New job is not what I signed up for, please help me hash out my options!!!
January 18, 2009 5:09 PM   Subscribe

I left a job I enjoyed for a similar job that had better benefits... but the new job is NOTHING like what we discussed during my interview and signing and the benefits are non existent. What are my options?

Background Info (sorry... its wordy):

I left a small 3 man startup where I played a large role in providing technical planning, implementation, training and support for small to medium businesses. I also took part in rebranding, web design and video production work for this company. I enjoyed the variety but unfortunately did not make very much money and after two years of being promised more money, another opportunity arose.

This new opportunity was with the technical department of a large school district. Two of my friends worked in the department and were the ones who suggested that I apply for the position. The three of us discussed the job extensively so I had a pretty good idea what I would be going into... server support, minimal help desk/client support and the ability to work with a very knowledgeable team of peers (something that I did not have in my previous position) to improve and expand the services we provide.

During my interview, we discussed what I could bring to the team and the future projects that I could take part in. These projects included implementing directory services, a VOIP roll out, creating a training program for the teachers as well as providing support for the 7000+ client machines (~90% macs). We also discussed the benefits of working for the school system, including the hours and the days off. I was specifically told that we got the same days off that the students got, aside from summer break. This was great because it would allow me to do some side work for my old employer to earn a little extra money (since the starting pay was almost identical to what I was making).

On November 13, I went in and signed the paperwork accepting the position. During the signing, I sat down with the lady in charge of the personnel department because the assistant superintendent was in a meeting. She went over all of the paperwork with me, page by page and during this time I was told that I should follow all of the student and teacher holidays except for summer vacation and that I should refer to the Transit Union Workers guidelines for personal and sick days. After the signing I went into my new supervisor's office and we discussed my start date of 12/1 and at some point we actually took out the school calendar and counted the vacation days of the upcoming winter/christmas break.

Fast forward to 12/1 the day I start... I come in and I was told the entire tech department was fired since my signing date (5 people total), they've only hired one other person (who has limited technical experience and has NEVER used a mac before)... and oh yeah, change of policy, you no longer get the same holidays as the students/teachers. They also mentioned that they were not thrilled that I was friends with some of the previous employees. Also important to know, the previous employees left things in shambles on their way out... deleted images, took all documentation, changed passwords, etc (not my friends, the other 3... but the district has no way of knowing that).

I'm ok with things at this point... yes, we have a huge undertaking ahead of us, I no longer get to work with a very knowledgeable team, but boy do I have the chance to show them my skills, rebuild the district the way it should be and really turn it into an enterprise level support system (my goal is to create an seamless integration between technology and education).

After about two weeks of working with the other new guy (teaching him OS X basics) and putting out small fires here and there, I realized that the admin department (where our supervisor works) had no plan for improving things and no real idea of the hole the district is in. I took it upon myself to draft a technology proposal for the district. In this proposal, I laid out the numerous things that needed to be done in order to get things running at an enterprise level. The day after I submitted it, they called in Apple Professional Services (which is something I had recommended in my proposal) and APS said almost EXACTLY what my proposal had recommended.

Since that meeting a month ago, almost nothing has changed. I've tried to implement a few of the things (creating an image, building an image server, etc) and still get as many of the support tickets done as I can but it is difficult when we really don't know how things were set up to begin with and still don't have admin access to a lot of things.

The other day I was called into my supervisor's office and was told that I'm not closing enough tickets and at this rate she planned to ask me to leave at the end of my 90 day probationary period (March 1). She also said that if I wanted to leave before then, she would "write a nice letter of recommendation so that we could part ways as friends." I explained to her why tickets weren't getting closed and the things I've done to try and move things forward but all she did was restate her position on the 90 days and again offered the chance to part as friends.

I definitely get the feeling they do not want me there anymore, even if I did miraculously manage to get all of the tickets done. I feel like it is a sinking ship and I have no desire to be there anymore but also need money to pay my rent... so leaving now "as friends" without another job lined up is not an option. So my question to you is, what options do I have?

Can I collect unemployment? Should I get a lawyer? Is there something I'm not thinking of? Where can I go from here?

