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HN: I was fired today, is this even legal?
62 points by wturner on Apr 9, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 103 comments

I've been unemployed for a while and recently got an $8 an hour job through Kelly services. The name of the company is called Juno Pacific in Santa Cruz. I did excellent work, got along with everyone and had nothing but praise from my immediate supervisor. She jokingly said 'good job ,you deserve a raise' and other such comments regularly. When I was quizzed at the little testing stations I worked at I did fine. It was easy rote work.

We had a meeting yesterday where the upper management ( who I had never met ) called in all the workers in my shift and told us about the productivity incentive program.

The productivity incentive program is this: If you give the company any ideas that make them more money you are rewarded with a pizza party and you get to spin a cardboard cut out wheel that has 'big prizes' like a $25 amazon gift certificate. The grand prize of the cardboard cut out wheel is an ipad.

The manager mentioned one example of a single employee that thought up an idea that saved them $5000 a month. Presumably this person was rewarded with a pizza party and got to spin the cardboard cut out wheel and claim their prize.

The manager said that he would like to see each employee come up with at least 3 ideas.

I raised my hand and said that "if anyone here can make the company an additional $5000 a month you should treat them as a consultant and simply write them a check for $1000". I also said that the incentive program as is is a bit "maddening" and silly. I also mentioned that I've seen this kind of thing before at companies while implying that its simply not fair. After the meeting was over a few other employees expressed gratitude because its what they were thinking as well.

Today I was fired without notice. The person that was given the responsibility to notify me didn't give any reason except that my 'outburst was inexcusable' and that the decision came from upper management.

I know it sucks because you probably need that $8/hour right at this point but in the grand scheme, the "pizza party" and "wheel of fish" is about the most humiliating ridiculousness I've heard in quite some time. Life is too damn short.

Just reading the small amount you've written about the situation, I can tell you that you simply write English at a greater than $8/hour level. Probably much greater.

I'm continually shocked at how aggressively companies court mediocrity and failure. They probably think they are extremely progressive even for listening to employees in the first place, double plus points for giving token rewards. Unless, of course, that the employee input happens to be about how ridiculous and juvenile the whole exercise is.

I agree, the pizza parties and Amazon stuff is ridiculous, no question. I guess, the management did not fire vturner, because he pointed out a better idea. He was fired, because he openly embarrassed the management in a meeting. This is very undiplomatic. Apart from proper english, it is also important to have social skills and develop a feeling for rudeness.

It is very hard to find good ways to turn criticism into something positive and productive, though. This is all about how to put things and about the right or wrong moment. Not easy but worth trying.

His "outburst" may have been more for the benefit of his fellow employees than for management. I'm thinking that a few of them were quite encouraged that someone bravely spoke what they were feeling. It's hard to overstate how inhuman and alien some if these situations start feeling. I jolt of realness is a precious thing.

Certainly undiplomatic, but I wouldn't say it was rude. The "spin the wheel" incentive scheme is demeaning to the people it is meant to incentivise. For the senior management to propose it means they are either seriously clueless about people or simply don't care about them. In either case, in a business setting, the OP "telling it like it is" is a brave but appropriate response.

I agree, OP would probably still be employed if he spoke wit the management after the meeting, in private.

I wouldn't go so far as to make this assumption, though it could be the case. I'd say it's more important to realize that management that would come up with this sort of 'reward' in the first place is not at all likely to care about this kind of input, even if it's phrased nicely or given privately.

This also migh just be the classic 'fit' issue. Whilst unfortunate, OP (or someone on his behalf) needs to find a better gig. Life is simply too short.

Simple rule is business is to pay $10/per $100 dollars of new revenues. This is Amazon referral fee, for example. But getting paid $10/ per 1,000 is off by an <order of magnitude> and the manager is lacking judgement. This is opportunistic and potentially exploitative.

Highly doubtful a private 1-on-1 would change the stripes, but maybe who knows.

Perhaps, but any management -- well intentioned or not -- is a lot less likely to see the "input" as disruption that is toxic to morale, productivity, and managements interests generally if it is either (and especially if it is both) presented in a way which focuses on constructive improvement in approach to the stated goal and/or provided privately.

Sure a poor assumption, but remember this is feedback from staff that are paid minimum wage. The inputs are not likely differing engineering controls for example which result in $100,000's of savings annually.

Welcome to the New Economy: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/11/surviving-p...

There are many very educated people who write English (and other languages) well struggling for $8/hour jobs. This state of affairs will be coming to the tech industry, too. We're not special, we're just behind the curve because tech was "uncool" for so long.

