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Ask HN: I am about to be fired. What should I do?
195 points by s_q_b on Apr 26, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 189 comments
I am currently a data scientist for a major firm, and I am facing a manager who wishes to fire me.

He assigned me to follow the instructions of an "expert" in completing a compliance document (a task in which I am not trained), and the "expert" turned out to be producing documents that are not in compliance with Federal law. The "expert" repeatedly stated in writing that I was doing an "excellent" job, and I am concerned I am facing retaliation for reporting that her work was simply not correct.

When I raised that issue, he immediately began the process of putting me on a 30 day review, a necessary step prior to termination. Such programs are ostensibly to give an employee an opportunity to improve performance.

When I asked whether this was a true opportunity to improve performance, or simply a formality, he hesitated for a great deal of time before making statements that strongly implied, without directly stating, that it was a mere formality.

I have no desire to lose my job, but I am most concerned that being fired would place future job prospects in jeopardy.

According to my colleagues, I'm very competent at my position, but this supervisor has been angry with me since I pointed out to him a few months ago that he may have violated firm policy in a severe way.

What should I do? I would like to remain with the firm and be transferred to another project, but the steps he will take will prevent that.

I do not wish to move, and if fired I will be effectively blackballed from most firms in this city. I have a life, friends, a girlfriend I love very much, and don't wish to leave that behind.

HNers, whether or not you know it, you've been a big part of my life since this site's founding. I value your input and advice tremendously.

What do I do? Do I simply begin looking for other positions? Do I report his increasingly erratic behavior, and waste of firm resources? Do I quit before the period expires?

What are your thoughts?




I've been unfairly fired several times, so my advice is:

1. Forget it, that job is over, it can't be salvaged. Knowing it's over, do the minimum work.

2. Start actively looking. Even if you don't find a new job within 30 days, you'll start getting interviews in your pipeline.

3. If it's so bad that it's making you sick (trouble sleeping, etc.), then just walk away now. Otherwise, there are advantages to saying on to the end. They might offer you some salary as severance. You might be eligible for unemployment. Even if they do fire you, for legal reasons, they'll probably word it as a layoff rather than a firing for cause.

4. I'd advise against a whisteblower lawsuit. It's a lot of stress with no guarantee of winning.

5. Don't be sure that you'll be blackballed. There's always another job.


> Knowing it's over, do the minimum work.

I strongly disagree with this step. Ensure your performance is exceptional, flawless, and that everyone sees it. It's hard to do, hard to keep focus and not slip when everyone else is misbehaving, but it pays off:

1) It keeps your hands clean. Others won't know the inside story of why you were let go; if they see you slacking, they will doubt your character and work ethic and believe it's your fault. If they see exceptional performance they may give you the benefit of the doubt. You want them wondering, 'how could they fire him/her?'

2) It leaves a strong impression with everyone, possibly even your boss, of your work ethic and professionalism: 'Even knowing he/she would be fired, look what he/she did'. A crisis is a chance to show your quality.

3) It keeps your hands clean, which means you can sleep easily in the future. Don't do anything you will question later. Be proud of what you did and that you rose above your manager and the situation. Having been in similar situations, it made a great deal of difference in my self-respect and peace of mind down the road.


I think this puts too much emphasis on what people will think at the place that is about to fire your ass. If it's coming, vamping won't save you, and it probably doesn't matter much what those people think, in either direction.


> I think this puts too much emphasis on what people will think at the place that is about to fire your ass.

These are people in your industry, in your town. Some may know the person you hope will hire you next, or the one after that, or .... You and your former co-workers hope to have long careers at many different employers. Some will become employers themselves. This job will end sooner or later; your reptutation you'll keep with you.


I meant things like "don't put in unpaid overtime when you're about to be fired" and "when nobody is looking, scan job ads on your cell phone". You can still do a solid job, but don't be as aggressive as you would be if you planned to work there 2 more years.

For example, if you have a choice between doing a 5 minute patch or spending a couple hours refactoring it correctly, just do the 5 minute patch.


But why? What does this get him?

In two years (say) he will be interviewing somewhere, and sitting across from him will be the person that had to deal with the aftermath of that 5 minute patch. Or, it could be the person that had the pleasure of working with his refactored code. Which situation is better for him?

Not to mention that this situation is not the fault of the company or his coworkers. Why should they suffer?

I don't see a single thing that this attitude will accomplish other than "vengence", which in my book is something to avoid, as appealing as it may seem at dark moments.


Yes, that sounds about right to me. It's still very important to do a solid job if one considers oneself a professional.


Almost all of my work has come through relationships built at previous jobs. And I also do a lot to help good people I've worked with in the past.

I definitely notice when somebody makes a strong, professional finish. Indeed, it's a great way to understand somebody's character. Everybody's nice and helpful on their first day at work. It's how people behave when there's no immediate reward at stake that tells me what they'll be like in future tough situations.


It's not your manager you're impressing here, it's your coworkers. Companies get backchannel references from people who've worked with you, if they're at the company you're applying to. An extreme case is Google, who'll ask anyone and everyone in the company who have an intersection in resumes with you.

Also, easiest way to get another job is for an ex-coworker to recommend you. Keep those bridges built.


I agree. In addition it might even save his job. If the 30 day period is a chance for employees to improve the manager might not find any reason for firing him if he performs really well.

You also show your evil manager and everyone else what a professional you are, even if he isn't.

I got fired once after 3 months at a company, without any warning or hints of my boss not being satisfied with my performance. I was completely devastated but decided to double down on my efforts for the period I had left. A week later my boss called me to his office and said that he had made a mistake firing me and offered me my job back. (I didn't accept)


I firmly agree, never burn your bridges. A bit like Karma or wearing a seat belt, you never know when it will pay back but, it will pay back.


I would counter. Don't get fired. If need be resign, but I would do everything I could to not be fired.

Secondly I have thought that I was doing a good job but I was viewed negatively. I later found out that an ounce of criticism or attitude ruined my whole perspective. I had to learn that one comment or one person didn't decide who liked me. I just rolled with the punches and talked to managers and other non-related co-workers if they saw things the same way, but without complaining or seeing myself as a negative fault finding Nancy.


I don't agree with resigning. If you resign and are in the US, you give up the ability to file for unemployment. I would start cutting expenses and start looking for something new until that day comes.


Does the US allow "constructive dismissal" claims? In the UK, if you feel you are being worked out of a job the official advice is to quit, otherwise any claim of constructive dismissal becomes more complex.


US is generally at-will(1), so the idea of being "subtly fired" only comes up in unemployment claims, where -sometimes- you can make the case you quit because you had no choice (hours dropped to zero, intentionally untenable working conditions, etc.). But otherwise, there are very few guarantees about the circumstances of being dismissed, and therefore not a lot of room for constructive dismissal type claims.

(1) There are exceptions around specific circumstances: explicit contracts, implicit contracts (in some states) by way of publishing firing procedures in employee handbooks, and a requirement (in a very few states, but notably for software, California) for good-faith behavior by employers. PIPs are part of the "reason to dismiss" documentation for that last bit. Still, your usual recourse is collecting unemployment, not anything more drastic.


I can confirm this can be a serious concern in the UK system.

Someone close to me was in a similar situation a little while ago and did start a formal grievance process. Thanks to what seems to have been bad/late professional advice, they missed one of the deadlines for taking things further and consequently that formal process terminated.

Around that time, they started taking professional advice from a different source and exploring their options, continuing to work for the employer in the meantime.

They subsequently concluded that the job was beyond hope and resigned, IIRC a couple of months later, and lawyers started exchanging letters to try and avoid formal action. As I understand it, just about the first thing the former employer's lawyers did was point out that the former employee had remained in the job for a considerable time after the end of the formal grievance process without (as far as the employer was concerned) taking any further action. They argued this was sufficient evidence that no problems serious enough to be considered constructive dismissal remained at that time, and as it turned out, that was effectively game over.

(This matter never went to formal action. Reportedly the advice given to the former employee at that point was that their former employer had a decent chance of winning on that basis, and even if they lost it would cause a lot of time and stress to pursue the matter to its full conclusion with limited benefit likely to result.)

YMMV, if you need legal advice talk to a lawyer, etc. Just make sure you get better professional advice than this unfortunate person did, and get second opinions early if anyone advising you seems to be slow to respond or otherwise giving you less than their full support.


If you're fired in the US you may not be able to get unemployment either.


To the contrary, you generally have to get fired to receive benefits unless you are quitting for exceptional reasons. To deny your unemployment claims after you've been fired or laid off, your employer has to dispute your claim and demonstrate serious conduct breaches while under oath. If you quit for general dissatisfaction, you're not covered.

http://employment.findlaw.com/losing-a-job/eligibility-for-u...


Usually, that only applies if you were fired for misconduct. And in places where firing for any reason is grounds for denying unemployment, most companies won't fight an appeal.


Frequently, they will word it as a layoff instead of a firing for cause, to avoid the potential lawsuit. Some minimum-wage employers would do firings to avoid paying unemployment, but that isn't as common at the professional level.


In the US you have limited Unemploment benifits. YOu get only so many months of full coverage and you get limits in other areas.

If your single and you might get married make sure you don't take full unemployment benefits and maybe you just need to sponge off friends and families because getting fired and getting a "Do Not Rehire" puts a HUGE hole in your employment history.


Verbal criticism is one thing. Being put on a performance improvement plan (PIP) is another thing. Most of the time, your boss will only fill out a PIP as a precursor to firing you, because the bureaucracy requires it.


I disagree. If you are doing an ok job you should not be resigning, better to let them fire you otherwise a whole pile of assist won't kick in because it is your decision to quit. It's fine to be fired for the wrong reasons and as an employer I wouldn't hold that against you.

Use the 30 days to land another job.


I've seen a similar thing happen to several friends and family in recent years. Even if your employer is generally a decent place to work, you can wind up with an immediate line manager who is hostile. This might be through no fault of your own, for example if the manager isn't actually very good themselves and so wants to put together a compliant team so they can take credit for the efforts of others. Keeping around competent but independent types who know what they're doing and might challenge the manager when they make bad calls is a threat to these people.

It seems that such managers often do get called out eventually, particularly if they have a pattern of mistreating their immediate subordinates and start to show abnormally high numbers of complaints or people within their team moving on. Sadly, by the time that happens, it is usually too late for any of their immediate subordinates whom they have already started to victimise. They always know the formal procedures better than you do, because this kind of person builds their whole career around playing the game to their own advantage. Starting the disciplinary process on dubious grounds before the subordinate can start a formal grievance procedure is straight out of their playbook.

So my advice would be along similar lines to fsk's: work on the basis that this job is over, look to the future, but don't burn any bridges unnecessarily with the current employer or anyone else who works there.

In addition, if you are one of the victims here but have generally done a decent job and got along with people other than the problem manager, you have probably earned some respect from other people senior to you in the organisation. They might be peers of your manager, whose teams you have worked with along the way with good results. They might be people higher up in your own management chain, who have seen good results prior to the hostile manager taking over (and may have their own concerns about that manager, though if they're professional they probably won't give you any hint of this, they'll only discuss any concerns you raise yourself).

