The real story here is that fighting on principle is the rational thing to do. If you don't fight on principle then the predators feel empowered, and everyone suffers. People like Josh are heroes. Those who try to take away from his accomplishment by either convincing him that it would be "smarter" to be spineless or that somehow it's wrong to have a spine, are even more despicable than Josh's abusive ex-boss.
Unless you have information not available in the original post or reply, you're making that judgement off of a severely limited set of (largely one-sided) data.
One concern that I have is that the Miso CEO (and people like him) will take away the wrong lesson, along the lines of "be careful what you say to employees in email". But the real lesson is that you should keep your promises, and if you have a moment of weakness and try to reneg on a promise, don't be proud: admit the mistake and keep the promise. People make mistakes, even twenty-something CEOs of tech startups (shocking, I know).
If I could sit here all day clicking the upvote button I would!
To me, the points were brought up one email too late. The moment the first response was Josh, let me talk to Tim. After you lost our data and caused our entire company to scramble for 3 days, I am hesitant,
I saw this as. "Let me think of how I can not pay you."
Even though the next email was perfectly cogent, it wasn't the first. (The next email read Spoke with Somrat about this. You're right that the trouble that you caused has nothing to do with a referral bonus. However, we only pay bonuses to employees. The bonuses are discretionary and not contractual. You and Miso never signed a contract that mentions bonuses. As a policy, referral bonuses are meant to help build a stronger team based on existing relationships. Employees bringing on employees that they've worked with in the past builds a stronger team. This bonus is not simply about hiring. For example, we don't pay people outside of Miso when they refer us candidates that we hire. Because you are no longer employed by Miso, you are not eligible for this bonus.).
After the first email bringing up something irrelevant that I passed summary judgment on Miso: if you don't pay, everything else is irrelevant, no matter what you think of it's just excuses, since your first excuse was to just say, "Fuck you, I don't need to string you along anymore. Here's the first thing I could think of. You dropped a one week old database on a product we didn't have backups on." Of COURSE that has nothing to do with a referral, except if you're saying, "you know I pull the strings around here and it's my decision to make. I'm not all that happy with you."
Sorry, Miso, you lost in that sentence. The question is only whether you owe the employee a referral bonus you promised. You don't get to do what you promised if you had a good experience with the the guy or not otherwise.
There's this great founder I always have in mind when I read stuff like this. Boy did that guy have a philosophy! I've always thought of drawing a caricature of him sitting down at a restaurant with his wife and looking at the menu, and his wife saying that they really can't afford these prices. So he says, "It's okay honey order whatever you want. There is no way I'm paying for any of this shit."
"After you lost our data and caused our entire company to scramble for 3 days, I am hesitant."
"How do I justify to the rest of the team paying you an exorbitant bonus for team building after you trashed a production system that cost the team 3 days of work, then quit."
Not that this changes the fact that they should have paid.
Exorbitant would be: equity; $50k; paid on when the referral joins (instead after 6 months); paid if the referral is brought in for an interview, regardless of hire. (would be VERY VERY exorbitant). This is just standard.
The amount varies, but the last two places I've worked have spelled out their referral bonus amounts and terms explicitly.
Also, I want to make a nuanced but important point here. The employer in this particular case is explicitly kind of saying, "yeah, it might have kind of helped at the time, but you're not working here anymore." By that logic, every single person who ever gives notice should have their last paycheck docked if the time to cut the check occurs after they have left. After all, even though the paycheck might have originally helped them work there, they're not working there anymore so that doesn't matter. Why should an employer ever pay the last paycheck? You're not part of the team anymore and the paycheck is meant to motivate employees to work, that's why it exists. "Also, you dropped the database", or some made-up excuse.
I think we can all agree that people don't just work for money, but we can also all agree that every employer needs to pay the last paycheck, even if the time to pay it comes after the employee has left. To me, per my comment that you replied to, the fact that the database thing was brought up means the employer is trying to squirm out of settling a debt; rather than say that it wasn't a real debt.