Spinning a wheel with token prizes (upwards of a $300 item) is not necessarily a terrible, humiliating idea. I have participated in a similar exercise at a previous company and it was well received. In that case, we all wanted to improve the company already so it became a fun contest.

Some companies have idea boxes that don't get used. I don't see the harm in making a small contest out of it.

It sounds like the OP is dissatisfied with his compensation and lost some control and lashed out in a meeting. If the OP was my temp worker I would probably fire him too. Juno Pacific is probably paying the agency 2-3x which might be upwards of $16-$24/hr. Often, it's the temp agency that is taking more than a reasonable cut.

The idea of writing a check for a portion of the improvement is more ridiculous and can quickly become complex. Is that paid for eternity? How are ideas with softer benefits calculated?

Generally I agree. The whole temp agency compensation is another issue. But I can't help but feel that its extremely unfair to ask a bunch of $8 hour workers to give up ideas that can make the company a lot of money when generally speaking the company will be able to sustain itself irrespective of what these people say ( short of doing their day to day rote assembly and testing tasks ). Maybe writing workers a check for a big idea might be absurd but I think its equally absurd not more than the scenario I mentioned in the post. I think the real issue is that the upper manager who is responsible for productivity gains is in a position where he doesn't have any better incentives than the pizza party. This isn't necessarily because he's a good/bad manager, he's probably in a position that doesn't allow for much else. Regardless if its due to the situation he's in or an overall lack of creativity; either way the 'incentives' are kind of mediocre relative to the potential 'big' gains that could be made.

edit I would also like to add that many of the people in the room felt the way I did thus it wasn't just my opinion. I was simply the only one that said anything. In that regard I kind of did the manager a favor allowing him to possibly adjust his approach.

You can ask, but that doesn't mean the employees have to tell you anything. Given that this is a voluntary incentive program, I'm unable to see how anyone can complain about it. To me, it's like a person complaining about a company weight loss program because they are already thin.

I personally think people should appreciate any reward, even if it is just a pizza party. Why do people think they should get a cut of the savings? If you work for the company, you should want to see it succeed for the sake of your own future with the company. If a company has a policy in place for 10% cut of the savings, sure that's great. But don't be greedy and expect more.

This is why: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimatum_game.

Also see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nash_equilibrium.

Beyond that, it's simply a bad idea for corporate leaders to go out of their way to make their wage-slaves feel exploited through juvenile "prizes" and "games". A genuine smile and a pat on the back can make someone feel valued, even if they're really being robbed blind.

Hey, if they're robbing you blind they probably do value you...

They think that because it's not part of their job, so they should be paid extra for it. I don't think that OP's $8/hour job's reponsibilities include increasing productivity on a company-wide scale. Management is asking the employees to do something that's not part of their job and for which they are not paid.

Doesn't sound like they made it part of his job, just a perk. Participating isn't a requirement. And if an employee was embarrassed by the pizza party and still wanted to submit an idea, I'm sure they could say "I don't want any pizza party, but what if we did this....."

I don't think it unreasonable to ask your employees for help. If you don't want the iPad, don't give good suggestions.

Expecting more than $25 worth of reward for solution that saves the company $5000 a month is not being greedy, it's being reasonable and adequate.

In some cases it is reasonable to expect more. But, if other people are offering the same obvious solution for $25, then $25 is a reasonable reward, regardless of how much it saves the company. In which case expecting more than $25 is greedy.

I think the $5000/month example is likely a very rare event. Perhaps the management did compensate that particular employee separately without telling everyone else.

My point is, if a company sets a policy of pizza party and spin the wheel as a reward, that's the reward. Don't complain after the fact that it's not fair. You didn't have to submit the idea, you could have gone about your business and never said anything. Also, what if 99% of the idea's only save the company $20 or less? You really think they are going to start writing $2 cheques? Or is that even going to motivate people to submit ideas. Pizza parties not only reward the employee, they provide a morale booster.

More likely the manager used the $5000 per month saving idea to promote himself for a raise than pass on compensation to the employee


>Why do people think they should get a cut of the savings? If you work for the company

Because they are directly responsible for the savings.

Why should a lawyer get a cut of her billable hours? Because she's directly responsible for doing the work over those hours. Same concept.

>you should want to see it succeed for the sake of your own future with the company

Why? Loyalty isn't a given. If a company is paying you $8/hr and offering you Pizza as an incentive to do well, they don't value you and won't be loyal to you. Being loyal to them would be accepting exploitation, not being honorable. There is no future in jobs like this.

