What to Do After Archives

“Thinking of Your Own Small Business? – Four Paths to Pursue”

Published on June 25th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

“If you have the courage to begin,
you have the courage to succeed.”

– Unknown Author

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: In recent years, I have assisted numerous clients – many of whom either lost their positions due to seismic shifts in their industries or just decided “there has to be a better way” – establish their own businesses. In fact, that is precisely what I did when I decided, decades ago, that working for a large law firm was not my “cup of tea.” Instead, I struck out on my own, and have never looked back.

Opening your own business, whether on your own or with others, is not an easy task. Being an owner is surely quite different from being an employee. Being a business owner requires a dedication and a discipline that can try even the hardiest of souls.

One client I helped about seven years ago, Carrie, had fourteen years experience in assisting construction firms locate and acquire construction materials, from concrete to copper. She had to know various sources worldwide, their reliability, their quality, and the ever-changing price of goods, on a daily basis. She was literally “on call” 24 hours a day, leaving little time for her family and personal pursuits. One day Carrie decided “there just has to be a better way,” and decided to establish her own firm to consult for construction firms who, quite simply, needed to know what she knew in choosing sources of materials.

Carrie now has her own consulting firm, with four full-time employees, and a roster of large, blue-chip construction firms as clients. Although she says she sees the world quite differently than she did when she was an employee, Carrie says the same attributes that made her a good employee – focus on client needs, dedication to quality over quantity, and thinking “a few miles down the road” each and every day – have lead to her success as a business owner.

Business owners have to think a lot about, seemingly every waking moment. But continually assessing “direction” is among the most difficult. Just as it helps for an employee to have a sense of what he or she wants “at the end of the rainbow,” so too must a business owner have a sense of the business’s “ultimate path.”

I hear from Carrie every now and then when she has a question about negotiation, or seeks counsel about leaving behind the “employee mentality” and thinking, instead, “like an owner.” Over the course of my conversations with Carrie and the many other former clients who I have helped open their own business, it seems there are four general “paths” small businesses may pursue as they daily compete for success in the business world.

These four potential paths are not mutually exclusive – one does not permanently preclude the other – but each has its sense of direction, some fitting the owners better than others.

LESSON TO LEARN: If you are considering leaving “employee life” and striking out on your own, or have previously done so, give a bit of thought to these four small business “paths to pursue.” Have a clear sense of direction, and focus upon an ultimate goal, will help you deal effectively with changing circumstances, altered business conditions, and mayhem of the markets in your industry. It’s like having a “compass” during a never-ending “storm.” Read the rest of this blog post »

“If laid off and offered a lower job, will declining it result in losing severance or unemployment benefits?”

Published on May 28th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Dear Alan: My husband was informed that his position will soon be eliminated due to restructuring following a recent company acquisition. A lower-paying position at the company was identified which is available for him to apply for, and he will be given preferential consideration for this job. 

We are wondering about negative consequences of his applying for this job. What happens if (1) he fails to apply? (2) applies, and does not get it? or (3) applies, is offered the position, and declines it? 

Anchorage, Alaska

Answer: Dear Denise: Yours are common questions and ones that surely produce anxiety. Most of the answers to your questions can be best determined by inquiring to Human Resources, and to your state’s unemployment benefits agency. That said, let me do my best to provide you with the guidance to begin:

1. Severance questions are best answered by review of your employer’s Severance Plan. When employers engage in a downsizing or layoff, most have first prepared what is commonly called a Severance Plan, which is a list of the “rules and regulations of who gets paid what.” Employers do this in good part so they can prevent employees saying that they treated different people differently due to “illegal or improper reasons” such as discrimination, retaliation, or harassment. 

Your first place to look for answers to your three questions about severance eligibility is your husband’s company’s severance plan. It should be available upon request from his employer’s Human Resources staff, or possibly online at his employer’s internal website.

By the way, Human Resources may direct you to a shorter, abridged version of the Severance Plan called a Summary Plan Description (or “SPD” for short.) Chances are that an SPD will not have the answers you need; request a copy of the full Severance Plan, or digital access to one. 