These people may be able to give you a useful reference in their official capacity, so you don't need to rely on the current line manager when applying for new jobs. If company policy forbids that, for example because the only permitted official references come from HR and just confirm dates of employment, then perhaps your contacts can at least give you a positive comment on LinkedIn or some other sort of constructive but unofficial endorsement.

Also, keep records of everything you legally and practically can. Remember that anything stored on company machines (particularly things like e-mails or any internal performance reviews) can be cut off at the employer's whim, and probably will be cut off without notice the moment the official firing process starts, so if you can get a copy that is under your own control, that is to your advantage. Also make written notes immediately of what was said in any in-person conversions or phone calls that might be relevant to your situation, such as the exact words used that you took to imply the 30 day review was being treated as a formality.

You don't necessarily have to ever use any of this stuff. My instinct personally is to fight these kinds of injustice, but as fsk said, that's often a lot of stress with little real upside, and literally everyone I know who has actually been in this position hasn't felt it was worth it. However, if your soon-to-be-former employer tries to come after you thanks to your manager's efforts, or more importantly if once you're gone they try to blame you for any actually illegal things that might have happened, then you want to have a mountain of evidence of the way they have tried to force you out and/or cover things up, and the fact that your own work wasn't to blame and you tried to act reasonably and do the right thing when you became aware of a problem. In short, you can be discreet about it, but always look out for number one in these situations.

And finally, keep your chin up. This kind of situation is right up there with hassle moving house or relationship problems in terms of stress and how all-encompassing it can feel, but always remember that the kind of hostile middle manager who causes these problems rarely has nearly as much influence as they like to think they do outside their own little empire. Chances are no-one is really able to give you a black mark across your whole industry or city just because of this, particularly if you can follow the advice above to get favourable endorsements from other senior people and keep a clear record to show that you weren't really the troublemaker. In any case, it's a good idea to reach out to friends and family who aren't involved for support, so your life doesn't become all about this over the next few weeks or months.

Good luck.


My tips.

1. never criticize your boss, your company or their practices, this is number one way to get fired. yes even if they are completely wrong. your sole job in your job is to make your boss look good. I know it sounds unpopular but this is the way people get promoted vs fired, kind of obvious, but many people still think that if "They do the right thing" that they are clear. This is not something HR will tell you and is against all of our beliefs, but it's the case. If what your boss did is illegal, leave an anonymous tip to the police with evidence making it hard to link it to you but keep private proof that you sent the tip so your are not abiding a crime if it later goes to court.

2. your job quality is derived by 2 factors - a) whether you do something you love, b) the quality of of your direct manager. In your case your boss is an asshole, and you should leave the company regardless.

3. I'm really worried to hear things like "if I get fired, I'll never work in this town again". Where do you live? How powerful is your boss? As a hiring manager, I never got an email list with a subject "people who should never work in this town again".

4. Reporting your boss to HR is a huge risk, it has very low changes of succeeding, but if HR really likes you and really dislike your boss, and you are really a valuable asset to the company more than your boss, than there is a small chance that you'll "win" and get him fired. 9/10, it's going to be you who will be shown the door, but YMMV.

I say - go look for another job, find a manager that will not be a jerk, in a company that promotes openness and good culture. I can't imagine that a data scientist, one of the most sought after and trending jobs in the US will have hard time finding a better job. Am I being delusional?


This. I am no psychologist, but from your post it sounds like you are wound somewhat tight and worry about everything. Not to worry, here are some things to consider.

Losing your job might be the best thing to ever happen to you. What do I mean? Well, for someone who worries a ton, going through a struggle and coming out the other side unscathed will help you worry less and take more risks in the future...which will open you up to new opportunities.

There is a reason many successful people have gone through bankruptcies...It's because they learned the hard way that losing everything financially is not a death sentence...and they come back without fear... Fear is a killer to success. Now's your chance to conquer fear!

Here is a partial list of famous successful people who went through a bankruptcy before succeeding...(From Dan Kennedy's Book, "Wealth Attraction For Entrepreneuers"

P.T. Barnum, David Buick, Walt Disney, James Folger, Henry Ford, Conrad Hilton, J.C. Penny, Sam Walton, William Fox, H.J. Heinz, and Frank Lloyd Wright....

As Pink Says, " Where there is a flame, Someone's bound to get burned. But just because it burns, Doesn't mean you're gonna die. You've gotta get up and try"


Don't worry. Psychologically, this is tough, but by no means the toughest thing I've ever experienced. My head is bloodied, but unbowed. :)

Also, I'd like to urge anyone in my position to seek out help if you feel you need it. A job is merely employment. Important, certainly, but not worth your health and well-being.


>"I know it sounds unpopular but this is the way people get promoted vs fired, kind of obvious, but many people still think that if "They do the right thing" that they are clear"

We need more people to prioritize "doing the right thing" over "getting promoted", not fewer.


let me put it this way, I was doing the "doing the right thing" approach and it hurt me personally, yet I still try to do the right thing, but not via direct criticism, there is an art of how to convey improvement suggestions and feedback to your boss, in tl;dr it is say something good, say constructive criticism, end with something good, and do it all in private.

I never encountered a criminal violation though, so I don't know what I would do, if I would I think I might just tipped HR anonymously and if my boss would like to take me down with him / her, I'll just deny frivolously. Luckily I have a great boss and a great company, but I'm telling you, even the worst bosses and companies still want to be good ones, and if you choose how to give feedback in a way that will not sound too critic, you will win.


Yeah, I second that.

I used to think it was important to "tell the truth" by which I meant saying the things I thought were important to say. In the end, I recognized that was more about me and my feelings than anything.

Now my goal in bringing up some unpleasant but important thing is to make a difference. If I'm going to make a difference, saying the truth isn't the important thing. It's getting somebody to listen to the truth. That is definitely an art.


Doing the right day made me code 10 hour days for two months just to keep up.

The trick is to figure out if its worth it or not, that usually boils down to the the employer.

It wasn't worth it.


Some of us think the system can't be fixed--we just want ours. And that's okay.


Which is what perpetuates these types of things to continue to happen.


Shame some of us are more concerned with providing a living for our families than winning an ideological war right?


R.E. #1. Don't do this.

The company pays you, not your boss. Therefore, you should have the companies best interest in mind, not the personal best interest of your boss. Ideally these two things are aligned. If they are not there is a problem. You can try to fix it (which entails a degree of personal risk, yes), or you can leave. But don't just stay quite. That is disloyalty to the entity which is paying you.

If the company is doing something illegal or strikingly unethical and it is not an oversight and you don't believe change is possible, leave. Otherwise you are complicit and this speaks badly of your character which is worth more than a job.

This is not to say every little issue is worth a battle... nobody and no organization is perfect. Don't be a complainer or a nitpicker. However, if there are major problems don't just go with it. That's how organizations go downhill. People afraid to stand up and take personal risks for the good of the institution. Either try to get it worked out or else walk out. Either way, don't be an enabler.

R.E last paragraph: Exactly!


> That is disloyalty to the entity which is paying you.

My employer is my client, no more, no less. I am employed to produce a set of work for them, and to employ my skills to particular ends as defined in the contract, and that's it. Their relationship with their other contractors is their business.

This idea that because someone pays you to do work you should serve their interests in all things - even to the extent of compromising your own - strikes me as quite perverse. They certainly bear no similar loyalty to you.


Loyalty is a deprecated value I suppose. So let me put it like this... we are riding together in a boat. The boat has a hole in it. Not my problem?


It's your problem, but the situation is not analogous.

If the boat has a hole in, we're both going to drown fairly soon if we don't work together.

If you act in the interests of the company, you take on significant personal risk that you'll be thrown over the side of a boat that may or may not make it to a figurative port - i.e. the company lasts long enough for you to get what you wanted out of the contract - for reporting that someone looked fishy around the engine room.

Don't get me wrong however: Loyalty is valuable. I just choose to assign it to people I respect and who care about me, rather than those who waves a cheque book at me and expect to own my soul when they rent my labour.


I hear you on owning the soul and dis-respectable people. I don't think we should let ourselves be abused. In the case of the original poster, if what he says is accurate (we don't know, we aren't there), he is being abused by a rouge boss who is also creating risk for the company. My opinion is that he should fight this and make others aware of what is going on and try to have it change. Or else leave on his own volition if it is systemic of the larger organization and there is little chance of winning. But don't be abused and don't let the organization that is paying him be abused.


Rather than reporting your boss to HR what are the opinions of others re reporting him to legal / compliance?

You're dealing with Federal compliance issues, odds are there is a nominated person at your company who is responsible for it (there certainly is re money laundering for instance). That means there is probably a company policy saying who you should inform, rather than just telling the person you think is not complying you're often supposed to escalate it.

The danger is to do with what happens if the Feds do come calling, your being fired and not having raised your concerns elsewhere does run the risk of career blowback.

IANAL, or particularly aware of Federal compliance rules.


1. Do not talk to anyone else in the company about this issue. Do not trust HR or legal.

2. Document everything. Write down the conversation you had with your boss word for word. Go do that right now.

3. Save proof of the violations. Save proof of you reporting it. Save your "excellent" job reports. It will be harder for them to justify firing an excellent employee.

Realize that data loss prevention software will tell the company you saved the examples.

4. Consult with an employment lawyer. In fact, go see two or three.

5. This is the most important step. Find a new job. Pretend everything is okay so you don't come off as desperate.


"4. Consult with an employment lawyer."

Talking to an employment lawyer is a very good idea, since you may be getting fired in retaliation for reporting illegal activity: "the 'expert' turned out to be producing documents that are not in compliance with Federal law." You might have a case for a wrongful dismissal lawsuit, which could give you leverage to get a hefty severance payment to make the case (and adverse publicity) go away by settling out of court. So definitely consult a good lawyer who practices employment law in your state.

"2. Document everything... 3. Save proof of the violations."

Needless to say, don't save these on your company computer, since the moment they decide to fire you you'll lose access to it.

"1. Do not talk to anyone else in the company about this issue. Do not trust HR or legal."

For more information on the role of HR and why they shouldn't be trusted, read the book Corporate Confidential by Cynthia Shapiro (which I learned about from a comment on HN a while back; thanks to whoever posted that!).

Link to book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0312337361


I'm so happy to see someone else recommend this book. :)


Do not trust HR or legal.

Oh God yes. Everything they do, everything, is about protecting the company. They will lie to you, they will screw you over, and anything you say to them will be used against you in some way.


Just to make it clear, HR and legal work to protect THE COMPANY not you.


I'm a little surprised that everyone is saying "avoid HR" (I have no experience with being on the wrong side of management or HR, yet). Can anyone comment on whether this is US specific or if it applies equally in western Europe?


Let's say you are a female employee and a college hire calls you a sexist term during a meeting. Then yes, by all means go to HR.

However, if your manager did something inappropriate in private then whose side do you think HR will take?


Then yes, by all means go to HR.

