appointment set for the date i was to receive that bonus, if i was that employee.

As long as the email isn't as fully formulated as an actual contract I usually tend to see them more as a declaration of an intent that isn't 100% fixed yet and is missing some of the details. (such as: you won't get it after you decided to quit and work somewhere else).

That's usually the nice thing about startups, you don't have to fill out gobs of paperwork and have hours of meetings to get these small perks figured out, it's more of a "good will" thing imho.

But I guess I just have a different opinion when it comes to things that don't have 2 signatures at the bottom of them.

There are four elements of a contract: Offer - "Have $10k for referring employees." Acceptance - "Here is an employee." Intent - "Have $10k" Consideration - "$10k" -> "refer employee"

The OP's case is even stronger if he sent an email back saying "Thanks for offering $10k! I have a friend who would be interested!" as that is clear acceptance.

Signatures aren't needed (there's plenty of case law around). Courts are more likely to get involved where money is involved, as that shows firm commitment to a contract.

I am not a lawyer, this isn't legal advice, of course.

> But I guess I just have a different opinion when it comes to things that don't have 2 signatures at the bottom of them.

Well, your opinion is certainly different than the judiciary's opinion of what constitutes a contract, for sure.

A contract need not be written (usually, some exceptions apply). It need only be clear and agreed to by both sides, have some consideration involved and not be against public policy.

If you as a startup owner promise people even verbally that referrals get a bonus, you're creating a binding contract if anyone accepts it. In this case it appears it was written down, which is pretty much a slam dunk for the employee.

Most contracts in practice are informal. When you buy an ice cream from a street vendor, there's an informal contract - you give him money, he gives you ice cream. If you take ice cream, eat it and then say "I'm not feeling like giving you money now" - it would be stealing, and you can't claim "I did not sign anything, so I am entitled to think that was just a gift".

If you tell employee "do this and get $10K" and he does and you say "well, I'm not feeling like keeping my end of the bargain now" - it is no different. It is harder to enforce, but that's only difference that lets all kinds of sleazy characters get away with it. If you don't mean to give $10K - don't promise it. Nobody forces anybody to promise it. If you do promise - fulfill your promise. It's very simple, I wonder how people can have trouble with it - unless they meant to cheat at the first place.

I agree that a lot of this stuff is informal, especially in the startup world. However, as far as actual legal implications go, this counts as a contract. It would even count as a contract if it were spoken; verbal contracts hold as much legal weight as paper contracts. I think we all value the relaxed atmosphere in smaller tech companies, but it's very much worth remembering, I think, that emails like this have weight, and promises are promises even when the company is small. There's a certain level on which we have to maintain professionalism even if we're small and dynamic.

My understanding, rb2k_, is that if I make an offer for compensation in return for a service, and you then go perform that service, then we've made a contract. I "signed" my name by making the offer. You "signed" your name by accepting and completing the service. We've both acted out of free will and we've had a "meeting of the minds." If I back out and try to avoid paying you, then I have broken this contract.

Think how many things in our society would break down if this wasn't the case.

> As long as the email isn't as fully formulated as an actual contract I usually tend to see them more as a declaration of an intent that isn't 100% fixed yet and is missing some of the details.

Does this mean I can ignore these four e-mails from my boss that formulates his intent for me to work on X and Y, and skip on off to work on Z instead?

what you don't realise is that this sort of thing jeopardises the very "nice thing about startups" that you are (rightly) approving here. if the idea that you couldn't rely on someone's word seeped into the startup culture, people would start getting a lot more insistent on i-dotting and t-crossing, and pretty much no one would benefit from the concomitant rise in hostility.

Do you realize how diametrically opposed your two points are? If an agreement is legally worthless unless it is formally stated, then all agreements will quickly become formally stated, and will devolve into "gobs of paperwork and hours of meetings."

If informal agreements are considered contracts (which they legally are), then the startup (or whatever) won't need all that formal processing.


According to this legal source, the only way to prevent your email from being a contract is to "recite in the e-mail that there is no intention to create a contract, except pursuant to a separate written agreement."

Also, you better change that opinion of yours, or else you might get caught in hot water yourself!

> Seeing as a non-contractual bonus is an investment in the employee that the company does in addition to the usual compensation

A bonus isn't a gift or an investment: it's paid to compensate for going above and beyond the call of duty. In this case, he did so by delivering a referral. He should be paid, plain and simple.

This is really an interesting case, IMO. Verbal, informal contracts are still contracts, although they are a pain to enforce. A standing policy of a $10k referral bonus might be construed as a contract between the employer and employee. At the 6-month point the employee fulfilled his end of the contract, and was owed the $10k.

What if the employee had come back two years later to say "hey, guys. Remember that $10k you owed me?" I'm no lawyer, but I believe that a judge would consider that a form of forfeiture. Where is that line drawn?

I agree the tone seems to favor the employer, but tone doesn't make them right.

I'm not a lawyer, but wouldn't this fall under "promissory estoppel"?


Not unless he took action depending on the $10k, which it certainly doesn't seem like he did since he forgot about it for a while.

A bonus is a contractual obligation, just like sales bonus salesperson get or revenue target bonus management get. In this case it's a payment for the recruitment service. It's not an informal bonus.

Technical recruiters typically got 1/4 of yearly salary as payment. $10K recruitment bonus is cheap.

That doesn't make sense. A "nice extra that might disappear any second?" That's worth as much as a hole in my pocket. If giving referral bonuses is company policy, nobody would imagine that it might "disappear" retroactively if the management didn't happen to feel like paying you that day.

Regardless of whether it's legal, it's totally unethical to behave that way.

The engineer communicated very professionally too. Just because you don't HAVE to not be an asshole, doesn't mean you SHOULD be an asshole. I agree with the engineer here since really this is something they promised at least informally and not delivering on it out of spite is just douchey.

His blogpost was quite questionable imho. Things like these really read as very professional, at least to me:

- "Impeccable logic."

- ' At this point. You might as well just tell me "fuck you. you didn't sign a contract. boohoo." '

- ' I was starting to feel like they were determined to screw me.'

- 'No. I'm not proud of threatening, but I was pissed.'

- ' The rest of this chain of emails consists of me double checking if he understood what I was saying, and him giving me some more BS.'

- 'This is unethical practice. Period.'

- 'Somrat. Tim. Was this worth the 10k?'

>Things like these really read as very professional, at least to me

It's a blog post, not a New York Times article. It has a pissed-off tone, understandable given the circumstances, but isn't venomous.

Yea, I agree that his blogpost was more colorful, but his emails to the company seemed totally fine. He's basically just asking them for more or less a favor that they are not obliged to honor (like you pointed out), but is all this really worth the bad PR?

The part that really bothers me is that one of the reasons they give for denying him this is a recent engineering mistake. It just feels like this is all out of spite, and it's more of a childish move more than anything.

> Josh, let me talk to Tim.

> After you lost our data and caused our entire company to scramble for 3 days, I am hesitant.

Extremely professional. They blew me away with that one.

Only 'a' has nothing to do with 'b'. Those things are independent.

Also, any company that allows a single person to 'lose their data and cause the entire company to scramble for 3 days' has some issues with separation of duties.

I tend to agree with @rb2k. There are payments you are entitled to by law (salary, vacation, personal expense reimbursement) and payments that companies do out of the goodness of their hearts (annual bonuses, lieu days, extra days off, referral bonuses). Don't quit under bad circumstances and expect to get money you're not by law entitled to. Should have gotten the money first.

That's not how the law works. The company advertised and promised a bonus. The fact that it didn't become a signed contract doesn't make it non-binding. It was payment for a service which was rendered.

Obviously, yes: you should get the money before quitting. But Miso doesn't have a leg to stand on here unless they're hoping that pursuing the money isn't worth the poster's time (which might be a good bet, given that he didn't ask for the money originally).

You're only hitting half the points here.

1) Yes, a referral bonus is optional

2) It no longer becomes optional once you make the offer to your employees. At this point you have established intent; especially if it is provided in writing. You cannot take it back once the other party involved has upheld their end of the arrangement.

If you are explicitly promised annual bonuses, lieu days, extra days off, or referral bonuses, and then they decide not to give them to you, then you most definitely are entitled to them.