Further, you are working to provide for yourself. Under no circumstances should you put the needs of a massive company ahead of your own well-being. It's not like you're accepting an opportunity cost for a few years, as is the case when starting up your own company. You're a wage slave at $8 an hour. If the company paying you that can't provide for you, fuck them -- go sell your labor elsewhere, you owe them nothing.

>But don't be greedy and expect more.

It isn't greedy to expect reasonable compensation for quantifiable value you directly provide to a company.

>If you work for the company, you should want to see it succeed >for the sake of your own future with the company.

Lol, no.

That's not a 10% cut. It's a -chance- to win a 100$ item. Saving a company 1,000$ a month = 12,000$ a year -> that's a 1% cut, or possibly less.

It's completely legal, and probably a reasonably good life lesson for you in how communicate in the workplace.

I don't disagree with what you said necessarily, but if you think about it from the manager's perspective you basically shoved their nose [edit: and even worse, publicly] in an effort to make employees feel their opinion was valued and a small incentive program for it (the budget for which may not be under their control).

Realistically, you were an $8/hr temp. You were extremely replaceable, and you made yourself a net negative in someone's mind.

I sincerely hope you find new and meaningful employment in very short order.

Yes, it's reasonable: you should not waste your life in a place with silly pizza parties. Aim for something better.

Edit: BTW, he links to his resume in his profile if anyone wants to do a good deed: http://helpknow.com/resume.pdf

I am but in the meantime I need to have food and shelter. I have some freelance work that can sustain me but I really wanted a reliable paycheck. I actually didn't mind the work and the company made a good product. I think the problem is that in the mind of the manager I attempted to plant in the head of the other employees ( many of which English is a second language and its hard to find work and they want to keep it) that you shouldn't just give away what is in your head for some one else to benefit. Its bad enough that they pay these people nothing but trying to scrape whats in their heads in exchange for remedial trinkets is really just seriously gross. If I was still in my 20's I would have just thought the whole thing was racist but I've been around enough to know that its really just corporate culture.

You did the right thing. Sucking it up is not the right thing when you make $8 per hour or $80 per hour. There are good managers and there are definitely "suck-up" managers. Even though we cannot pin point the exact person making this call - no matter what the hierarchical position you will find people who are insecure to the core. This is a sign that you are working for some one/group super-insecure in the chain of command.

Could there be more tact and humor in expressing your mind, perhaps but again you did the right thing and trust me for a person like you there will be opportunities.

Lesson learned: Next time just give them dumb ideas and don't stand out.

I oppose this: human dignity MUST be defended at all cost.

The poster was talking about an $8/hr temp job. He's already made a decision to trade dignity for necessity.

Defending dignity at 'all costs' makes it sound like you've never had to make a hard decision in your life. This is a case where the right move is to keep your head down, do the bare minimum, work on your portfolio on the side and bolt for a better job as soon as you can.

If everyone does that instead of speaking up, the situation for the people at the bottom never improves. If enough workers reject their poor conditions, the situation might gradually get better.

You can choose to put your own interests first by sticking around and not saying anything or those of your fellow workers by taking a stand. It's a question of values.

The keyword is "might". In the meantime, OP is out of a job and I just Hope he has some savings to fall back on because I doubt that temp agency will be looking to take him back.

If the guy can't eat, he will shortly not be able to do a lot of defending of human dignity. If you think it should be defended at all cost, then surely you'll send him the $8/hr he lost by speaking up? Or do you just mean "at all cost to other people"?

I agree with your spirit here, but solving this problem requires playing the long game.

Human dignity takes many forms. Some would argue that it is harmed in some way by office management overseeing silly giveaways. Others would argue that it is harmed by losing your means to provide for yourself through the consequences of your actions.

I think the latter loss of dignity is greater than the former.

what bubble do you live in? Have you ever worked a crappy job out of necessity for an extended period?

Big words from a poster that didn't just get canned.

You had the best intentions and at some other place and time, what you said would be taken seriously by the upper management but it looks like your position is expendable despite the good work you did and at that particular moment, your interjection may not have the best idea.

It sucks that companies can get away with all this but they have been that way for long. I am sincerely hoping you make it to a better job where they are 1.ethical and 2.don't want to lose you and you look back at this and shrug.

"I think the problem is that in the mind of the manager I attempted to plant in the head of the other employees ... that you shouldn't just give away what is in your head for some one else to benefit."

