The Email and the Fury
May 4, 2011 6:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to unleash on ex-employer's refusal to talk to me by e-mailing all of the company's employees and letting them know what he's doing - pros and cons with this move?

I was fired with no heads up, a whim decision by the company CEO. This has happened with others there before me. Here's the thing: They're refusing to pay me for (1) a bonus that I earned, and (2) Unused vacation pay.

I'm trying to reach him directly and talk to him and work this out. He's refused to take any calls from me. Absolutely shutting me out.

My contract is clear that I am to be paid the bonus and the unused vacation pay. We're talking a few thousand dollars. It's a small company, about 20 employees or so.

CEO attaches a lot of importance to his "image."

So what I want to do to get him to TALK to me is: email the entire company and let them all know that he's ignoring me for no reason. And then...I'm going to send another email and another. You get the picture.

What do you folks think of this move?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (47 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Um, does not sound like a good idea at all. It goes from you being able to sue him to him being able to sue you. You lose.

Don't make this decision angry. You sound really pissed. This is the kind of thing maybe you need to vent about, and not just on the Filter. Can you call in a favor or two and bend somebody's ear for an hour?

Whatever you do, step back for a day or two before doing something rash.
posted by facetious at 6:50 PM on May 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


If you want to burn bridges and play the child, then email bomb away.
posted by Leezie at 6:50 PM on May 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


No, don't do this - it will damage your reputation. Just get a lawyer regarding the bonus, etc.
posted by marimeko at 6:50 PM on May 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


You have a contract. Get a lawyer, enforce the contract. That's all.
posted by philokalia at 6:52 PM on May 4, 2011 [83 favorites]


Not productive or necessary. You have a contract, that's all you need to get what you want here. Bringing the whole company into this would damage your reputation.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:52 PM on May 4, 2011


You have a legal problem: someone has breached a contract with you. You need a legal solution: consult a lawyer to find out what your options are.

What you are proposing to do will not help to solve your legal problem. It could also, depending on the laws in your jurisdiction and the terms of your contract, open you up to criminal or civil penalties for your own behavior. At the very least, it will ensure that no one at your old company will speak well of you in the future or help you to find a new job. This is a bad idea and you shouldn't do it.
posted by decathecting at 6:53 PM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do not pass go, do not e-mail the company. Go directly to lawyer.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:54 PM on May 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


I would consider writing one trusted person at the company who also talks to the CEO and say, "Hey Trusted Friend, I have been trying to reach the CEO for a few days now regarding them fulfilling the terms of my contract. He has not taken my calls. Is he in the office? If so, would you please let him know that I am trying to reach him to talk about why he has not fulfilled his obligations to me. Maybe he would let me know a convenient time for me to call tomorrow? Signed, Anonymous."

But, just get a lawyer friend to write him a sternly worded letter to see if he will comply.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:57 PM on May 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Come to court with clean hands. You're currently in the right. Don't jeopardize your advantage.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 6:57 PM on May 4, 2011 [26 favorites]


someone did this at my work about 7 years ago. it looked ridiculous. in fact, because it was the last thing we heard from this person, it's the FIRST thing i think of now. not good. do not be this person.
posted by andreapandrea at 7:00 PM on May 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is a horrible idea; regardless of whether or not you're in the right, you're going to look like a nut and nobody who wants to keep their job will support you.

Lawyer up.
posted by dflemingecon at 7:01 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The lawyer you want to hire to enforce your contract will be extremely pissed off if you do this. You don't want to piss off your lawyer; pissed-off lawyers are more expensive.
posted by SMPA at 7:02 PM on May 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Follow up on the legal route, definitely. Even bringing the lawsuit will get the work rumor mill kicked into high gear so you can kill two birds with one stone that way.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:04 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's nothing wrong with communicating with your (former) co-workers, organizing with them, telling them the story of what's occurred, and what the company has done to you. The idea that this is 'crazy' speaks to the way we've been produced as workers who don't think we have any rights, especially when it comes to communication. For example, how many times have you heard or been told that it's not appropriate to discuss salaries? Duh, this is because if everyone knew how much everyone was making, people would demand fairness. Same deal here.

