update from the reader fired by email and banned from collecting her belongings

Remember the reader whose boss fired her by email and then refused to let her return to the office to collect her belongings? Here’s her update:

Oh man, this has been such a mess! He finally delivered all of my things to my home (in three trips) because I sent him an itemized list. It required three trips because he had his teenage son collect everything and he missed a few things even with a list. In the email with the list of my belongings, I also requested my “timesheets” folder from the public hard drive at the office. This folder contains my Excel spreadsheets of time worked, incentives earned, vacation time information, as well as pay stubs. I wanted this information to support my wage claim for overtime not paid at time and a half (I did not tell him the reason for my request.) He responded saying he would get those to me.

I filed my unemployment claim and spoke to the claim handler who asked me general questions about policies and procedures at the office. The main questions of importance were: 1. Have I received any warnings for this in the past?  2. Has anyone in the office been terminated for the same or similar reason?  3. What is the policy for time off?

1. I had not ever received a warning of any kind, for anything. As a matter of fact, my pay had almost doubled within three years. 2. No, never. People got away with all sorts of stuff, including one person abandoning their job TWICE for more than a week at a time….and they still kept their job.  3. We have a verbal rule that has changed over the years and I followed it. We did not have any policies or procedures in writing.

The claim handler told me my ex-boss said that he would not have approved time off for that reason if he had known it was for a happy hour. This doesn’t make any sense as he approved me AND my co-worker to leave at noon that Friday for a concert. I decided not to go to the concert, so I would have been at the office (if he hadn’t fired me).

My claim was denied, citing that I was fired for violating company policies and/or procedures. I am appealing this decision.

To date, I have only spoken to my ex-boss on the phone twice. The first time was when I received my check and the taxes deducted were incorrect and the second time was on 11/18/11 when I called to ask him to send me the contents of the “timesheets” folder and even offered to set up a folder in the drop box to avoid delays with email. He said he was really busy and he would “try” to get to it that day. I did not receive the documents by email or in the drop box. I waited until 12/2/11 to contact him again requesting these documents. When I called the main office phone number, a message played saying the number was disconnected. I thought that was strange so I waited a few minutes and tried again, same thing. I figured maybe the server was down for a bit because they are on VoIP. I called again half an hour later, same message. So I called his cell phone and left a voicemail for him to call me back. I sent a text message to my friend in the office letting her know about the disconnected message and she responded saying the phones had been ringing all day, and she saw my name come up on the caller ID but then disappear after one ring.

Now I am officially pissed. I dialed the office while blocking my number to confirm my hunch that my boss had the IT guy automatically forward my number to the disconnected message. It worked. My call went straight through to the after-hours voicemail for the office.

In both of the times that I spoke to him on the phone, I was professional and to-the-point. I am not sure why he is being such a coward, but this is something I just couldn’t believe. His behavior makes me seem like I am a dangerous criminal who harasses him or something.

So at this time, I am appealing my unemployment decision and I am filing my wage claim. I have more information now that is causing me to believe that my termination was not because I was dishonest about what I was doing with my pre-approved time off, but instead that I was fired because he learned I was mulling over whether or not to notify some important people about things I found to be unethical, and some that were illegal. Because of the surrounding circumstances that I am not at liberty to discuss at this time, I am in contact with an employment lawyer.

{ 36 comments… read them below }

  1. Dawn*

    Hope it all works out for you!

    Also let this serve as a lesson to ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS send yourself a copy of ANY important documentation the minute you get it in your hot little hands. Gmail never forgets :)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! If you are fired or laid off, there’s a very good chance you won’t have email/network access once you walk out of that firing meeting. You want copies of that stuff somewhere else before that meeting ever happens.

      1. Shackleford Hurtmore*

        I agree. A personal Gmail and Google Docs are great for stuff like timesheets and copies of “evidence” because you still have access to the files in the cloud, even if they destroy the PC completely.

    2. Catherine*

      I would not encourage you to forward emails to another account. Keep records, yes, but do not forward emails. Depending on the company’s IT policies and abilities, they will know when you have forwarded emails to another address. An organization that I once worked for fired someone who was documenting her issues with her manager by forwarding to her personal email account. Shortly afterward the board announced a policy that they would terminate anyone else who tried that tactic.