Well, isn't that what you tried to do, actually? After all, you did call them out in a public forum, and you're repeating your chosen themes here. Granted, they're bona fide idiots -- no argument there. But bona fide idiots are everywhere. So you smile, shrug, and go back to the $8/hr.-job that you need, or at least don't want to lose.

It sounds a little like you feel that you're entitled to something in some way. In theory, perhaps you are, but in reality the majority of the world gets bitch-slapped on a daily basis in one way or another, even (and sometimes especially) those you're sure are on top of it all. On one hand, you need that $8/hr., enough so that if you're fired, it's a real problem. You want to know if it's even legal! On the other hand, you're wanting to stand up for the dignity of your fellow workers against a management that, plainly from their behavior, could give a reverse flying shit. And they had the audacity to let you go?! Dude, seriously? Did you expect them to think about your point carefully, look at each other with chagrin, and then thank you for elevating the quality of the discourse?

If you need money, make money. Improve your situation and protect your baseline. That's the way you accumulate power. If you don't care about power (or security) and you just want to fight for what's right, then that's a valid choice and good for you, do that. But then expect what goes along with that.

The only thing I felt entitled to was to voicing my opinion which the manager actually asked for in the meeting. I wasn't on a crusade I just said what I thought.

If you were a temporary worker through Kelly Services you probably won't have much recourse. I temped in my twenties and I don't think there's much you can do. You are a Kelly employee, not an employee of the host company, and as such your work assignment with Juno Pacific was ended so you head back to Kelly for a new assignment. IANAL.

Just to reinforce what Noddingham said: if you were a temp working for Kelly, you didn't get "fired": Juno Pacific called up your staffing manager at Kelly Services and told them that they didn't need your services anymore. Yes, that's a lot like getting fired, but if you were a temp, you were never an employee of Juno Pacific.

IANAL, but unfortunately there is probably not much you can do in this case. Many states are right to work states meaning that the employer can terminate your employment without reason as long as it is not discriminatory based on age, sex, race, etc... I am also going to assume that this was a temp position that was fulfilled through Kelly services in which case the employer has even more leeway presumably in their contract with Kelly. There is probably a clause in there somewhere that says that since it is a "temp" fulfillment they can terminate their relationship with you at any time without cause.

1. That is not what right-to-work laws are for, nor is what you described any definition of right-to-work.

2. CA is an at-will employment state. You can be terminated for cause, no cause or just cause.

I think the parent poster meant "At-will" rather than right-to-work.

Yep, sorry mixup on my part.

Well this is a life lesson learned: don't mess with upper management. What they are doing is exploiting their workforce (I mean c'mon a guy saves them $5000/mo and he gets a $50 pizza party?) and the only thing you can do is privately share your discontent behind their backs. Most companies are not open to disruption especially by petty labor.

Before you get a management position, if someone around you challenges your ideas or critiques things you do, you deal with it. After you get a management position, you fire them.

I have some honest questions.

Do you have any sort of social disorder? On the spectrum, etc?

How would you assess your cost versus value at the company? How much extra money (in savings or profits) do you think you generated for the company?

What did you imagine to the be the best outcome, and what did you imagine to be the worst outcome?

Obviously, you didn't think you would get fired over such behavior... why do you think you were unable to see this as a possible repercussion?

Why did you decide to do this in public, rather than private?

Do you often have issues filtering your thoughts before speaking?

Did you realize that your behavior might create a disincentive for other employees to contribute ideas to the company?


I am just very curious when situations like this occur, what the internal thinking is... because from an outside perspective, it seems like you getting fired was the obvious (nearly the only) possible outcome.

You made them feel stupid, so they made you feel unemployed. Do not criticize management openly in front of others, this was your mistake. I've also made this mistake, I was right, I was also ended up unemployed. You were right about everything you said, but it's probably small consolation. It may even have been illegal to fire you, however how likely is it that somebody who makes $8 an hour can afford a lawyer to right that wrong? You can go to some kind of labour dept lawyer and make a case for wrongful dismissal, but the bureaucracy behind such organizations is slow, by the time they act (if they ever do) you will be long past caring.

As others have pointed out, it's unlikely the company did anything illegal. That aside, I have been in the same situation as you and the OP, and it's far more important to learn the obvious lesson here than to waste time trying to find recourse.

You should reconsider what you were trying to accomplish with your remarks. If your intention was to change the policy, it may have been better to offer your criticism after the public event, in a less confrontational manner. No one likes to be shown up. Consider making suggestions that allow the other people to save face. While it might feel good in the moment to complain in public and humiliate your boss, the end result will often be counter-productive to your goals. This happens at all levels of management. You got to learn it when the stakes are relatively low. Good luck!

