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Taken to the cleaners by my skin flint employer
Old 06-27-2020, 06:25 PM   #1
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Taken to the cleaners by my skin flint employer

I am wrapping up 4 years with a large local nonprofit. My bossí neglect and failure regarding my compensation has become almost laughable.

She recruited me but failed to tell me I was entering at the top of my salary grade, meaning Iíve never received a merit increase to my base salary. I asked for a reclass, which was denied.

Her offer letter promised that she would negotiate a retention bonus with me after I started if I met all benchmarks for a major project. It took nearly four years and all kinds of agony to finally get a commitment in February that I would get $15,000 on July 1, 2020 and another $15,000 on December 31, 2020.

I asked for a simple change to add ďSr.Ē to my title given my nearly three decades of experience. A person in HR with Sr. in her title denied it.

In late May, with financial problems cascading due to the recession, and being sick of the whole cheap situation, I offered to my boss to make myself available for the coming restructuring she was talking about constantly. She agreed and decided that I had verbally resigned in that call. 28 people were laid off 3 weeks later with severance, but not me. I was offered nothing.

She has advocated for my whole $30,000 retention bonus but the evil HR Director is only committing to $15,000 since Iím leaving earlier than December 31. The milquetoast CEO says he ďis favorableĒ to paying me the $30,000 but wonít assert himself. Everyone agrees that Iíve delivered strongly for the organization, finishing the project I lead 7 months early.

Of course, my boss wants me to move heaven and earth during my final two weeks. Iíll help some, because all of my responsibilities are about to fall on an already burdened colleague whom I like, but I plan to be pretty scarce and whatever I do will be mostly done from the backyard hammock.

Itís comical how cheap they are being. Iím going to talk to an employment attorney on Monday but I doubt I have much of a case. The whole experience makes me never want to see the inside of an office again.

Other than that, Iím reminding myself constantly that the weather is finally nice, Iím about to gain my freedom, and this is precisely why Iíve saved and invested to have $1.7M in FU Money by age 54.
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Old 06-27-2020, 06:51 PM   #2
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Old 06-27-2020, 07:21 PM   #3
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....to finally get a commitment in February that I would get $15,000 on July 1, 2020 and another $15,000 on December 31, 2020. ....

She has advocated for my whole $30,000 retention bonus but the evil HR Director is only committing to $15,000 since Iím leaving earlier than December 31. The milquetoast CEO says he ďis favorableĒ to paying me the $30,000 but wonít assert himself. Everyone agrees that Iíve delivered strongly for the organization, finishing the project I lead 7 months early. ...
Ask them whether they would prefer to pay you a half of a year's salary plus $15k in December, or just $15k that they would pay you in December now since you have fullfiled your charge.

Since they are under financial stress it seems that they are best to just pay you the $15k that you are due and avoid paying you another 6 months of salary.
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Old 06-28-2020, 08:33 AM   #4
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Thanks for the advice. Yes, thatís logical and is what my boss and even the CEO are in favor of. I think sheís trying an argument similar to that with the HR VP, who is a self-important piece of (work.)
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Old 06-28-2020, 09:24 AM   #5
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When you talk to the attorney tomorrow, you may find that you have another lever. You are over 40 and you are being treated differently than everyone else who's being laid off since they are not offering you the same severance package. That has a whiff of age discrimination to it, and a sternly worded letter from the attorney pointing that out should at least get you the severance package.

I don't know why you're trusting your boss to argue for paying out the full $30K if this is the same person who is saying you resigned when you didn't. Your position should be that you never resigned, you are being laid off, and they owe you the same consideration they give to other employees in this situation. Severance is completely separate from the first half of the promised retention bonus, and they are required to pay out both of those items to you.

