Thursday, February 12, 2009

No surprise to me

This article in the Washington Post this morning comes as no surprise to me. In my long and checkered work history I've had to file for unemployment benefits a number of times, and twice have had employers contest the claim.

It's hard enough to lose a job. But for a growing proportion of U.S. workers, the troubles really set in when they apply for unemployment benefits.

More than a quarter of people applying for such claims have their rights to the benefit challenged as employers increasingly act to block payouts to former workers.

The first time it happened I was working for a company that was in a death spiral. It was a privately owned firm, and the owner had decided he'd rather snort the company's assets than make payroll. All it took was one paycheck bouncing, and about half a dozen of us walked. Maybe the cocaine had addled his brain enough that he was still in denial his company was tanking, but he appealed and based it on the claim we'd quit for no reason.

Fortunately, the unemployment commission quickly ruled that the one fundamental right of every employee is to be paid for the work he or she does -- when the paychecks bounced, we had cause for leaving.

The second time it happened the situation was a little murkier, the company was much, much bigger, and it took a formal hearing with a state unemployment commission referee and several attorneys (one for me, a whole herd for the large, nasty corporation), but in the end I got my checks. One of these days I'll have to do a post on how I managed to cost Harrahs half a mil in attorneys' fees . . . bottom line to management, (and this is just focusing on purely pragmatic issues and ignoring the moral and ethical): never ever screw over your workers no matter how humble the position they may have in the organization because you can never know just how stubborn they're going to be about screwing you in return. Payback is a bitch.

As the whole nasty process unfolded, I learned anecdotally that the large nasty corporation (aka Harrahs) had the reputation in Reno of never, ever letting anyone collect unemployment insurance benefits no matter what the reason was for the employee's departure. Didn't matter, for example, if you were let go because business was slow and they were overstaffed -- they'd still tell the unemployment commission the employee was fired for cause. I've worked for some truly crappy companies and/or bosses over the years, but as companies go Harrahs still tops the list as being the worst. After all, unlike the cokehead's small business, no one in management could use drug addiction as an excuse.


  1. I love stories of how people stick it to the man.

  2. I'm with Dr von Monkerstein. Sticking it to the man has become my unfulfilled dream. Great post Nan.

  3. In my long and checkered work history I've had to file for unemployment benefits a number of times, and twice have had employers contest the claim.

    Hum, in my long and checkered work history I've only drawn it once. I just moved on if I decided to quit a job. Two times I was fired, but it was no big deal to me, I just moved on.

    But I have many skills and have never had a problem finding or creating work and money.

    I could make an extra fifty bucks tomorrow if I wanted to, I don't, my world doesn't revolve around money.

  4. I love stories of how people stick it to the man.

    What man would that be? If you are the government are you not sticking it to yourself, your offspring, and their offspring?

  5. good one...yeah, i don't like to think about calling it sticking it to the to think of it try and screw me...I'll really screw you..

  6. Billy - the two examples I gave were both privately owned companies, not the government. Given that unemployment compensation is a form of insurance that is calculated into the cost of labor for employers and is meant to protect employees from unexpected events beyond their control, like a downturn in the economy that triggers a reduction in force, I figure any employer who tries to screw workers who have been doing a good job has violated what lawyers like to call an implied covenant of "good faith and fair dealing." Ergo, that employer deserves to end up sitting in a courtroom watching his attorneys rack up billable hours defending their illegal/unethical hiring and firing practices.

    I've never had trouble finding work -- the ironic part with the Harrahs mess is I had already decided to leave . . . and then they ticked me off. If their company philosophy hadn't been "screw the workers" they'd have saved themselves a lot of hassle in the long run. They are, of course, one of those companies that likes to call the hired help "associates" and does a lot of talking about team building and quality of work life -- and it's all just set up as a way to manipulate the hourly employees into thinking they're valued when the truth is they're treated like Kleenex. Or asswipe.

  7. BBC "I have many skills and have never had a problem finding or creating work and money."

    Good for you BBC, self sufficiency is such a good trait. I was unemployed (w/no benifits) in the 1974 reccession for 18 months. Twenty interviews and not a bite, not even at Jack-In-Box down the street from me. I met a lot of people that for some reason decided if I was unemployed male it had to be something I did. Maybe I met you during that period of life.

    Now I'm retired. My retirement is secured by private systems and has not been affected by these economic down turns. But I have three children in their 20s and 30's who have had a devil of a time.

    I think the word is for you is schadenfreude, or maybe just crabby old dude.

    Preach on brother.


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