Seven Short Q & A’s on Sunday

Since so many blog visitors submit Questions, we’ve decided to devote some of our weekend blogposts to answering several Questions at once, and have chosen those that call for “shorter” Answers.
We hope and expect this will serve our blog visitors to our very best ability, which is our Guiding Purpose.
We invite and request your Feedback and Support. Please remember to try to keep your submitted questions brief.

Question 1: I sent the management of my company by email a memo to renegotiate my separation for a number of reasons. I did not put in a “please reply by” date, but I did expect to receive some kind of response. I sent the request a week ago, and have not received any kind of response. Should I wait or follow up?

New York, New York

The Short Answer is “Follow up.” Bella, a week is not a long time for (1) Management to send a request for more severance to Human Resources, (2) Human Resources to look at your “number of reasons” and consider the request, (3) Human Resources to make a recommendation to Management regarding a response, and then (4) Human Resources to get back to you. At the same time, it might be a good idea to make sure it was, in fact, received. I suggest dropping an email note to the person you sent your email to, asking him or her to confirm receipt, and give you some timeframe in which you can expect to receive a response. Keep it casual, non-confrontational and brief.

Expect you’ll get an answer soon,
Al Sklover 

Question 2: Hi, Alan. I am in the final part of a Performance Improvement Plan (or “PIP”). I have pushed back at every point, and yet my manager keeps saying I am not hitting expectations. Even though other people are happy with me. For some context, I have had a personality clash with her in the past and this feels like retaliation by her against me. What can I do to counter these expectation claims?

London, United Kingdom

The Short Answer is “Go above her.” Hi, Mathew. It sounds very much that your PIP’s expectations are (1) too subjective, (2) keep changing, or (3) just plain unreasonable. That is not a “Performance Improvement Plan,” but instead an “Employment Sabotage Plan.” If your PIP is incapable of honest measurement of improvement, and inconsistent with the view of others or your colleagues, it does not sound honestly motivated, honestly conceived, or honestly executed. I would bring this to the attention of senior-most management, in writing, as soon as possible.

If you would like to obtain a “model” memo to help you respond to your Employee’s Second Response to Receiving a Performance Improvement Plan [click here].

Keep up the fight,
Al Sklover

Question 3: Can an employer provide different amounts of time off to two different classes of employees? That is, more time off to skilled employees making more than $200,000 and less time off to others?

Lubbock, Texas

The Short Answer is “Yes.” Employers are free to provide different amounts of time off to any class of employees, or even to any individual employee, so long as the decision is not based on one or more of the “prohibited classifications,” such as age, race, religion, gender, disability, etc.

Thanks for writing in,
Al Sklover

Question 4: Alan, my boss wrote me up one day and told me it wasn’t working out. I told her I would resign. She agreed and offered up a small severance package. We also agreed I would stay on a few weeks more to see some projects through. On my last day she gave me a big hug, said she would be a reference for me, and gave me a letter of recommendation. Since then she has given me a bad reference to every prospective employer that has contacted her. What can I do about this? Thank you.

Daniel H.
St. Petersburg, Florida

The Short Answer is “Calmly speak with her.” Daniel, as you know, you can’t force a former boss to give you a good reference. However, you might motivate her to do so if you calmly and politely speak with her, and ask her if there is anything you can do to improve the references she is giving out about you. Without anger or threat of any kind, you can tell her that, from what you have been told, her references have not helped, but instead have hurt, your attempts to get a new job. I believe that the “Three R’s” make asking for anything a no-risk affair:  (1) Respectful request, (2) Reasonable request, and (c) a Rationale supporting it: you need a job, and it can’t hurt her to have you get one. Then I would do two things: (a) have a friend call her for a reference, to check what she is saying, and (b) if she is continuing to hurt your chances for a  new job, I would give out the name of  someone else at your former employer as a job reference.

If you would like to obtain a “model” memo to help you request a reference letter, with three sample reference letters [click here].

Hope you find a new job,
Al Sklover

Question 5: I was terminated from my job, not because I did not report to work, but instead because I called in only six hours prior to my scheduled work day. I was approved for unemployment benefits, but now my former employer has filed for an appeal, saying that I do not deserve unemployment benefits. At an appeal, what can they say to hurt my chances of getting unemployment benefits, and what can I say to save my unemployment?

Greenville, Missouri

The Short Answer is “A good reason for calling in, and for doing so rather late.” Felicia, you are entitled to unemployment benefits if you lost your job due to no fault of your own. It seems that your local unemployment agency found that you did, indeed, become unemployed without fault. It seems to me that your employer may say (1) You had no good reason to call in and not come to work (for example, you just wanted to go to a picnic), or (2) Your calling in just six hours before you were due to work was not for a good reason, but without justification (for example, you told your boss that you had forgotten to call in earlier.) Those are the two things your employer might give for your termination, in an attempt to stop your collecting benefits.

It is for you to say that (1) you had a good, justifiable and understandable reason for not being able to come to work (for example, you were ill and had to see a doctor), and (2) you had a good reason to call in just six hours before you were due to come in (such as you could not get near a telephone, as you were in a hospital emergency room.)

Good luck in your appeal,
Al Sklover

Question 6: Does an employer have the right to fire you for insubordination if either (a) you were told not to discuss hourly pay during work hours, or (b) you discuss what goes on at your store with employees from other stores?

Little Rock, Arkansas

The Short Answer is “Yes and yes (probably).” Employers are permitted to set rules for what is discussed at work, and to prohibit employees from talking with each other about topics that might end up causing disagreements or unhappiness, such as what each is paid, or what each is permitted to do. If an employee is instructed not to discuss such topics, and yet does so, it is justifiable to terminate those employees for insubordination.

Try to whisper if you can,
Al Sklover

Question 7: I have been in the same line of work for near 20 years. My last employer, I think, is telling others about why they fired me. Can I just take them off my resume and put into their place a company I used to work for, and tell people that they’ve gone out of business?

Mills, Wyoming

The Short Answer is “I do not suggest you do.” Steve, I never suggest or support people being dishonest in resumes, for a whole bunch of reasons. One is, simply, because it’s dishonest, and dishonesty is wrong. Second, it’s because it’s dishonest, and dishonesty never pays off in the long run. If you get a job, and you then get fired because it was discovered that you lied on your resume, then you will have TWO jobs to lie about on your next resume. I would suggest, instead, that you try one of these ways to solve your problem: (a) ask your former employer for a “truce” in hostilities, so you can both just “move on,” (b) ask an attorney to send them an “attorney’s letter” reminding them they can be sued, or (c) put them on your resume, along with an explanation that you did not leave on the friendliest of terms, with good reason that you would rather not get into. None of these is foolproof, or great, solutions, but I see all of them as better than lying.

That’s my “truth,”
Al Sklover

Got a question? Feel free to submit it for Alan to answer. But please keep it brief and to the point. If you do so, you agree that Alan’s answers are not legal advice, but only suggestions to consider. Please understand that not all questions can be answered, due to limitations on time and space. Still, we “do our best to do our best.”

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Prohibited.