You will be labelled as a troublemaker. That college hire will be in trouble as well (not for what he did, but because he has made the company vulnerable to action), but your record will be marked (almost certainly not literally; they're not stupid enough to outright leave actionable evidence like that).


I don't know about western Europe, but here in Australia, I've heard the story "I went to HR and things improved" exactly once. Usually it's a neutral 'we can't do anything' and sometimes it's makes things so much worse.

I've heard far more success going outside HR channels - like say talking to a boss's boss or a boss's colleague.


I tried taking a grievance to HR once. Once. Lesson learned (the hard way, as usual for me). Now I just look for a new job if my manager is a tool.


Corporations value consistency over correctness. Your manager is your manager because the company trusts him. Even if the evidence suggests strongly that your boss is in the wrong, the best you're likely to get is a pyrrhic victory: the boss goes down, but so do you.

It takes a whole-team revolt to beat a bad boss through HR channels, and most people aren't willing to put their careers at risk. Not only that, but after you beat a bad boss, you're still viewed with suspicion by managers ("protect our own") and will have a hard time getting a transfer or promotion.


They also know the laws and the politics of the company much better than you so you are playing on their turf.


> I have no desire to lose my job, but I am most concerned that being fired would place future job prospects in jeopardy.

First of all, you're not going to work here forever. You'll let laid off, or get pushed out in an acquisition, or find a better gig down the road, or get fired for cause. No one stays at a job forever.

Secondly, don't place so much faith in your "permanent record". Yeah, getting fired can impact you, but not as significantly as you think. I've had some jobs I seriously screwed up on, but I'm far from the soup kitchen today. Even if someone notices, there are laws regarding disclosure, and you will get interviews. In today's world of high profile ethical failures, your response to why you were terminated will make you stand out.

People around the world are dying for their beliefs. Don't stand for having imaginary potential consequences dangled in front of you like a carrot prevent you from doing the proper thing.


Whatever you decide to do, you really should report the violation of the law in some way to one of your superiors, and do it in a documented, traceable fashion (email).


Pretty much this. And if they don't follow through/follow up on this, the problem will get much bigger.


If I were in this position I would find the appropriate internal legal counsel and cc them on the email, including the words 'client attorney privileged and confidential' at the top. This affords some protection against discovery were the information to become relevant in legal proceedings. Taking that additional caution on behalf of the company shows professionalism on your part and will be appreciated by management who will see you're trying to contain and redress the situation rather than put the company at risk, in which case you may be seen instead as the risk.

Another thought- it's possible that your supervisor's manager is aware of the action being taken against you. You might be able to get better advice talking to someone in a different reporting chain if you can find them.


An employee is not the client of a company's legal counsel. The company is the client. So there is no expectation of confidentiality. Copying their legal team might make them more likely to act on the problem. But it won't protect the employee.


I got the impression that nezumi knew that, and was suggesting the marking as a way of protecting the current employer, to demonstrate to any more senior management who might become involved that the OP is not just trying to make trouble.

Whether that would actually help here and whether such markings have any weight in whatever legal system the OP is operating within are different questions, of course.


You misunderstood. CC'ing the counsel is a gesture of good faith towards the company, insuring that the company is protected and emphasizing that you aren't looking to start legal action.


Thanks guys :) There are verbatim notes that I've filed with my legal counsel, but I am concerned escalating will result in immediate termination.


The company is willing to hire such a manager. So you've got to ask yourself, would you want anything other than termination from this environment?

Either way things can't go back to the way they were. You're either getting fired, or you're going to choose to leave. This means changes are coming. So you've got to take charge of how your life is going to change.


This. It doesn't sound like there is a 'not leaving' choice so making it on your own terms is better than having it on their terms. And document what ever you can so that in the (unlikely) event they come after you, you have a defense.


You have legal counsel and you're still posting to HN for advice? Have you lost faith in them? Do they know you're posting details of your case on the internet? Are they ok with that?


I have not lost faith, and nothing I've said is legally problematic. Truly, I value the advice given here, and having weighed the risks carefully, I made a considered decision. It could be totally wrong, but for now, what's done is done. Thank you for reading this, and your advice is very well taken.


Legal counsel is for legal advice. They will also give you other advice if you ask for it, but that's not what they're trained in. I have a lawyer who is awesome, and who I've used for coming up on 15 years. But he only knows what he knows. I certainly get his opinion on business matters, because he has seen a lot of stuff happen. But I get opinions from other people, too. And in the end I go with my opinion, because it's my life, not his.


> He assigned me to follow the instructions of an "expert" in completing a compliance document (a task in which I am not trained), and the "expert" turned out to be producing documents that are not in compliance with Federal law. The "expert" repeatedly stated in writing that I was doing an "excellent" job, and I am concerned I am facing retaliation for reporting that her work was simply not correct.

If that is true, why not escalate this up the chain? Unless there is some big conspiracy / cover up going on, I'm sure upper management would be interested in the truth.


> I'm sure upper management would be interested in the truth.

I'm not the OP and I'm sure upper management everywhere are interested in the truth but I'm interested in maintaining the relationship with my direct superiors more.

If my direct superiors aren't handling an issue I will never go over their head as it'll probably sour our relationship and nothing will probably get done anyways.


Agree with others - any relationship with your immediate superiors is already toast. Anyone who would retaliate against you for doing good work can never be trusted to treat you fairly again.

Considering that you want to stay at the company there are really only two ways this could turn out good for you: You bring this up the chain, effectively reporting your supervisor's bad behavior, and wind up reassigned under someone else, or you bring this up the chain and your supervisor gets fired. The latter is the only scenario that really gives you a good shot of remaining at the company without being hassled, and it sounds like your supervisor's behavior was bad enough to warrant their dismissal.

Some people do horrible things and their companies protect them. Maybe they're politically connected, well-liked, or valuable for other reasons. The way I look at this overall is that the company is either good enough to stop this sort of retaliatory behavior or they're not, in which case you shouldn't want to work for them anyways.

Good luck.


As far as I can tell, the relationship between OP and his/her direct supervisor is completely shot. There is nothing to maintain.


it'll probably sour our relationship

If "the issue" is your superior is on a warpath to get you fired, I think that ship has sailed.


Interesting to contrast this with the recent bank fraud thread, where people say "senior management must have known what was going on".


Okay it seems like you want to keep this job so that's step one. The goal here is to keep the job. Now just arrange the chess pieces to accomplish your goal. Here are two things I would keep in mind:

1. Do exceptionally good work for the next 30 days. Bust Your Ass. Most likely this is his way of reasserting his superior status over you since you went out of line. You need to show him that he's the master and you're the subordinate. The best way to do that is to bust your ass and do the work the way he's dictated that he wants the work done. Don't do this passive-aggressively or in a desperate way, do this with determination, with purpose, authentically. Like you were born and live to serve him. Once you've pleased his ego, he'll have a harder time rationalizing firing you.

2. DO NOT COMPLAIN TO HR/LEGAL. Only say good things about your boss and how's he's so intelligent and you really respect his leadership and blah blah. Swallow your pride and openly acknowledge his criticisms of you and say this whole process is helping you grow as a person and be better. Repeat: DO NOT COMPLAIN TO HR/LEGAL NO EXCEPTIONS IT DOES NOT MATTER IF YOU THINK THEY ARE YOUR FRIEND. If you have negative things to say about him/the company, they will begin their campaign to disarm you and support the decision to let you go.

On a meta-note. I think you should actually leave the company and find a company/manager with a supportive culture. By staying at this company you are stunting yourself. You seem too dependent and fearful and that is a recipe for life-long stress and anxiety, both of which will ultimately kill you. Improve your independence and self-reliance, find another job.

I've hired and fired many people and I can tell you that getting fired is not that bad. Companies know there are bad companies and that personalities don't always mix. What matters most to a potential future employer is not if you've been fired but if you can actually do good work and you fit in. If you do good work and there are companies where you can fit in, you don't need to fear being fired from anywhere. You'll find your place.


> 2. DO NOT COMPLAIN TO HR/LEGAL. Only say good things about your boss and how's he's so intelligent and you really respect his leadership and blah blah. Swallow your pride and openly acknowledge his criticisms of you and say this whole process is helping you grow as a person and be better. Repeat: DO NOT COMPLAIN TO HR/LEGAL NO EXCEPTIONS IT DOES NOT MATTER IF YOU THINK THEY ARE YOUR FRIEND. If you have negative things to say about him/the company, they will begin their campaign to disarm you and support the decision to let you go.

This is idiotic. Yes, HR is there to protect the company. However this advice relies on you stating that you believe your manager is correct and stating there is nothing wrong with the way your manager is acting or between you and them.

Given that, and your manager now recommends firing, since you have openly admitted your boss was correct in everything he is firing you for and made it clear there are no personal issues between you and your boss, HR is going to completely support the decision to fire you. You have shot yourself in the foot.

Nothing changes if you don't raise issues. HR is protecting the company, but that would also include not holding onto a manager with a lot of complaints against them.


Thanks for calling my ideas idiotic. It probably seems that way because you're missing the subtext of this advice.

At worst HR/Legal will recommend that you get fired, at best you aren't on their radar. There is a very low chance that HR will go against your manager and fight for you. They just aren't incentivized that way: their job is to protect the company, not ensure fairness. HR people are awarded for cleaning up messes, not for interfering with the management structure. They risk more downside to support a single employee. In general HR departments are in a position of weakness when compared to management in companies.

His priority is to stay at the company, not make a change. The best way to maximize his chances of staying at the company is to not make a ruckus and do what his manager says. If he wanted to maximize his chances of making a change, however, the best way would be to go to his manager's manager. His manager's manager is actually incentivized to ensure his reports are doing good/non-illegal work. His chances of getting firing go up by taking that route, but in the slim chance his manager's manager has detected these sorts of problems in the past and is currently waiting for the straw that broke the camel's back then he might be successful.

I'm not advocating not making a change in the company, I'm just being logical w.r.t. to keeping his job right now. The spirit of my advice is "die another day." Right now he has very little influence to actually make change. Better to advance those goals once he's in a more stable position in the company. For him, the stakes are too high to risk martyrdom.


>"I am facing retaliation for reporting that her work was simply not correct."

>"this supervisor has been angry with me since I pointed out to him a few months ago that he may have violated firm policy in a severe way."

Is there a pattern here of noticing others mistakes and pointing it out them? Whether right or not, I know very few people who would want to work with someone constantly looking for their mistakes and jumping on the opportunity to point it out to them.

One thing is for sure, you are too much of a straight shooter to work in the "major firm" or atleast with the department you work for...clearly, they are less concerned with following every rule to the letter.

My advice, especially if you don't plan on changing, is to leave, and be open with interviewers about being a straight shooter...this will scare off the companies that you will certainly run into problems with, and hopefully help you find work with others who share your values.


You're a data scientist - one of the hottest jobs out there. Go find a place where you don't work for an asshole, and you can have fun. Email me if you're having a hard time finding a job, I'll probably hire you.


