Time for the laid off to lawyer up. Today, Forbes reported that "white-collar workers laid off amid the financial crisis are using the 20-year-old plant-closing law" that requires employers to either give workers two-months notice of mass firings or pay up with two months worth of severance. With that in mind, after the jump, layoff tales involving grandparents, clerical errors and typos. (As usual, send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
You Broke Grandma's Heart
The end of September marked my eight-month anniversary as associate editor for a trade pub in midtown, and I felt comfortable enough that I had invited my grandparents to visit my office. I love writing and journalism and still had faith in being able to work my way up and into a major news organization. As a single girl in my late twenties, I at least had a media job, my own apartment, and was working on getting things together. My grandparents visiting was a first, and I was excited and nervous. I had even told the publisher that they were coming. Although I knew the job was not forever, I felt safe to explore my options slowly from the comfort of a position with a steady salary and benefits. At 10:30 AM, I went for a break. Ten minutes later, as I approached my desk, I saw the IT guy shutting down my computers. "What are you doing?" I asked. "Ummm, updating some of the software," he said nervously, lying. I turned around and the publisher was standing behind me. "Meet me in the conference room," he said. Inside was the HR director, the publisher, and the editor. They said that I was going to be let go, I was not a good fit, and I needed to get myself and all of my belongings out of the office within 30 minutes. I would get two days of severence. My health insurance would end in a week. I was basically told that I would get nothing, and had no warning. I sat in Bryant Park crying and had to call my grandparents, who were on their way, to tell them that I had to cancel because I had just been laid off. Two months later, I have yet to find another job. It was not so much the getting laid off as the disrespect, the lack of warning and the SHOCK. On Thanksgiving I will visit my grandparents and they will ask me what I've been doing, if I have found another job, a husband, a plan (a life?) and I will say, "I've been searching."If This Sort of Thing Gets You Fired, We Would Have Been Fired 5 Times By Now:
My story really isn't that outrageous: worked as a Web producer for a network TV affiliate on a "tryout" for... almost three weeks. A three-week tryout? I was fired today (two days before Thanksgiving) for introducing a minor and quickly-corrected error into a Web story. This was apparently the first mistake in the history of the Internet. This was also shortly after I offered to come in and work Thanksgiving Day.Our "Job Re-Finding" Operators at the Tribune Are Standing By!
March 11, 2008,: I came home to find a message on my answering machine: "Hello S—-, this is Wanda from ——— Outplacement Services. We've been hired by the Tribune to help with your job search. Please call us to schedule a time to take advantage of our outplacement services—no cost to you, the Tribune compensates us. We have classroom openings for next week, so we need to hear from you as soon as possible".Um... Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
I think I went into shock. I found out the next day from HR that it was "all a big mistake". Seems that my name was "placed on the wrong list". They were laying off so many people that I was the next week's decapitation - "List B". But a clerical error landed me on "List A". Here I am, mortgage, car note, single mom to an eleven-year-old, out of money and health care insurance. And no one has ever said, "our apologies". (Just to add to the story, Sam Zell dumped our severance pay into our 401K accounts, in an effort to avoid paying corporate taxes. Because this was the first time that action had ever been done, the 401K distributor, Hewitt, had no idea from the day-to-day what the payout process was. So.....it took me two months to pull the so-called severance out of my 401K account. I missed a mortgage payment, had to borrow my daughter's summer camp tuition, and the collection agency calls started coming in. My hair fell out.) There is a class-action suit from Trib employees/former employees and the "severance" issue is part of the lawsuit.