Put a way to contact you in your HN profile and on your other profiles (GH, SO).

While it sucks to be short on money, it really seems like you dodged a bullet and you're better off not working there. From what I can tell from your writing and your online presence, you are far above making $8/hr.

Thats what really gets me about this, either this is truly a fucked up situation or something isn't getting through - if you're in the valley and you can write a jquery selector/do a few frontend customizations, you can put your resume on dice and have 10 phone calls the first week. I don't really know what to say, I have no degree but have just a few contacts and taking a job at a company like that for less than I'd get at an in-n-out seems way out of line.

Suggestion to OP: post your resume on a few sites and get recruiters calling if you haven't. Maybe put your teaching job on the bottom and emphasize coding ability. There's no reason you shouldn't be getting a few interviews very quickly unless you only speak in Klingon irl.

Yep, I see no discrimination based on sex or race, which we know is illegal for sure. They can simply fire you if they want to, otherwise. I wouldn't be too beaten up about it though.. Doesn't look like the best place to work.

You can contact the Department of Labor (http://www.labor.ca.gov/), but I seriously doubt what they did has any legal consequence.

I don't know about CA specifically, but Departments of Labor usually LOVE aggressively defending employees' rights. Something I don't see much on HN, but I saw a LOT when I worked in HR.

> Departments of Labor usually LOVE aggressively defending employees' rights

In my experience this is only true if it is easily proven that you were fired because of blatant racism or sexism. If it isn't either of those two reasons or it is harder to prove, nothing will happen.

To the OP, yes it seems perfectly legal, you can be fired at any time for any reason that isn't one of a handful of protected reasons (sex, religion, race etc.). You can be fired for wearing blue that day if they so feel like it. It's just not usually so petty because it can be a little bit of a cost replacing a person.

Dude you have more rep than I do at Stackoverflow. Where are you located in the world that you are unable to find a web development job?

Yeah, that is a blatant imbalance.

Why, OP, are you not working as a developer?

Honest question, not trying to be negative or anything.

I have been trying for years. I fail at everything. The thing is this, just knowing how to program and do DOM manipulation isn't good enough. You need to have a stack/framework or 5 that you know like clockwork and as intuitively as a language. I thought by now I would know enough but its really going to be another year of learning node/express/mongoose/mongo/jade/programming patterns/web apis/authentication and god knows what else before the 'big' $20hr checks come rolling in. Seriously , if you don't have enough 'intuitive' understanding of a stack coming into it then you're dead before you've entered the door. Learning a stack is like learning a new language. I have written in PHP but trying to learn CakePHP or any of the other PHP frameworks is a large time investment. I tried Rails and plopped. I've now finally settled on node with express but learning mongoose, ajax w/mongoose and jade in conjunction with api's and storing dom id's and whatever else takes time as building muscle memory is the only route to employment. When I was younger I use to play with drum machines and electronic music equipment a lot and knew certain pieces of it like the back of my hand. The only way I see myself making any real money is to learn a stack literally as well as I knew that music equipment when I was a kid. That means striving to know every granular piece of it....and that takes time.

You don't. You need to set reasonable expectations and approach a coding job as a "new" task instead of one you perceive you've failed at - you probably know more than many intermediate developers but it sounds like your ability to ship code is the biggest problem. Being a programmer doesn't mean knowing the entire stack and each and every piece of it, its about being able to pick out whats important to the task at hand.

I've run into a frequent roadblock in that I always want to know all the elements of what I'm getting into. I'm finding that in MOST cases its not important at all, until you're architecting a new system. Leave that to senior level folks for now, just find a place you can fix or work on UI elements or clear bugs - theres no need to be so stressed about a programming job, just reach for a branch that you can grasp firmly.

It's a shame, but something I've learned in the last few years working for a bigger company with layers and layers of management is that they genuinely are not interested in your ideas or input.

Some middle-manager somewhere in the chain came up with the "spin the wheel" idea - and no matter how stupid you think it is, they have a vested interest in it working out, so they look good to their boss. As soon as you point out how stupid it is, you're undermining them, and that's something no middle-manger will tolerate.

It's a shame, but the best thing you can do is keep your mouth shut.

(Yes, I'm looking for a new job)

I'm really sorry to hear about what happened. I wish you the best of luck in finding a new job. The pizza party idea sounds demeaning and silly.