(I have no idea what happened in this case, and I'm not saying a spoken agreement is necessarily a contract or that you definitely can offer any given piece of evidence to prove it. The rules are complicated. But contract law is basically about fairness, not technicalities. If "you have no legal proof!" sounds unfair, that's a good hint that it's probably not an accurate statement of the law.)
Just because the idea is kind of neat: It's possible you're getting jumped on by the lawyers here because "legal proof" itself is such a non-legal concept. There's such a thing as mathematical proof, for sure. There might be such a thing as scientific proof. But you could rarely point at something and say "that's legal proof." You could only say, "that turned out to be enough evidence to convince that particular jury." "Proof" is defined by the observer (jury, judge, etc.), not the object (contract, bloody knife, etc.).
He did have a contract. It just wasn't written and signed. It's still a contract. The CFO is misleadingly implying that because it was not signed, there was no contract.
The mere fact he has the email exchange which took place between them afterwards is probably enough evidence to show in court that a [contractual] agreement existed. Miso was dumb to ever respond. They would have been better to pretend they never saw or heard from the gentleman again and leave it to him to sue... with little to no evidence that the agreement existed. That still doesn't mean Miso doesn't suck... it's just the move Miso should have made if they were going to try and be dicks about it, like they were. Miso, should have just paid up right away, they got caught red handed though and their legal counsel probably said... pay up, it'll save you as much or more and cause you less legal headaches and stress... let's just make this go away and save ourselves from losing focus on a legal fight we will probably lose and minimally will cost as much or more to fight.
It's easy to pretend you didn't get an email. But what if you send via registered post a letter, or a courier? What do you do if the employee has a signed form saying you received the letter? Blatantly ignoring the good faith attempts to resolve this matter before courts are involved might harm your case.
That, and because verbal contracts are not enforceable for all transactions.
Oh, they definitely sue over verbal contracts all the time. Just trying watching any of the dozen Judge X shows on TV or visiting a small claims court. Indeed, the reason for small claims courts is largely to keep these types of disputes out of real courtrooms.
It's a (thinly) veiled threat. Of course, it's irrelevant to what's being discussed, but it's a way of saying "I can embarrass you with this irrelevant issue if you press this" without actually saying it. Classic extortion tactic.
Since Josh printed the exchange in full, they no longer have this on him. Still, I don't know if it's a smart move on his part. He could have left that out entirely, and if they brought it into the public, he'd have more than $10,000 to talk about.
Actually, I'm sure there are two sides to the database story. He could have been poorly trained, or working 80 hours per week-- at which point mistakes are inevitable-- or given bad tools. These kinds of fuckups rarely have only one person at fault, especially in the sloppier startups where management is thinly-spread and incompetent and there are too many moving parts (startups are hard to keep track of when well-run, and many aren't). I'm surprised he didn't get into detail of what happened there.
Fat fingering an rm -rf or corrupting a DB, if you have good backup policies, should generally not cause End of Days.
1. Responsibility to have a backup.
2. Responsibility to not screw up live data.
When someone screws up on #2, it inconveniences the person responsible for #1 and potentially loses any data since the last backup. That is the limit of #2's responsibility in this.
If #1 hasn't done his job right, it will come out when someone eventually plays the part of #2 (mistakes happen). Once that happens, the damage from not having a backup is #1's responsibility, not #2's.
In this case, we do not have clear information about who was responsible for #1.
It is my job to make sure we have a well-run software engineering product team. Ensuring that backups run and are tested is one small part of my job. Not doing the backups, sure, but making sure the team has taken care of it.
Mistakes happen and folks shouldn't be punished for that.
Remember that disks are fallible - human error needn't be involved to require recovery from backups.
Regardless of the root cause of data corruption, requiring three days to recover is completely a management/organization problem.
He could have been poorly trained, or working 80 hours per
week-- at which point mistakes are inevitable-- or given
The phrase "poorly trained" puts the blame on someone else, rather than on the person who made the mistake. Anything to avoid responsibility.
If a programmer is consistently making mistakes that cost other programmers time and energy, and either incapable or (worse yet) unwilling when it comes to improvement, then he's a bad programmer and should be fired. No company can tolerate dividers.