1. Don't quit before/unless you have another position, let them fire you.

2. Getting fired will not blackball you, companies do not validate anything generally beyond dates of employment, salary and sometimes "eligible for rehire", but that has become more uncommon to ask/answer. I have seen at large firms even when a person is terminated for valid reasons, and the manager and executives have said they will never work here again, HR will answer the question "Yes" to eligible for rehire. This is because they know answering it any other way can lead to a potential law suit which may unearth unrelated facts during discovery that would be damaging.

3. If you get fired and are on an interview, don't lie about being terminated if asked, and don't plea your case to them, they don't care and will not look fond on you pleading a case or dishing details on a former employer. If directly asked if you were terminated, just say yes I was let go. Generally most people won't push for why, but if they do, you could say something along the lines, well over the past few months (or whatever time period) my manager needed a different skill set on the team then I posses and so I wasn't a good fit any longer. Frankly, his/her skill set you were lacking is dishonesty or questionable morals however you want to look at it. So you aren't lying, just framing the conversation so it isn't negative to the company or really yourself.

4. Even in small towns you can find another job, larger towns is even easier, don't panic. It is scary but don't panic.

5. As for the situation, you can send an email to your manager or the the director in charge of your department again. Do it not with the goal of saving your job or making enemies, but with protecting your ass so that if something shady really is found later you are insulated. Make sure you keep a copy of the email and while likely not ideal, I would bcc my personal email as well as print a hard copy.


It's simply false that companies do not validate anything beyond dates of employment. Supposedly all companies are so terrified of lawsuits they won't do anything, but actually there is no mechanism which will allow the candidate to discover what was mentioned on the back channel, and the good old boy network is very much alive. If someone wants to make sure you don't get hired, there are ways.

When it comes to your own life, please don't trust this Pollyanna advice from HN which is coming from people who have not had any problems like this.


"Back channels" are exceptionally rare between HR departments -- I've only heard of one significant network of HR departments willing to back-channel pejorative data about possible employees, and that was a set of industrial companies that had an ongoing problem with employees getting fired for failed drug screens, then cleaning up just long enough to go to the next firm. (Meth heads playing with 2000°F furnaces is a legal and operational nightmare scenario.)

Even so, it took years for the companies to start sharing anything, and even then the HR heads would do things like meet in the parking lots of rural truck stops to exchange names of problem employees. Basically, sharing pejorative employee info between companies is something that no competent HR professional is willing to do absent very good reason, executive direction, and a lot of attempts at tradecraft.

Having said that, ref checks can communicate quite a lot without communicating anything in particular; pregnant pauses and careful word choice can certainly say a lot. However, this is more a concern in SMBs where the ref check might land on the manager's desk instead of HR.

Now, if a company leader wants to screw you over and you're looking for employment in the SMB market, then, yeah, change cities. YPO is a freaking henhouse for gossip, and bad reputations move fast in those circles.


"[...] there is no mechanism which will allow the candidate to discover what was mentioned on the back channel [...]"

If there's a back channel for the reference, there's a back channel to find out about a shitty reference. I'm instructed by my HR team to never, ever give references, and to refer folks inquiring to our contracted company that gives only dates of employment. 'Cause we got better things to do than get sued, even if we'd likely win.


First, 'pollyanna advice' is unnecessarily harsh. Even saying 'overly optimistic' would be a huge improvement...

Second, yes there are ways that someone could keep another from getting hired, but they are supremely (as in multi-million dollar lawsuit) risky. When it comes to the back channel, it is important to remember that everybody talks all the time and favours never come free.


Perhaps you could share your experience? Rather than, say, implying without evidence that everybody but you is an idiot.


My advice isn't Pollyanna advice. I have worked at Fortune 10 and Fortune 500 firms as well as in startups, plus I have run my own company for years now. In all those places I have held senior positions at one time or another. So my experience is real and practical. In the larger firms generally managers and above are trained to redirect all reference requests and employment verifications to HR, especially for employees who were terminated. This is a risk mitigation procedure by the companies, as lawsuits are real. And generally past employees do find out when employers try to damage them because of friends or sympathizers still at the company will reach out and let them know.

You say back channels are the way and the good ole boy network still exists. I agree to a point, but practical experience again is showing me that even using people I know they are reluctant to answer questions because they fear reprisal not just from lawsuits, but for what should happen when they need a job (direct quote from someone not too long ago). Today's person you fire could be your boss shortly down the road, so I think this contributes to why generally I find experienced people reluctant to give any real details. Exceptions happen though, and in cases of theft, arrest etc I have seen more direct responses since there is generally public record, but again, that is a very low percentage of times. Also, as @HillRat said, SMB's can be more volatile since they generally lack professional HR and so that is a little more subject to the good ole boy network and off the cuff comments. Or the pregnant pause as he also mentioned.

Personally in my current and past businesses, we will validate employment dates, salary if they already have the number (otherwise that is the employees personal data), job title and what the job position entailed. We generally give no indication as to why the person left or whether it was voluntary or not. In large organizations these types of calls go to an HR group or even to an outside firm that only has 4-5 pieces of data on people. Home Depot Supply at one time had an automated system that handled all verification of employment calls to prevent mishaps from happening. I have no clue if this is still the case, but it was creative.

If an employee leaves on their own, or asks me personally for a reference I will make a judgement call about if I will do it, how much to say and how to handle it. But in the cases where someone was terminated they rarely list that manager as a reference so those calls come from a verification of employment perspective, where we answer the bare minimum.


I've been in this same situation as you.

You can and will not win against your boss.

You can either try to transfer into another group outside of the reach of your current boss, or you need to leave. But the fact you are on performance review means that transferring might be very hard, unless you've made good relationships with other groups that would take you on.

Those are your only two options so act quickly. There is no way so salvage the situation. 30-day performance reviews are really just a way to fire you but to avoid a lawsuit.

I find it hard to believe you will be blackballed in the entire city unless you work in a very small city. But you have no choice. And next job you get, you should consider the things you say and who you are saying them to. Some people take criticism well, and others like your boss will try to fire you. Learn from this experience.


"You can and will not win against your boss."

That is certainly not necessarily true. But it is a probably.


It sounds very much like you're a whistleblower of some crime, which gives you protection against the sort of retaliation you're describing. See http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistleblower for more information about legal protection.

Now, you're not immune to workforce politics so there may still be reasons why you'd be fired but I definitely wouldn't accept it without finding out a lot more about your situation and potentially escalating the complaint.


According to my counsel, whistleblower protection laws wouldn't necessarily apply in this case (IANAL, so I'm unsure as to why.)

Also, this industry does not treat whistleblowers well, so I'm hesitant to take this route, yet. But I want to make sure I follow firm policy very precisely regarding these issues, so I'm consulting closely with legal counsel.


My thought is that you should speak to a lawyer who is experienced in these kind of disputes. Bringing in a lawyer to represent you pretty much burns the bridge but it sounds like you will either want or have to leave anyway. If this is a large company, they do not want to get involved in a protracted dispute, especially if it might become public. This is true regardless of what you have done that might legitimately make them want to get rid of you. Yes, you don't want to ruin your own reputation as an employee for a future employer, but they have much more to lose in most cases.

You would be surprised how far companies will go to avoid outright terminating someone. In past jobs I have been in management and had to deal with people who had anger management problems, drug problems, and sexually harassed co-workers. Despite the documentation for these issues they were given up to 6 months to find other jobs and/or terminated with several months of severance for signing an agreement they wouldn't sue.

A lawyer will generally give you a free consultation and could write a letter on your behalf for a few hundred dollars. If your case seems to have more merit, they may be willing to take it on contingency.


And also turning up with lawyer will increase the chance of getting a compromise agreement and will get your managers card marked by more senior people.


In summarising many of the excellent advice here you should:

Maintain your professionalism

Seek independent legal advice

Avoid HR like the plague

Assume that you will be fired. You cannot win.

Start looking for a new job immediately.

Document everything for any legal proceedings later.

Ask colleagues you trust if they would provide you with a reference once you have secured new employment.

Do not fear leaving your job for another. Opportunity knocks.

Good luck and remain positive. Don't let this get you down.


If this is * fait accompli* and it is going to happen, then by all means, I would involve HR, under the advice of your counsel.

I would tell HR that you're being punitively punished for bringing up an ethics violation with your boss.

I would tell them that your counsel has advised you that you have certain rights, and you expect to be treated fairly.

I surmise that will force them to offer you more to get you to leave quietly, or maybe force them to investigate the asinine behavior of your boss, assuming we perceive the situation correctly.

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night!!!!


"When I raised that issue, he immediately began the process of putting me on a 30 day review, a necessary step prior to termination."

Document document document. Don't quit your job and when and if they do fire you. Sue. It sounds to me like your manger is retaliating against you because they are trying to cover something up. That is never ok and if HR is not handling it, than stand your ground and let the lawyers handle it.


Whatever you do, do not allow yourself to feel like a helpless victim. That's what losers do. You are not a loser. But if you allow yourself to think like a loser you are finished. Not just in this job, but in life.

Decide what you really want first. Do you really genuinely want to stay? Sounds like the place is a little corrupt. I wouldn't want to stay there. But if you do, then own that choice and don't let anyone else tell you to run away.

There are an infinite number of ways in which you can manifest the future that you desire.

In workplaces that have been infested by people who care more about getting for themselves than giving something amazing to the world, you're going to have to play the political game.

I avoid those kinds of workplaces because I find doing so repulsive, but if you really want to stay, that's what you're going to have to do.

That means forming alliances and destroying your enemies. This guy who has taken action against you is doing so because he feels threatened by you. You could try to repair your relationship with him. Or you could take action to destroy him. Decide which you want to do.

It sounds like you are in the right. Know that a man who has right on his side, and who is absolutely confident and determined to do what is right no matter the cost is absolutely terrifying to the typically cowardly types who climb the corporate hierarchies at most companies.

Most will bend under the slightest threat you intend to stand up for yourself and take action against them.

You wield a lot more power than you think you do. Just believe in yourself and do what is right because it is right and people will rally to support you.


Let me say this very clearly. If your manager has decided to get rid of you, you cannot fight that battle. Do not fight that battle. You will lose. Doesn't matter who is right or wrong. I have seen this so many times in my 11 years of professional experience that I will say this with conviction.

Now, if you are really sure that your manager is preparing to fire you, then :

"Do I simply begin looking for other positions"

Yes, right away. Keep it only to yourself.

"Do I report his increasingly erratic behavior, and waste of firm resources?"

Don't. At least not yet. It will be a waste of your time and until you are in a strong position (have already found another job etc), you will most likely weaken your position further. Remember, the company will have more interest in keeping the manager and not you. This is not the time to be a whistleblower etc and think about doing the right thing etc. The right thing to do is to look out for yourself by finding another job asap. All the other things can come later if you want.

"Do I quit before the period expires?"

Find a job if you can within the period and quit then. Do not quit on your own before finding another job.

Here is my overall take on this. You need to put yourself in a strong position before doing anything. This means that you have another job lined up. Don't worry about being blacklisted because if you do need a reference, you can always use other colleagues and not necessarily your manager. Remember the saying "most people quit their bosses not the company". And if you can find the new job before getting fired/quitting, then you anyway don't have to use current boss/company as reference because no one does that. You also will not have to explain the details of why you are really quitting.

