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Major work problem


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Old 2nd October 2011, 11:38 PM   #1
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Major work problem

What should I do?

I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure at the beginning of this year and my performance at my commissioned sales job suffered as a result of extreme fatigue, breathing problems, lethargy, etc. On a particular Friday in April, I was called in to my boss's office for the famous "your performance has slipped over the past couple years so you can peacefully quit now or it can be ugly and I'll fire you" speech.

Admittedly, my performance had indeed slipped recently due to my illness but other longer-range factors included economy, attrition, client decision changes, etc. over the past 1-2 years, hence his going back that far. Shocked and dismayed that I was in that nightmarish spot, I asked to think about it over the weekend and he agreed.

On that following Monday morning that I was supposed to give him an answer, after a weekend of MUCH anxiety, fear, restlessness, fretting, I suffered great chest pain and breathing difficulty and went to the ER. The medical staff thought I may have had an actual heart attack but turned out not to be the case but further complications of the cardiac condition, arrhythmia, etc. My cardiologist strongly urged taking time off to get a handle on my cardiac issues so, given my medical condition and known lack of support at work and what I was facing, I went out on approved Family Medical Leave for 12 weeks. Due to some further complications I've been out an additional 8 weeks under an approved "unpaid leave of absence".

I've had very little contact with my employer except for medical updates, timelines, etc. Upon receiving a full clearance to return to work recovered and healthy, I recently had a face-to-face with my boss to let him know my intention to return to work (regardless of the circumstances) because I have to start making money again. Reading between the lines of what he said, he tried to discourage my return through scare tactics (talked about new office environment of harder to reach budgets, more accountability, tougher new general manager, maybe different accounts I'd be assigned, etc.) but stopped just short of saying they don't want me there anymore, but was the distinct impression I walked away with which I knew based on what happened before my leave.

I received a letter via email last Friday (2 days prior to my return) that stated I am basically walking "fresh"...no accounts, lower draw, and my primary role is new business development with a bunch of VERY strict and virtually impossible goals to reach in a short time...none of the established accounts I've earned over the years and not even the accounts I developed from scratch and brought to this company...I'm being brought in and treated like a person with absolutely no experience, or skills, or time invested...this after 25 years in the industry. I am 52 years old and completely devastated, embarrassed, and angry that this is the way I'm being handled after a major health condition and being a veteran in the business.

I live in a state that is "at will" employment meaning that unless there is a specific contract which I don't have, that an employer can hire and fire for any reason, or no reason...just because they can. Because of this I doubt the legal route is an option nor do I have the cash to fight it and it would probably be very expensive even if I remotely have a case. It is their legal right to do this and it is not considered discrimination to the best of my knowledge. Plus they did give me a "job" back per se, but at the lowest rung on the sales totem pole...like I'm a fresh-faced kid starting my very first job.

Should I go back and "face the music" and deal with the great hardships they are certain to heap on me (watching my every move, twice-daily grilling meetings, closely monitoring all my activities...no trust or confidence in me any more) to set me up to be terminated so I do resign as a pre-emptive strike and look for other employment in a job-scarce industry in a bad economy or should I ask to cut a deal of some sort (maybe severance, assured unemployment benefits eligibility, etc) upon my return on that Monday? I'd really appreciate some serious advice as this is tearing me up...I really just don't want to go back there have to earn a living.

I am just sick over this and feel like I'm trapped with no way out...opinions, insight and input please.

Thank you very much.

Last edited by PJM5950; 2nd October 2011 at 11:43 PM..
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Old 3rd October 2011, 9:08 PM   #2
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I am really sorry to hear of your situation. I am not a US citizen and know nothing of your legal rights over there. Do you have a local citizen's advice centre, somewhere that would advise you for free on your legal position? It's best not to make assumptions as there may be little-known laws that protect people who have been employed by the same company continuously for some time. I'd certainly get proper advice first before deciding anything. Even if an advice centre cannot find a law that protects you, they can give you some support while you are going through this awful experience.

You also need to consider whether you are well enough to carry on working and find out what the options would be if you aren't. I expect you've already done this, but again please check with someone who knows and not just rumours. Life is precious and it might be better for you to do a deal and get a good payout and rest and relax, if possible, rather than slaving for that company under any pressured regime. Your quality of life matters too.

I know that's probably not much help but I do sympathise and can imagine how damaging this situation is for you. I wish you all the best in resolving it for a happier future.
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Old 3rd October 2011, 9:38 PM   #3
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Are there really States that have an "at will" firing practice? You have no labour board or some other protective agency you can turn to?

That practice seems so antiquated- a "fire at will State?" Wow, in my country, the bad employees have more rights that any employers.
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Old 3rd October 2011, 10:36 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by D-Lish View Post
Are there really States that have an "at will" firing practice? You have no labour board or some other protective agency you can turn to?