It doesn't sound like this is what happened to the OP. It sounds like this was an occasional mistake. They happen.
If a run-of-the-mill junior programmer mistake is an existential threat to the company, that's management's fault. Either (a) it was too early to hire someone that junior, or (b) the infrastructure was poorly designed.
They owed him money and either through mistake or malice didn't pay him. When he contacted them to correct it they tried to legalize their way out of it. If I wouldn't have anything to do with them before, I'm doubly unimpressed now.
I'm not sure exactly what more you'd expect them to do. I'm sure they wish they'd handled this differently, but once he posted it, they seem to have handled things reasonably well.
Plus, of course, you've only seen one side of the story. Even if the company has other facts, they can't present them publicly, because then they'd potentially be open to a lawsuit. Similar reasons why people don't give honest feedback after interviews, or referrals other than "yes, he worked at this company on those dates".
The loudest expression of your morals is what you do when you have all the power. If you act poorly, later rationalizations do little to convince anyone otherwise.
There is a silver lining for all of this -- future company founders will know what NOT to do when presented with bad PR.
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
From the inside cover:
"DiLorenzo portrays the sixteenth president as a man who devoted his political career to revolutionizing the American form of government from one that was very limited in scope and highly decentralized?as the Founding Fathers intended?to a highly centralized, activist state. Standing in his way, however, was the South, with its independent states, its resistance to the national government, and its reliance on unfettered free trade."
No mention of, you know, slavery? Or the fact that southern states seceded before he was even inaugurated? I'd like to see a Venn Diagram of people who like this book and people who own confederate flags.
The first section in the linked page is a preface written on a state website, summarizing that the secession document was totally concerned with slavery. It is then followed by the document in its entirety so that you can see the truth for yourself.
But I also think the employer's behavior here fails your own test. There's no expression of learning that a poor choice was made, just expression of plausible deniability.
In some sense, me calling my perspective out as I see it, is a hope that it does affect such change.
If you look at the sequence of emails he was first denied the bonus on the grounds of his own job performance, then on the grounds of not having a written contract, then finally because he didn't meet their ad hoc policy requirements.
I guess nobody actually expects them to apologize like human beings, but it would be nice if they said something like, "We're sorry for fighting you on the referral bonus. You deserved it after the 6 months was up and we should have given it to you then. We've put a structure in place at the company so this doesn't happen again. "
There's not a lot more that they can do. They've advertised themselves as a company that willingly screws their employees and goes back on their word.
Whatever the details of the case, anybody who is thinking of joining their team will now think "they might do something like this to me".
They admitted they made a mistake in not clearly documenting their policy, which was ambiguous. As part of correcting that mistake, they recompensed an employee who was wronged by the ambiguity. They did this not because they were obligated by a policy or contract, but by ethics.
I think it's debatable whether he was entitled to the bonus, that's why I say they weren't "necessarily" wrong. Obviously Miso felt he was not entitled to it, since under their clarified policy he would not be.
This is not a matter of a simple "ambiguity in policy", is it? This is a contract they made with their employees that failed to specify terms like "the bonus will only be payable while you are an employee of the company".
Miso doesn't get to retroactively apply terms to a contract that has been made. Hence, IMO, they recompensed the employee because they were obligated to by contract.
edit: Two good comments from the blog:
Somrat, Tim: your mistake was not that you were unclear about your policy. Your mistake was failing to follow your policies and agreements in the first place and then trying to apply new policies after the fact. This isn't unclear, it's unethical.
This reply tells everyone that CYA is your sole problem solving skill.
Suppose a company's expense report policy does not clarify whether they will fulfill expenses incurred during employment but filed after resignation. The day after you quit you find an expense receipt you forgot to report. Must the company compensate you? It's ambiguous.
The agreement was fulfilled when the referee completed his 6 months, no? At that point it became a debt that the company owed jzhwu, and he only quit a month after. I don't think debts immediately disappear when you quit a company (unless you sign some sort of agreement to that effect). So by default I'd guess that the debt cannot "vanish on resignation".
> Must the company compensate you? It's ambiguous.