Even though you cannot say with certainty, but whenever a manager puts someone on a "30 day review", it is most likely because they want to get rid of you. Officially, they have to do a bunch of bullshit documentation for HR and legal purposes but your hunch is almost always right.

Get out of there if you feel like you are no longer wanted. Do not confront your boss or say anything verbally or in writing. Keep it simple. Find a job, give notice to your current employer/boss in writing which should just say "I am quitting effective xyz date". Be prepared to be fired right away on the spot after your notice if they were anyway going to get rid of you. SO before sending the notice, make sure you have your desk ready to go just in case. I have seen this many times when someone is walked out of their office right away after giving notice when they were anyway going to be fired.


I dunno. Maybe the job is worth fighting for. And it definitely wouldn't be the first time someone went over their superior's head and won. Or got transferred to another division.


> if you do need a reference, you can always use other colleagues and not necessarily your manager.

Is it okay to do this while still being employed at a company? Would you consult the colleague and ask him to not reveal you are looking for a new job?

This isn't for OP, but my own knowledge.


This may seem obvious - but yes, consult others before using them as a reference. At a minimum, you'll want to know they're happy to give you a good reference. One would hope you've developed a strong enough relationship with some colleagues as humans (i.e. beyond the confines of the "employee" relationship.) Humans don't always stay at one company forever.

Trust comes first - the rest follows rather easily.


you are right. I edited my comment further on this. No one uses/should use their current colleagues/company/boss for reference anyway.


Really? In my experience, across (software/tech) in multiple industries - people (work friends, and work friends who you keep as real friends) help each other out if they're leaving (again, assuming we think well of each other and the references are honest) We don't assume interviewing equal disloyalty. A fair bit of caution is required, of course - but I see this happen all the time. Heck, I've had executives who will help you if want to leave (again - it's not disloyal), and I've carried that same approach to those who reported to me.


> Do I quit before the period expires?

If you're fairly certain you'll be fired (and it sounds like you are) wouldn't this be the most sensible solution?

When asked in interviews why you left saying you quit usually goes over a lot better than saying you were fired. And explaining why you quit would certainly not be considered a poor reason - at least not for the companies you would want to work for.


A short, honest answer would be best. "I raised concerns that they might be asking me to handle data/documents in a way that wasn't compliant with Federal law. Unfortunately I'm not able to elaborate on the details, but the result was that I felt moving on would be best"

Companies really shouldn't pry any further when there's good reason to believe you're legally obliged to shut up. Plus refraining from the opportunity to rant about their dubious practises and coverups also implies that you're a sensible professional with high standards rather than a troublemaker.

The possibility that your most-likely-soon-to-be-ex-employer might feel compelled to offer you some kind of settlement in return for you agreeing not to mention alleged non-compliance or unfair dismissal to anybody else actually probably still exists. But you ask your counsel (or two or three different lawyers) about that, not HN.


This is a good answer if directly asked. It doesn't imply guilt on either party, and as you said, this really isn't something that should be discussed further.


Just give a vague answer if anyone asks why you left the job "They wanted to go in a different direction." The important point is to not show stress when they ask why you left.


You don't need to actually quit to have a reasonable answer to why you left. I'm not advocating lying, at all, but you also don't have to volunteer "they terminated me". There's a lot of soft answers about how it wasn't a good fit.

Plus companies will often terminate you via a technical layoff, or 'position eliminated' instead of 'termination for cause'.


Can be perfectly honest about the "second best reason I wanted to quit" and just neglect to mention "Oh and BTW my boss was trying to set me up to take the rap for a felony although I figured it out before the prosecutor pressed charges, so the boss had to get rid of me ASAP to hide the evidence."

Don't give HR at the new employer any reason to wonder about what happens after you're hired. This vague stuff is not cool. Try, "My girlfriend and I were ready to moving to Portland for her job as a biochemist at xyz but it didn't work out (provide more detail here) so here I am looking for work back home" or something similarly tragic but obvious one time only concrete specific event. Or your position was in line for a forced relo and you really like (insert name of city you're interviewing at). Claim to be downsized, how are they going to know? Perhaps you have a terminally ill distant relative who did in fact recently die so now you are looking for work thats more challenging now that you're not distracted.

Also provide future, unverifiable reasons. I intend to attend the university of XYZ masters program next semester and your office happens to be down the street from the university of XYZ so I was thinking ... And if you end up not attending, well so be it. My girlfriend/mom/dad/bro/uncle is planning on moving right down the street to minimize commute, and we are a close family and oh, look, you're right next door.

The laws and lawsuits are so strict that you can pretty much tell HR anything and your former employer will only provide dates titles and salary, or you'll be collecting a large lawsuit paycheck from them. If you're going to tell a story, tell a good, believable, detailed one.

Note that if you file a lawsuit, most HR types can search the court record and will ask you why you sued your former employer for wrongful termination when you claimed in the interview that your girlfriend was moving to Austin or whatever. So settling out of court, assuming there is a settlement, is in everyone's best interest not just the former employer.

Look on the bright side, better to escape without legal action, than to escape with a "sued his employer" in the court records, which is better than "named in felony proceedings for falsified corporate accounting records" or whatever they were setting up to frame you for. You're in a bad spot but you've avoided so many worse possible spots.


On the other hand in many countries quitting disqualifies you from unemployment benefits (or delays the time when you can start drawing then).


In reality they will probably give him a choice: you can resign to save us the paperwork or we will fire you.


Why would you be blackballed? I've been fired twice and it never really did anything for my job prospects. It sucked but it wasn't terminal. There's a strong demand for data scientists. And most organizations won't discuss why you left for fear of being sued - because if they do slander you to other companies, a lawsuit is a real possibility.

So maybe you're right. If you think it's a real possibility than quit, certainly. And it's not an either/or option - you can escalate the issue to senior management and quit at the same time.

Anyway, overall it sucks but you will survive. Good luck.


Let's assume that you somehow don't get fired at the end of the review period. Do you still want to work for this person/company?

get out while you can.


I'd get advice from an employment lawyer right away, sounds quite dicey your situation, I'm sure your manager had to fill out a bunch of forms and give specific reasons to put you on a 30 day review. Can you find out what those reasons were? Questioning the work of an 'expert' (was that person a contractor?) surely can't be an official reason to put you on review.

Also get your previous performance reports, that will hopefully show that whatever reasons he put down for placing you under 30 day review are out of character and unusual.

Edit: typos


This is absolutely essential advice. Consult with a good employment lawyer as soon as possible. They will know the legal issues at play and can counsel you on what steps to take / not take. Unfortunately, it sounds like you may be in a situation where a single misstep could be used against you. You need an understanding of what your rights are, and what your protections may be under the law. A good employment lawyer will be able to help with that.

In the meantime, I would begin a journal and start taking notes (with dates/times) on what you have been told, observations you have made, etc. This may be helpful both to the lawyer as well as anyone else when you are asked to recall things. This way, it's contemporaneous note-taking as your reference, and not some attempted recollection from some time considered long past.


I'd offer the example of the intern dataminer at the Potti lab which was found to have committed a particularly egregious form of model fitting and led to its erroneous use in actual cancer patient treatment: by splitting obs from the total study into fit and test sets to give perfect agreement with the already trained model. Here the impact on ethical issues - life or death medicine - was pretty high. The guy who quit personally sacrificed his medical-school career to draw his foot in the sand, and received empty thanks only years later from Duke [1].

In data science, ethical issues seem to be present in all the interesting applications. But the life or death impact is often much less, like Netflix movie ratings - where a public datamining competition was cancelled due to a compliance-based class action lawsuit for the potential to de-identify anonymized account data [2].

It's hard to where on this ethical spectrum your particular case lies. If it's something that effects others, quit and try to make things right. If it effects lawyers v lawyers let your boss take accountability for that decision and the freedom to make it.

[1] http://www.cancerletter.com/articles/20150109_1 [2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/firewall/2010/03/12/netflix-sett...


The most important task you need to accomplish in the next week is this: Consult with criminal defense counsel with experience in this area of federal compliance—particularly because of the possibility that the documents you were helping to create were contrary to law. 18 USC § 1001 is a frightening statute with exceptionally broad applicability. Even if it wasn't you signing the form, if you were helping to complete the form, an Assistant US Attorney might see you as a target for a conspiracy charge. Although conspiracy requires proof of intent, that doesn't mean your life can't be wrecked by a wayward or overly zealous AUSA, even if you are exonerated later.

You may need, under whatever area of law applies here, to whistleblow to remove any potential taint on your activity. Or maybe counsel would advise you to lay low. Hard to say. That's why it's important to talk to counsel in this area of law.

Secondly, you may have cause of action for a whistleblower lawsuit. You may end up deciding not to proceed for several reasons already mentioned in other comments (expensive, time consuming, etc.), but you should seek competent legal advice from an employment attorney as well.


Find a new role as fast as possible and get out of this situation without burning too many bridges on the way. Your quality of life will improve greatly when you are far away from a supervisor who's actively diminishing you and your work.


Tough situation.

If you want to stand up for yourself you could go over your boss's head. Risky, could get you fired immediately, but could get your boss fired/disciplined and save your position.

You could consult with a lawyer for advice...

The safest thing to do is go with the flow and quit (finding a new job first if possible). But just because something is safe doesn't mean it's the right way to go...


> but I am most concerned that being fired would place future job prospects in jeopardy

In sounds like your colleagues know you're doing a great job and are an asset - use them as references on your resume for any future jobs, and there is no need to mention you were fired - you can just say you're ready for new challenges.


Most companies provide nothing beyond verifying employment dates - start and end. Providing more opens them up to lawsuits. I didn't get hired at $NEW_PLACE because $OLD_PLACE told them i watched cat videos all day.

You're working for an organization that's broken. Perhaps someone can fix their legal and ethical problems, but fixing that is not data science. There's nothing wrong with letting people higher up know, so they can perhaps resolve the issues. But remember, it takes a long time to turn a big ship. if there's already a culture of willfully avoiding ethics and the law, thats a long long process. Do you want to spend your valuable time fighting that fight, or doing good work?

I'd start looking for a new place right now.


Most big firms have a concern line/department you can report to in case of ethics or internal policy compliance issues, check, but maybe they won't even reveal your identity. If there is no such a line, I would start looking for another job if the felony is not a serious one, otherwise I would ask advice to a lawer. You seem to be somewhat junior? It seems to me you don't have enough experience to navigate the political landscape of your firm and a wrong move there might really hurt your carrier, so probably changing job is the best long term strategy here.


It does sound like a 30 day notice. I'd start looking elsewhere right away. To that end, there's a job fair being put on by EdSurge in Redwood City where a bunch of EdTech companies will be sending reps. There are 12 spots currently left for job seekers. Pretty sure your skills as a Data Scientist are valuable to many EdTech companies.

Here's the link to sign up for the job fair: http://www.meetup.com/sfedtech/events/221583848/


Little late to this party, but a couple things to add:

1a. The fact that the manager showed up with the "30 day performance review" speech means that for sure they want to fire you, and also that he has already has this signed off by HR. Therefore going to HR, at least about the specific issue of being fired, is not useful.