Just about everything in your first category is not an entitlement unless it's explicitly stated up front. If I get no promise of vacation days, then come back and demand them, I have no real standing. I can request them, but I'm not entitled to them.

Likewise, everything in your second category is an entitlement if it's stated up front. If they say, "We're giving you a $X bonus this year to anyone who does Y" and then they don't, they are completely in the wrong.

It doesn't matter which category the payment falls into. If the amount was specified in an email from a stakeholder, with specific guidelines, it's cash due. When lawyers make a decision, they're not going to decide which bucket this amount is supposed to fall into.

Miso should just pony up the $10k and move on.

1. They promised you would get the bonus at 6 months, and THEY did not deliver (their fault for not keeping their written agreement). -- They were in the red before you left. You are just collecting on their past dues.

2. They didn't have a backup before production and you happened to blow it up. You woked hard and recovered most of the data. (their fault for not having a backup) -- Kudos to you for fessing up that you screwed up, but everyone does that and it is their fault for not having a backup

3. You confronted them about their debt, and they tried to find "sneaky language" that sounds like a solid reason to not pay you for your service. (their fault for shady business)

Sounds to me like they are trying to kill two birds with one stone by using a made up on the spot loophole to save $10k and bury a mistake they made in not fulfilling their pledge.

Taking this "public" seems like a lose-lose. Miso doesn't come off super awesome obviously, but as a disgruntled employee, you're not setting yourself up for success either.

For example, should some future employer decide to Google your name before making an offer, they're likely to come up with an old spat between you and your employer. Even if you're in the right, it will make them think twice about hiring you. This disagreement may follow you forever (Google doesn't forget) and cost much more than $10k.

A better tactic may be to try and leverage your relationship with your friend who is still employed there. If this quarrel is detrimental to his morale, they may be willing to come to an agreement.

Otherwise what you are saying is to be afraid of the status quo because they have many ways of monitoring your past so you should behave, isn't it? If your 'future employer' gets biased by this kind of stuff then it would make sense to reconsider applying for work there, and whether it is really worth it to keep on supporting such kinds of disciplinary systems. What he is claiming sounds reasonable, and there should be no lose-lose when facts are facts.

I respect what you're saying, but it's a bit naive. First of all, how do you know that the facts that were mentioned were facts? Were you CC'ed on any of the emails? For all we know, the author made the conversation up.

Secondly, nobody really likes hiring someone who speaks negatively about a former employer. Especially when there's no way to verify whether what they are saying is true.

I'd rather not post original emails and screenshots supporting my claims. If verification is demanded by the majority I'll comply.

Don't bother. Hacker News is very likely to raise a cacophony about getting to see "original emails" and "screenshots" because those are dramatic, and people here like drama. You don't owe anyone more drama.

I think you're missing my point. :-)

I personally could care less whether you posted screenshots or not. But if you were considering employing someone and found that they had posted something like this (with little to no evidence), what would your reaction be? Heck, what would your reaction be if it did have screenshots?

It's "could NOT care less", unless you actually care a little and in fact could care less if not for that bit of care in your heart. If that is case, accept my sincere apologies.

Pardon my pet peeve.

To answer your question: if it were me hiring a person, absence or presence of screenshots would not make any difference. A contract is a contract and the person is owed $10k.

j_baker called it sarcasm. More generally, "could care less" is an idiom. It has a figurative meaning that is different from its literal meaning.

Here's a link to "could care less" in The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, http://books.google.com/books?id=9re1vfFh04sC&pg=PA137&#...

It's called sarcasm. It's like how I say "Nice catch!" even though someone dropped the ball. Or like how someone who says "I could give a damn" probably doesn't.

Pardon my pet peeve.

If your 'future employer' gets biased by this kind of stuff then it would make sense to reconsider applying for work there, and whether it is really worth it to keep on supporting such kinds of disciplinary systems

I would have second thoughts about hiring this guy, not just because he took his dispute with an earlier employer public, but also because he apparently blew up a production server and screwed everything up for several days.

Right now these are the exactly two things I know about this dude, and put together they don't give a strong first impression.

I disagree. Companies that do this need to outed. There are companies that do this all the time to "old" employees who are just about ready to receive their pension benefits. They'll fire said employee on dubious grounds to save 30 grand or so.

If more people did this so that it would become a more accepted practice, companies would be less likely to pull these kinds of stunts.

I'd like to point out something:

I'm pretty sure the OP is smart enough to know this move could cost him dearly in the future. He's basically setting himself at the 'stake', next to Miso, with his post.

This is why we have to pay a bit more attention than just dismissing his claim and label him childish. Doesn't matter who's right/wrong, the OP felt this was an issue worth risking his rep for (just by posting, he's already a blip on HR's radar). The tech startup circle is pretty small, made smaller by internet and LinkedIn. Definitely a big decision to take something like this public.

I'm surprised at his move taking it public so quickly, and more surprised at Miso going back on their words and expect no repercussions/fallout.

Even saying that it could cost him seems like empty threats from the peanut gallery. On what basis, that someone might not want to hire him because they plan to rip him off?

as someone who has been in charge of tech hiring for a startup, this would definitely not be a red flag for me. as you say, it's not like we would be planning on ripping him off, and blacklisting him for what is after all nothing more than human disgruntlement over getting screwed would be petty and childish.

Well in this case, it seems that the company is acting childish. I wouldn't hesitate to hire someone who honest about what he believes in.

Dear _____,

While we found your CV to be the best of the bunch, and you are the most well suited applicant, we have decided to decline your request to work here at _____.

Upon discovering your blog, we found it in our best interests to not hire someone who does not like it when they are not paid.

All the best, Miso.

Someone might not want to hire him because they see his behavior as vindictive and immature. Not that I agree with that analysis, but there is a risk of that perception.

How big of a risk, do you think?

The point I'm driving at is that this is (obviously) seen to be taboo behavior, but I'm not sure that anybody would find this and visit repercussions upon the author.

Additionally, a lot of the taboo might be based on "word getting around." Well, how many times have you heard of management badmouthing people to other companies? Ever? I'm not sure the blacklist implied in some of these responses actually exists.

Furthermore, there has been plenty of bad management to go around, and publicizing their faults has not affected hardly any of their careers. In fact, it can be seen as a badge of experience to have presided over a failure. Experience is experience, after all, and might you want to hire a developer who has learned the hard lesson of not keeping backups? A lot of companies (including Miso, apparently) could use talent like that.

Absolutely a huge risk. This is a signal for litigious behavior. Who knows what could set this guy off? This time it's $10k. Maybe next time it's something else. There are a lot of smart people out there, many of whom are more reliable than this guy. Pass for sure.

Interesting bunch of inferences and extrapolations there.

"Signal for litigious behavior" - because we all know if you promise something, you shouldn't have to follow through on it unless it really works for you, and you're not upset about something else entirely. That whole "after the DB damage, I'm hesitant" implies both admission of situation, and vidictive behavior on the part of the company. Why shouldn't he be feeling litigious? Is part of your recruitment process "Must be spineless and / or company man"?

"many of whom are more reliable than this guy"?

How has he demonstrated lack of reliability?

It doesn't really matter.

Hirebots are always making inferences and extrapolations that are wrong. The OP's blog post just gives more fuel to any Hirebot's prejudices.

It's impossible to know how big the risk may be. Maybe he'll impress the hell out of whoever Googles him in the future. Maybe they'll run screaming.

My instinct based on incomplete understanding of the information is that the risk/reward was too high for my comfort level. In any case, I wish the author the best of luck in getting his bonus and in getting better about backups :)

If it's impossible to know how big the risk may be, how can you say that there's any risk?

It has less to do with planning to rip off a prospective hire than determining whether the hire has a sense of discretion.

Do I think he's in the wrong with Miso, absolutely not. He has, on the surface at least, a legitimate grievance. He should have, however, handled this matter with a legal mechanism vs. a blog post.

When I hire, I have to look at the risk that a prospect is the type of person who will air his/her beefs in a blog post after he/she leaves the company. Which is why I spend time doing searches of everyone who makes my short list.

