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.
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."
(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: )
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.
Depends on the language.
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.
Bottom line: don't answer this question.
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.
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.
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?
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).
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.
There's also the question of labor laws. I bet this is considered wages under the law and probably impossible to sign away.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Think how many things in our society would break down if this wasn't the case.
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?
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!
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.
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.
Technical recruiters typically got 1/4 of yearly salary as payment. $10K recruitment bonus is cheap.
Regardless of whether it's legal, it's totally unethical to behave that way.
- "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?'
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
Here's a link to "could care less" in The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, http://books.google.com/books?id=9re1vfFh04sC&pg=PA137...
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.
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'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.
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,
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.
"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?
Hirebots are always making inferences and extrapolations that are wrong. The OP's blog post just gives more fuel to any Hirebot's prejudices.
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 :)
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.
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'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
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.
Of course, there are some that don't, but it's certainly not unusual for startups to use recruiters.
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.
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!
* 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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?)
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.
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'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.
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.
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.
Um, no. Assuming you meant "contracts", but in either case, no. That's not how it works.
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.
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.
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.)
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."
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…
Congratulations, you're an asshole that I never want to work with.
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.
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.
Don't kick people when they're down. You end up looking like a heartless jerk.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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'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 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.
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?
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).
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).
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?
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.
Miso gained $10k in cash, but they lost a ton more than that in employee trust. A foolish bargain, I'd say.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
(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.)
Fail for Miso.
If you quit Dec 31, and the company usually pays out annual bonuses on Jan 30, don't expect a check.
Pretty clear cut for me. The conditions were met, they owe him $10k. Maybe not legally but certainly morally.
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.
(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.)
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.
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.
Good call, Miso.
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.
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.
"After you lost our data and caused our entire
company to scramble for 3 days, I am hesitant",
Somrat started the conversation by making it personal.
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.
You made a mistake with the db, but I don't see how that entitles them to essentially fine you 10k.
"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.
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.
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.
With half an engineer, maybe
Can you produce this email? (IANAL)If so you may actually have legal grounds for taking action against Miso ...
Just incase there are others like me wondering what the heck that acronym stood for…
On a bumper sticker, it means something completely different...
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 ;).
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.
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.
Also, it's 10k. For that kind of money, it's much cheaper to go public than to go legal.
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.
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.
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.
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.
$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.
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??
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.
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.
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.
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.