1b. There is some very small chance that 1a is not true and in fact the manager is a total loose canon, or is bluffing. Up to you to assess which is the case but 1a is much more likely.

2. A trick I've used myself in the many situations I've found myself in over the years is this: imagine they make a movie about what goes down. Imagine you being played by some big name actor in the movie (the movie "Margin Call" might be a good concrete example here). Now: play time forward and consider what the guy playing your character in the movie would say when he testifies in court. Here's the important part: make sure that your actions today are consistent with that guy looking good and ending the movie not in jail :)

Put another way: think about how you would fare if you have to stand up in court at some later date and explain your actions. Think about the emails you send, the letters you write particularly.

In your case, "looking good in the movie" might involve taking the advice other folks have given here: seek legal advice and then follow it.


Start looking for other positions asap. Don't rely on things beyond your control.


Going to run counter to the stream here - don't quit and don't give up on the company.

Every firm has crappy managers and your references to "compliance" tell me there's a fear of lawsuits. This sounds like you are being thrown under the bus by an ineffective and frightened (those two usually go together) manager. There may be a sense (which may or may not be coming from that manager) that it's cheaper to fix the problem by fixing the blame.

1. Do not check out. You don't have to quit. The PIP is a process. Lots of people come through PIPs, don't believe it's a one-way route out of the company. It's not. It is a flag that you and your manager are not on the same page about expectations and is more like a DUI or a divorce - one is unfortunate but happens to more people than you think. You find the problem, make changes and continue. More than one..that's a different problem.

2. Understand and use the PIP process. If the manager is doing all of the documenting and you are not, that's what we call a no-contest. You don't want to fight or offer opinions - focus on facts, emails, ccs, phone calls, meeting notes. Document this as your side of the PIP process. This will probably not get your manager to back down, but 1) establishes your position for anything else that's about to happen and 2) gives some back and forth to the process, which slows it down long enough for you to get to #3.

3) Are there options for a transfer? This is a discussion that you can have with HR (yes, they are there to keep the company from being sued and not for your well being, BUT remember they are also not there for your manager's well-being either; they are partly there to try and retain people who are good contributors because it costs more money to get a new employee than it costs to keep a good one). The key is how you are perceived by people other than your manager - especially your manager's peers. They are the ones who can find a new home for you inside the company if they think you are worth the investment. It's best if they thought that before this happened, but it's still not too late - you just need to know the room.

Anyway, best of luck and I hope you're hearing the majority of comments here that says this is not the end of your life or your career. It happens sometimes, and people move on if you are professional and can look at this more as training than misfortune.


Before proceeding with the steps to ensure your personal future, spend some time thinking why it's you who's involved in this? Why are you put in such a situation, possibly in the role of a whistleblower? Is there something greater that is screaming to be done regardless of how you will personally survive? Don't literally think but take some time to listen to something inside of you. Maybe there's a call for you.

If you're sure there isn't, the next step is to go practical.

Stop thinking you will not get a future if you get fired. The future is not set. There's very little, if anything, a manager or even a company can do to prevent you from getting another job in the same city. Getting fired because of not agreeing to unlawful practices trumps bad-mouthing any day.

Make a local copy of the evidence and store it safe. If someone wants to play hardball you don't want your position to rely on your word or anyone else's. I'm not a US citizen but if there's something done not according to the Federal law I could imagine some Federal authority might be very interested in it.

Start looking for a position elsewhere. Consider your job done: don't look back. You can do that later when you're safe in another job but now is not the time. You can take a "lesser job" because you can explain it away as being fired because of not tolerating unlawful practices. At least you have your feet on solid ground again.

Then escalate the matter to your manager's boss or his boss. There should be someone in the company (or someone who's invested in the company) who's interested in unlawful compliance documents. If there isn't, run fast and don't look back.

If the compliance matter reaches parties outside the company and nobody in the company wants to do anything about it, go talk to the police if non-compliance could cause harm to other people. If the matter is company internal, leave it there: the company will eventually sink with all their baggage if they tolerate such practices.

Once you've made a plan to survival, cherish the opportunity. What would you have wanted to do if only things hadn't been so good as for your employer earlier in time? What could you try now that you're off the hook anyway and have no reason to hold back to something? What are the things are have been impossible but could now be chosen?


> Make a local copy of the evidence and store it safe. If someone wants to play hardball you don't want your position to rely on your word or anyone else's.

Quoting for truth.

What companies with formalized processes like "30 day review period" are doing with their time is trying to produce a paper trail, usually to defend a decision that's already been made on some level.

You want to be doing the same thing (and, if possible, finding out what kind of trail they're possibly producing)... not necessarily to defend your continued current employment (though that's an option if you want to and you've got good enough evidence), but in case this issue ever comes up in the future.


I would definitely mention this in a short email to your bosses direct supervisor, or if you don't trust him, as far up the chain as you would like to go, if this involves violating law, you obviously need to not violate that.

However, the chances that they will side with you are low, so remain very civil, and be ok if that happens. There is a chance they won't terminate your boss - and will try to get you to "patch things over", which probably won't work. Still, you're nicely on the record for having reported it. If they don't respect you for nicely reporting it, it sounds like you don't want to be there anyway.

While it may be unwise to say "don't get a lawyer", I don't think you want to win that fight, as then they really will not want to have you aboard.

I'd also consider the matter of the compliance document - if this is just something like import/export compliance, it's really not that hard, and your boss may have been reacting to the tone in which it was brought up, rather than what you brought up. Sounds like it's a bit more than that though.

Companies are very likely to lay people off these days, especially so they can get them to sign agreements that limit their ability to converse on topics (i.e. severance or at least mutual non-dispargement agreements, waiving ability to sue, etc). They are unlikely to actually fire you, and if they do, I'd just be very up front about what happened when talking to companies you are interviewing with. They are likely to understand.

It's all in your emotions and how you talk about it. Having good positive references at that company is of course a good thing to have as well.

Do be looking for a job now though.


DO NOT give into this person because of fear!!! The moment you do that, he has you.

Out of curiosity, why stay in a place where they clearly feel they can just fire people at a moments notice like you're some statistic?

Could you hand in your job notice and quit before going through being fired? Do that and report the guy at the same time? If he's done this to you, who else can he do this too?


If you are not passionate about your current projects: Find the big boss of your company, and explain the situation, then note that you're trying to avoid starting a whistleblower lawsuit by going directly to the person in charge. If that fails, keep doing your job well until day zero, but document everything illegal on a SD card or similar, and then take it to the law the moment they kick you out. It may be useful to talk to the appropriate regulatory agency NOW.

If you are passionate about your current projects, I have no real advice to offer... What I would do is probably something odd, like explaining to people that me being fired will not prevent me from finishing said projects and that anyone who has a problem with it is likely to be ignored or physically kept out of my way with whatever means I may deem necessary. However, I cannot in conscience recommend that anyone do this, it's probably one of those things that only work with me.


I think it depends on a few things, but perhaps two of the most important are these.

Be 100% honest with yourself about the situation. Has your performance been demonstrably good? A consistent record of good reviews, raises, bonuses, promotions, etc? Importantly, is it documented?? Were there maybe some performance issues in the past that would cause a manager to try to find an excuse to fire you? Or truly, is this just a petty reaction from a loathsome supervisor?

What about the senior managers above your immediate manager? Are they cut from the same cloth or are they more reasonable? Will they hear you out on this issue or just say "not my problem" and defer to your manager?

If your honest-to-god performance was demonstrably good, and you think the senior managers can handle this better, I would recommend going above your manager's head. That relationship sounds irreconcilable anyway, so I don't think there is any additional damage done.

Good luck.


Unfortunately in such situations there's little you can do legally unless you have a good trail. Regarding reporting up, do read some of the advice here as to whose side HR would take : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8600716

Since the damage has already been done (putting you on a performance review), the rest is just a matter of time. By damage, I don't mean any damage to your reputation outside the company though. It's better to start job hunting while you weigh your options about a legal case or talking to higher-ups. In most of the cases I've seen, it's easier & cheaper to just walk away. However, if you are very confident that someone higher-up would be genuinely interested in knowing the truth, then you should get in touch with them. Whatever you decide, start searching for jobs.


Lots of good advice in here. My 2 cents:

1) Don't worry about the future. Unless your city is really, really small, there will be other work for data science people.

2) Don't worry about your record or questions about why you were let go. You can always plead politics. It's a big firm, and people know there's politics in there.

3) Don't focus on the boss. Your new boss doesn't want to hear that you're uncooperative. Just stick to the politics line (boss couldn't get the budget for our group, blah blah).

4) Why on earth would you be blackballed? People do not generally use their networks like this, save for the closest friends. Have you ever looked at LinkedIn? Every post is happy happy. Or anti corporate politics.

5) Definitely start looking for a new job. It won't be strange why you've suddenly got a lot of half days or sickies.

6) Get a lawyer. The angle with the boss violating policy could help you. Also lawyers are generally useful in confrontations.


Please, fight back.

Companies are f* up because good people just run away when there are problems, while this kind of managers get promoted.

Keep a record of everything, bring a recorder with you, if they claim you did something wrong and you thing it's not true, say that what they say is not true. If they say they are not happy with your job, ask what you have to do to improve.

Contact a Lawyer. And ask the Union. They probably know quite well what are your options. With the history you explained, you should be able to beat them in court, but you need to be able to prove it.

If one day things get ugly, you'd better have a lot of ammunition to fight back. And remember, it's your job. They don't have the right to fire you to cover their mistakes.

If in your country it is not legal to keep a hidden recorder, at least you can put it on the table if one day they call you to communicate that you are fired.


Can you go over their heads? If you have any problems, there is almost always someone to raise issues to. If you love your jobs, your collegue appreciate you ( 3rd party references inside the company you can mention) and your previous peer reviews have always been positive, any boss can see there is something wrong...

I'd go over their heads, be bald. If it doesn't work, you have lost NOTHING... Don't threat the company, because then they will take it personal. Specify what is the problem and that you love working there.

Mention the raised issue about the legal problems to your boss. Say that you mentioned it as a good employee and only had negative or no feedback about it.

Other companies know that there can go something wrong, because there is always a "people" aspect in a company.. Don't worry about that.


Break out the resume and polish it up. Use all 8 hours a day to find a job while at work. Connect to recruiters on LinkedIn and use every job search engine to get yourself out there. Resign on the 29th day. You will be penalized for 2 weeks of unemployment but it will be worth it. Good Luck.


A lot of compliance is just going through the motions and then doing whatever it is you want. If it's any consolation, that's something I wrestle with regularly in my professional life.

Ultimately, only a court can determine what is or isn't in compliance with Federal Law. Everyone else just has a non-binding opinion. That's the nature of our adversarial system, and different from what is and isn't against one's ethics.

Any company big enough to have a 30 day review process is big enough that HR doesn't really want a mess on their hands and neither do the people responsible for other aspects of compliance. Talk to HR. Ask them to transfer you. Polish your CV. Look for other work. Don't quit because you will give up unemployment benefits.