Now is not the time for advice on communication, but I can't help but comment on this, sorry. Take this with a grain of salt because I wasn't in the room. Should the manager be able to handle your questions better? Yes. But, consider this rhetorical question, was your aim to embarrass the manager or improve the situation? Even though you were presented with something ridiculous, from the manager's perspective, you embarrassed him in front of his reports. Criticizing someone (or an extension of them such as their work) in a group setting can be very destructive. In a situation like that, I recommend talking to the manager one-on-one afterwards. That gives the manager the opportunity to do something that fixes this and to be a good manager that listens to his employees and comes up with incentives that might actually work. If the manager doesn't want that outcome, don't waste your time there. Your manager might be childish and unprofessional. He might just lack the empathy required to understand your perspective without it being explained to him. If he is the former, and you don't want to get fired, you have to act in a way that is acceptable to someone childish and unprofessional. I think a good manager would handle your points and questions and give you some kind of response whether it be 1) I'll look into fixing this or 2) sorry, I can't fix this. They say good managers are hard to find.

Employment in the US is "at will", which means you can be fired without just cause (except for prohibitions for race, religion, gender, age, disability, national origin). It may seem terrible, but it's good to remember that "at will" works the other way too, so if your situation sucks you shouldn't feel legally obliged to stay.

[edit] Also, I'm sorry that you got fired like this, it sounds maddening and inhumane. Best of luck to you in finding something better.

In general, it is important to provide negative feedback on a management initiatives in private, except when it is very specifically solicited in a public forum (or you really know all the people involved well enough to know that its acceptable to them), and, whether privately or publicly, doing it in a respectful way that focuses on the benefit (particularly, to the company) of doing things in the way you think is better and/or (really, equivalently) the costs (again, to the company) of doing things the "wrong" way (actually, that's largely true of negative feedback in general, not just up the chain.)

Of course, there is a difference if you have grievances that have reached a certain point -- see, well, the whole of the labor movement -- but at that point you have better already organized with others and be prepared for an extended and escalating series of negative consequences before you reach your objective, and a not-good-enough new incentive program isn't usually the kind of thing where that is called for.

The consequences in this case were, perhaps, extreme (though not surprising, especially in the contract of an assignment through a staffing agency rather than regular employment), but that there would be negative blowback is not at all unexpected.

The good thing is that losing a temporary assignment like this tends to have a lot impact on employability, even in the short term, than being fired. That's not to say it doesn't suck -- I've been there, more than once -- but its probably a "learn from it and move on" situation more than anything else.

California is an at-will state. You can generally be fired at any time for almost any reason:


I'm no lawyer, but them not liking how you act in a meeting is probably one of the reasons.

As an aside: yes, you're right, that's horseshit. The purpose of behavior like this is to establish dominance. "Fair" is irrelevant; even "well run" is secondary to keeping the caste system in place. If you're interested in the nature and history of this, you might see if your library has the book Confronting Managerialism: http://www.amazon.com/Confronting-Managerialism-Business-Eco...

Hi William,

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. One thing I've learned in life is that people will ask all kinds of unreasonable things of you. There's no need to get upset with them. A simple "No, I can't do that" is a perfectly acceptable answer.

While your point was valid, I suspect it was the way you said it that lead to you getting fired. You said you mentioned it was "maddening and silly." There's no need to get mad. You can't control what other people will say. You can only control your reaction to it. If you had just suggested that the program might be more efficient if employees shared in the monetary savings and left it at that, I would guess that there would have been some discussion and maybe something positive would have come out of it. Instead, you insulted people who had probably put a lot of thought into this program so of course they felt humiliated and used their power to get revenge.

Yes, I know it's petty but many people are like that.

I was presented with something similar at work once. I won't go into the details but basically the company was hoping we would use our free time to create something that they would basically take ownership of. When the manager got done explaining it and asked me what I thought, I just said "I'll think about it" but I knew I would never do it.

It was never brought up again.

The same thing probably would have happened with this program. In a week, all the managers would have forgotten about it and moved on to one of their other hair-brained ideas.

I know you're in a difficult situation right now. I don't know your area but you could probably get an $8/hr job just walking down the street. I hope this turns into a blessing in disguise for you. It's a good lesson to learn. Better to be fired from an $8/hr job for this than an $80/hr job.

You're in an at-will state, so unless you were fired due to a legally protected thing. (race, religion, sex, etc) You have no recourse. So it's legal.

It really sucks, and I'm personally sorry to hear that you had to work in such a crappy place and deal with such a demeaning and ridiculous situation.