We offer a 94-Point Master Severance Negotiation Checklist to make sure you don’t miss any severance-related issues or fail to spot problems in severance agreements. Sure helps to reduce anxiety! To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

2. If the Severance Plan is not available, or does not exist, or does not answer your questions, your questions should be submitted to Human Resources in writing. Some employers, especially smaller employers, may not have a written Severance Plan. At times, it may be difficult to locate a copy. Sometimes it does not contain the information you seek. In any of these circumstances, your questions are best submitted to Human Resources in writing, and most especially in an email to the Head or Director of Human Resources. They should be able to provide the answers you seek. 

Smaller employers may not have a Human Resources department. If that is the case, your severance-related questions should be directed to a member of Senior Management, such as the Chief Operating Officer, Office Manager, CEO or owner.

Deadlines are important; don’t let your severance deadline expire. To help you ask for more time, we offer our Model Request for More Time to Review/Sign Your Severance Agreement. It shows you “What to Say and How to Say It.”™ To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!  

3. A very important factor to consider – because the employer and unemployment agency will surely both consider it – is this: How “different” or “lower” is the other job that is available? Many different factors go into what consequences might flow from a laid-off employee not applying for, or not accepting, an open position. The term most often used by employers, by state unemployment agencies, and by Courts is whether the available job is “suitable employment.” 

For example, an 88-year old great-grandmother who was a secretary for an oil company would almost surely not be denied severance or unemployment benefits if she declined a different job working as an oil rig construction worker. Likewise, a warehouse manager in Illinois would likely be unlikely to lose severance or unemployment benefits because he turned down an open position with the same company’s warehouse in Pakistan. Neither would be deemed “suitable employment” for severance or unemployment benefits. 

On the other hand, a near identical job that paid $10 a week less, or had a smaller desk, would surely be deemed “suitable employment.”

4. Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits for someone offered a “lower” or “lower-paying” position will depend almost exclusively on whether it is deemed “suitable employment.” Suitable employment” is an imprecise term, and may be viewed quite differently by different people. It may vary from one part of the country to another, and may mean different things to different people. Factors looked to include (i) whether the employee has experience or training for the available position, (ii) how much lower the wages are, (iii) whether the hours are changed from daytime to nighttime, or vice versa, (iv) the degree of commuting required, and (v) the degree of hazardousness between the two different positions.

Applying for Unemployment Benefits can be confusing! Eliminate the confusion, and make sure you don’t forget anything – use our 132-Point Guide & Checklist for Unemployment Benefits. To get your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

5. While you have a Severance Plan and Human Resources Department to advise you as to severance, Unemployment Benefit agencies rarely, if ever, provide “advance opinions” on eligibility. Just bear in mind that, when applying for Unemployment Benefits, you have to contend with a government agency, meaning (i) a larger bureaucracy, (ii) rules that often are not followed carefully, and (iii) far less sense of personal accountability. Thus, you stand on firmer ground when depending on employer “rules and regulations” than when you put yourself before state Unemployment agencies. 

On the other hand, you have an automatic right to appeal unemployment benefits denial, which often does work to the employee’s benefit.

Want to apply for Unemployment Benefits, but afraid your former employer may oppose your Unemployment Benefits applications? Use our “Model Letter Requesting Employer’s Assurance Not to Contest Your Unemployment Application” with Ten Great Reasons. “What to Say, How to Say It.”™ To get your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!  

Hope this this is helpful. Good luck to your husband in his upcoming job transition, whatever he decides to do. 

My Best to You,
Al Sklover 

P.S.: Our Sales Affiliates make real income by recommending our Model Letters, Memos, Checklists and Agreements to their friends, family and colleagues. You can, too. Just [click here.] 

Repairing the World,
One Empowered – and Productive – Employee at a Time™

© 2014, Alan L. Sklover All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Prohibited.

“Fired for false accusation. What can I do?”

Published on June 11th, 2013 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I was just fired. My boss has been making accusations that I somehow took $2,800 over the last three months, which I did not do.  

