easy child 2/difficult child 2 got sacked!

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Marguerite, Sep 25, 2009.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I'm angry about this. She was having problems with her boss (all the girls were) and they weren't able to complain to anyone higher up (which they're supposed to be able to do, by law). I personally witnessed some of these problems (he thought I was just another customer when he chided her in front of me for having a sip of water from her water bottle while there was a customer in the store - but by law, workers must have free access to drinking water at all times). So she put her concerns in writing (worded very carefully so as not to be critical of her boss) and included a formal request for mediation, in order to resolve the differences of opinion. Included in her concerns was her boss saying to her, "One more customer complaint and you're sacked," when as far as she is aware, she gets customer praise and never a complaint.

    The letter requesting mediation she faxed to head office in from the shop office, after she was told by the boss's boss to send it to them because HE refused to deal with it.

    They acknowledged the letter and said they'd look into it. Then no other response. The request for mediation was ignored. However, beginning the very next day, the very boss she was having trouble with told her she was forbidden from contacting the head office and was banned from entering the shop office. This meant she couldn't do her supervisor job properly. She had other access and responsibilities removed and was also told that she was not permitted to do this, or to do that. Even when a co-supervisor asked her to do a particular task (which she should have been allowed to so) the boss said she couldn't do anything without getting his permission.

    Utterly ridiculous.

    I made some enquiries and was told by our government offices that this constituted workplace bullying. The failure of the company to provide mediation especially on written request, was a direct violation of our workplace laws. Some of the other concerns expressed in her letter were clear breaches of safety regulations.

    It wasclear to us she was being punished for daring to complain, even though her 'complaint' had been worded very diplomatically. And to punish her for complaining like this - again, illegal.

    easy child 2/difficult child 2 should have, at this stage, followed through and complained again about being victimised. But since she was getting married soon and needed the money from her job, she chose to shut up and keep a low profile.

    After a few weeks the boss called her in. "I'm giving you another chance," he said. "I know you're getting married soon, otherwise I'd have fired you." He handed her back her keys and once more allowed her to use the shop's office, told her she was once more permitted to work as supervisor.

    Now as far as we have been able to determine, easy child 2/difficult child 2 has not done anything wrong. At no stage has she ever had a customer complain about her, she has never been given written warnings (the old system of industrial relations) and therefore no way to respond when someone says, "You are not doing your job." She was also not the only staff member in the firing line from this bloke. And the reason we think he gave easy child 2/difficult child 2 back her keys and extra duties etc, was because the other supervisor went off on leave and they needed SOMEONE who knew the ropes.

    That was about a month ago. Maybe less. Since then whenever I've walked past all I've seen is her hard at work, the staff working as a team with her a vital part of it. She's a good organiser and got on well with everybody (except the boss, who only got on well with one of the girls, we suspect it's the girl who was white-anting easy child 2/difficult child 2 and others).

    Today was easy child 2/difficult child 2's last day before five weeks' leave (approved ages ago). They knew she was leaving to get married, then was taking her honeymoon, then needed two weeks more off for college prac work. She did the same thing (college prac work, two weeks unpaid leave) last year for the same company. And the year before.

    But this morning she was told she is out of a job. They're making it look like retrenchment, they told her they need to let someone go because they can't afford to keep everyone on. But they recently appointed another supervisor (who easy child 2/difficult child 2 actually helped train, even during her period of apparent demotion) and no other staff have been let go, as far as we know. mother in law just happened to be in the store when this all happened, she saw the responses of the other girls and is convinced they knew about it before easy child 2/difficult child 2 did.

    They promised her a glowing reference. "We will give you a good reference and tell any future employer what a conscientous hard worker you are," the head office staffing person told her.