It's probably a problem long settled by the courts and labor regulations, actually. Not ambiguous at all.
I considered this, too. Obviously I agree that, if it were a debt, then he is entitled to it, and that the debt cannot disappear.
But what if it's not a debt? I think that the debt exists if the creditor makes a claim. Perhaps by not asking for his bonus, the employee lost his opportunity to make a claim, and cannot make a claim after resigning.
Your suggest he claim the debt at any time. How long is he allowed he wait? 10 years? 100 years?
All I'm asking is that you see how this could be argued either way! Obviously a court (or case law) would decide one way or another, but until that point it is ambiguous.
That would depend in the terms specified in the contract. If the entirety of the contract is the email message which says "We'll pay 10K for a referral that lasts 6 months", then it defaults to the contract laws in their state. I can guarantee that the contract laws of their state do not say "debts owed to employees are void after employment is terminated."
> How long is he allowed he wait? 10 years? 100 years?
Most, probably all, states also have a law defining what the limit on collecting a debt is. It usually falls between 3 and 6 years, and is considerably longer in a few.
The CEO's comment here makes me think that this was indeed a contract, so Miso would have had no leg to stand on in a court.
Although it is usually impossible to predict the outcome of a vaguely-defined case (I hit and killed you with my car, am I liable?), a case where all relevant facts are known (I hit and killed you with my car while you were legally crossing at a crosswalk, my light was red, and I was speeding) is utterly unambiguous, but will still end up in court if one side refuses to settle, no matter why they refuse.
Remember that incident with Airbnb where a woman's house was trashed? I'm sure Airbnb had all the proper fine print to prevent them from liability, but they still went out of their way to make sure the woman was properly compensated. I'm sure Airbnb was never at fault here, but they were able to turn a case of bad press into good press.
The Miso founder simply took a case of bad press, and turned into worse press.
They were uncontrovertibly wrong to not pay him, because they've lost 10-100x $10k in goodwill, recruiting capability, etc. If they really wanted to be strict and avoid establishing a precedent, they could have just given him an extra $10k bonus for severance vs. $10k for the referral amount; I doubt he cares what the memo line of the check says.
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.
They wouldn't be able to get away with not paying a headhunter just because he sent his invoice in after the company decided to not renew their contract with him. The fact that they can legally get away with stiffing an ex-employee doesn't make it any more ethical.
Were I leaving a company amicably and had no other constraint on my time (say I'm planning to start my own company, or even just take a couple years off), I'd give several weeks, if not a few months' notice, to maximize flexibility for everyone. If I knew it was going to screw me out of $10,000, however, I definitely would not extend that courtesy.
they don't think they've done wrong here. in the same situation they want to be able to do the same and get away with it. these aren't people who have learnt something about keeping their word - they're paying because it's the best way to manage the crisis. the third rule is to justify their actions: they don't feel wrong; they regret that they were caught without a good excuse.
they have come out of this looking appalling. worst of all, they don't get the idea that people - good, committed engineers - don't stay or leave because of salaries and bonuses. they leave because management sucks.
> After you lost our data and caused our entire company to scramble for 3 days, I am hesitant.
Everything since then has been trying to unring the bell.
Consider that the average programmer's salary is above 60k. 15% of that is 9k, plus the flat fee. The company has already gotten roughly 10k out of this referral transaction. It's not just an incentive to build a strong team...it's how much they'd have to pay if there were no employee referral program at all.
I'm not sure whether this should be rewarded or not, but it seems a situation that he's alluding to in that rule.
A company that talks about bonuses of that size with no legal contract didn't care enough about it to start with.
The developer will pay with his reputation. Any employer who knows what happened will never fully trust him, except after a long working relationship.
Miso will pay by losing potential hires.
Each side loses more than 10,000 dollars worth. Justin's professional rep is worth a lot more than 10k, Miso's hiring future is worth more than one bonus. They should have worked this out in private.
They couldn't, and they both lost.
Additionally, his name is so damn generic, it might as well be john lee. There might be 10 serial killers with his name too, but I doubt future employers would really be able pinpoint this incident with his name.