      Simply print or pdf the emails including the full email header. The system will not track that, but it will show forwarding.

      1. Anonymous*

        Agreed. That was the “official” reason I was fired from my last job (in actuality my manager and I clashed from day one, and in Quebec there are extremely strict employment/firing rules, so they had to make up something).

    3. Jacqueline*

      Dawn you are so right in documentation and copies, even if there was a conversation between you and your boss/supervisor that is unethical or unprofessional. I went through the same thing but not so deep, I was refused to enter to get my spectacles and was refused unemployment. “God watches and is still in control”.

  2. Susan P Joyce*

    Also be sure that your LinkedIn account has your personal non-work email address as one of the official email addresses so you don’t lose access to all your contacts when you need them the most!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! If I wrote a list of “ways not to get sued,” this would be at the top, even above “follow the law.” (Because even if you follow the law, if you’re a huge jerk, you’ll have angry employees or ex-employees causing you legal hassles, even if you ultimately win in court.)

        1. Kim Stiens*

          Definitely! There are probably hundreds of employers out there knowingly breaking the law, for things like unpaid overtime or whatnot, whose employees don’t care because they have a positive workplace and they don’t have a problem with their boss. “Being nice” should DEF rank above actually following the law on a list of ways to not get sued.

          Though following the law (and documenting everything!) doesn’t hurt. :)

  3. ChristineH*

    This was the update I was most interested in. I am disheartened, but not entirely surprised, to see that this has not turned out favorably. I hope everything does work out eventually.

    I agree with Dawn above – it’s a good idea to forward important documents to your home/personal email in the event you’ll need them down the road.

  4. JessB*

    Wow, this is awful, I’m so sorry it turned out this way. I really hoped that your boss would do the right thing.

    Also, you’ve prompted me to email a few documents to myself when I get to work. I’ve been on a contract and I finish on January 6, so I’ll email them now, and again when I finish and have updated them.

    Good luck with everything, I hope it works out for you.

  5. Rachel*

    Please don’t contact him again about the computer files. AMA told you in your first post that it was unlikely he would give you them. If you contact him again about it then you really are going to come off poorly.

    1. A bug!*

      OP’s going to come off poorly? To whom? The boss who is an unmitigated tool?

      OP was and is well within the realm of reasonableness to follow up on the records request when an actual refusal was never provided. Instead, the boss set up that completely goofy and passive-aggressive redirection of the phone number.

      In any event, it sounds as if OP has now given up on personal contact and lawyered up.

    2. The fired girl*

      I definitely don’t think that following up on documents he agreed to give me on two separate occasions makes me “come off poorly.”

      He had no problem denying my request to pick up my things in person or to access the public server to collect personal or employment related documents.

      After learning he is purposely blocking my calls, I have not made any further attempts to contact him directly nor do I plan to contact him directly in the future.

      I am trying my best to remain professional even though his behavior is unprofessional.

      1. Anonymous*

        Good on you for trying to stay professional. It must be really difficult in this situation, but it’s so important, and I think you should be really proud of yourself. You’ve done a great job in a tough situation.

      2. gabrielle*

        Ugh, what a horrible situation. I admire you for taking the high road. Good luck & I hope this works out for you.

  6. Anonymous*

    OP’s going to come off poorly? To whom? The boss who is an unmitigated tool?

    Well, as AaM regularly points out, the fact is, managers have the power in the relationship, and it’s a small world. You never know when you could come across someone again.

    1. A bug!*

      But again, the manager had said he would provide the requested documents. It is a perfectly reasonable thing to follow up on, and OP did not continue to follow up after learning of the redirected calls.

      What’s the manager going to say? “This person diligently followed up on a promise I made but didn’t keep?” The manager would basically have to make stuff up to spin this story badly, and if the manager’s going to do that, the manager’s going to do that regardless of these particular events.