While I do think the OP has a legitimate beef, the outcome was predictable and preventable. If the OP was smart and had any work experience, he would have known to make any claims to any outstanding money before even signalling that he was going to leave. Companies, especially small ones, tend to be petty about dealing with former employees.

"Sense of discretion?" Why is this the first time I've ever heard that phrase used in the context of startups? Because it's never a concern and is only a matter of common sense when someone is defensive.

Nobody hiring is ever preoccupied with how a prospective employee will "air his/her beefs" with the company after leaving its employ. Quite the opposite, companies tend to hire for the long term since onboarding new hires is such an expensive process.

This thread has caught fire, to say the least, so I'm thinking the taboo against airing his/her "beefs" has long been an empty threat holding back a lot of pent-up frustration.

I applaud this.

I'm really tired of this one way street where employers get to be sleaze-balls behind the mask of a company name while an employee doing anything that skirts the line of not being upstanding is 'irresponsible.'

We need more of this IMHO in that there is way too much practicing of sleazy business techniques in SV if you ask me

This part sounds dubious: "For example, we don't pay people outside of Miso when they refer us candidates that we hire."

Any recruiter worth their salt is getting a minimum of 15% on first years salary right now, and many are getting 20%. On a typical $150K Salary that would be $30K if the same candidate comes through a recruiter.

Perhaps it's just the case that Miso doesn't use external recruiters, and so the statement is accurate - but to suggest that bonuses are paid for good referrals as part of "Team Building" and not to get the lead on great talent would not be consistent with current market conditions.

I would think very few startups use recruiters -- who has that much extra cash laying around?

I know lots of startups that use recruiters, including some YC-backed ones. Recruiting can take a lot of time, particularly if you're expanding rapidly. If you're the CTO it may not necessarily be the best use of your time to look through hundreds (and yes, you'll get hundreds) of CVs from a post on StackOverflow or HackerNews...

Of course, there are some that don't, but it's certainly not unusual for startups to use recruiters.

I've worked at three startups in the valley since 1999, and all three used recruiters. Typically they have 1-3 internal recruiters, and do try to avoid external staffing agencies, but, in tight employment conditions (right now) - hiring managers tend to working with staffing agencies to get some acceleration in hiring. One of the tasks of HR, in fact, is in the growth phase from 30 to 300 employees, is to run interference and keep costs from external staffing agencies down and use the internal recruiters as much as possible.

Well, shows how much I know. I guess the fact that most recruiters I've interacted with have been terrible might be coloring my opinion of their value. How does one go about finding a good recruiter?

Hackruiter especializes in startups:


I also know of a recruiting agency in Japan that specializes in startups. Some companies have the too-many-resumes problem, but many startups have the converse problem. If nobody knows about you then you'll have a hard time finding qualified people.

> During my last 2 weeks at Miso I accidentally blew away one of the production DBs for a service that was launched 2 weeks prior. No, we didn't have a backup.

Step 1) Make bad engineering decisions that make accidents like this possible

Step 2) Blame employees who knock over your fragile infrastructure

Great strategy, Miso!

While publicly posting about this probably feels good, it reflects badly on you as well as Miso.

* The lack of backups is partly your fault. You were an engineer there after all.

* Nuking a production database can happen, but the default assumption is that you are sloppy.

* Based on the timeframes one could assume you were fired from Miso.

* You have no problem revealing confidential information about your former employer's infrastructure and operations.

* You publicly post private emails between you and your former employer.

* So you can tell me the exact backup times of everything at Facebook for your machine right? You're an engineer at Facebook therefore under your broad assumption you should be performing the exact same of your statement. If tomorrow everything was to fail at Facebook & there was no data recovery you're saying that everyone in the company should come blame you because well, hell, you're an engineer there after all...

The more reasonable point is that he's an engineer not a sysadmin or ops guy this isn't his responsibility directly & more so this falls on the CTO shoulders of failing to assign someone to this task.

* If they point directly to production this really isn't unheard of.

* Why are we making any assumptions if the guy is fired or not; This has nothing to do with the fact of the bonus not being paid out on time while he was an employee.

* You're going to argue that the company failing to perform backups is confidential information about infrastructure and operations especially after the company mentions it in an email after his employment :|?

* These are emails after his employment & the company is or should be well aware that these emails from that point on can publicly be posted because he's not bound by anything to keep them confidential any more. This is why most companies follow strict HR policies of no further communication & very strict emails to former employees.

Come on, I expect a bit more from an engineer working at Facebook other than broad assumptions & statements.

According to their site Miso have four engineers. At that scale there each and every engineer is responsibility for how things are run. If you want to only do what is assigned to you then you shouldn't be working at a startup. I've worked at small companies who'd punted on revision control and backups, and I made sure those things were put in place. When I haven't had the knowledge or access I've bought up the issue with those who did.

I wasn't trying to ad hominem the guy by suggesting he was fired. For all I know he may have got a better offer elsewhere. I was pointing out that in his attack on Miso he's made himself look bad. If a future potential employer reads this his comments are vague enough they could draw the conclusion I suggested. The same applies to publishing the emails. He may be within the law but to me it's a major red flag.

I shouldn't have to have a disclaimer; this is very obviously my personal opinion. I don't see how my employer is relevant to the discussion. Am I supposed to refrain from commenting at all in case someone tries to tie my professional life to my personal opinion?

Just so you're aware it didn't make him look bad at all & if he was up here in Canada I'd be hiring him but he's not.

He did exactly what any person who got screwed over by any company should do...make it public and call them out on their bullshit.

Thanks to this fellow I will NOT be recommending Miso for their future series C round & this is why no company should screw over their employees it can cost you millions down the road.

Oh! Just to clear things up a bit more... it just earned him $10K :)

Except he's donating it to charity.

I have to say he's handled the attention and criticism really well. His updated posts have addressed a lot of the points I bought up in my original comment.

Yea the first assumption I made after reading this is that he was fired in relation to nuking the DB.

I'm sure they know this and it's their choice to do so. Regardless, how much is relevant to the payment owed?

"Name and shame" is a thorny issue.

Opponents are right in the same way you shouldn't badmouth former employers in job interviewers. It's not fair but it makes you look worse. You just kind of have to suck it up and move on.

When companies screw you out of money, you should name and shame them (IMHO). Trust me, over the years I've probably lost out on all told $50,000 or more that people never paid. In some cases it was a clear breach of contract. I never pursued it through litigation and reading stories from those that have I'm kinda glad. Such a thing is a mental burden and a distraction. Your best bet really is to move on unless the amount is really huge (maybe even $50,000+ for a single claim).

All that being said, this scenario is not one the company should be ashamed of IMHO and were I Miso I wouldn't have said a damn thing about it.

He forgot to claim a referral bonus. They didn't pay it after he left the company. Technically, they are correct: referral bonuses are paid to employees. He is not an employee.

Sure they could've paid it to him and maybe they should've but I sympathize with their position.

No matter what anyone tells you--and this is important--when you get a bonus of any sort it is forward-looking even though it's for what you've done. If you've left the company or are leaving, you are no longer of value to them.

If he's made the claim and pushed back on it finally reneging, that would be a completely different story.

This is a textbook example of "nothing to gain" and "makes you look bad" rolled into one.

EDIT: to answer one point brought up by a commentor (chasing): yes, you are correct. This is not a bonus in the strictest sense.

It is not however automatic compensation like your salary is. You need to take action to claim it (by submitting the form or whatever to get the referral bonus). Miso admits he did not do that. He is no longer an employee and thus can't file forms an employee otherwise would.

I imagine if this were a case where he expensed something and failed to claim the expenses the employer would pay. From this you can (reasonably) view the two as similar. The difference (IMHO) is that if an employer doesn't pay outstanding expenses, you may continue to own or you have a pretty cut-and-dried case against them for breach of contract.

Failing to file a referral bonus form while you were an employee is really your fault.

I'm not saying the employer is completely in the right here but honestly I think they're more right than he is and certainly come out of this looking better than he does.

I just don't understand the mentality behind looking for reasons not to pay out bonuses. I see it all the time. It baffles me. When people have credible claims to incentive compensation, just freaking pay them. Almost by definition, we're talking about sums of money with very little marginal impact on the company; those same sums often have unpredictably huge impacts on employees.

