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.