Good luck.


Firms care a lot about their reputation, and good data scientists are hard to hire when you have a bad reputation. You should try to work out a deal with the firm where they support you in your job search with recommendations while keeping you employed for a couple months.


Well, if you are in North Carolina, you should email me, as we are hiring data scientists. :)


Ditto here, Virginia.


What makes you think you'll be blackballed from most firms in the city? So you don't get to use them as a reference. Who cares? The company isn't allowed to disclose why they fired you. You can just say "it wasn't a good fit for me" in your next interview. If they do pry and you acknowledge you were let go, explain the reasoning (and remain objective without placing blame), and they might see your side, too, or understand that you'll be a good employee.

I think you're way over-thinking this. Being terminated from a job doesn't ruin your prospects for any future position.


If your firm did indeed commit a unlawful offence, you should call them out on it.

Your career at this firm is over either way.

Last thing you want to do is to be dragged back in when their offence is revealed and they use you as a scapegoat.

Be on the offensive.


> I have no desire to lose my job, but I am most concerned that being fired would place future job prospects in jeopardy.

We all fear that, but usually, being fired is never an issue with getting a new job.

> According to my colleagues, I'm very competent at my position, but this supervisor has been angry with me since I pointed out to him a few months ago that he may have violated firm policy in a severe way.

If he did severely violate firm policy, point it out to whomsoever is on top of her. They should be grateful for the violation report, and that should help keep your job.


Is whistleblowing a serious option? Given your evidence that your boss is producing illegal documents, you should consider taking this higher up - if they will care. Of course, it's possible that the boss is covering for company policy.

The boss currently thinks that firing you is the most effective way to make the problem disappear. For the reasons you set out, you should act to change that.

My suggestion is to make it clear (strongly imply, without directly stating) that you will whistle-blow if you remain on probation or are otherwise mistreated.


"My suggestion is to make it clear (strongly imply, without directly stating) that you will whistle-blow if you remain on probation or are otherwise mistreated."

Makes it look like extortion. That's not going to help.

And when the feds bust the company for felony non-compliance you do not want to be the fall guy for everything illegal your former employer ever did, including the stuff you haven't figured out yet. The first thing to do once the former employer is officially former is talk to your lawyer, the second thing to do is with your lawyers advice and help is document the false reports with the feds. You don't want to get arrested at your new job six months later because the feds finally came down on your former employer for the false reports and they set you up to take all the blame.


Sounds like pretty bad advice to blackmail the manager. Find a new job, then blow the whistle if it is what needs to be done. Don't try to blackmail the manager to keep the job, because if you succeed you will be an accessory to whatever the crime is.


If it was up to me, I would have whistleblown already. I said that first.

I guess the manager understands that the OP will not whistleblow. Indeed, the OP doesn't seem to have considered it an option. This is exactly what allows the manager to treat the OP this way. The OP needs to show the manager otherwise.

Even if the OP finds a moderately nicer job later on, which I am sure they will, they need to do more to avoid reaching such a position in the first place. Or, this will happen again.


Just to be perfectly clear, blackmail is not an option, as it is both illegal and unethical, and I will not do anything of the sort.

I would also like to ensure that I correct the original comment in that I do not have sufficient legal knowledge to be certain that anything illegal or improper was done, which is why I am consulting with counsel before acting.


Not much to add given that you are consulting with counsel, but be aware that one extremely valuable attribute of legal counsel is that is where you deposit any documents that you think might be relevant -- you will surely be required to surrender all employer IP if fired, if you think there are legal issues that require you to retain documents, it's almost necessary to have them in a lawyer's care (and the lawyer will tell you what to say). I think and (IANAL) it would be something like "I was concerned about the circumstances of my termination, and I felt I needed to consult a professional to be sure I took the right steps." Which is true, yet vague, yet also not overtly threatening.

I would be wary of whistleblowing, but I would also be very wary of saying anything more to your employer than what is legally required (or than your lawyer advises). I don't see that we have socially made whistleblowing worth the risk to you, therefore, you should not take that risk, but if it helps your case, your severance, whatever, for your soon-to-be-former employer think that you might make trouble for them if they piss you off even more, that might be okay (if they're certain that you might make trouble for them, that's another matter and maybe a problem).

For the non-legal and probably more useful advice, this does not sound like a job that is worth keeping. You can't fix a bad boss, you're not paid enough to fix a bad boss (it ought to be the case that you would get a massive bonus for fixing a bad boss, but sadly the world does not work that way) better to look out for your own sanity and well-being. Don't burn bridges, don't slack off, I also don't recommend knocking yourself out in an attempt to save your job because (you wrote here for advice, here it is) it's not worth saving, DO prepare a resume and send it out, and follow the usual recipe of applying to as many places as you can stand managing all at once. It ought to take a few weeks for the sent resumes to turn into interviews, so it's not that likely to take too much of your (not-slacking-off) time. Ask your lawyer exactly what to say if a potential employer asks why you're leaving, because it's a delicate dance and there's things you probably cannot safely say (for example, what you've said here...).


I didn't intend to advocate blackmail and I'm sorry that my comment reads that way.

However, there are not many actions in business that are perfectly ethical.

And, you won't always have decent recourse in law even if someone acts illegally against you.

For now, good luck.


>My suggestion is to make it clear (strongly imply, without directly stating) that you will whistle-blow if you remain on probation or are otherwise mistreated.

No. Not only is this a bad approach for what is probably a bad company, you have an obligation (potentially one with consequences) to report illegal/uncompliant activity. HN and elsewhere is filled with stories of corporate abuses that could have been prevented but for someone who just wanted to keep their job.

If you really want to feel like you're righted, you leave, and then report, and hopefully get some folks fired along the way, and ideally it'll cause the company to lose some money as a result.


Yes it would be awful if this got onto gawker or pando :-)


You have been constructively dismissed[1]. You need to be talking to a lawyer immediately to begin your wrongful dismissal lawsuit. Don't wait until you're fired. start finding a lawyer now.

if the lawyer you talk to doesn't want to do it, or drags his feet, find a lawyer who will. You have a straightforward case, and your odds for settlement will be rather high.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructive_dismissal


> I have no desire to lose my job, but I am most concerned that being fired would place future job prospects in jeopardy.

Unlikely. Firing, head-count reductions, etc. are a normal part of business today. If it happens, it happens--there's no shame in it. Sometimes, being let go can be a blessing in disguise.

Take steps to make sure you're safe and mentally happy. It's a job, not your life. If it's your life, you've just learned a lesson: Don't make your job your life.

You will bounce back. It's what (most) people do.


In my last job I had faced similar situation. The HOD wanted to get rid of me to colleagues and higher-ups. Unlike you I did not hesitate termination. Once my dues were clear I wrote an email to entire department, HOD, HRM and CEO and shared everything. The end result, I felt satisfied and some other pals saved themselves by quitting themselves.

Moral of the story: Be Courageous. If you are skilled you will get a job anyway. Who knows someone from HN already has approached to you?


"If you are skilled you will get a job" implies that the only people who aren't getting jobs are unskilled, and that is very much false.


In your position I would be looking for another job the moment I was put on 30 day review, if I hadn't already started.

It's easy to find another job when you have one. While, given your specialty, I wouldn't expect you to have a lot of trouble even after getting fired, it's still not going to be quite as easy as it will be while you're still in this job. Start tomorrow!


Look for the job now. While you're still employed, you have an airtight excuse for not providing a manager reference from your current job ("They don't know I'm looking."). That lets you provide either your last manager, or a sympathetic coworker instead.

Wait until you're gone and it gets much sketchier. People will assume the worst if you don't provide your previous manager.


Whats more likely, that your boss "gets off" on wrongfully firing you, or that there's some attitude problem you don't recognize about yourself?

I'm going to say something that'll probably be unpopular & rude, but you want an honest answer. I don't know the full story, but from your own accounting of it - it does sound like you have a problematic attitude & the problem may be with you & not the company.

Your boss told you to follow someone's instructions & work under a person. Instead of helping, you went above that person's head & above your bosses head & consumed time auditing your superiors. You also called them an "expert" (backhanded compliment).

Personally I'd rather hire someone less skilled who follows instructions. If someone asks me what I think about a person's work, I'll be honest & say its not in compliance, but it sounds like you're going around actively telling on people for trivial stuff. They have a right to weed that type of attitude out, and you have a right to seek employment that values that type of attitude - so stop fooling yourself with this talk about "fair" & "not fair". If you're in an at-will work state there's no such thing as "unfair" termination. They don't want you anymore. Either make them want you (by being honest with yourself about what they disliked), or accept it & move on.


I've thought that through deeply, but the reality is that this isn't about fairness, this about a very specific set of actions. I didn't "go around telling on" anyone. I simply told my project manager that we couldn't use the document I was instructed to write for the purpose he was asking, because ethically I did not feel it would bring us into compliance with a mandated standard.

I am sure your intentions are good here, and certainly this a time to reflect, but I am not complaining about fairness of anything.

It's simply not ethical to put someone on review for raising an issue after months of careful consideration, especially given that my superior concurred with the judgment, and cut ties with the "expert" under whom we working. (I put "expert" in quotes not for snark, but because I want to be clear that this is the firm's terminology, not mine.)

I should also note that my colleague with whom I worked on the project, but is outside of my superior's chain of command, concurred with my concerns and stated so as well.


Don't worry about it. There's plenty of need for Data Scientists and the need is growing exponentially in the months to come.


Mate my two cents: move on. I see a lot of comments urging you to fight this tooth and nail but it really isn't worth it. It's a losing battle, the job is lost and whatever you do to try to win it back will not work unless some miracle happens. Save your energy for a new job, a better job working for people that value honesty and integrity.


Main thing is make sure you have collaborating evidence against your manager. Like good past reviews and coworkers who would support you. HR loyalty lies up the management chain so normally it is an up hill battle. But if you are a good performer and have others who support you, HR can be turned around.


If you're about to be fired, I advocated saying NEXT and moving on to something better. We work with about 25 tech startups here in NYC, and currently have a handful of Data Sci Roles that could be more than happy to chat. Feel free to shoot me a note: taylor@singlesprout.com. Happy to help!


My sympathy; this is a tough situation and you don't deserve to be in it.

Some words of hope: In a surprisingly short time, you will be able to look back at this with some much-needed distance. You'll have moved on to better things, and the problems of your old firm will no longer be your problems.



You don't want to work for this kind of company. Start interviewing now. If you're really worried about the fallout from termination, then quit.

If you're as good as you say you are, your departure will have an impact and you'll have your choice of jobs.


Don't worry too much about the impact on your career. People know that these things can happen. The recruiters might have had similar experiences themselves. Fight if there is an injustice and then move forward. I wish you luck !


>blackballed from most firms in this city

Why? Do you have some kind of Public Hall of Shame where you put those who have been fired? Or do you live in some small village where everyone knows everyone and everything? Really interesting.