Manager: But we really need to launch today. We'll get backups going next week, I promise.
Programmer: OK... gulp.
Ultimately, a startup involves taking a lot of calculated risks. Miso decided that the benefits from launching early outweighed the risks from losing data (physical media failures, fat finger, bugs, etc.). They were wrong. They gambled and lost. The successful companies we hear about are the ones that gambled and won.
The successful companies we hear about did not gamble, in my view.
There are plenty of ways we ought to take risks in business, but basic IT practice is not one of them.
Will this potential employee throw a fit when we don't use the libraries he wants? Probably not (like I would assume of most professionals), but this new found infamy would make me as a recruiting company think twice.
I think the situation could and should have been resolved in private. I know there are more clarifying emails, but we don't get to see them. If I were considering hiring this guy, I would be much more comfortable if I could see all of the emails with each side clearly stating their case, and then the developer's calm and rational ultimatum to go to the public. Even then, I would (as a potential employer) be even more comforted if the post itself had a calm and rational voice. (I believe the voice is mixed at best.)
I base my claim that this could have been resolved in private on the fact that Miso resolved everything so quickly. If the case and ultimatum were clearly communicated, Miso would have been prepared for the negative PR by releasing their version of events. Instead, the company payed up not even 12 hours after the story is published. This leads me to believe that communication was poor between the parties.
The only reason Miso paid up so quickly is that they're hoping the $10k will keep people from grabbing more pitchforks.
If you look at other examples of bad company PR, you'll see that companies tend to react fast when then smell a shit storm coming their way... it has nothing to do with poor communication.
That's the problem with whistle-blowing. Usually, there's a period of negotiation that occurs before it gets to that point. The situation has been developing for weeks or months and nothing else has worked. Suing is too expensive, so the wronged takes the matter to the public.
It can be damaging to the whistle-blower's reputation because, from the perspective of almost all of "the public", it's the first time they're hearing this news. They don't see the months of failed (or even bad-faith) negotiation. It seems like a drastic, hair-trigger decision to expose the matter, because it's the first time they are hearing about it. And people like to kill the messenger and don't like to hear bad news about reputable companies.
If the case and ultimatum were clearly communicated, Miso would have been prepared for the negative PR by releasing their version of events.
Sounds like a Ned Stark blunder. Experience has taught me that threatening to do something like this is a bad idea-- it gives your adversary time to prepare for it. Don't threaten; just do. If you're in this sort of fight, you want them to be surprised and capitulate in 12 hours. Saying, "this is exactly what I plan to release about you" is a bad idea for several reasons. First, your adversary has time to prepare. Second, it can become illegal (extortion in some cases, although most likely not in this one since there was a pre-existing contractual agreement).
Or he was working 80 hour weeks and had a lot on his mind.
But hey, blame the victim--he had it coming! Come work for me, I will try and stiff you at every turn, and if I manage to, hey you just didn't want it bad enough.
You should always work with the assumption that your employer is a douche even though he doesn't act like it. Cynical, yes, but this is a business relationship, and when money is involved, you'll often see the ugly side of people turn up.
The original employer is at fault, but this type of behaviour is common, and people, especially young people, need to be aware that your relationship with your employer is not a friendship. It's a business relationship.
Limit your trust of them, and make sure you get everything you are owed by them before you quit. When you resign, assume that you'll get walked out, so make sure you've got all of your stuff ready to go. I could go on, but you should get the idea.
I wish you were right, but you're not. For all the press about the "war for talent", there's never a good time to be a whistle-blower. Sometimes it is worth doing, because these kinds of stories are extremely common (read: there are a lot of bubble startups with shitty, unethical management) right now, but it's generally a risky move.
Our perspective: Josh is a hero who exposed a crappy, sloppily-managed startup after the executives moved to deprive him of a promised bonus.
Stereotypical HR perspective: Josh is a risk. He exposed an employer's "dirty laundry" over a trivial amount of money and "professionals just don't do that". Oh, and there's this thing about losing data in the last 2 weeks. Sounds like he fucked something up and was fired.