The second half of the bonus is iffier. It's a "retention" bonus and you won't be working there on the due date. There's an argument to be made that when you volunteered for a restructuring program that you knew would lead to separation prior to that date, you willingly forefeited the bonus. It might depend on the wording of the letter and if it says the bonus is still payable if they let you go for other than cause. Show the letter to the lawyer and see what happens.
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Old 06-28-2020, 09:43 AM   #6
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OP--
Sorry this is happening to you.
Sounds like you have your retirement budget covered, start living your dream. The first day not working is wonderful!
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Old 06-28-2020, 10:05 AM   #7
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When you talk to the attorney tomorrow, you may find that you have another lever. You are over 40 and you are being treated differently than everyone else who's being laid off since they are not offering you the same severance package. That has a whiff of age discrimination to it, and a sternly worded letter from the attorney pointing that out should at least get you the severance package.
Several years ago, a former colleague of mine who was 55+ years old at the time was being shown the door after 35 years with mega-corp. The advice he was given by an attorney is that not only is ageism one the last socially acceptable forms of discrimination, it's also damned hard to successfully litigate. And employers know it.
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Old 06-28-2020, 10:32 AM   #8
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How much of this do you have in writing? Either way spend the time now to document. Dates, conversations, amounts, etc. - in long form, spell it all out. Odds are you won't see a dime after your final paycheck without going to court.

I sat on a jury once on a similar case - the guy won. You get 6 or 12 people in this economy hearing how you were screwed and they will be happy to rectify things for you.
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Old 06-28-2020, 12:37 PM   #9
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It sounds to me like you may have a case of discrimination. I'd be curious what your attorney believes. As an HR person I always worked hard to make sure the company wasn't tied up in litigation because of some silliness. That was successful, as I was always able to avoid employment related litigation.
Smart companies hate litigation and no how costly it is. That attorney could very well do you some good.

Regardless time to enjoy retirement!
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Old 06-28-2020, 01:56 PM   #10
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Thanks very much, everyone. You are giving me a measure of reassurance that my point of view is not outlandish. Iíll report back tomorrow after I speak to the attorney, whom I was referred to because this one apparently specializes in severance issues.
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Old 06-28-2020, 04:24 PM   #11
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Was the committment for the $30k in writing? What is a little confusing is that you refer to it as a "retention" bonus but from how you have described it it sounds like a performance bonus.

Montecfo will have some good perspective, but I'm guessing that if you simply mention to them that you are unhappy with the way that you have been treated and are talking to a lawyer that specializes in severance issues but are willing to walk out the door and sign a release in exchange for the $30k that they promised you that you'll be on your way out with a $30k check in no time flat.

From what you wrote it sounds to me like they are the kind of people that you only get what you insist on.
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Old 06-28-2020, 04:43 PM   #12
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In late May, with financial problems cascading due to the recession, and being sick of the whole cheap situation, I offered to my boss to make myself available for the coming restructuring
Termination seems justified by recession. Its not "ageism" its a recession.

If you offered to be fired...not sure what case you can make. The attorney will probably net more $$ than you off of this.
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Old 06-28-2020, 07:23 PM   #13
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How is the HR person holding up the bonus if the CEO says you should have it?

funny on the FU money. I have told my boy to have a pile of FU money. So he can walk at any time if the situation warrants
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Old 06-29-2020, 12:27 AM   #14
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Termination seems justified by recession. Its not "ageism" its a recession.

If you offered to be fired...not sure what case you can make. The attorney will probably net more $$ than you off of this.
I believe the cause of action regards being terminated without severance, when others were given severance, when others were paid severance and the OP is in a protected class. Any claim to the stay bonus would depend on the terms of that agreement.

Recession does not change age discrimination laws.

As always, the underlying facts will control and of course I am not an attorney and not offering legal advice.
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Old 06-29-2020, 08:10 AM   #15
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How is the HR person holding up the bonus if the CEO says you should have it? ...
Sounds like the CEO is in favor of it being paid but is deferring judgement to the HR person.... I'm guessing that either the CEO isn't really in favor and deferring to the HR person is a way to avoid conflict or the CEO has no backbone.
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Old 06-29-2020, 08:18 AM   #16
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Beyond all the mostly good advice you've gotten here, here's one more. Don't burn your bridges. As satisfying as it would be to literally say FU, do your best to leave on the best of terms. If you're not going to sue, don't mention that you were thinking about it. If they screw you on the bonus money (and/or elsewise), try to laugh it off - you'll have the last laugh, as you ride off into the sunset.