Forward-looking, employees-only, whatever: not paying is more costly than paying. It sure as heck is here, because this ended up being Miso's introduction to a huge swath of potential candidates down the line. What a debacle.

If you have legitimate concerns about abuse of bonus programs, the problem is with the structure of your bonus program, not with how you enforce payouts.

> Almost by definition, we're talking about sums of money with very little marginal impact on the company; those same sums often have unpredictably huge impacts on employees.

This should be the way every employer sees bonuses. The have huge potential negative and positive impacts, with most of the negative being mitigated by adhering to the rule, "don't be a dick." When in doubt, pay them anyway. The complex positive effects you can't ever fully predict will almost always outweigh the minor negative and predictable impact to your bottom line.

Same goes for not giving refunds to customers, and using the right-hand lane to attempt to pass on the highway. It might seem like the best thing to do at the time, but some unpredictable event out of left field will put you three miles back and cursing your short-sighted decisions before you can say "Oldsmobile."

It's really not the same as giving refunds to a customer. Keeping your customers happy is really important. Keeping your employees happy is also important. Keeping ex-employees happy is really not that important. Personally I might have paid it out, after all they got the referral so it's fair. But it's not MY company's money. In my experience as a games programmer bonuses were very rarely paid to people that left. The soul reason for them is employee retention and when the dude has gone he's gone.

"Keeping your employees happy is also important. Keeping ex-employees happy is really not that important."

I wonder if the people making the "lets not pay him" decision have discussed the issue with the people who are hiring their next employees for them? (Or the managers who're asking existing employees to refer friends with referal bonuses of now dubious reliability?)

> It's really not the same as giving refunds to a customer. Keeping your customers happy is really important.

Reason for giving refunds is because it is the right thing to do. That is what should be the basis of decision. Otherwise you run into troubled waters as soon as you need to choose between 2 parties. Who should you make happy? Customer or the investor? Customer or the employee? employee or the investor? And such situations arise all the time.

> The soul reason for them is employee retention

But that is not the reason for referral bonus. Its aim is to encourage people to refer their friends for hiring. By doing this, do you think Miso has achieved the desired effect on the current employees? To put it more bluntly, do you want your employees, who have a possibility of leaving with in 6 months time frame to refer their friends? Given how difficult hiring is and if they are looking to hire, I would pay the referral bonus even if they left before it can be claimed.

The company agreed to pay him a certain amount of money if he referred somebody who stayed for at least 6 months. He referred somebody who stayed for at least 6 months. The company thus owes him the money. His employment status with the company has nothing to do with it, unless that was stated as part of the deal up-front.

I'm pretty sure this would last about five seconds in front of a judge. Produce whatever documentation is available (an e-mail about it should be plenty) showing that they promised the money, and it's done.

It doesn't matter that he forgot to claim it. Unless he let it go for so long that the debt passes the statute of limitations (7 years or so?), it's still owed to him.

This is little different from spitefully withholding an employee's last paycheck, a practice which is wrong and highly illegal.

I wholehearted agree, but..

I'm pretty sure this would last about five seconds in front of a judge

This whole issue would probably cost 50k just to get in front of a judge.

Why? This would work pretty well in small claims, which costs not much at all.

Not sure about his location, but in New York small claims is limited to $5k.

It's stated elsethread that CA is $7,500. So that adds $2,500 to the cost, still well short of the claimed $50,000.

I don't understand.. there are 2 million lawyers in the U.S., so why is it so expensive?

For comparison, Europe in its entirety has less than 600.000 lawyers as of 2007, and while the U.S. no longer has more lawyers than the rest of the world combined, it is pretty close.

Interesting offtopic point: there is one lawyer per inmate in the U.S.

> I'm pretty sure this would last about five seconds in front of a judge.

Would it? I think the judge will see it as 'refer somebody who stays for 6 months and submit a claim to get your bonus'. I doubt any documentation on the bonus would say that you get the money automatically credited - so any T&C on how to claim the bonus would legitimately be considered part of the agreement. Since the employee failed the last part of the condition, the company would win.

He didn't fail it, it was just a bit late.

He left the company - he failed the condition. Once you leave a company, all your contacts are ended.

"Once you leave a company, all your contacts are ended."

Um, no. Assuming you meant "contracts", but in either case, no. That's not how it works.

Nonsense. Lots of contracts can last after you stop being an employee, e.g. Non-compete contracts, non-disclosure agreements etc. If the employee leaves the day before their final salary payment is due, does that mean the company is no longer legally obliged to pay them? No.

Integrity isn't about technical or legal validity. It's about having made an agreement with someone, and honoring it.

Finding a semantic or legal way to breach an agreement is wack. Extra-much so if due to interpersonal static.

I don't know the parties involved nor do I like the attempt to adjudicate the matter in the court of Internet public opinion, but I do understand why folks are reacting to the story.

I would argue that it is the employee, and not the employer, that is searching for a semantic or legal way to breach an agreement. The agreement was that employees (not ex-employees) are eligible for referral bonuses. He failed to settle this issue during his time as an employee, and is now searching for a semantic or legal method to do so as an ex-employee.

Splitting hairs over a commission when you make money on a deal is going to cost you a lot more than just paying out.

Next time that deal will go to a competitor that has no qualms about paying, even to non-employees.

This sends all the wrong signals.

It's not a bonus. It's payment for services rendered. They offered $10k for a service. He performed the service.

Say I take a cab home from the airport. The money I give the cabbie upon arrival isn't a bonus -- it's payment for services rendered. (The tip is the bonus.)

You guys can both be right and it still doesn't matter. If you're going to offer bonuses or incentive comp of any sort, plan on paying them. You should be allergic to any reason for not paying short of "there is no credible claim to being owed this bonus".

It's definitely true that bonus programs are usually intended for existing employees. Concrete example: my last employer blew out their numbers the year I left the company; I wound up in a 6 month transitional role (and a few additional months of outside consulting) after a cordial mutual understanding that I was going to leave. The whole company got a massive bonus. I got a negligible bonus, even though I was a full-time employee, and even though the bonus accounted for multiple years where I was a full-time, fully performant employee with no stated intention to leave.

Am I mad? Nope! Most of the (unstated) point of the bonus was employee retention. I was unretainable. Paying me a giant bonus was irrational.

I think that's the same sentiment 'cletus is talking about, and to that extent, I'm totally with him.

But the answer to most disputes about bonuses should generally be "I'm sorry we let this escalate to a dispute, it's important to us that everyone knows we deal fairly with the team, and so we're paying you the bonus. We wish you the best."

"Most of the (unstated) point of the bonus was employee retention. I was unretainable. Paying me a giant bonus was irrational."

This is why I feel _some_ sympathy for Miso - they've got a scheme intended to improve retention. They then put in a set of requirements, goals, and milestones that didn't provide appropriate incentives for the behaviour they wanted to promote - they _weren't_ looking to reward guys who were going to bail after 12 months for hooking up their friends who were going to jump ship in 7 months. But they chose a set of metrics that means the OP had every right to feel entitled to his $10k.

But Miso have handled it _very_ badly (on the assumption that the blog post is an accurate reflection at least of how the poster saw the situation unfold).

If I could upvote your last sentence several more times, I would…

>Failing to file a referral bonus form while you were an employee is really your fault.

Congratulations, you're an asshole that I never want to work with.

Amen to that. Part of the job of a manager is to look out for the people doing the actual work. Taking ten large from a trusting employee is bad. Blaming the employee for leaving the cover sheet off his TPS reports is worse.

So none of the responsibility of what happened belongs to the OP?

I am not siding with his former employer, but anyone who has any work experience knows that they should make sure the cheques have cleared as soon as they have an idea that they want to leave.

It's a cynical view, but people should always expect a company to be less than cooperative once they leave, even when the company is in the wrong. I have found this to be even more true when dealing with smaller companies and startups.

When money is involved, it's better to be realistic than idealistic.

It's your own responsibility to tie up loose ends before you leave. After you leave, you should work with the assumption that you'll be the only adult at the table when dealing with your former employer.

