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Eligible for unemployment after being fired for "violating company policies"? Part 2

by Anelej
(Florida)

Finally, it was great to once again have our daily communication log utilized where everybody had clear and succinct direction on the daily tasks.

However, barely a month later, I found myself in a worse situation. The company's employee handbook mentions its firm rules on associate conduct and work rules. It is true that we all might have not followed the rules in their entirety, since they had not been thoroughly enforced. It has been common practice, especially with the pressures for higher average sales, for the associates to acquire an item, and with other associates’ knowledge accumulate enough items to equal a higher average sale and then pay for it at the same time. To my knowledge, until now, nobody had ever gotten in trouble for such a matter. In fact our manager’s son would come into the store and pick items up and use the same system. We have always been honest with the practice, and we all have communal trust, and individual integrity. It happened to be that my father had got very sick and since I was on a closing shift by myself, I made sure that I called the assistant manager and that I was going to acquire the particular items. I told her that there was a written note as practiced before, and that the items would be purchased as soon as I had somebody ring me up. Next time I was on shift, I had opened the store that day, and when my manager came for his shift, I had informed him that I had to pay for the items whenever he had a chance. At that point, he suspiciously responded, and started asking me various questions about the matter. I found it strange, but I paid no attention since it was common practice in the store, and something he, himself had participated in. I didn’t realize that this was going to be a way for him to run double standards and single me out from the team in an effort to get rid of me. It seemed like this was his moment to retaliate against me. Shortly after, he told me to give him the store and deposit keys, and informed me that he had spoken to my district manager and that I had been placed on indefinite suspension. I could clearly recognize that that was a direct retaliation since I had called for the store meeting. I was terminated with no issued verbal or formal warning. And before I had left the store I had paid for the items. Upon leaving the store, I contacted my district manager. He confirmed that he had spoken to my stores manager and mentioned that I probably wouldn’t know about my status until higher management got back with him. Shortly after, I was called back and told that I was terminated, and that I had to make an appointment if I had any personal belongings in the store.

During my initial hiring interview in August of 2007, I was told that there was “problems” in the store, and that I was being hired as a future, potential replacement for the then assistant manager. I was also promised that as soon as the “problem employee” was taken care of, I would receive full-time hours and a health benefits package. At the time I was very excited to work for the company because I really liked what the company stood for and I was happy that I would be able to get full medical benefits. I had told the store manager that I was in need of medical benefits since I had to address a medical condition. Year after,
I still had no benefits, and when I became an official full time employee, I had to wait the three month benefits period. Anticipating the benefits for a long time, I felt a sense of relief when I could finally see a doctor at the beginning of this year. Even though I had the most hours in the store, I was repeatedly shot down by the store manager when I had requested a more stable and regular work schedule, which would respectively address my personal medical needs.
As time passed and my position changed to second assistant manager in August of 2008, I started noticing that the store managers approach was completely unethical and discriminatory to the others, as well as to me. It seemed like when I was initially hired that “problem employee,” then assistant manager, got tired of the issues and left with no notice. Another associate he had hired, with years of experience, was shortly fired after she spoke up about the manager’s conduct. A current associate that was hired half a year ago, was never properly trained, and written off for being too old or too slow, something he discussed with the rest of the team on a daily basis. When I started doing full time hours at the store, I noticed that many regulations were not being enforced by company protocol and had asked my store manager for the employee handbook in order to reference. For two months I was told that I was going to receive it, but every time there was a different excuse. In an informal email to my District Manager, I asked for the handbook, and at the time I was verbally attacked for my request by my store manager and within minutes, the handbook was given. I started seeing what was clearly happening. After my termination, my former associates contacted me and informed me that he had been discussing the reasons for my termination with the individual associates, he had admitted to them that I was fired, not for the situation, but for “problems in the past.” I was also made aware that he had told our newest associate that if I were terminated he could have all of my hours.
When other stores needed assistance, I would drive to different locations in the area and always had great rapport with the other associates and higher management. Every other store that I had worked for had always treated me with dignity and respect and I have been told on numerous occasions that clientele still asked about me. I would have liked to at least clear my name. I am an honest and hard working person, and the way that this matter was presented needed to be declassified. I cannot believe that my store manager used a common practice to single me out, retaliate against me, and terminate me dishonorably. I had asked for a transfer several times so that I could avoid any sort of possible conflict with him, these requests went unanswered and ultimately led to this situation.

PHEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

now that you have a head full, this is where I stand now.... I want to apply for unemployment benefits but would I be eligible? When I asked why I was "terminated" i was told that my file says because I was "violating company's policy." would I be eligible since this in the state of Florida is considered "misconduct"? In the mean time this information was released to my HR department a week ago and I was told that they are very busy and they will respond to me as soon as possible... THANK YOU :)
And im sorry for the epic story....

Comments for Eligible for unemployment after being fired for "violating company policies"? Part 2

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Workplace harassment and retaliation or a simple rule violation?
by: Chris - webmaster:)

Wow, a prime and shining example of details:)

Anelej,

Let's start with the primary concern...unemployment benefits. Apparently the company does have a rule and you did break it. Any company that "sells" has all kinds of rules about who can ring what up and how, discount policy, etc. And companies usually don't have a hard time seeing to it that the offenders are denied benefits.

BUT, you did say what you did was common and practiced by everyone including the store manager, so your focus should be on the uniformity of enforcement of the rule. and any failure on the part of the employer to follow the prescribed progressive discipline policy...if it applies to your specific rule violation. Some times breaking a rule can be so egregious that the policy does not require progressive discipline.

I suggest you get some statements (if everyone isn't to afraid). They of course could also get unemployment if they are fired in retaliation:)

You would of course would bring up the retaliation angle as well, but here's where things can get a little complicated.

Here's my big question...have you filed an EEOC complaint? If not, do so! You can start the process here and read this for a good overview of what workplace harassment is because I have no doubt (according to your account) that you were the recipient of retaliation. In case you decide on other options that may be available to you...you'll need the "right to sue letter" and an attorney may not give you the time of day until you have that.

I firmly believe you would benefit from contacting a lawyer because the legalities of what the store manager was/is doing needs to be investigated. The fact that the DM is going along with this course of action doesn't speak volumes about his or the companies ethics either.

I thank you for the details. Of course details are just the fodder for deeper questions.

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