Even though the person working with me was seen by others on a surveillance camera stealing cash from a client, my former boss still has not viewed the videotape. 

Is there anything I can do?  

Cottage Grove, Oregon 

Answer: Dear Sally: Your situation is far more common than you might think. Either managers don’t like doing all of the work necessary to fully investigate matters of misconduct, they are using a problem as an excuse to eliminate employees who are not their favorites, or perhaps it is a friend of theirs who actually is engaged in the wrongdoing, and they want to blame someone else. Whatever the reason is, I suggest you consider doing these six things; 

1. First, make a record of the fact that a videotape exonerates you. From your limited presentation of the facts of your matter, it seems that the surveillance videotape in question would exonerate you. If so, make a record – now, and by email – to those in senior-most management positions that (a) a videotape exists, (b) it exonerates you, and (c) your manager apparently refuses to look at it. The fact that evidence of your innocence now exists does not mean it will exist in the future. Take steps – now – to make a record.   

2. You may also want to review an answer I previously prepared for a similar question submitted by another blog visitor. That previous blog visitor’s letter was not about herself, but about the firing of her husband. Like you, he was also fired – falsely – for alleged theft. I recommend you read that short Question-And-Answer, entitled “My Husband was Fired – Falsely – for Theft. Should He Consult an Attorney?” You can review my answer to that inquiry by simply [clicking here.] 

3. I’ve also put together a free YouTube video on this very topic: “Fired for Misconduct? –What to Do.” Misconduct, especially criminal misconduct, is a very serious thing. Not only can it result in job loss, and even reputation loss, but loss of your freedom – that is, jail time  – in certain circumstances. There are certain steps everyone should consider taking if and when fired for alleged misconduct, and that goes doubly for those accused of criminal misconduct. I’ve placed these into my free YouTube video on the subject. To view it, just [click here.] 

Been accused of misconduct at work? Prepare your defense BEFORE your employer takes action. We offer 10 different Model Letters Responding to Various Allegations of Misconduct at Work. Shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.”™ To obtain your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

4. Your most important asset is your reputation; that you need to protect. If you have any intention of working again, you have to have some concern for what your former employer is going to say if he or she is asked “Is this employee eligible to return?” or words to that effect. While most employers have strict policies against giving out references – either positive or negative – vindictive managers can easily skirt themselves around those policies. May I suggest you consider using one of our Model Letters for this purpose; it is one of our best-sellers. It is entitled “Model Letter for  Expressing Concern for Bad-Mouthing by Your  Former Employer.” To obtain a copy, just [click here.]   

We offer something that you might really make good use of: 50 Good Reasons to Explain Your Last Job Departure. Whether or not you are asked the question, you will need to come up with a good answer to it. Here’s one of my favorites: “Boss Indicted.” (Just joking!) “What to Say, and How to Say It.™ To obtain your copy, [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

5. Finally, Sally, you would be wise to consider consulting with a criminal defense attorney, as I cannot advise anyone on matters of criminal law, especially in Oregon, where I have no law license. I get quite concerned when blog visitors mention that an allegation of criminal misconduct has been made against them. That is because there are potentially significant consequences to ignoring the potential seriousness of such an allegation, and, too, there are many pitfalls that exist for those who are uneducated relative to the criminal justice system. What you say, when you say it, and often to whom you say it can all “cook your goose.” Please consider doing so.  

6. “If people say bad things about you, live your life so that no one believes them.” This is an old saying for people in your situation. My heart goes out to anyone who is falsely accused of serious misconduct, and even more so to a criminal act. Bear in mind one thing: this will pass, and life will go on, if you let it. Take all the right precautions now, and do all you can to protect your freedom and your reputation. But, whatever you do, don’t do anything foolish, like strike back or other foolish things that people are tempted to do to “get even.” 

The best way to “get even” is to “get a better job.” My very best to you!!