Of course, it wouldn't be productive to be vindictive. But if they're screwing you over and they've done it before - and I worked there, I would certainly want to hear from you all about it.
posted by jardinier at 7:06 PM on May 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Been there, done that, it was a bad idea, wouldn't do it again. Granted it was a blog I was writing for and the guy was only trying to stiff me out of $80 but still.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:10 PM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Absolutely terrible idea. Even outside of opening yourself up to penalties, there's also the fact that you are now prematurely removing from the bargaining table the ability for the company to save face through a settlement. This is an awful strategy.

Get a lawyer.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:15 PM on May 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's up to you whether you take jardinier's approach, but please talk to a lawyer before you do anything like it. You wouldn't want taking this social-pressure option to affect your legal options in any way.
posted by synchronia at 7:21 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps you think this will be cheaper than getting a lawyer. Given that this happened to other people in addition to you, could you contact them and band together to get a lawyer's services?

Perhaps you want to make sure your boss receives the message. A registered letter to your boss and to the company's bookkeeper and any relevant members of the board would also accomplish that.
posted by brainwane at 7:22 PM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The idea that this is 'crazy' speaks to the way we've been produced as workers who don't think we have any rights, especially when it comes to communication. For example, how many times have you heard or been told that it's not appropriate to discuss salaries? Duh, this is because if everyone knew how much everyone was making, people would demand fairness. Same deal here.

At least personally, my advice wasn't don't talk about it, as much as it was don't send a permanently available record out of frustration to every employee at the company you worked for. This is about protecting his legal position, not suggesting there's a taboo cultural reason not to do so.
posted by dflemingecon at 7:25 PM on May 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


The idea that this is 'crazy' speaks to the way we've been produced as workers who don't think we have any rights, especially when it comes to communication.

No- it speaks to the way people actually tend to come across in these situations. We don't know why the OP was fired nor what his former coworkers may think of it. But getting a mass angry email from someone who was just fired at my company would not compel me to act in any way. It would not be productive in the way he would want it to be.
posted by wondermouse at 7:27 PM on May 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


You have a contract, the ex-employer is reneging on the contract, you need a lawyer. The end.

If you need to get out some ranting and anger (totally understandable), gather up some good friends, tell them you need to vent, and let loose.
posted by grapesaresour at 7:35 PM on May 4, 2011


Terrible idea. TERRIBLE.

1. Get a lawyer, enforce your contract. Get your bonus and your unpaid leave entitlements.

2. If you want to damage his rep, do it after you get your money. This is how I would do it. DON'T send an email. Emails are an indelible paper trail. Get some (former) work buddies together for drinks, kick back, and at some point relate to them the story of how your boss screwed your over. Word will get around, and it won't easy to trace back to you, or form a solid basis for a defamation claim. Plus, you have an excuse to drink and have fun.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:42 PM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


pros and cons with this move?

Con: you make yourself look like someone who handles adult problems by acting like an eight-year-old.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:06 PM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


"But, just get a lawyer friend to write him a sternly worded letter to see if he will comply."

This is what I was thinking to write. Follow JohnnyGunn's very wise (and cost-effective!) advice. Do not email.
posted by jbenben at 8:41 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you start spamming them, IT will block your email.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:44 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just want to mention, I hope your emails to the CEO have been firmly but politely worded, no matter how angry you are. Definitely go within your rights to contact a lawyer and get the bonus, but remember the CEO as a human with normal human reactions who will open an email full of grar and not really want to/know how to engage.
posted by sweetkid at 8:45 PM on May 4, 2011


No. People at the company will remember you as the guy who sent the angry email to everyone. If they ever thought of networking with you, if they thought of recommending you for contract work, if they run into you again at future jobs, this would taint every interaction with them. You'll become the wacky story they tell to other coworkers.