A few notes of interest:
-I'm in PA
-While I left my old job on very good terms, they filled the position already so going back is not an option
-The holiday/vacation time played a major role in my decision to leave my other job.
-I feel they sorely misrepresented the position during the hiring process.
-All of the teachers I've interacted with tell me that I'm fighting a losing battle... that the admin office does not understand the needs of the end users (students and teachers) because they stay in their offices all day and don't do much (I've personally observed this when remoting into a few of their machines to work on tickets and they're browsing overstock for earrings).
-I've made up my mind that I no longer want to be there unless MAJOR changes take place in the way things are run there (someone who knows technology is put in charge of the department).
-It's frustrating to not be able to provide the students and teachers the level of service I KNOW is possible... the district is not hurting financially so its not a money issue.
posted by hummercash to Work & Money (14 answers total)
Line up another job. Your supervisor is giving you a very obvious way out of this self-described disaster, and for good reason: there's no reason to stay.

Your ambition is clearly not aligned with the school's.
posted by trotter at 5:29 PM on January 18, 2009

The only place you can go from here is to a better job. They want you gone, it's a bad situation and there's no way for you to fix it. It doesn't sound like you've been discriminated against, so I'm not sure how a lawyer would help.

You should be able to get unemployment, though you may want to confirm that you are not being terminated "for cause." And since they seem to be liars, get it in writing. Since your antagonist is so anxious to "be friends," ask her how friendly she wants to make your parting, in terms of severance pay.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:31 PM on January 18, 2009

You're part of a union? Call them. The school CANNOT unilaterally change things like hours and benefits if you're union and I suspect they are trying to get rid of you and rehire as a non union position.

It's definitely time for a new job but in the meantime use the union to get as much compensation for this one as you can.
posted by fshgrl at 5:47 PM on January 18, 2009 [4 favorites]

They fired you before you started work, along with the rest of the team you joined. However, since it probably violates the contract you and they signed to do that, they didn't actually let you know about it. Instead, they had to come up with a reason to fire you. Now they have it - you didn't close enough tickets.

You were finished here before you started. I wouldn't be surprised if your continued presence is what's holding up progress. They probably want to clear you out and start with a clean slate.

My 2 cents: in your position, I'd start looking for another job immediately. I'd also contact an employment attorney. With his help you could probably negotiate a fairly generous severance in order to avoid a lawsuit; since they essentially made you quit your prior job and had no intention of actually employing you, you are damaged and have grounds.

Don't put anything in writing about the trouble tickets. You do not want to acknowledge that your incompetence is a valid reason for your firing. It's trumped-up bullshit; don't do them the favor of validating it. Likewise, when told to resign or that you are fired, ask for it in writing.

Forget about the letter of recommendation. You didn't stay here long enough for it to be meaningful. How do you really think this sounds: "Joe was a wonderful employee! Just great! He was so good, we fired him 6 weeks after he started work! I can totally recommend him for any position you have in mind!" Does that sound like a good letter of recommendation to you?
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:58 PM on January 18, 2009 [12 favorites]

Certainly get the hell out, sooner rather than later. Your hanging around and burning out isn't going to help you or the community at large.

And yeah, and employment attorney is probably in order. Hopefully you have a paper trail -- if not, now is a good time to start collecting one.
posted by tkolar at 6:18 PM on January 18, 2009

This sounds like it's going nowhere good. If you voluntarily quit or you are fired for cause, you will probably not get unemployment benefits. With this ticket nonsense, it sounds like she's setting you up for a "for cause" dismissal. Before committing anything to writing (including e-mail), I'd consult with your union rep (if applicable) or an employment lawyer. Also, if you have an employee handbook, check and see what rights it affords you. Get another job before these clowns can screw you over any further.
posted by *s at 6:18 PM on January 18, 2009

Consider one question: do you really want this job? Sounds like you don't, as is.

You can pursue your legal rights - they're probably doing all sort of things that an employment lawyer would love to tell you - but what will it gain you? You can either leave now with a letter of recommendation (that can be phrased as "Joe was great, but he had to deal with stuff way out of his control. I screwed up his job and I'm just trying to find a better place for him" instead of what ikkyu2 suggests) or without one. I'd suggest the former is a better idea. The fact that what they're doing is illegal is fairly irrelevant - the most you're going to get out of it is a monetary settlement and to keep your jobs when your supervisor doesn't want you there. That's not a particularly good place to be in. Sorry, you might be in the right, but that doesn't mean you're in the right place.

Get out while you still can; hunkering down for the fight will only hurt you and them.
posted by saeculorum at 6:57 PM on January 18, 2009

I may be wrong but the dream of finding a lawyer to represent your case is wildly romantic. People get screwed like this all the time and there isn't much anyone can do about it. I'm sorry this is happening to you. I've been in similar situations and it still takes great effort for me not to think of using a baseball bat.