    She let me know during her half-hour lunch break. I immediately got on the phone and reactivated the earlier complaint files with the government. This changed that picture entirely. However, easy child 2/difficult child 2 now has to put her signature on paper, or the electronic equivalent. I've done the homework, cut through the red tape to distil the information.

    easy child 2/difficult child 2's concern is - they waited to sack her on her last day before her holidays. They said it was two weeks' notice, but according to her contract it's supposed to be three weeks. She's worried she will get back form her honeymoon plus two weeks' prac, to be totally broke. She has put every penny into this wedding, including a last-minute purchase of an item of jewellery which (if she had known about being sacked) she wouldn't have bought.

    She has nothing in writing to say she's sacked. They're talking like it's retrenchment (but we do know better). Prior to the dismissal she was bullied by her boss and then victimised when she tried to take the steps permitted her legally, to resolve matters. This is illegal.

    So we're putting in the boot, now she has nothing to lose. She didn't want to risk her job before the wedding - no point worrying, now.

    But next week is going to be full already. She really could have done without this.

    What I found out - she has three issues.

    1) workplace bullying. She now needs to ring one number (they already have a case file on the matter) and they will follow it up.

    2) has she been unfairly dismissed? The government agency I spoke to said IF she has been sacked, then yes, it is unfair under these circumstances. BUT she MUST register her complaint within the next two weeks.
    [interesting idea here - did they beleive she was leaving to get married tomorrow? In which case - she would not have a chance to register her complaint before returning form her honeymoon. Hence waiting until today is a very effective way to prevent her filing the cvomplaint}.

    3) If she has not been sacked but has instead been retrenched, then unfair dismissal is not an issue. BUT according to the law, she is entitled to 10 weeks severance pay. Again, a government form to fill in (although she has plenty of time - 60 days).

    The government body said to fill in BOTH sets of forms, then go off on her honeymoon and let THEM worry about it all.

    Now, in her workplace easy child 2/difficult child 2 comes across as a hard worker who will try to speak up if she feels there is a more efficient way to do things, but who otherwise will not make waves. She was told this morning she was out of work but she didn't walk off the job, she stayed to finish the day. How many people would do that? Especially under these circumstances? So how likely does sheseem, to be someone who would make formal complaints to te government?

    But just in case, they seem to me to be trying to muddy the waters.

    Because if she files only ONE set of forms, they will claim the opposite. By making this seem to be severance, they encourage her to think that way too. Nobody likes to believe they have been sacked. She probably won't get all the pay entitlements straight away because there will be officialdom, red tape etc slowing it down. They only have to slow it down for a week (probably less, in their mind, if they beleive she's getting married tomorrow instead of next Friday). So they let her think it's retrenchment and along with any outstanding hiliday pay, she gets the 10 weeks severance pay. But if that severance pay never materialises and she tries to claim for it a9within the 60 day deadline) I'm betting the company is counting on being able to say, "Oh that wasn't severance. We sacked her."
    But if this is what they say more than two weeks after they sack her and she hasn't already filed, it will be too late then to claim for wrongful dismissal. It is no good if she says, "But I didn't realise it was sacking, I was told it was severance," because she has nothing in writing.

    I am sure this is what they're up to.

    To say I'm furious is an understatement. Here I am typing about this at 1.30 am, when I need to be up to call easy child 2/difficult child 2 in the morning so we can plan what to do about all this. I'm supposed to be going to a meeting tomorrow afternoon, easy child is arriving tomorrow afternoon also to go to easy child 2/difficult child 2's hen's night which instead of being a celebration, it's going to be a wake. This HAS to get sorted because otherwise the despair will cripple her and we won't get a darn thing done for the wedding.

    She had begun looking for another job when this business started. Then when she got reinstated (and with the wedding coming up close) she stopped looking. Why apply for jobs when she won't be here for the interviews? A classmate at college told her of a job opening, easy child 2/difficult child 2 said to her, "Not right now, I will have to wait until after I go back to work after my leave."
    Now she has to track down her classmate and say, "About that job offer..." and hope it's still open.

    If only they had been honest with her. After all, they have known they were going to do this. Telling her they're giving her two weeks' notice, but making it on her last day there before holidays - oh, I'm so angry! THAT bit is legal, unfortunately. Just very immoral, in my book.