I'm not sure what you can do legally, IANAL, etc. But do you really want to? Getting embroiled in a legal mess probably isn't worth it, in any case.

I believe you did learn a valuable lesson in how to operate within a company, though. You will be faced scenarios like this many times in your career. It constitutes part of the politics of the workplace. Like most people, I went through a similar learning process. When you're younger, you tend to let your passions dictate more of your overt actions. As you get older, you see how the game is played and learn how to choose your battles. I know it sounds a bit cynical, and it probably is, but being around to fight another day (assuming that you believe that you're someone who can have a positive impact) makes it worth it.

FWIW, to the extent you spoke out in protest of unfair working conditions, it possibly could have been a violation of federal labor laws.


Yes, most employees have labor rights, even if they're not in a union. Check out:


Who knows if it could help, but you might want to contact the NLRB.


Mostly, though, I wish you luck finding a decent job. That company sounds awful.

I went into Kelly services today to fill out my final time sheet and the rep said the manager told him 'someone who looked like me' was spotted on the property yesterday.

I was home all day and haven't set foot anywhere near there since the day the assignment was terminated. I am inferring the manager intentionally made that up to further tarnish the perception of me in the minds of the reps at Kelly. Maybe I'm just paranoid , but it sure seems like that. Anyway, if he did do that it seems to have worked by my perception of the Kelly reps response when he was speaking with me.

I don't even know why I'm typing this other than to point it out in Robert Greene fashion for all those uninitiated.

Is it even legal? Yes.

It sounds like you went on a short rant that makes the management look bad in front of everyone: this was a mistake.

Next time if you have an issue with the program like this bring it up privately with your manager or save your feedback until it is solicited.

He asked for feedback before I raised my hand. But the reality is that you're right and I should just learn to shut up unless I'm completely confident that the other person won't feel uncomfortable when I open my mouth. I spend most of my time pretty quiet as-is. :)

OP learned a very valuable lesson: people don't always play fair, and politics/appearances count for a lot in business.

The lesson was learned very cheaply, all things considered.

Probably not anything you can do. Find a new job.

It will be interesting to see whether the people rallying to Eich's free speech rights despite his homophobia will be similarly impassioned about rallying to yours despite your rejection of serfdom.

I wonder what would have happened had you reserved your comments for a private conversation with someone in upper management. That is how things are done professionally.

I agree with everything you said to them, but had I been in their position, I might not have fired you, but I would have given you a serious sit-down.

Management may be clueless, but when, from their perspective, they are trying to incentivize their employees, you don't publicly humiliate them in a manner that is sure to cause friction with the very employees they are trying to incentivize.

Sounds like you're a smart person. If you're looking for good pay and a stable job try to find a government contractor. I have a good friend that started answering phones doing basic Tier 0 tech support, mostly just resetting passwords. This was at ~$15/hr. YMMV but at this contractor, they quickly realized that she was overqualified and paid for her to get certifications and bumped her into a much more technical role.

Never criticize company policy other than in a 1:1 with your direct supervisor. If you have specific HR complaints, it should go through official channels.

It isn't public politics; you have no right to demonstrate or be heard (unless you are unionizing,) and it will never advance your career.

If you want to impact change, curry favor and build coalitions. Don't make any move or objection until the outcome you desire will be seen by everyone as inevitable.

Learn from it. I wouldn't second guess management unless you ARE management. You got what you deserved. The program may have been idiotic, but thumbing your nose at management in front of other staff is a surefire way to get the boot. Are your really surprised?

It may not feel like it right now, but it seems to me that you should be happy to be out of there. Don't accept that kind of ridiculous belittling humiliation.

I don't know if it's legal (in the US it probably is), but I hope and expect you will find something better.

So save the company $60k / year and get the possibility of an iPad? I think I would keep my ideas to myself and start looking for another job if I was an employee (I realize the OP was not an employee and my reply is slightly off topic).

It's their playground, their rules. Move on, find a place that is a better fit.

Call the CEO at Cretex, the parent company. Ask them why they fire employees that come up with ideas (the point of the incentive program, after all, was to offer ideas). You have nothing to lose at this point.

Not sure about your whole story but working for 8 bucks per hr, at least from your resume seems way below your pay grade. There may of course be a good reason for that but otherwise I'd say aim higher.

"The manager mentioned one example of a single employee that thought up an idea that saved them $5000 a month."

His idea was that the company should fire someone who makes $60k a year and redistribute the workload.

Firstly, firing you for making this statement is crazy.