If you get beat up walking down the street, is that your responsibility? Sure, in the sense that any idiot can always find ways that you could have avoided it if only you had done something differently. And in the very obvious sense that nobody else can suffer through the pain of a broken nose for you.

Seriously, it's not common sense to assume that an employer will behave stupidly once you announce your intention to leave? You should assume that you'll get walked out when you hand in your resignation, and that after that, your former employer will not play nice.

In small companies, I've seen owners contemplate/prepare nuisance lawsuits just to make examples out of recently exited people for sheer pettiness. And these were employers who would have been perceived as stand-up guys before the people quit.

It's a pretty old rule of thumb that you get your ducks in a row before quitting, just like you shouldn't accept any counteroffers from your employer after you hand in your resignation.

The OP gets some sympathy from me for getting shafted, but he gets no sympathy for being naive about how to leave a company.

Isn't it common sense to assume that there are dangerous people in the world? People getting assaulted should have known and taken appropriate precautions. I don't have any sympathy for them. Don't they read the papers?

Well, people wear seatbelts, helmets, etc. Do you knowingly walk down a dangerous street flaunting your wealth?

You're not getting it. With hindsight, you can always find a way to blame a victim. It's great fun: you get the chance to look knowing and smug, and your success rate in predicting the past is 100%.

Don't kick people when they're down. You end up looking like a heartless jerk.

I tend to think you're not getting it.

He's not a victim of a random crime (per your analogy, which to me is not apt), he's a victim of his own naivete and inexperience.

In the same way you had better know to take all of your most expensive gadgets out of your soon-to-be ex-girlfriend's apartment before you break up with her (lest they get smashed with a hammer), he should have done the same.

This is not even close to rocket science. To assume that people will behave like adults when you sever a relationship with them is extremely naive.

In that same vein:

It was the company's responsibility (too) that there was no database backup when he wiped it.

It will be the company's responsibility when the referred employee hears about this and has a diminished reputation of the company. Will it bite them in the ass? Probably. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next month, maybe in a year when things get hectic and the referred employee sees no reason to be loyal to these guys...

>> It was the company's responsibility (too) that there was no database backup when he wiped it.

I always say "If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail." I'm seeing a pattern here in the OP's behavior that led to him wiping the database and his naive reliance on his former employer to do the right thing before exiting the company. This guy has no clue about how to contingency plan.

As for the company, shame on them, but that kind of douchy behaviour is rampant in startups and small companies. You always need to look out for your own personal financial interests first with startups, no matter how 'collegial' the work environment is.

>It's not fair but it makes you look worse. You just kind of have to suck it up and move on.

My guess is this will negatively effect them more than it effects him. He's not badmouthing the company as a whole, he's badmouthing them reneging on a specific deal they made with him. They essentially earned $10K at the cost of advertising to devs that they are the kind of employer that will weasel out of a deals they make. Is saving that $10K worth that change to their reputation? Probably not.

"I'm not saying the employer is completely in the right here but honestly I think they're more right than he is and certainly come out of this looking better than he does."

This HAS to be the employer. I cannot imagine how someone can seriously think this. As a recruiter I have awarded bonuses to employees at 3 different companies and no one ever had to fill out a form, it was just a matter of if we paid him or not.

I would agree with you that "naming and shaming" at this point is not in his best interest, however there is no question his employer should pay him in an ideal world.

referral bonuses are paid to employees. He is not an employee.

There is a big difference between "Referral bonuses are only due to employees" and "Referral bonuses are only paid to employees". At one point in time he was an employee and hence was due the bonus. The bonus was not paid to him at the time though.

He is still due the bonus.


This guy Joshua Z.H. Wu does not come out looking good in this blog post. He doesn't realize it, but he just lost a lot more than $10k in lifetime earnings too. Someone willing to nuke something that their friends/coworkers built in this fashion is just not someone you ever want to hire. You find this kind of crap on Google, and you just don't call him back or offer an interview.

After all employers are human too, and when you delete the production db, make everyone pick up your mess, quit, and then have the stones to ask for your long-forgotten referral bonus for current employees in a chipper tone when you are already at another company...yeah, he's kind of a douche.

I'm sure he can be legalistic about it, and I'm sure there are no end of lawyers out there willing to huff and puff about the evil employer but...douche.

I find the reactions here fascinating. There's a hugely bimodal distribution here between people who sympathize with the employee (I'm in that set: the guy's out ten thousand dollars, who cares about feelings or "employers being human" at that scale?) and the employer.

I'd guess the latter are mostly founders, or people lurking here in the hope of someday being founders. And that makes me sad that so many of you think it's morally acceptable to promise large bonuses to your employees that you intend to pay only if reminded about it.

I agree. I'm having a really hard time understanding the people who are defending the company here.

I can understand, if not sympathize with, the guys at the company doing what they did. Emotions get in the way, and it sounds like they were kind of angry. In that situation, it's only human, even if not right, to decide the answer first ("no") and then rationalize it.

But I can't understand why you'd defend them without any skin in the game. Maybe people don't think that an exchange which isn't written out in legalese and signed doesn't constitute an obligation? Maybe they're trying to approach it from some sort of karmic perspective, where somehow fucking up the database makes him no longer deserve the money he was promised for something completely unrelated?

It's bizarre. And troubling. Personally, I would say that this is about as cut and dried as it comes.

Your stance is very black or white - either you're for the employee or you're a founder. I don't think it's quite that clear.

As an employee, I wholeheartedly agree that he should have been paid if he had some written form of agreement (email counts).

As a sensible logical person, I think he should have gotten paid when he was an employee especially since this was an employee perk.

I don't need to be a founder to know that he's not entitled to anything from the company when he's no longer an employee. What's the limit here? Can any past employee in the history of the company suddenly realize he's entitled to some perk, come back and demand it? And if he doesn't get said perk, publicly shame the company?

I assure you I'm not being one sided here; jzhwu and Miso clearly didn't part on good terms. It seems he's at least mildly incompetant. And he's clearly profane and confrontational. It's entirely plausible that the leadership team at Miso hates this guys guts for valid reasons and doesn't want to pay him a cent they don't have to.

And if this was a forgotten poster from his office or a lost book, no one would care. But it's ten thousand dollars. What do their feelings have to do with an obligation of that magnitude? Either they have to pay it or they don't. Who cares about whether he "deserves" it or not?

Also: you realize your intuition makes no legal sense, right? If you "agree that he should have been paid" then you are agreeing that Miso has a debt to jshwu. Debts don't disappear like that because of technicalities (or rather, not unless such technicalities are described in a contract that everyone seems to agree doesn't exist in this case).

Yes, debt can be (and usually is) zeroed out when you leave a company.

As I explained in another comment, most companies (don't know about Miso) make you sign an agreement during your exit interview that the company does not owe you anything except X, Y, Z items that are enumerated clearly (these usually include your last paycheck and check for unpaid vacation days).

Right, you're invoking the "technicalities in a contract" case I talked about. And indeed, that would change things in favor of the company if it existed. Is there any evidence such a contract was signed? Note that neither the employee, CEO or CTO mention such a thing. For reference: across 17 years and five jobs in software I've never signed such an exit contract in my life, nor been asked to. I'm sure it's done, but I seriously doubt it's standard -- especially at startups where contract rigor is hardly a priority.

So basically: I agree. But what does that have to do with the points I was responding to? Earlier you stated clearly that he was "not entitled to anything from the company when he's no longer an employee". Are you walking that back now?

I've also never heard about anyone ever signing something like that at an exit interview. Why on Earth would someone sign something like that anyways? At my last job at BAE:IS they tried to get me to sign an NDA when I left, but I had to refuse for various reasons and eventually they were satisfied with a nice note explaining those reasons paper clipped to the NDA form in my file.

It's more common than you think.

You might not see this in a small startup where the owners/managers don't have much business experience, but the rule of thumb is you NEVER sign this paper unless you're absolutely sure you will never cross paths with your previous employer again, no matter how much $ is dangling in front of you to sign it.

For a lot of departing employees, the stress of the situation leads them to sign it (i.e., sign now or you lose the chance to get this money we're dangling in front of you), which is often a mistake, because you are often signing away your right to sue them.