And then.... a few weeks, a few months from now it may just come to pass that you were the one holding everything together. And without you there, everything kind of goes to pieces. THEN you can either say FU with great satisfaction, or negotiate a consultant contract that more than makes up for how they stiffed you, and the pain and anguish that working with them again would certainly bring. $150/hour? No thanks. What's that? $300/hour plus bi-weekly retention bonus? Yes, thank you. Good luck!
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Old 06-29-2020, 09:51 AM   #17
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To the OP I have two observations based on the info you provided.

1-you said your offer letter from over 4 years ago stated you would get this bonus. Do you still have this letter? It seems that this is a very important document as the bonus was included as part of your hiring offer. You could argue that it was not a retention bonus, but a hire-on bonus, payable to you as soon as you started work years ago, had your hiring manager not fumbled the paperwork. Your offer letter is a form of contract. If you really want to push it you could also claim they also owe interest for the delayed payment.

2-the conversation you had with your manager offering to to be included in the RIF, this was only verbal, correct? Nothing in writing, no follow up email? If so, can you simply refute their claim that you offered your resignation? A classic he said/she said situation. It would seem the burden of proof that you actually resigned would fall on the manager. Every time that I resigned I did it in writing (always very brief) handed personally to my manager. And if anyone else resigned verbally, HR would require they (the EE leaving) would put it in writing.
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Old 06-29-2020, 11:27 AM   #18
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Keep in mind the reality that your soon to be former employer may be broke.
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Old 06-29-2020, 11:32 AM   #19
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Old 06-29-2020, 01:04 PM   #20
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Her offer letter promised that she would negotiate a retention bonus with me after I started if I met all benchmarks for a major project. It took nearly four years and all kinds of agony to finally get a commitment in February that I would get $15,000 on July 1, 2020 and another $15,000 on December 31, 2020.
This is key and likely the issue the lawyer will most likely be able to sink his/her teeth into. It seems like the July 1 retention payment should be a slam-dunk. The December 31 retention payment seems to be at odds with receiving a severance payment. Receiving a "retention" bonus based on being there through the end of the year when you're leaving (voluntarily) with a severance in July seems unlikely. Probably one or the other.

Quote:

In late May, with financial problems cascading due to the recession, and being sick of the whole cheap situation, I offered to my boss to make myself available for the coming restructuring she was talking about constantly. She agreed and decided that I had verbally resigned in that call. 28 people were laid off 3 weeks later with severance, but not me. I was offered nothing.

She has advocated for my whole $30,000 retention bonus but the evil HR Director is only committing to $15,000 since I’m leaving earlier than December 31.
When you "offered to make yourself available for the coming restructuring" did you specify that would be contingent on being treated as being terminated under the same severance package/agreement as the others who would be terminated? Have you actually been told you're "laid off," or are they assuming you've resigned and are working out a final date with you?

Is the severance package they're currently denying you significant or one of those one week per year deals? Does it include some ongoing period of continuing medical insurance coverage or other perks you could negotiate?

Will they challenge you collecting unemployment benefits?

What minimum offer would you accept if called in and offered it today? $30k? $15k + severance? $30k + severance? Or?

Good luck with this. These are touchy situations. I've been through it. But I don't really see anyway you'll come out a loser on this. You were dissatisfied with your employment and wanted to retire feeling your were under compensated by a "cheap' employer. You had only four years with them. You would have likely walked away in the near future. Now likely you're going to get some money (some combination of severance and retention), collect unemployment benefits and possibly some other severance perks depending on how it all falls out at the end. I think you'll look back on this whole deal and decide you have a lot to smile about how it turned out.

Let us know what the lawyer had to say.
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