Seconding everyone above who says to go through more discreet channels to get this resolved.
posted by cadge at 8:48 PM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The email would make it seem, to all impartial observers, that you were in the wrong, and he was in the right - despite what the evidence might say.

And it would certainly make him seem wise in firing you in the first place.
posted by visual mechanic at 9:04 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I work in a university setting. A couple months ago, a student had a complaint about a faculty member. He got frustrated with the process of going through proper channels (and make no mistake -- the process IS frustrating). So he went to our website and copied the email addresses of the entire staff of the department -- the A/P people, the facilities people, the executive assistants, everyone. And he emailed the text of his complaint to all of us, with the disclaimer of "I'm not really sure who to send this to :) :) "

I can tell you now that, regardless of the merits of his complaint (and there actually weren't any), there is absolutely no way that he'll ever get any traction now, after pulling that stunt.

Not only that, but the entire staff now thinks that this student is a grade-A dipshit, and they know his name. So if he ever emails anyone for help? That option is right out.

Heed the advice above to get a lawyer to enforce the contract. Don't be a grade-A dipshit.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:32 PM on May 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's probably not a great idea, but a lot of people overestimate the power of The Law. It takes forever, and sometimes whoever has more money for better lawyers (or to just stall the process until the other party gives up) wins.

If you want to use channels alternative to The Law to win this though, you need to think more strategically than you are. What power do you have to pressure your boss? Likely not much, and you've identified the main thing - social power. However, yeah, your plan will probably make you look... well not good. There needs to be more escalation steps to show that you have tried EVERYTHING possible before doing something big like that. Also, a mass email probably will come off as crazy. Better to just talk to a few people you trust a lot there, and have them spread the word.

If you're going to go with damaging the boss' rep, by the way, think about other social circles they're in. Church, community boards, non-profits, etc. Some people here will think this is mean-spirited, but so is denying you thousands of dollars of pay. However, do keep in mind that some of the people who are witness to your actions may think that too. Doing all this will damage your rep some as well. So consider whether it's worth it before going through with it. It may turn out that the slow, sometimes ineffective legal route is the best thing. And frankly, you probably won't win by taking other actions anyway. At least you won't win your victory. But you will get your ass hole boss to think twice before fucking someone else over.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:40 PM on May 4, 2011


Do you want the money you're contractually owed, or do you want the satisfaction of what you perceive to be the public humiliation/shaming of your boss? Pick one. (Data point: a guys like your boss is probably really, really hard to shame; I worked for a guy like that once, and his ego was so enormous that I don't know if he knew the meaning if the word "shame.". YBossMMV.)

Also, keep in mind that public shaming actions may result in a suit against you (defamation, etc.). It may be groundless, but you'd still have to pay to defend yourself.
posted by rtha at 9:47 PM on May 4, 2011


But, just get a lawyer friend to write him a sternly worded letter to see if he will comply.--JohnnyGunn

I recommend against this. I knew someone who did this and it completely flopped. Opposing attorneys can usually see through this tactic. It will be seen as a sign of weakness and they will definitely call your bluff. It is like pointing a squirt gun at someone and saying "you better do what I say or I'm going to pull the trigger!" All you'll get is laughter.

Get a lawyer who has the experience and ability to actually follow through if necessary, and have that lawyer write the letter.
posted by eye of newt at 10:13 PM on May 4, 2011


So what I want to do to get him to TALK to me is: email the entire company and let them all know that he's ignoring me for no reason. And then...I'm going to send another email and another. You get the picture.

Well, no I don't actually. How again is spambombing him going to get you what you want?

What you want is a) for him to talk to you, and b) to get him to pay you that money.

Your proposed course of action will a) drastically piss him off, and b) make you look like an idiot.

Fortunately, thanks to your having the foresight to bring this one to AskMe, you now have the perspective you need to avoid doing something that will cause you professional problems and personal embarrassment.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:18 PM on May 4, 2011


A lot of great "don't do it advice" here. One thing that strikes me is that you are operating from the assumption that the CEO simply doesn't want to talk to you. And that you can somehow compel him to do so if you can just exert enough leverage.