The problem is that while prospective employers can't ask your companies HR dept. to verify anything beyond the most basic facts of your tenure, they can make note of whether your direct manager is included in your list of references.

The fear (perhaps unjustified) is that any signal indicating a less-than-amicible seperation will be treated as a red flag by potential employers, who would prefer to give the position to someone who is either recruited for that spot in particular, or is trading up cleanly.

This is less of an issue for people with a specific and clearly demonstrable skill set that's in high demand, but to the extent that finding a new position demands some growth on your part (i.e. an employer willing to place some faith in having you develop on their dime) this can add to the potentially crippling sense of self-doubt and insecurity that a situation like the OP described will engender.

There's a school of thought that says your optimal career moves should be based on you getting yourself into places you want to be, not running from places you don't want to be. If you know this, and you're in a situation like this, you already feel you're having to make the most of a bad hand, and that where ever you go next may end up being a severe compromise you have to live with for some time.


a) Hi, I'm calling to check the references of your ex-employee named Ted.

b) We have a company policy against giving references but I'd be happy to discuss the weather with you.

a) Okay.

b) The clouds are moving lazily across the sky and everyone thinks they're stupid.

http://assets.amuniversal.com/bcdb80c06d5101301d7a001dd8b71c...


"References required"


Anyone who's ever worked with you can be a reference. It's normal to choose someone other than your immediate superior as a reference, especially if you're interviewing elsewhere while still employed there. Anyone who insists specifically on speaking to your previous (or current!) supervisor is nuts. Never had that happen at any time in my long career.


What does your union rep say?


I think you're grossly over estimating the impact of getting fired.


Contact an employment lawyer. Are you over 40? Do you work overtime? Are you covered under whistle blower laws? You are probably going to lose your job but you may have a solid lawsuit.


I believe rejection is the universe's way of helping you find out where you truly belong. It is hard to see that in the present; it really can only be observed in hindsight.


Throwaway for some reasons.

I would like to be fired, but I was never lucky enough:

1) in my country you get 3 months redundancy (unless you steal or make other crime on company).

2) you get 1 year unemployment support. Not gonna happen if you resign on your own.

3) as alimony slave you can not quit your job. Being fired is opportunity to find less demanding job.

Anyway for your issue I would recommend two things:

1) go to your boss, tell him you do not care about his screw ups, and ask to be reassigned far away from him to different department, or different company. Explain him how bad your situation is, and that he is going down with you.

2) Discover that you are gay or your great-great-great-great grandfather was from Africa.


Have you considered reporting your supervisor to his supervisor? Talking to HR?


Can you file a grievance against your boss using the company's procedures?


It's 30 days notice. Start looking. Resign before being fired if you can.


Even if you get "blackballed" in your city (which seems unlikely) that doesn't stop you from finding a remote position with a firm in another city.


Start looking for a new job now.


Hi. Nights & weekends startup founder with a day job at a whistleblower law firm here. [1]. The following comes with all of the standard caveats about this not being legal advice. [2]. I'm going to talk generally and you can draw your own conclusions. But my advice is to call an employment attorney tomorrow so they can give you specific advice. Most will do a free initial consultation, and anyone good would take a look at whether you should be reporting this to the government under one of the whistleblower programs.

Quitting is almost always a bad idea unless you have enough savings to last a ridiculously long time. If someone quits, they forfeit unemployment in most situations. Future employers will ask you why you quit, and you will be in essentially the same position as if you were let go.

Interviewing: Everyone should always be interviewing. Most employment is at-will and you can be fired for almost any reason. It's easier to find a job while you still have a job.

Internal Reporting: Frequently doesn't end well for the person reporting compliance issues. Be especially sure that the violation is a real issue before continuing to report it.

Retaliation Lawsuit: There is no catch-all law protecting people from retaliation. There are piecemeal statutes that cover a number of popular situations, but they also depend on your state and the specific issue that you reported. If you are covered, you are looking at several years of litigation in order to receive a maximum of what is usually 1-2 times your lost compensation while they attempt to prove that they fired you for a legitimate reason. If the company is legit, they would probably offer you severance that eliminates this possibility.

Whistleblower Rewards: There are a number of federal programs that offer rewards for bringing information to the government. The two that would be most applicable to a data scientist I think are the False Claims Act (health care, etc) and the Dodd Frank Act programs (SEC & CFTC for violations of securities laws). If you take information to the government and they fine the company as a result (greatly simplified as there are lots of other terms and conditions), then they offer between 10 and 30 percent to the whistleblower.

Sorry this has happened to you.

[1] Feel free to track me down if you want to chat. For those considering downvoting this as solicitation, I will say up front that it's unlikely that my firm would be interested in the situation as described.

[2] This is general information that you can find elsewhere on the internet. It isn't specific advice to your situation. This answer does not form an attorney-client relationship. We would only have one if you signed a written retainer agreement with my firm. Each state has its own laws/rules and I'm only licensed in one state, which is likely not yours. So you should seek legal advice from an employment attorney in your state immediately. Sorry that this is even necessary to say.


Ca


What do I do? Do I simply begin looking for other positions?

If you mean external other positions, the answer is yes.

Looking for internal transfer is not going to be effective. Once on a PIP, your odds of moving are effectively zero. No one will say that transfer's impossible (legal/HR reasons) but it's basically over. It sounds like you were a good worker but broke the #1 Rule of Corporate Employment: make the boss happy. Don't worry; this is a common mistake.

Do I report his increasingly erratic behavior, and waste of firm resources?

I wouldn't. It's not worth your time, and it won't get you your job back. You have 30 days to live, and it takes months to beat a bad boss. Not only that, but it takes reports from about 3-5 subordinates and most people aren't willing to risk their jobs. Corporations value consistency over correctness and his being a manager means that they trust him over you. You won't win. You'll hurt him a little bit, but that shouldn't be your goal.

I know someone who actually beat his boss. He had a bad boss, he got a bad performance review for something that wasn't his fault, and he managed to get five or six people to hit his boss with the same story in "360 reviews" and take him down. It took months and, while his performance reviews were amended, he was still screwed. Even though he had taken out one of the worst managers in the company, managers (like police) tend to protect their own, at least when it comes to the outside world, and no one wanted to promote him or take him on. He ended up getting laid off a year later.

Do I quit before the period expires?

Only if you find another job. You might get a severance if they fire you. If you quit while you don't have a job, you get nothing and the result (you're unemployed) is the same as if you'd been fired.

You are going to get fired at the end of the 30 days, but getting fired isn't (except in a few overly chatty/cliquish industries) a big deal at all.

I do not wish to move, and if fired I will be effectively blackballed from most firms in this city.

Why? Most people, by age 40, have been fired at least once. It sucks, but it's not the Scarlet F that you might think. If you pass the siege test (6 months of savings) then it may be expensive, but you'll survive it.

As for reputation issues: I think the firm will be good to you unless it's run by idiots. You have knowledge of illegal activity. You absolutely cannot leverage that in asking for a cash severance (it's extortion) but, if they don't agree to a contractually-guaranteed positive reference, it might be time to bring up the fact of the need to reach mutual agreement on a story that is beneficial to both parties. You'll probably get an arrangement in which you can represent yourself as employed during your job search. You may get a contractual written reference and an agreement by your manager not to contradict it.

They would rather let you go in a way that doesn't blackball you than have you blow the whistle. Trust me.

Use your colleagues as references and have your manager's reference checked by a third party, even if you have a contract. Unless his reference is glowing, don't use him. Say that your manager went on a mission to Uganda and that's why you can't use him, or that you were managerless due to bureaucratic error but colleagues X, Y and Z can speak for your ability. Or, take the risk and tell the truth: you refused to do something illegal and were fired for it. (Say as little as possible; bad-mouthing an ex-employer is generally a no-no, and it's usually seen as better for both sides to tell a mutually face-saving lie than to expose an ex-employer's bad behavior.)

You should reach out to me (michael.o.church at Google's email service) if you still have questions.

Getting fired is bad-- three months of joblessness is expensive, especially if they fight your unemployment claim-- but it's not catastrophic and the likelihood that any of this follows you is low.

Also, it's actually pretty hard to blackball someone. I've had people try to blackball me and I ended up winning. In some cases, I've made the attempts to do so very expensive for the people involved.


>> You have knowledge of illegal activity.

I'm surprised you bought this as well. The OP claims there are compliance issues contrary to federal law, but he's not a lawyer (at least the OP did not state he was) or a compliance expert (indeed a novice needing traingin), and anyone who's dealt with compliance knows there are vast degrees of wiggle room when interpreting regulations. So, the claims of illegal activity are hollow and unstubstantiate, imo.


Listen man. There is a certain power in walking away. Don't give that away. Think about your power for a minute. How much power would it be to hand in a written letter CLEARLY outlining the issue described using MINIMAL WORDS? Somebody would have to look at the situation in detail and if you really deserved to be commended for your honesty then it would come out.

The tables would be completely turned.

1. You would have officially quit. HUGE WIN 2. You would have an opportunity for others to see your side of the story FIRST 3. You may have some chance of coming out on top and even staying with the firm if your letter was written with "much regret" that you absolutely have no other choice because of the hostility and actions of retaliation etc. 4. You can take that letter to the next employer and say I stand behind my actions in a tough situation.

Stay with your power man. You don't want to risk carry around the victim chip forever more you will either be telling this story as a sore loser or as a man with a power and sense of right that can never be taken from you by a "superior".

Bottom line it's victim vs empowerment perspective. In your question post (no offense) you sound like a victim of some one else's actions against you. Really it's just one perspective. Assume the self empowered perspective and they will have no choice but to recognize. Tell the story of how you don't take BS you throw it in the trash.

Fuk you, fuk you, your cool, fu*k you im out.

[EDIT] P.S. If you really want to step it up and become movie ending cool. You get that letter done up and you walk in with it. You show the envelope to the bad boss and you say in a private way to only him "I am handing this in to watch you suck tomorrows dick".


"1. You would have officially quit. HUGE WIN"

Until you have to collect unemployment, or sue for wrongful termination.


If you're fired for cause, you probably can't collect anyway.


Possibly. It all depends a great deal on jurisdiction and circumstance.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/unemployment-benefits...

"In many states, an employee's misconduct has to be pretty bad to render the employee ineligible for unemployment benefits. An employee who is fired for being a poor fit for the job, lacking the necessary skills for the position, or failing to perform up to expected standards will likely be able to collect unemployment."

To be fair, quitting in this instance may fall under "constructive discharge", but generally speaking for this kind of thing you have significantly better odds when the other party needs to demonstrate that you're an exception than when you do. I know a place I worked once caught someone with their hand in the till, and wound up paying unemployment because proving it was going to be a bigger hassle.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/unemployment-benefits...


If fired, I would be eligible for unemployment benefits essentially no matter what. The employer would have to prove gross or serious misconduct for benefits to be denied, and that would only result in a delay of eligibility, not an outright disqualification.

Also, the onus is on the company to demonstrate the misconduct, and the price of an attorney to make that case would far exceed the cost, and creates risk of litigation. So I mostly likely won't be begging on the street, which is a tremendous relief.




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