    Only yesterday her previous boss asked after her, asked if she was still working for this company. I said she was. Mind you, she doesn't want to go back there, it would be a big step down. She had worked her way up in this new company over the last few years (and that wouldn't have happened if they didn't like her work).

    I'm not asking for advice really, because this is the Australian workplace environment and that will be different to how it works in your area. But I DO need to vent, and rage.

    Oh, and the last prize piece? The boss told her this afternoon that the reason she had been the one to be let go, was probably because she had asked for five weeks' leave. But THEY approved that leave months ago! And some of it was leave without pay, anyway. Half of it is leave for te wedding, the other half is leave associated with further study - I'll have to check out the law again, but I think it's illegal to use that as grounds for dismissal. Unbelievable! But aimed to make her feel that even if it's retrenchment, it's HER fault. Which, if it's retrenchment, it woudn't be.

    I'll keep you posted on how we get on.

    Last edited: Sep 25, 2009
  2. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911


    I'm sorry this has happened. It almost sounds like someone "boss" waited for the "perfect" timing to let her go as a revenge tactic. Things are tough all over, but the timing her is just absurd.

    I would probably hire an attorney or whatever the Aussie equivilant is and go after the company. RIDICULOUS. GO GET 'EM WARRIOR MOM.
  3. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I am so sorry. Companies can be so stupid and horrible. Taking advantage of her and the wedding is just plain cruel.

    I am glad you are able to help her navigate the system. You are right, none of us could help you with suggestions because usually in the US you have very few options in her situation.

    I hope that you can get both sets of forms filled out and she can go and have some fun on her hen night.
  4. Abbey

    Abbey Spork Queen

    You know, I really am PO'd about the water thing, of all things. I'm out there busting my chops with NO customers in the store and I can't have a drink of water. I think that is wrong. I ask my crew leader if I can go get a drink from the fountain and use the restroom. She says, "Well, we typically leave that until your 15 minute break." Um...hello? I can't hold my bladder for 2 minutes. I'm thirsty. I can either collapse on the floor and pee myself, or I can take a 2 minute break to accomplish the task. Now I just don't ask. I just do. Exceutive decision. I think the girl's hair bands can wait for 2 minutes.

    Sorry about the jobs. The work place environment these days pretty much stinks. Too many politics.

  5. lmf64

    lmf64 New Member

    Something smells fishy! Go get em Marg! Okay, I know easy child 2/difficult child 2 has to do it for herself, but you keep her on track so she can enjoy her wedding.
    I have a question though. What's retrenchment?
    I'm thinking maybe downsizing?
  6. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Outrageous! Go get 'em, Marg! That's just horse pucky...
  7. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    That just sounds so wrong.
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Abbey, check your laws. For us in Australia, it's a basic human rights thing - within reason, toilet breaks are NOT part of the "15 minute break" thing. Of course if you are in a position where someone has to be there, you do have to schedule it so things continue to function. Go online and see if there is general OH&S legislation in your state/country that covers this. Similarly, access to water. For us, employers MUST allow free access to potable water for all employees. If the employer doesn't want te employee to leave work station to go have a drink of water, then they have to allow the employee to have a water bottle with them. For easy child 2/difficult child 2's boss to insist she nott have a drink of water while a customer could see it, is ludicrous. Head office responded to her concerns over this and asked her to compromise and not have a swig of water while actually serving a customer, but to wait in between customers. Which of course is common sense. And also perfectly legal.

    husband & I have been digging. We rang her this morning to get the official business numbers (like a business social security number, it tells a great deal about the company). We asked her for the name of the company, and the number, on her pay slips. And it seems we've had things backwards (or they've given their staff deliberately the backwards info). According towhat we have understood, easy child 2/difficult child 2 originally worked for Company A while at the other end of the store was a rival business. Then rival business went bust. Company A bought the lease on the site and opened up, but NOT with the same uniforms etc as Company A. No, the uniforms were a different colour with a different name on them. easy child 2/difficult child 2 told us, "It's the same company, they've actually asked me to transfer up there as supervisor which would be a promotion. I'm not sure I can while I still live at home, I told them, but I'm happy to be acting supervisor while they get started."
    During that trial period, easy child 2/difficult child 2 & BF2 found a flat and moved out. The company also hired a girl who had been supervisor for the previous (now out of business) rival company. I was glad to see her back in the same sort of job in the same place. She's a nice girl.