However, the CEO may be unable to talk to you. I have worked at companies where the HR rules were such that after someone was fired, everyone was required to NOT talk to them. HR may be tying the CEO's hands.

If that isn't literally the case, then he may have decided to enact the Cone of Silence in order to cover his ass. Most likely under advice from his own lawyers. Anything he says from this point forward could easily end up in a court transcript, as he well knows.

(Not to mention the ever-present threat of violence from terminated employees.)

No social leverage will be able to breach any of those scenarios. If you want to pry this particular barnacle off that particular rock, you're going to have to use a lawyer.
posted by ErikaB at 10:33 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


However, the CEO may be unable to talk to you. I have worked at companies where the HR rules were such that after someone was fired, everyone was required to NOT talk to them. HR may be tying the CEO's hands.

If that isn't literally the case, then he may have decided to enact the Cone of Silence in order to cover his ass. Most likely under advice from his own lawyers. Anything he says from this point forward could easily end up in a court transcript, as he well knows.


Seconded. Is this the best way to handle employees? Not in my opinion. But you calling out the CEO for a duel is likely counterproductive and possibly foolishly misguided.

Besides, it totally feeds his own perception that he's the center of the universe.
posted by desuetude at 10:45 PM on May 4, 2011


The CEO's problem (if it is one) is not every employee's problem.

If you wanted to shame the CEO, you would be better off organizing a press conference or something. However, by 'better off' I mean 'also a likely bad idea,' though at least it doesn't make every single one of your co-workers an involuntary party to whatever's going on.

But let's look at the approach you're considering, but to make it a more neutral example, let's change the people around. Let's say, instead of the CEO, it's your neighbor Fred. Fred doesn't want to talk to you about the problem with the shared backyard fence. So you send a message to every one of Fred's friends on Facebook.

How do you think that would make you look? Do you think it would accomplish your goal?

Talk to a lawyer. Have them do lawyerly things to get the company to honor the contract.
posted by zippy at 10:53 PM on May 4, 2011


I am a person with a deep-seated mistrust of companies and corporations. If I got this email, I would think you got screwed and were now being an asshole about it. As others have said, decide what you want and move to that goal. If it's getting what you're owed, retain a lawyer. If it's showing someone up and risking burning bridges to do it, send the email.
posted by Errant at 11:57 PM on May 4, 2011


If it's getting what you're owed, retain a lawyer. If it's showing someone up and risking burning bridges to do it, send the email.

If it's getting sued by the CEO for libel and harrassment, go ahead, send the email. That way whether you want a lawyer or not, you'll get one anyway.
posted by spicynuts at 1:38 AM on May 5, 2011


If I received an email like you've described I would see two things:

- This fellow thinks he was fired on a "whim"
- He also thinks our CEO refuses to talk to her "for no reason"

Regardless of what I thought of my former coworker before the email, my opinion of him going forward would not be stellar. Someone pulled a similar stunt at a place I once worked and from then on he was legendary as That Crazy Bastard. So yeah, what everyone else said: your former coworkers WILL remember this, and not happily.

I would recommend against it.
posted by Neofelis at 2:42 AM on May 5, 2011


Your state department of labor likely has a form you can fill out and they will handle the claim. I don't believe you give any rights up in doing this, and you don't have to hire a lawyer. When I had a similar situation, it was very vindicating to see former boss red faced and caught in a lie in the arbitrator's office.
posted by gjc at 5:22 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Go to the state's labor law offices and ask them if they can help in any way. Last resort is a lawyer which, as you know, can be expensive. Do not send the SPAM.
posted by Gungho at 7:10 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


gjc and Gungho are giving good advice. Contact whatever state agency handles this stuff, even before you call a lawyer. Where I live (MA) it would be the Wage & Hours division of the State Attorney General's office. No employer tries to ignore them; they can really make it hurt.
From their website:
Employers who choose to provide paid vacation to their employees must treat those payments like any other wages under M.G.L. c. 149, s. 148. Withholding vacation payments is the equivalent of withholding wages and, as such, is illegal. Employees must be paid for all earned vacation upon termination of employment.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:26 AM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Have you tried mailing him, by certified mail, an invoice for the exact amount you are owed?