People who make good CEO's are more likely to be mentally ill than the general population - http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/the-stack-the-psychopat....

As a founder, I definitely sympathize more with the employee. I want my engineers thinking about engineering, not bullshit paperwork, or how to prevent me from screwing them.

Miso gained $10k in cash, but they lost a ton more than that in employee trust. A foolish bargain, I'd say.

There are quite a few things in life that are based on you remembering something. Remembering to pay your taxes on time. Remembering to register for the Selective Service upon attaining the age of majority. And remembering to cash in your bonuses and vacation days BEFORE quitting and burning bridges, not after.

This guy isn't a current employee. There wasn't a contract signed. That is a gaping hole wide enough to drive a truck through when someone has burned through goodwill like jzhwu has.

> I'm in that set: the guy's out ten thousand dollars, who cares about feelings or "employers being human" at that scale?) and the employer.

Wonderful. And how much do you think his database mishap cost them? Probably a lot more than $10k! And now he's attacking them on the internet. This is someone who is willing to cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage for what he's convinced himself he's entitled to, even thought it's a bonus for current employees.

Taxes and draft registration are legal requirements. So is paying your employees what you owe them. I don't see the asymmetry here. Bonus compensation is still wages (i.e. what line does it go on in your W-2?). You don't have the option to not pay wages to former employees, even ones you don't like.

And your last bit is IMHO horrifying. You clearly think it's OK to dock wages for mistakes on the job. That's both illegal (Wildly so! Don't try this on real employees or you can wreck your company.) and immoral.

Asking for money you're owed never makes you a "douche". It doesn't take stones to ask for what you're owed just because you caused some problems. There is no link between the two! I'm astonished that anyone thinks there is. There's absolutely no leeway to say, "I don't like what you did recently, therefore I'm not going to pay you the money you're owed for something completely unrelated."

There sure is leeway: no signed contract. If he had left on good terms they would have paid the bonus, no question. He didn't and his fuckup cost them a lot more than $10k. At this point, dig in their heels.

He says an email is a contract? OK, well, two can play that game. I'd bet that on the bottom of several of those emails there was something about "this email is only addressed to the sender, it may not be reposted anywhere".

Looks like Joshua Z.H. Wu is now in material breach of "contract" too. I'm sure a clever lawyer could come up with some sort of nondisclosure or material defamation claim. He wants to go to the mattresses, let's go to the mattresses.

Again, no need if he's a good guy. He's a good guy, they're good guys. If he's a douche, they have no obligation to be good guys.

> He says an email is a contract? OK, well, two can play that game. I'd bet that on the bottom of several of those emails there was something about "this email is only addressed to the sender, it may not be reposted anywhere".

Doesn't work that way. The e-mail in question was a back-and-forth conversation in which both parties clearly agreed. Your hypothetical bottom-of-the-e-mail notice is not. It may well not be enforceable.

I don't understand why you say "He says" here, as if this is some sort of fruity off-the-wall legal theory. Contract law is pretty clear that any agreement that meets certain conditions is a contract, and this e-mail almost certainly meets them. In theory, a simple conversation where the guy said "We'll pay you $X for a referral" and the other guy responded "OK" is legally binding. In practice, it would be hard to prove that it happened. It's really easy to prove that the e-mail happened, though. Did they promise him a referral bonus? Bam, done, legally binding contract.

But let's say it is enforceable. What of it? The company would have to show damages if they wanted to sue over it. What damages are they going to show, exactly? That their illegal refusal to pay their former employee got exposed? Good luck getting a judge to go along with that.

> Did they promise him a referral bonus? Bam, done, legally binding contract.

Nope, not if they actually have a pre-existing contract signed with other employees that states that the bonus is for current employees only. Then the email conversation is a reference to this pre-existing contract, which excludes Joshua Z.H. Wu in his current state.

And if you were the DBA at the company who was just caused no end of trouble by old jzwhu, you might remember that you signed a contract like that back in October or something.

He was a current employee when the payment was due, thus the money was owed then. That he later quit does not somehow erase the debt.

Contracts need an offer, acceptance, and consideration. "Consideration" just means that both sides should stand to gain something from the agreement.

Non-disclosure text at the bottom of an email seems like a real stretch for that. Of course it depends on the jurisdiction and the case law.

The comments are really interesting on this story. They break out into a few types:

- this is a good/bad way to get your $10K

- this is a good/bad way to have a job in the future

- this guy who's out $10K is a douche/everyday hero

- this is really/really not a bonus, and that is relevant because [ ]

- bonuses are forward/backward looking and therefore [ ]

I also see some, but not enough, in my opinion, of the following:

keep your promises, whether they are tacit or formal, expensive or cheap, connected or not connected to some other issue, defensible or not defensible in court. Just keep your promises. Regardless of spin, regardless of how you feel emotionally, regardless of how busy or distracted you are. If you forget, or lag, and then are reminded, apologize and pay up. You can still say the guy is a douche if you want to, or scold him for his bad taste, or bad skills, or whatever. That's really a separate deal.

I feel like there should be a meta-HN app that allows people to categorize and collect HN discussions like this (I often find myself doing that myself). But your analysis is spot on, and it bothers me that so much of the conversation seems to miss the central point: the company promised something, and then broke the promise. This is wrong, and should not be encouraged in our society.

(Reminds me of the gay marriage debate, which too-often ignores the simple fact that these "defense of marriage laws" are exactly like Jim Crow. It doesn't matter if you like gays or not, or why you do/don't like them. You can't discriminate, period.)

Notice that Miso is not actually denying that they pay the money: "However, we only pay bonuses to employees." They are being hard-nosed about paying someone that is not employed at the current time, even though he was eligible when he was employed.

Fail for Miso.

To be fair, most companies in North America would not pay any sort of optional bonus after an employee has quit or been fired.

If you quit Dec 31, and the company usually pays out annual bonuses on Jan 30, don't expect a check.

The bonus was due before he left the company.

Pretty clear cut for me. The conditions were met, they owe him $10k. Maybe not legally but certainly morally.

No, he fulfilled the minimum requirements for the bonus before he left the company, however the company did not specify at what point the bonus was due to him. For example, my company rewards annual bonuses based on the calendar year, however they do not pay out the bonuses until April. If you leave the company between Jan 1, and April, you do not receive the bonus. While it might not be the most moral practice, it is a well established practice.

however the company did not specify at what point the bonus was due to him.

Of course it did. Quote from the article:

the payout was contingent on said employee staying for a minimum of a 6 month period at the position

If that's the really the full text of the agreement (which seems plausible to me, I've seen similar e-mails) then there is nothing unclear about that. Even if he had quit immediately after referring that other guy he'd still get the bonus. Period.

well established practice.

Certainly not around here.

My wife left BigCo in January one year. At the end of February she got a prorated annual bonus. Maybe you shouldn't expect it from every company, but there are some that do it exactly that way.

It wasn't an optional bonus thou, it was owed money as a referral fee

If you were promised an annual bonus, and it was due before Dec 31, you had bet your ass you should expect a check. At that point they owe you money. It doesn't matter that you later quit. I can't fathom how people think it does. Can you explain it?

I've received a bonus for similar circumstances as in this case six months after I left a job (for a patent application reaching a certain milestone, informally announced bonus scheme, no contract in place). I wasn't expecting to ever see that money, so it was a very pleasant surprise.

(The company was Google, which should qualify as an American company even though this happened in Europe. I can't imagine there being any particular Swiss legislation that would have affected this case.)

More to the point: Quit Dec 1st, don't expect a Christmas bonus.

No, more to the point: quit Jan 1st, but before you got your Christmas bonus due to some silly delay.

You didn't seem to understand the post. You have it backwards.

It's more like that you had a personal bonus scheduled for Dec 31, and your last day was the next Jan 30, and they never paid you.

This is a good illustration of the integrity of the company's founders. You should feel lucky to have gotten out. Hopefully your referral is planning on leaving too.