My Best,
Al Sklover 

P.S.: One of our most popular “Ultimate Packages” of forms, letters and checklists is entitled “Ultimate New Job Package” consisting of 10 items, including Resume Cover Letter, Thank You After Interview, Memo Confirming Terms Offered, Response to Offer Letter, our Master Checklist of Items to Negotiate, and 50 Good Reasons to Explain Your Departure from Your Last Job. To obtain a complete set, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2013 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“Fired for being overheard speaking to a colleague; anything I can do?”

Published on July 10th, 2011 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant in a full-time Alzheimer’s Unit of a residential facility. One resident was acting out violently: he went after me with a rake, grabbed my arm, and threatened to hurt me. These things were reported to my managers, who told me that “This is dementia; deal with it.”

This same resident was seeking out other female residents to get them into his room. He went into the room of a very elderly woman who could not speak or move and put his hands down his pants.

I was talking about this with another co-worker when, by accident, a visiting relative of a different resident overheard me and called the police, who then showed up. At the end of my shift I gave my report, and the next day my supervisor fired me for violating patient confidentiality.

I don’t know what to do. Please help.

(City, State Not Listed)

Answer: Dear R.C.S.:       

Your question is an extremely interesting one. I think there are a few things you can do. Here are my thoughts:      

1. I think it is only fair – and helpful to you – that you acknowledge to yourself that what you did could be interpreted as a “breach of confidentiality.” Technically speaking, information about patients that came out of your mouth was somehow transmitted to people who had no legal interest in knowing that information. As you know, there are many strict laws regarding dissemination of patient information by medical facilities, and I’m confident this is at the center of what happened to you. And, too, having the police arrive at the facility no doubt was very embarrassing to the facility’s management. 

2. That said, practically speaking, I don’t think you knowingly “shared confidential information” with anyone. To my mind, there is an important distinction to be made between an intentional breach of confidentiality – such as sending information to a newspaper – and an unintentional breach of confidentiality – such as what happened here. The only person you knowingly shared this information with – your colleague – had every right to know, and you had every right to tell him or her of the danger to them, and to others.

3. In fact, the confidential patient information may have been illegally or improperly “overheard.” The fact that you were overheard by a different patient’s family member may not suggest you did anything wrong, but possibly that the family member did something wrong: they may have violated your privacy by either (i) listening to a conversation they knew was not intended to include them, (ii) being in a restricted area of the facility where they were not permitted – or expected – to be, or even (iii) lurked secretively in order to learn things they had no right to know.   

4. And, too, your employer may have been acting dishonestly, improperly or even illegally in (a) not taking steps to stop the errant behavior, (b) not taking sufficient steps to protect you or others, and/or (c) not calling the police. Looked at this way, (i) you may have been right in all you did, (ii) the other patient’s family member may not have been right in all they did, (iii) the police may have been right in all they did, and (iv) your supervisors may have done wrong in not taking the situation seriously enough. An argument exists that the facility’s supervisors may have even violated the law in not calling the police.

Indeed, a stronger argument exists that the facility’s supervisors fired you (a) as a scapegoat for their misdeeds, (b) as a cover up for their own failures, and (c) in retaliation for your expressions of concern.  

5. I strongly suggest you write a letter to the facility’s senior-most management, owners and/or Board of Directors, including these things I’ve noted above. I suggest you write a respectful letter to these people – send by Fedex, UPS or over overnight service so you can verify their receipt – and suggest that there is more than one way to view this incident, and that you deserve your job back. I also suggest you advise them of the damage this may do to your career, if not corrected, could be more than enough to hire an attorney to ask a jury of your peers in your community whether it is right that you should be treated in such a fashion for, in effect, protecting patients and others. I think that this is your best bet and, if not successful, then consider consulting an experienced employment attorney in your town or city.

Seen correctly, and expressed correctly, I think you have far more negotiating leverage than you might imagine. I hope you won’t sit back, but rather will be assertive and take your “case” to the people who can correct what’s happened to you.
I hope this is helpful. Thanks for writing in. Don’t be afraid to stand up. What you did does not seem to warrant anything like what has been done to you.

