A reader writes:
My boss fired me via email at 9 p.m. on Thursday night without warning. In early October, I requested time off for two days at the end of the month to take care of personal business. He wanted to know what personal business I would be conducting and I told him it was to appear as a witness in court. I was on standby for court, and the person accused accepted a plea. I did not have to go to court, so I worked my normal hours on the first day I scheduled off, and then left three hours early on the second day I had scheduled for personal time. My boss learned that the time I spent when I left early was not for the original reason that I had requested, and fired me via email for being dishonest.
In the email, he said that I was to no longer come to his office and he would have my things delivered. I received three boxes of things, including spoiled food from the refrigerator (because it was sitting on my door step). However, he did not include many items. I also have electronic pay stubs and other personal/work related emails saved on my work email that I am unable to access.
Should I be able to pack my things at the office? If I request copies of such emails, (pay stubs, incentive schedules, saved discussions about problematic situations, the raise he gave me last week) is required to supply them? I feel like cowardly email has robbed me of any documentation I may need to get my unemployment.
Wow, your boss is an incredible jerk in multiple ways — from the belief that he’s entitled to know how you’re going to spend your time off, to the firing you for a senseless reason, to the refusal to let you return to the office to get your things, to the leaving of food on your doorstep. I’m guessing that this isn’t the first time he’s behaved like a complete ass, right?
Anyway, he’s entitled to have the company handle the packing up and delivery of your things if that’s how he wants to play it, but he’s not entitled to keep personal items of yours. So send him an itemized list of whatever items weren’t delivered, and tell him that he can either arrange their delivery in the next couple of days or you will collect them in person yourself. Be polite, but assert yourself.
Any physical property of yours absolutely must be returned to you.
However, electronic items that you were keeping on your work computer aren’t technically yours. The company owns the contents of your work computer, even personal items that you were keeping on there. You can certainly request that specific electronic items be forwarded to you, but he’s not required to do so … and almost certainly will not forward you the more sensitive ones, like “discussions about problematic situations.” Asking for those will sound like you’re contemplating using them in litigation, and since he has no incentive or requirement to give them to you, I doubt that he will. (This is why it’s a bad idea to keep your sole copies of important, personal items on a work computer.)
As for collecting unemployment, I wouldn’t worry that you won’t have sufficient documentation. In most states, unemployment eligibility is heavily weighted toward the employee, and as long as you clearly present your side of what happened, and the fact that your time off was approved in advance, you should be fine in that regard.
This guy is a jerk of epic proportions. I hope you find somewhere better soon.
You can read an update to this post here.