Actually, in California, an employer is penalized if late paying wages after termination of employment. Employee wages continue until they make the payment (this is a little less clear in this case, since it was a referral bonus). (IANAL of course, nor is this legal advice)

I still wouldn't have gone for the "nuclear option" of naming and shaming -- it makes your next employer more wary of hiring you (which probably costs you more than $10k in wages, even though anyone minimally competent can get a job in the current market in the Bay Area), and costs the employer way more than $10k (I doubt any HN readers will blindly trust Miso or the founders, at least for a while).

Just like the namesake, the "nuclear option" is negative sum. I prefer to stick to positive sum games when possible, or zero sum when unavoidable.

Well, this is now the only thing I know about Miso.

Good call, Miso.

A better call: http://jzhwu.blogspot.com/2012/05/im-former-miso-engineer-an... Apparently they have decided to pay after all.

Yeah seriously, haha.

Naming and shaming is not in this guy's immediate interests at all. It does not change the chances of him getting compensated, and future employers may view the act negatively (although this may act as a useful filter for rremoncake, the kind of people that wouldn't hire him because of this are probably not the kind of people he'd want to work for anyway).

The founders of Miso will now be perceived by many people (myself amongst them) as highly unethical and shortsighted individuals. Being either of those things makes them undesirable as employers/employees/coworkers.

I'm reminded of the altruistic primates that run shrieking through the forest to warn their clan of an approaching predator, at the risk of being eaten themselves... If rremoncake saved some hackers from putting in a few years with these guys only to be hosed after an acquisition, then I think he's done something pretty positive, and should be commended. Sorry if you get eaten.

Lawyer-up. Get paid. Don't get screwed.

I say this as a founder many times over. An agreement is an agreement. I've had to do things like put salaries on credit cards and mortgage my house to make payroll during bad times. I don't appreciate business owners that behave as you described.

The data loss event you mentioned has no relevance here. Yes, you fucked-up. And you own that. Lesson learned. The $10K was not conditional to you being a perfect employee, it only required you to bring someone in that would stay for at least six months. That, you did.

If Somrat had not said:

  "After you lost our data and caused our entire 
  company to scramble for 3 days, I am hesitant",
everything might've been fine for Miso. It's too bad he never learned to keep his mouth shut.

That was what kept me reading the entire article.

Somrat started the conversation by making it personal.

Somrat is actually a friend of mine (former coworker...), and I emailed him to point out the HN explosion over this, and ask if they'd consider paying the $10k.

Apparently he'd already done so, and commented on the blog:


Somrat NiyogiMay 10, 2012 9:37 PM I'm CEO of Miso. Let me start by saying, this was our mistake and we apologize. We reached out to Joshua Wu and we are paying his referral bonus.

Let me dig into this further. We have a policy in place where if a Miso employee refers a full-time hire to Miso, after the referred employee has worked at Miso for 6 full months, the referring Miso employee will receive a bonus. Pretty standard stuff. What we didn’t make clear is what the timing is and other requirements for receiving the referral bonus. We did not have a clear and complete policy and it was our responsibility to communicate fully with our employees. This is clearly our fault.

Our referral program is still in place and we will continue to encourage our team to refer the best candidates to Miso. Moving forward, we have established the following clear criteria to explain how employees will be eligible for the $10K referral bonus: - The employee must provide a referral for a full-time hire. - The referred employee must work at Miso for 6 full months after hire date (excluding any leaves of absence) - The referring employee must be employed at Miso and not have given notice to depart the company prior to the date of the bonus payment.

If the above has been met, the referring employee will be eligible to receive the referral bonus in the first full pay period following the 6-month anniversary of the referred employee.

We are human and we make mistakes. We’ve learned something from this.

I'm happy to see you name names. I've seen too many posts where people mention being wronged but then let the guilty parties of the hook. I can't imagine any company wouldn't hire you because of this is a company you'd want to work for .

You made a mistake with the db, but I don't see how that entitles them to essentially fine you 10k.

Contact the CA department of labor and ask them how strong your case is. CA's department of labor will handle the process of arbitrating any unpaid wages and can likely tell you about labor law much better than most people here.

http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/HowToFileWageCLaim.htm "Unpaid wages, including commissions and bonuses." "A claim based on an oral agreement must be filed within two years from the date the claim arose."

Personally I think they lost their case as soon as their executive mentioned that the reason they would withhold payment was because of mistakes made on the job. By doing such they appear to acknowledge the debt and state their reasoning for not complying with payment is related to such reasons. Regardless of any future emails that kind of breaks CA labor code as far as I know. I'm not a lawyer though so what do I know.

I appreciate you doing this and I hope my employees would do the same if I were to act unethically in any future startup. There's a million sociopathic megalomaniacal assholes in Silicon Valley and that won't change unless people fight back.

Expert witness in forensic computing evidence here.

Remember when the too-big-to-fail banks were bailed out to the tune of $700B USD and bank executives insisted they had to be paid their bonuses because their employers were contractually obligated to do so? A lot depends on who the payee is.

In this case, I imagine I would argue (in an affidavit) against the CTO who admitted that there was no backup in place. Also, there was an email suggesting that the verbal contract (now confirmed in writing thanks to the exchange of email!) would be honored except for a database mishap. That's an admission of liability. The emails do not state that the (potential) plaintiff was responsible for backups. They don't say, "you were responsible for backups and you did not implement any." They simply admit there weren't any, which I would count as a failure of management to implement backups.

A good labor lawyer could do a lot with this.

10k for a start up looking for a revenue model is a lot of money. It is effectively another month's runway.

If an offer has been made, and the person is still with the company, then it is not only a contract, but a business necessity.

Obviously, from an ethical perspective 10k promised is 10k owed, and regardless of how unhappy the CEO is with gaining one employee only to lose another one, we all recognize the value of keeping our word. The CEO should chalk it up to be more careful about these type of terms in the future.

>. It is effectively another month's runway.

With half an engineer, maybe

"I was entitled to a $10k referral bonus offered by the CEO through internal emails."

Can you produce this email? (IANAL)If so you may actually have legal grounds for taking action against Miso ...

IANAL - I am not a lawyer.

Just incase there are others like me wondering what the heck that acronym stood for…

On the Internet, IANAL is I am not a lawyer.

On a bumper sticker, it means something completely different...

And there I was thinking that IANAL was a sexual preference.

Email is the property of his employer, the courts would not expect him to be able to produce it. His lawyer could however ask the court to obtain the email on his behalf, and the company would be compeled to provide it.

Something similar has happened to me twice (different scenarios), and the only commiseration I can offer is that they are life's learning experiences. Now you know a little more to get everything mentioned down on paper before you sign. I find it hard to believe that the referral bonus wasn't mentioned in an email or other notification-level policy statement, but aside from that you're probably just going to have to eat it.

They certainly did weasel out of it, though. Obviously they were looking for ways not to pay it rather than to avoid bad blood. That's fine, karma, they stepped on you on the way up the ladder, etc. Not a lot you can do about it, probably (but I'll be watching the thread ;).

FTA: "I was entitled to a $10k referral bonus offered by the CEO through internal emails." It was mentioned in an email.

Yeah, just saw that :/

One of my life lessons was that I didn't save email from one of the scenarios, email in which the CEO had asked me how old I was.

For posterity's sake I'd like to see you give a more detailed writeup.

I am shocked, not because things like this happen, but because a broad group of posters at HN seems to justify Miso's behavior, which was legally as wrong as morally (and strategically wrong as well).

I had never expected to see such reaction from so many HN characters. That's a long list of people I wish never to do business with.

I like how they are saying he shouldn't have said it in public but have their contact information or real names in their profile while stating they agree with breaking contracts and screwing employees.

The correct response here isn't to air your grievances in public, it's to talk to a lawyer.

For $10,000? Lawyers aren't cheap and, honestly, typically aren't worth it for amounts under $25k, especially if the other side can lawyer up faster and better than you can. Take it to small claims and get as much as you can.

You can certainly talk to a lawyer for much less than $10k. The lawyer will either (a) tell you to forget about it (b) tell you that it's not worth using a lawyer, but that you might be able to pursue it in small claims court or (c) send a letter, which is probably all this would take, if he has any standing at all.

If the other side lawyers up faster and better they're also paying more, and with a $100 letter it might be easy to convince them that lawyers typically aren't worth it for amounts under $25k.