But one problem with giving employees a cut of the profit from their ideas is that everyone becomes incentivized to try to come up with home run ideas vs. doing necessary but non-revenue generating projects and tasks. [1]

The pizza party and cardboard wheel is kinda ridiculous--like something from The Office--but that's the (sad) norm at a ton of places. Most of us are extremely luck to be at the other end of the spectrum in tech/startups.

[1]: Great article on this topic by Joel Spolsky: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20090101/how-hard-could-it-be-th...

TL;DR- Apply for unemployment, collect your monies while you search for employment. Do it ASAP most states require you to apply the first day you are out of work. They also expect your to be looking that day.

IANAL, but I think you may be eligible for Unemployment insurance. Here in MD. It's at-will emploement. You can be fired for any reason. But you'd be eligible for Unemployment. The burden is on the employer to prove that you were grossly insubordinate. Which it doesn't seem like you were. Also, companies are expected to try an resolve issue like this without going as far as to fire someone.

Don't work anywhere that you're treated like a child. That "incentive program" is infuriating.

For a moment I though I add clicked on my Slashdot bookmark ...

Lesson, when needing cash for basic living expenses..keep head down and mouth shut..

Yeah it sounds unfair..tough its way things are.. work the system not have system work YOU!

consult an attorney on legality. Only an attorney is allowed to give legal advice.

Don't bother. As long as California is an at-will employment state (I'm pretty sure it is) they can fire you for no reason at all.

More importantly, one of the main reason that services like Kelly are used is that Kelly is the employer, not the company that is contracting for services from Kelly, and Kelly didn't fire you -- a company that was contracting with them exercised an option under their contract with Kelly to stop receiving services from Kelly. As a result, Kelly doesn't have any work for you until they get another request that you fit.

This seems like it would be pretty thin in the face of genuine wrongful termination.

Its pretty hard to have "genuine wrongful termination" without actual termination. Especially if the staffing agency quickly finds you other work, even if the other company motivation was "wrongful", you're going to have a hard time establishing compensable harms stemming from it.

If the staffing agency knew of the wrongful reason, and because of it (or because of the other company's decision to end your assignment with knowledge of it) they then declined to assign you other work, you might have a case for wrongful termination case against them (by way of constructive dismissal), but there would seem to be a number of things you'd have to prove there that you wouldn't in a direct employment wrongful termination case.

'Its pretty hard to have "genuine wrongful termination" without actual termination.'

IANAL, but my understanding is that judges pretty quickly look past what things are labelled. If the temp was able to quickly roll into another gig (or the temp agency otherwise kept paying them), that's one thing. But I'd still be very surprised if legal cleared "We don't have need for your services any longer because you're black. We're contacting your temp agency for a white replacement."

You may qualify for pro-bono advice: check if any local universities offer free legal advice clinics.

What's the name of the company? What's the name of the manager that got you fired?

Here endeth the lesson.

IANAL, but here's my read.

There's little you can do, and it sounds like it was a shitty job. Anything you'd recover in a lawsuit (and winning one against them is a long-shot) is going to be based on the income lost from that job, and wouldn't be worth it. If you were a salaried employee, you might be able to push for a severance (maybe a month?) on account of the circumstances your departure making them look bad, giving them an incentive to settle. As a temporary hourly worker, I don't think you have that credibility, and I think they can fire you pretty much at will: your services aren't needed. A termination suit would be unlikely to win you anything, and the reputation effect would cancel out what you're likely to win.

If Juno Pacific harmed your reputation at Kelly Services, you might have a claim of tortious interference. But, unless otherwise specified, JP has the right to cut your hours to zero, which means terminating you.

It's going to be a he-said/she-said battle, but the truth is this: you made the executives look cheap and stupid (because they are) and they canned you as a "troublemaker". It's a tough call what is legal in dealing with "troublemakers". Attempting to unionize (which is not really what you tried to do) is protected and not fireable. Making executives look bad (which you did) is "insubordination" and fireable. Where's the line between "a troublemaker" and "insubordination"? Judgment call, very subjective. Is it right, what happened to you? No, but that's how the system works right now.

Corporate survival protip: rabblerousing is rarely worth it. I know, from experience. If you don't care enough to start a union (and that's a ton of work) then you should just do your job and keep those sorts of opinions to yourself. Shitty companies are like Wrongness on the Internet. If you fight them all, you'll never get anything else done.

TL;DR: they probably didn't break the law, you almost certainly won't get anything even if they did, and your best course of action is just to get another (better) job.

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