Sane, reasonable counterpoints: Josh was right to do what he did, because he probably prevented other people from getting screwed by this company. Also, we have no idea why the database problem occurred. Maybe he was working 14-hour days (it's common for shitbag startups to push people to put in 80 hours per week, and later use the low quality-- on account of the overtime and deadline pressure-- of what is produced as justification for canning them once the equity is worth something). Maybe he was badly trained. Who knows? It's just as likely that it's not his fault, and regarding the manner of his termination, who cares?
Not-unreasonable (but unfortunate) HR counterpoint: Sure, sure, but he's still riskier than this other guy who didn't expose an ex-employer and has identical credentials.
Of course unethical employers would hesitate to trust him but do you want to work for unethical employers?
I don't see this division as being as firm as one might like. Corporate "culture" is largely a fiction. Most companies have a mix of ethical and unethical people. Saying you wouldn't want to work for a 100-person company because there's one unethical person (or, for your example, a "sympathizer" with unethical people) in HR is short-sighted. No company is perfect, and if you insist only on working in companies where everyone is ethical and good, well... you'll have a hard time working for companies larger than about 10 people, including your own.
In a competitive market (which sort of exists in tech), those companies that exhibit bad judgement fail. You're really doing yourself a favor by not getting hired by them.
Frankly, I think any company that would behave as you describe would probably do this same shit all over again.
I'm not sure if this guy is a decent hire or not (possibly not), but my decision to hire him wouldn't be based upon this episode, it would be based upon whatever I could figure out about his abilities.
No, it's not huge. As I said in another comment, it's always awkward for me to have to go to a 'manager' and ask for money so I procrastinate on such issues. Maybe it was similar for him.
and procrastinating is just fine. but you don't QUIT without getting that kind of dough.
Switching jobs is an excellent time to have $10k handy.
And for them to say "no sorry, you screwed up at the end" shows just how much they valued that employee's contribution to the team for an entire year.
This reeks of Big Co. incompetent management mentality. Sad to see startup founders power tripping and not realize it.
It was ok if they said they did not want to pay him as he is no longer and employee and later correct themselves saying that it was a mistake on their part as he was an employee after 6 months.
What is not ok is that they used an emotional line of defense. Saying he doesn't deserve it 'cos of a screw up, tells me that both Somrat and Tim are kinda characters that would bail out when push comes to shove. Its the question of integrity and you just have to stand by the right in a startup. To me, this is the exact warning sign I need before thinking of a startup.
I hope employees of Miso read into this and take home something. Many might not care, but its their opinion.
"it's okay to screw employees because they'll leave anyway"
It's an unrelated issue, really. I think "founder has one type of expense policy for founders and execs, and another for employees" would be more apt.
To be clear, I feel that Miso is in the wrong on this. Just probably wasn't worth 10k on calling them out.
EDIT: From the comments it feels like the consensus is either a public shaming or hiding and forgetting about the money. There are other avenues like trying to pressure VC / board members, court, probably more. I wouldn't want this accessible on the internet for the next 50+ years.
However, I want to thank J Wu for doing this. What he did was commendable.
I know tons of freelancers who worked with companies or individuals, and end up not getting paid properly. They often fear loss of potential customer and do not take it public, even though they are fully on the right. Legal battle is often not an option for them. The cost can be hefty and even more importantly, it's a total waste of time. Legal battle breaks concentration on your work and drains you out.
I hope that this kind of dispute settling becomes normalized. Fulfilling one's responsibility is done most effectively when your accountability is tested publicly.
It wasn't worth 10K to Miso. Potential employees are going to google their name and want nothing to do with them. I sure wouldn't.
Their might be some employers that deny J Wu a job based on an honest post like this, but are they really working for in the first place?
Any employer who would have a beef with this is probably not worth working for anyway. Honest people have little to fear from public disclosure of their behavior.
In normal times/contexts, something like this would probably be at least slightly prejudicial to a hiring manager. 1) He appears to have at least somewhat screwed up at the job, in a way which wouldn't have been disclosed otherwise 2) He goes to the public vs. normal legal channels when there is a dispute. While you may not intend to have a dispute, it's always worth knowing how disagreements will be handled.