Depends on what his motives are...

Also, it's 10k. For that kind of money, it's much cheaper to go public than to go legal.

I want to emphasize that I don't really care for the money. It's the ethical implications of their decisions that I want to highlight.

For what it's worth, your intentions were clear to anyone who's actually read your post. Good luck, you did the right thing.

I agree, yes public shaming is free but he also just told the world he blew up a production database. That said I'll paraphrase Tom Watson when an employee of his made a $100,000 mistake "Are you kidding? We just spent $100,000 on your training".

And again, what does that (blowing up the database) have to do with a referral bonus?

He also told the world that Miso doesn't have great engineering practices. Deleting a few thousand rows is easy if you forget a "from" clause in your sql statement. Would you consider working at Miso if you knew about their poor moral standards and bad engineering practices?

I feel like more people should be publicly shaming companies so that companies realize they can't pull shit without consequences. I bet you there's a whole list of companies that fire people right before they're eligible for pension benefits, and there's little employees can do.

Docking wages for employee mistakes unless (and perhaps even if) wilfully negligent is /highly illegal/ in every state in the US, and will have the Labor Board all over your company and slapping you hard with fines and punishment.

What's with all the jerks trying to say the only enforceable contract is a written and signed contract? U.S. Courts uphold verbal contracts all the time. "He said, she said" is quite a bit more iffy without witnesses, but commitments and agreements are still legally valid commitments and agreements. Email conversations are just about as good as a printed and signed contract.

And the employee has to remind the employer to pay up? Let's see how far that goes when employees have to remind the employer every payday that the paychecks are due. Why don't you just institute some asinine rebate-style process for obtaining your referral fee? 1) Clip the UPC code from the new hire and have it notarized on its date of hire; notarizing on any other date will void your claim to the fee 2) Hold the notarized code until the new hire has been employed with the company for at least six months 3) Mail the notarized original code to an address seven hundred miles away using a handwritten envelope and first class postage only; computer printed envelopes and postage in excess of first class postage will void your claim to the fee 4) Pray that the new hire is still with the company at the moment the claim department decides to process your claim. Claims may take six to eight months for processing.

I'm in a bit of a similar situation. My last company didn't have any form of corporate credit, so I purchased everything on my own card and submitted the expenses to be reimbursed.

Fast forward to November. I purchased over 8k worth of computers, phones, and software for new hires. I get my reimbursement check in Janurary. Most of their amazon stuff running was on my amazon account, and I ended up paying for their Microsoft assurance license costs out of my own pocket with the promise that I would be reimbursed.

I left in early April.

Guess who's still using his twilio API key for their SMS notifications? Guess who hasn't migrated their stuff off of his amazon key? Guess who hasn't paid him for his last expenses, and who held my last paycheck for an extra two weeks?

It's someone that is getting ready to get a first round of fifteen million valuation -- and I'm hopeful that when they fund, I start to see some of the money, but I'm not holding my breath...

Hell, I've sent them emails asking to have them remove their services from my accounts; even providing detailed instructions on how to do so. I am afraid of turning them off because I do not want to be accused of disrupting their services -- which would be a death blow to my career -- and emails sent to the CTO and VP of engineering go into the ether.

Bonus: the two attorneys I talked to wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole.

this same shit happened with me when I worked retail, but I didn't quit until they told me I would never get the money. I never quit and then went back to get it. If memory serves, the phrase is "take the money and run" not "run and then try to go back for the money." seriously dude, you forgot about 10k? who does that?

now that I'm reading more though, if they didn't stipulate "you have to be a current employee to redeem your bonus" from the get go, they probably should have and it was asking for trouble not to do so. if they're casually going to toss around 10k in informal emails it clearly didn't mean that much to them anyway. unless there's more to the story, ie an employee contract with a bonus clause in it. which there probably is because we've only read on side of this story.

miso has way more to lose here than one engineer, if I was miso, I would've met immediately with legal counsel and him and hammered out a solution, not fired emailed back n forth.

dumb moves all around.

File under: Live and learn.

$10K is an amount that sounds like a lot to many folks but it's nothing you can ever recover. If you engage a lawyer it'll all go to his fees even if you "win." Move on.

One could file in small claims court, if $10k is within the limit.

Even if it's not, you just ask for the limit of the small claims court. $5k is still better than a kick at the table leg, and it's probably more than you'd get were you to hire a lawyer and sue for the full amount.

The limit is $7.5k in California, but you can voluntarily reduce your claim to meet this threshold.

Yup. 10k is not within the limit. This is also a very easy win in small claims, it should be settled in a few months max.

This is like deciding to leave a company and emailing them a month later to make sure their product roadmap is still the same.

The bonus was an incentive, which you clearly didn't care about because: a) you forgot about it, and b) you referred your friend who you would have referred anyway

Making it "public" now is just vindictive. If you forgetting about your own bonus for months, and then another month after leaving the company still leaves you eligible for said non-contractual bonus, then what _is_ the statute of limitations? Would you email them 10 years later and ask for the bonus?

If Steve Jobs promised you a company trip to Hawaii if you got the Macintosh shipped on time, and EVERYONE forgot and didn't care, or Steve took everyone out for sushi instead, would you email Apple inc. tomorrow and insist they send you to Hawaii??

> If Steve Jobs promised you a company trip to Hawaii if you got the Macintosh shipped on time, and EVERYONE forgot and didn't care, or Steve took everyone out for sushi instead, would you email Apple inc. tomorrow and insist they send you to Hawaii??

Yes, I would. Why wouldn't I? I just don't get it. Shyness, peer pressure? Please explain. And, why that appeal to the majority? Screw the majority.

> The bonus was an incentive, which you clearly didn't care about because: a) you forgot about it

Yeah, well, would you not ask for one month's unpaid wages? Would you just say "oh, I guess I forgot to check the numbers this time, sucks to be me"? What if that happened to one of your friends or close family? If something I say can be interpreted as though I don't care about my wage, should I work for free? Asking doesn't count as caring?

> b) you referred your friend who you would have referred anyway

Everyone gets paid according to the contract, regardless of what they would've done otherwise. Or, fuck it, let's just not pay ethical surgeons shit. They would've operated on those dying people anyways, the suckers.

The bonus was a legally binding contract. As long as statute of limitations has not passed, then the company is obligated to compensate according to contract. I guess you could wait 10 years, but if the company is no longer around, you probably wouldn't be able to get that 10k anymore.

If a company forgot to pay you your last paycheck after you left the company, would it still be wrong to ask for that paycheck a year later? That "bonus" was part of the compensation package, and would be no different than a paycheck lost in the mail.

My recollection is that the statute of limitations on debt is something like 7 years. Months is definitely not an appropriate amount of time for a debt to expire. If I stop paying my mortgage and the bank neglects to follow up for a few months, do I own my house free and clear? Of course not. If they let it go for years then, and only then, can it work out that way.

The guy made it sound like an off hand comment in an email. From what I read in his post it did not sound at all like a legally binding contract.


Sorry but you need to take responsibility for forgetting to ask for the bonus at the end of six months while you were still employed by Miso. If you had remembered in all likelihood you would have been paid in full and all would have been well.

As it is, you left the company on bad terms and decide to publicly shame them. You will have trouble getting future employment as a result. Your future earnings has just potentially decreased by substantially more than $10k. How would you feel if after someone fired you they blogged about all the mistakes you made on the job publicly referring to you by name? You just don't do this. It's bad for business.

> How would you feel if after someone fired you they blogged about all the mistakes you made on the job publicly referring to you by name?

Totally not the same thing. If you make mistakes on the job you have not broken any contract. In this case, Miso (almost) broke a contract. That's why the public naming is justified. Releasing details of an employee's performance is not (unless there's an expectation that the company will do so).

Also, this guy has won a fair amount of approbation from many posters here and a few hirers. There will be certain employers who would be more willing to hire him because of his principled stance, even if there are more who are hesitant because they believe unethical practice should not be outed publicly. It's a fair risk to take if he thinks it'll filter out dodgy employers in future and is worth the benefit to the community.

We should be applauding this guy, not criticizing his choice.

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