We hope you’ll tell others about our blog, and that you’ll consider subscribing – It’s free!

Al Sklover

Alan Sklover’s Timeless Classic, Newly Updated and Revised

Fired, Downsized, or Laid Off:

What Your Employer Does NOT Want You to Know
About How to FIGHT BACK

Now available by Instant Download to Your Tablet
(Ipad, Nook, Kindle, etc.)


Instantly Downloadable PDF to Your Home Printer


©  2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

Must employers provide a reason for terminating an employee?

Published on April 2nd, 2011 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I was laid off due to a position elimination on 10/05/10. I would have celebrated my 20th year anniversary as an employee of the company on 03/09/11, just five months later.

I recently found out that my position – the one they had eliminated – was reinstated and posted on 02/14/11.

I believe that “position elimination” was nothing more than a way around firing me, which my employer had no grounds to do.

Your thoughts? Thanks. 

Castle Rock, Colorado

Answer: Dear Leigh:   

Your question raises two important aspects of the employment relation that people need to know about:  

a. It is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee in order to deny them important benefits – such as vesting in pensions or qualifying for retirement. In your letter, you did not mention whether (i) you would vest in pension or retirement benefits, or (ii) you would have earned some other special benefit, such as a grant of stock or special bonus, on your twentieth anniversary of employment. Federal law, and probably Colorado state law, too, both say so. While employers are free to terminate employees for many reasons, if this is the reason you think you were terminated, you may have a very important claim against your former employer. 

b. If an employer lies about the reason for a termination, that is considered proof that they have violated the law. There is an old saying that “The best proof of a crime is the cover up.” To use more “legal language,” if you can show that the reason your former employer offered to terminate your employment is probably false, made-up, or concocted, then that alone is considered proof that there exists an improper reason. Said differently, “Why else would your former employer offer a fake reason for your termination unless it knew the real reason was illegal?”

To me, it is hardly likely that your employer felt it needed to reduce headcount in October, and then changed its mind in February. Instead, it seems far more likely that there may be something going on here that “cannot stand the light of day.”
c. However, if you signed a Release Agreement when you left your employment in return for severance, it is likely you cannot raise any claim now. When employees are fired, downsized or laid off, they are frequently offered severance payments in return for a Release of claims. That Release almost always includes a requirement that you agree that you will never sue your former employer. If you signed such a Release Agreement to get severance, then you have already likely given up any right to sue your employer for this, or any other reason.
d. Releasing legal claims, though, does not mean you have released moral claims, at least not “in my book.” Many times I have counseled people in your circumstances that, while you cannot sue your former employer, there is no reason I know of that you cannot write a letter to your former employer’s Board of Directors, and tell them you think you may have been duped, and despite the fact of your release of legal claims, they should recognize that for moral reasons, they should make sure that you are given recompense for what was taken from you.

e. It is for this reason that, when reviewing a Severance Release Agreement, we try to think of “what’s not in the agreement” more than “what is in it.” Many clients say to us, “My severance agreement looks so simple.” I tell them, “Yes,  but looks are deceiving. I need to know more about you, what happened to you, and why you were chosen for termination, than I need to read the agreement. If you’re giving up all of your claims, I need to know what your possible claims are.” It is my job to identify possible legal claims, and to then raise those legal claims, before the client signs away all of his/her legal claims in a Release Agreement.

If you did not sign a Release Agreement, I strongly suggest you consider standing up for your legal rights at this time. If you have signed a Release Agreement, while you really don’t have any legal rights to stand up for, I still think violation of moral rights will not be tolerated by most people, and this may be your path to redress.

Your letter gave me an opportunity to illustrate important points for other readers. Thank you for writing in. And welcome to our “family.”

Al Sklover

Alan Sklover’s Timeless Classic, Newly Updated and Revised

Fired, Downsized, or Laid Off:

What Your Employer Does NOT Want You to Know
About How to FIGHT BACK

Now available by Instant Download to Your Tablet
(Ipad, Nook, Kindle, etc.)


Instantly Downloadable PDF to Your Home Printer


© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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