That practice seems so antiquated- a "fire at will State?" Wow, in my country, the bad employees have more rights that any employers.
D'Lish, Yes we have labor boards for this very reason of Business's using the "at will rulings" ruse. Most business sided management do not understand the aftermath of damage that can curtail from this AT WILL law. Unfortunately people(USA) here roll over and do not take the initiative to challenge the firing and its tactics. This gent would have a fine case based on his health and his demotion to start afresh. His experience and his foundation were pre-established prior to this change in circumstances, the demotion would have to be warranted for his benefit as well as the company. Which in this case they are shooting themselves in the foot by saying they need better sales and then take away all his accounts. He created them, he should be able to nurture and maintain them.SInce he is from New York they have plenty of Lawyers who can assist him ...New York has some great law firms that salivate on these type of cases....
He has not been fired yet so at this time its just food for thought....
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Old 4th October 2011, 1:30 AM   #5
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Thank you to all that posted responses...I appreciate your taking the time to read my wordy post and to take the time and effort to put forth opinion and observations...

I did consult with a labor/employment attorney and it unfortunately appears that I don't have much of a case...below is the attorney's response:

"This is a thorny situation at best. Their change in rules is not facially related to the medical leave since they can easily show that there was a previous communication pertaining to slipping standards. Therefore you cannot make an argument that they are using your disability against you, since even the Americans With Disabilities Act does not protect you from the employer placing reasonable measures and standards on your work. Plus, since you do not "own" the accounts, and you have been good for a significant period of time, the employer was free to transfer them to others. I am afraid that your two options are either to comply with goals and measures placed upon you, since that is within the employer's right, or speak with your manager, close the door, and ask for the leave option if still available. The company upon review has not done anything illegal or improper, and you being an 'at-will' employee therefore have limited rights beyond claiming some sort of a discriminatory intent.

My apologies but I cannot advise you one way or another, I cannot tell you what you "should" or should not do. In this situation you have three options really:

1. you can quit outright which is likely not what you want to do,
2. go back and comply with their impossible rules and wait for the proverbial other shoe to drop,
3. or you can attempt to negotiate a formal release.

Since you didn't cost them any money when you were out on FMLA or the leave of absence, they cannot complain over the costs, and therefore you theoretically should be at the same position that you were at prior to experiencing your chest pains".

Good luck...


I understand that this appears to be monumentally unfair, but many USA employment laws are written to protect the employer more than the employee...there are many attorneys that would indeed salivate to get their hands on a case like this, but I've been told it would be too much time and money to be ultimately told that I don't have a leg to stand on...if someone knows of a firm or individual attorney that believes otherwise, I'd appreciate learning of him or her...

Last edited by PJM5950; 4th October 2011 at 1:34 AM..
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Old 4th October 2011, 9:24 AM   #6
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Regarding the advice you got above, I would have to agree with part of it. You were out of work for 5 months - nearly half a year - and of course they gave your accounts to someone else. It isn't feasible for a business to let those accounts have no management or contact for that long, nor is it fair to take them away from the employee who was given those accounts to build up and nurture.

I would likely go in and ask for a negotiated settlement; make sure they do not saddle you with a non-compete clause.

Have you looked into consulting? Teaching new sales people the tricks that you have learned by your years in the industry? Passing along your contacts in the business? Consulting is great, because you can work from home at your own pace, in case your health isn't 100% yet.
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Old 17th October 2011, 1:30 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by PJM5950 View Post
What should I do?

On a particular Friday in April, I was called in to my boss's office for the famous "your performance has slipped over the past couple years so you can peacefully quit now or it can be ugly and I'll fire you" speech.

Reading between the lines of what he said, he tried to discourage my return through scare tactics (talked about new office environment of harder to reach budgets, more accountability, tougher new general manager, maybe different accounts I'd be assigned, etc.) but stopped just short of saying they don't want me there anymore, but was the distinct impression I walked away with which I knew based on what happened before my leave.

I received a letter via email last Friday (2 days prior to my return) that stated I am basically walking "fresh"...no accounts, lower draw, and my primary role is new business development with a bunch of VERY strict and virtually impossible goals to reach in a short time

They've already made up their mind - they don't want you back. It's a waste of your time to try to convince them otherwise, and it could cost you a lot in legal fees to fight your way back into a reasonable position there.
You should negotiate a severance package with the help of an attorney, and look for other employment ASAP.
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Old 17th October 2011, 10:14 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Tayla View Post
D'Lish, Yes we have labor boards for this very reason of Business's using the "at will rulings" ruse. Most business sided management do not understand the aftermath of damage that can curtail from this AT WILL law. Unfortunately people(USA) here roll over and do not take the initiative to challenge the firing and its tactics. This gent would have a fine case based on his health and his demotion to start afresh. His experience and his foundation were pre-established prior to this change in circumstances, the demotion would have to be warranted for his benefit as well as the company. Which in this case they are shooting themselves in the foot by saying they need better sales and then take away all his accounts. He created them, he should be able to nurture and maintain them.SInce he is from New York they have plenty of Lawyers who can assist him ...New York has some great law firms that salivate on these type of cases....
He has not been fired yet so at this time its just food for thought....
Granted I know this is a few weeks later but...
Labor relations boards generally deal with union issues such as unfair labor practices. If OP is non union there's not much they're going to be able to do to help.

Honestly in at "at will" state your employer CAN just fire you because he doesn't like the way you look, or you forgot to brush your teeth. However you'd almost definitely win an unemployment case.
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