It doesn't really reflect on him one way or another. It's an interesting story, but the only part that has anything to do with hiring him would be to ask him what went wrong with that data loss and how he learned to minimize the chances of something like that happening in the future.
The fact that someone tried to get an injustice doesn't make less employable. Well, maybe to people who like to take advantage of others. Sounds like a good thing to discourage them.
Maybe worth $10k (clearly worth going nuclear for SOME amount of money or injustice -- $100mm? crimes?), but IMO not worth $300. Especially since "$10k + $300/hr for my costs related to this matter" would be totally reasonable too.
And in today's crazy bubble market, if you know what a web browser is, you'll probably get hired.
I might not have handled this exactly like J, but I certainly wouldn't think twice about hiring him because of this.
The problem is that lawsuits often take years. These startups are likely going to be (a) 10 times their current size, or (b) out of business, by then. So they can take a "we'll worry about it then" approach, in which case they collect interest on what they should have paid, and offload the risk.
These kinds of unethical startup executives don't fear lawsuits. Not in the least. The suit will be against the company, not the person-- it's very hard to pierce the corporate veil on this sort of issue-- and the individual executive will either be no longer with the company, or very wealthy and successful by then (in which case it's a hired attorney's PITA). Either way, it's not going to hurt him much.
The small-claim lawsuit doesn't have an incentive effect on such a startup because of this binary payoff. The advantage of a PR hit, as a punitive measure, is that it actually reduces the probability of success (rather than trivially reducing the amount of payoff in event of success).
I'm agreeing with the person above... This had nothing to do with your "company policy". It was clear in the 2nd email that you were trying to get away from paying $10k because your former employee dropped the database when there were no backups.
If the unclear policy was the real reason, your email would have implied that.
For anyone seeking employment, the people you work with day to day is one of the most important things, and this episode doesn't really show the best side of its founders character.
From http://www.courts.ca.gov/1256.htm, which is the small claims court which would have jurisdiction over this particular case.
It got me thinking that for every developer who manages to get frontpage on HN about their employer's dishonesty, there are probably more out there who had been screwed the same way.
I wish I'd handled it like this guy (the fired guy) handled it.
What's the tech equivalent of punitive damages?
Obviously if they had either there would again, be no story, since they'd just have been honest to start with.
Im glad the guy got his money, but it only makes the business look worse, IMHO.
As an award, Josh should let us decide the charity recipient..via HN poll!
So much for "damaging his reputation" (assuming he follows through). This gesture paints him as shaming Miso on principle, rather than for wanting $10k.
The righteous indignation we feel when we're wronged, that makes us waste time trying to get the $20 rebate (or whatever) we should have received, is part of what holds society together. Punishing wrongdoers is almost always costly. Someone has to bear that cost.
Second, Josh: you took a Hell of a gamble (speaking as someone with practical experience on the hiring side). From now on you will have to find some subtle way to include the entire history of this situation in future job application processes. A hiring manager stumbling upon only the first part of this episode will likely not give you the opportunity to explain the whole story.
It's a bureaucratic way of saying, "The only thing I did wrong was fail to hold your sippy cup for you while I explained the rules."
And if it wasn't would this be a good, free way to drum up some interest in your company; spread some geek drama?
Do not hire Joshua Wu.
There are many more apologetic pro-corporation white knights here than I expected, and Miso is an organization to avoid.
I'm glad Josh is donating the money to charity, but the onus was on him to claim the bonus while he was employed.
The onus is not on you to claim your wages is it? And if you forget you're not allowed them because "you should have told us!"?
Anyhow he was still working at the company at the time he should have been paid so the money was owed to him and he could have filed (for likely at least the interest on the bonus if not wages up until it was paid).
"Unpaid wages, including commissions and bonuses."
Either way it's a moot point now.
Based on such an aggressive attitude from the get-go, it seems likely there is significant history between Misu and the guy that we don't know about.
Misu surely doesn't look good in this case, but neither does he. A lot of employers will think twice about hiring a guy who is so quick to publicize a disagreement.