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.