    All the time, we were told to keep it secret that the new place, Company B, was owned by Company A. Whenever easy child 2/difficult child 2 had to contact Head Office, it was answered with, "Company A" and emails were headed "Company A". As I understand it.

    However, there is another company name in there, Company C.

    When I began my digging, I found that Company A is listed as a family-owned company. A big family - there are branches all round Sydney, about 5 of them.

    Now I just spoke to easy child 2/difficult child 2 (still sleepy, had a rough night - understandable) and the information on her pay slips says, "Company C".

    With husband's expertise now in the equation, we did more digging. It seems there have been some interesting changes to Company C. It also seems that they own Company A and Company B. Company B in fact only exists as a name, no location given. Which means that all the money etc, actually is handled by either A or C. B is a front. A label on some girls' work shirts.

    Then we dug some more. The compnay we THOUGHT was pulling the strings, Company A, is merely a family-owned company (a shell?). All along it's been Company C.

    ANother interesting snippet - whenever easy child 2/difficult child 2 has changed her work conditions (such as part-time to full-time, and back again) she has been given a new contract. This COULD mean that she has NOT been working for them for over three years. She hasn't been on the same contract for that long. So they may try to use that to say she isn't entitled to the retrenchment package.

    I'm avoiding using the official word, but retrenchment means the same thing - being let go because they can no longer afford to keep you on, or because the company is folding, or downsizing. It means being laid off. And in our legislation, it is different to being sacked. However, as I understand it, this IS actually a sacking (where they want this person to leave and it's personal - either they're a bad worker, or a problem in some other way). In this case, she clashed with her boss who is very controlling, and when she tried to complain through legal official channels and resolve the issues, she was penalised (illegal). For her to be sacked for these reasons is illegal. But she only has two weeks to put in the paperwork and as far as THEY know, she hasn't got that time. But just in case, they are soothing her down and telling (verbally) it's retrenchment. "We're letting you go".

    SHe was told that Company B (which we had all believed was a small, struggling new branch - now know to be a name and nothing more) has been sold and will be in new hands in two weeks "and they can't afford to keep everybody on".

    This morning husband found some clues online. Company C shows activity such as changes in address, changes in management etc over the last year. About a month ago there was a change in address. Two weeks ago, a change in the board. Company C - the one big one which has been paying her payslips all these years while she worked at Company A and then Company B.

    So it does look like there HAVE been some possible changes in ownership over the last two weeks. But on a bigger scale. However, the same big fish seem to be running it all.

    It seems we can't file paperwork today after all, however. This new information needs to be processed, to make sure they can't wiggle out of it. husband & I need to go over easy child 2/difficult child 2's paperwork with a fine tooth comb.

    husband expressed the concern that easy child 2/difficult child 2 has been (on paper) employed by a shell company from the time she transferred to the new store. And that it could mean they could wiggle out of legal responsibility. But a recent big legal case in Australia, a liability case of Hardy's which set up a shell company to be legally responsible for a lot of people suffering from asbestosis who found that all the funds court-ordered to be set aside for compensation, had evaporated as the shell company declared bankruptcy. SO the courts went after the parent company (which had mostly the same directors as the shell). And the courts ruled that the parent company was responsible.

    When I talked to the ombudsman yesterday (the government officer who directs the legislation we have to protect people in various waya) I was told that the ombudsman would go after a parent company if the claim was made that easy child 2/difficult child 2 had only worked for the shell, not te parent group. Or had no longer worked for the parent company when she transferred to the shell.

    But I need to talk to the government man again - it seems that easy child 2/difficult child 2's change of contract every time she changed status (part-time to fulltime and back) could have amounted to new workplace agreements each time, and hence she became a new employee.