      Bottom line is, Rachel’s post was kind of uncalled-for and implied that OP was making a nuisance by acting in a reasonable manner.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think her point (which I agree with) is that when someone has made it obvious that they don’t intend to give you what you asked for, and when they’re under no obligation to give it to you, you start to look bad when you keep pressing for it and they’re ignoring you. I’m not excusing the boss’s behavior — he’s clearly way in the wrong in this entire thing — but there’s no point in continuing to try to engage with him when he’s made it clear he doesn’t intend to.

  7. Hannah*

    I started using dropbox on my work computer recently, not to retain access to all my work documents, but just so I could have my own basic version control in case I want to go back to a previous version of a document. But this has got me thinking that it could definitely come in handy someday.

  8. Emily*

    What a terrible situation, I’m sorry this happened to you. I’m glad you’re talking to a lawyer. Please keep us up to date when you can. All the best of luck to you!

  9. Anonymous*

    Yeah, you definitely aren’t getting those files. They are technically company property and they aren’t going to turn over anything that is going to incriminate them…

  10. NicoleW*

    I am so sorry this happened to you. I’m a little surprised that you were denied unemployment benefits from the state. Hopefully the appeal works. I hope you are doing okay financially for the time being, and that isn’t an additional strain considering all the stress this ridiculous situation has led to!

  11. Under Stand*

    One word of warning: if you are forwarding documents that the com pany considers “classified”, you may run the risk of it being deemed tainted fruit (not able to be used in court). Copies of your time sheet would probably be safe, but copies of internal memos maybe not so much.

  12. Anonymous*

    If the case is going to legal action, OP might be better off having the timesheets, etc requested via subpoena. That way, if there was any alteration of the documents, etc, it is between the employer and the court, rather than between employer and ex-employee.

  13. another boss*

    Just another caution – don’t install Dropbox or start uploading company files to Google Docs w/o checking on IT policies first. I wouldn’t object to employees keeping copies of any documents they wanted, but I WOULD have a problem with having Dropbox installed on company computers or employee info/files saved to Google Docs. Those are 3rd party companies, privately owned. They have their own privacy and security rules which may or may not match your own, and could get you or your employer into trouble.

    Get a discreet little USB drive, save pertinent docs to it, and back up those files on a computer at home.

  14. Reya*

    Hi…I have a very similar situation to yours..The only difference is that I wasnt fired but I resigned giving one month notice for health reasons. However, once I resigned, my boss started behaving very rudely. My last day of work was suppose to be 15 April but considering my boss’s rude behavior and because I was not keeping well, I wrote him an email that I quit working from this moment. he accepted that but said that i should pay up for all the sick leaves, unscheduled and scheduled leaves I have taken till date. What I dont understand is why do I have to pay for the sick leaves? Btw, there was no mention in my offer letter about leaves and that we had to pay for the sick leaves. Also if that was the case, why didnt my boss cut my salary the time when I had taken sick leaves or any other schedules leaves? Why is he asking me to pay for them? I want to know is he liable to take legal action against me if i dont pay for sick leaves?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Assuming that you’re in the U.S., and assuming that there’s no written agreement between you and the company that allows this, he’s not entitled to require you to pay him back for that time.

  15. Anonymous*

    I hate to be the nay-sayer in this whole conversation, though much like “Ask a manager” said, I agree that things were not handled correctly. However, in many instances the manager or “boss” doesn’t have the time to route through all of the fine details to come to the conclusion that the person had said something and done something else for a good reason. Suppose a colleague decides that this is a great way to get out of doing some stuff, because HEY Here’s a great way to get out of it should I get caught! Again, this guy didn’t do it right, but think of how many people might just take advantage of a percieved lack of authority! You’ve all heard “give an inch and they’ll take a mile” or “make and example of them”… These exist for a reason! SOME people will inherently try and take the easy way out, as is plainly mentioned by the “fired lady” many others have done so! Hope you get a better boss next time, but I can’t say that I don’t know how someone in that position feels! Don’t have any more “miles” to give!

  16. Fifi*

    Just reading this post now, I hope there’s an update to this update? Would really love to know where OP is now!!!

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