I'd try that first. Keep this all on a professional level. You are a professional who is requesting compensation for work completed. Give your former boss a chance to respond in kind.

If he does not respond within a specific timeframe, then yes, I would get a lawyer to first send him a letter that the amount due you has not yet been paid, that you are contractually entitled to this sum and that the next step will be taking him to court for the full amount plus court costs.

Agreed with everyone one else that the plan of action you are currently considering of basically tattling on your ex-boss is an extremely bad idea that will end up backfiring on you, and putting any of it in writing opens you up to all kinds of backlash, including affecting future job prospects.
posted by misha at 10:21 AM on May 5, 2011


Sorry, I have to get in my last two cents.

Keep this all on a professional level.

I think this summarizes sentiments a lot of people here have.

Assuming what you say is true, your boss stole from you. Wage theft is theft. Treating them professionally is a TACTIC to be considered, and considered very carefully. I'm not saying you shouldn't. At first, you definitely should, until it is clear to you, and anyone else who may be in a position to judge you later, that they are unwilling to be reasonable. They are in no way entitled to being treated profesionally at this point. They are a crook.

Getting a lawyer is a good idea. So is considering tactics that put power directly in your hands.

Also, yes, your boss might decide sue you for defamation if you publicly shame them. Telling people the truth, that your wages were stolen (assuming that is true), is not libel, defamation, or any other crime. But that might not stop your boss. However, they may sue for other false pretenses at any given time, anyway. Should you just let this whole thing slide because your boss is an ass hole, and so anything you do to get whats owed to you may prompt them to sue, give you bad references, defame you, turn former co-workers against you, etc? Maybe. Seriously. You really should consider letting it all go, because doing anything to someone so obsessed with control that they are willing to steal wages from multiple people may very well have consequences you aren't willing to accept't. But if you want to fight it, plan carefully, consider all your options, ask what will likely happen in response to all your actions, and ask what the chances of the WORST POSSIBLE outcome of all your actions are.

Consider ALL your options, carefully.

Plan out every step you are willing to take, before you even take the first step.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:13 PM on May 5, 2011


Is this typical of the way you handle difficult situations? Because if the answer is yes, then the 'whim' makes a lot of sense. If I saw this e-mail, I'd think 'fruit loop', hit delete, and make a mental note to avoid you on the street.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:26 PM on May 5, 2011


Seriously, seriously late to the party here, but I do have another perspective to add in regards to his issue. Have you ever heard of Peter Chung? Claire Swire? Richard Phillips? Katrina Nugent? Lucy Gao?

http://www.cracked.com/article_16690_the-6-most-disastrous-uses-work-email-ever.html

All of these people went from relatively unknown professionals to international laughingstock, thanks to the "forward" button. And if your email happens to be crazeballs enough, you might be the next, if you send it. Do you really want a pissed-off email, taken out of context, attached to your name (and resume) for the rest of time?
posted by mornie_alantie at 5:34 PM on May 8, 2011


Unused vacation pay is legally yours as Kirth Gerson said. I haven't heard of an employer trying to stiff an employee on holiday pay -- as long as you have a recent pay stub with your holiday balance, the state will likely deal with it, no lawyer required. Don't deal with the CEO, just get your money from HR and Payroll and leave everyone else out of it.

Depending on how dysfunctional the employer is, they may just take their sweet HR time to mail you the check for the remaining holiday balance. Bonuses may be a little harder to prove and extract. If they actually put up a fight about the holiday balance there may be something odd going on in accounting (e.g. impending bankruptcy).
posted by benzenedream at 10:43 PM on May 8, 2011


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