    It's technical. They undoubtledly will try it. It could mean a big legal fight. But she shouldn't need to pay for legal representation, this will be the government on easy child 2/difficult child 2's behalf vs the company, not easy child 2/difficult child 2 herself against the company.

    There are times when I LOVE this country!

    And at the risk of getting political, I gather the US government is planning to make some changes to bring some legislation more into line with things like we have (health, for example). I hope this is right and any benefits we have that you do not yet have, could be winging your way.

    Our previous government was inthe process of whittling away (OK, chainsawing) at worker's rights. True, there have been times when I felt the unions had gone way too far and employers were hamstrung. But it swung way too far, to ridiculous levels (where an employer could literally do anything, and if you didn't want to do it you lost your job). The rule book got totally thrown out, except for basic human rights (the drink of water issue). And the human rights stuff was just about useless because an employer could terminate an employee at any time, for any reason or no reason. No more minimum wage either.

    Things are not yet back to normal, but thankfully back far enough to protect easy child 2/difficult child 2 (who anyway began work with this company before the dangerous cuts to work legislation, cynically labelled "Work Choices" by our previous government).

    Work Choices is in the final stage of being erased. Legislation is changing a lot in a short time, it's tricky keeping up with it. But at the moment al lthe changes are directed towards reinstating worker's rights.

    Thanks for your support, folks. I'll keep you updated.

  9. lmf64

    lmf64 New Member

    I have always wanted to visit your fine country, but the more you write about how things work, now I must live there! So, do you suppose they'd see through a marriage between difficult child 3 and myself? lol Honestly, I hope where we are headed as far as health care and employment laws is where you are. And if I ever get the opportunity to visit Australia I hope I get to meet you.
  10. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Thanks, lmf64. You are welcome to drop in any time. Any of you. husband & I will happily act as tour guides, we love sharing our coutry with people.

    Back to easy child 2/difficult child 2 - I have been free in tellnig people. Because the wedding is looming, friends ask how it's all going. So I'm telling them about her lovely "wedding present" from her employers.

    I was down at the school fair today when a good friend of mine snuck up behind me and said, "Guess who?" then asked about the wedding plans. I told her about it and she said, "A friend of mine used to work for that company, got sacked in the same way. They have a bad reputation for sacking people and trying to push them around."
    She added, "I think easy child 2/difficult child 2 was too smart for them, people could see she was smart and this frightened them. They want their staff to be subservient and cowed. She picks things up too quickly, they don't want their staff to be too capable or it risks causing them problems."

    I thought about it - she would know what she is talking about. She is Filipino, she has experienced a lot of discrimination here, people treating her like dirt (mail-order bride attitude, although she and her husband were very much in love until the day he died). She also has the sort of work ethic that she describes the company preferring. They tend to employ European-descent girls, or Middle-eastern girls. A Filipino employee, for example, would be very desirable - they want female employees who will do what they're told without question. easy child 2/difficult child 2 was a supervisor and of course believed that showing initiative would be valued. They did seem to value it - but I remember she told me back when we were drafting her letter requesting mediation, that she had to word the letter NOT in any official language or she would face reprisals. So any indication she knows her rights, or ids telling other workers their rights - a big problem for them. My Filipino friend is a lovely lady, underneath the hard worker is a strong, feisty woman who will fight for her children. But in the work environment, she has been walked over a great deal, there seems to be a cultural attitude of, "Her kind will put up with whatever bad conditions we put them in and won't make a fuss. We will get away with it."

    Yes, we do have racism here.

    On her request, I will share her information with husband and easy child 2/difficult child 2. She said she will try to get in touch with her friend so they can compare notes.

    It's just not fair. And WorkChoices legislation gave us two years of employee purgatory and free rein for bad employers to get away with this sort of rubbish. I suspect easy child 2/difficult child 2's employers are acting as if Work Choices is still in force. Hey, they got away with it before... and if they have successfully cowed their staff, they will continue to get away with it.

    But that haven't reckoned on a Warrior Mum on the warpath!