Unfortunately you'll have to continue working there until you're officially fired --or laid off. Don't expect anything out of the ordinary from them. Just do what they ask, don't go above and beyond. Don't get involved in any drama. Just leave quietly and FILE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT IMMEDIATELY AFTERWARD EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU'RE NOT ELIGIBLE.
posted by ezekieldas at 7:26 PM on January 18, 2009

Response by poster: another fun fact... the previous 5 were fired partially because they were the only department in the district that wasn't part of a union and after being denied an increase in pay scale they tried to join one (that obviously wasn't the reason given when they were fired but i believe it played a huge part in the decision to get rid of them).

when i was informed of the "policy change", they did so by stating "you now follow the Transit Workers Union guidelines but you are not a union member." seems a little one sided if you ask me...

the only thing in writing is my email to the assistant superintendent asking him to clarify the confusion i was having regarding the vacation time. he said that it didn't matter what i was told because the two ladies I spoke with did not have the authority to speak on his behalf (so my question is, weren't they there to represent the district on his behalf since he was unable to attend?)

in any case, i think im going to call an employment attorney tomorrow to see what they have to say.

all of your input is very much appreciated.

posted by hummercash at 7:28 PM on January 18, 2009

Lawyer up. If this is a public school system, there are many rules for the district to follow. The superintendent and the school board have obligations. You can (and might should) make this messy in order to get paid. But, you are out the door no matter what you think. ikkyu2 has it exactly right. They fired you before you started and had to come up with a reason. Consider these 90 days as their attempt at severance.

What does it say in your offer letter? What does the posted job description say? If this is a public district, they had to post this opening somewhere.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:10 PM on January 18, 2009

Even if you're not a union member, you work for the government in a way. Tax money has a way of making these things more complicated, which management already likely knows, but it's very common for them to count on giving you a dose of poor esteem as they kick you out the door so you won't follow up with outsiders. Find some outsiders (lawyers), it'll be a free consultation so you have nothing to lose.
posted by rhizome at 11:15 PM on January 18, 2009

If the supervisor chose someone to act as his (and the district's) representative, it's his happy ass that he chose someone unqualified to do so. Given that the person you spoke with is in charge of HR, you have every reasonable expectation that the information you'd be given was accurate. It wasn't like he sent you to the janitor to have him explain it all to you, right?

Nthing that they're trying to fire you softly softly. The way I see it, your decision isn't between staying and going. It's just a question of how painful you want to make this for them. Review your contract and insist on following it to the letter. There might be a mediation clause in the contract, which would spell out the wheres and whens of any sort of legal involvement.

I don't know if PA recognises constructive dismissal, but this sounds very much like you have a constructive dismissal case... particularly the bit about you not being able to do your job because of hindrances they've imposed upon you.

Firms that wish for an employee to exit of his or her own accord, but do not wish to pursue firing or forced resignation, may degrade the employee's working conditions, hoping that he or she will leave "voluntarily". The employee may be moved to a different geographical location, assigned to an undesirable shift, given too few hours if part time, demoted (or relegated to a menial task), or assigned to work in uncomfortable conditions. Other forms of manipulation may be used, such as being unfairly hostile to the employee, and punishing him or her for things that are deliberately overlooked with other employees.

Often, these tactics are done so that the employer won't have to fill out termination papers in jurisdictions without at-will employment. In addition, with a few exceptions, employees who voluntarily leave generally cannot collect unemployment.

Such tactics may amount to constructive dismissal, which is illegal in some jurisdictions.

This is definitely attorney time, though. You aren't union, but it might help to talk to the union and see if they might be able to refer you to an attorney familiar with the school district. I'd bet this isn't the first time they've sailed near the edge of an employment tribunal.
posted by Grrlscout at 1:26 AM on January 19, 2009

Nthing everyone's elses comments. I've been in a similar situation, and you have my deepest sympathies. Just look at these 90 days as a time to look for a new job. Do your job perfunctorily and spend all your real energy sending out resumes, etc.

In the meantime, do consult with an attorney to see what your rights are re: unemployment. And when you're applying for jobs, if anyone asks why you're leaving so quickly, obviously don't get into all the politics. Just say something like "they're eliminating the position I was hired for" (which stretches the truth but is not really a lie) or "it sounded like a great opportunity but they're taking the department in a different direction."
posted by lunasol at 6:41 AM on January 19, 2009

Given that this is public school, they answer to the Board of Education, which is an elected body (you knew that, of course). You may wish to amuse yourself shaking that tree. You might even do some good. Is the board willing to back what is clearly incompetence? Perhaps the board should employ you directly. Makes them look good. Information infrastructure is mission-critical to education.
posted by Goofyy at 7:33 AM on January 19, 2009

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