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helpless employee vs. the big bad employer

I live in LA and worked for a small general merchandise/grocery retail store as the store manager. Started in Sept of last year and was fired in April of this year. I received my first write-up Feb. 20 for attendance issues, store recovery and productivity problems. I asked to be transferred to a smaller volume store but the district manager who wrote me up declined my offer, saying that I could handle this store. I was running the highest volume store in the district and it was my first time as a store manager.

I made preparations to change the way I managed and devised an action plan. I held a meeting with the entire staff and within the next 3 weeks, attendance wasn't a problem anymore. But on March 18, my district manager came to my store and did his walkthrough, in which I was not a part of and wrote me up again. He also put me on a performance improvement plan. He asked me if I needed 60 or 90 days to get the store back up to standards (meaning straightening the shelves, making sure they are full with product, organization on the sales floor, etc.) and I said 90 days. We both signed the document stating I had 90 days to improve. I asked him about transferring but he said he couldn't because I was now on a performance plan.

I had to reevaluate my entire staff and revise my action plan. I looked at everything. I fired one employee and wrote up two other employees for unsatisfactory work performance. I held another meeting and got the staff more involved in the execution of the action plan. I hired two new employees and trained them myself. I began seeing improvement.

But 40 days into our 90 day agreement, my district manager came back with a store manager from another store and asked me to join them in the back of the warehouse. We all walked straight to the back where he told me I was terminated and I can leave work now. He didn't ask me how I was improving, or how my action plan was going. He didn't even walk the store to see if any progress was made. There was nothing I could say.

I never received any support or guidance from my manager. He always treated me like a veteran store manager. Whenever I asked him a question about something, he didn't know the answer to it and had to get back with me. He would call someone to find out. This was my first store to run. I had 4 years of experience as a department manager before this position but that experience was with other organizations. I bit off more than I could chew but tried to get a transfer and was declined. I believe I did the best I could with what little support I had and my experience as manager. I was always told to cut payroll every week and it was tough trying to get so much done with processing freight, setting monthly shelves, putting out weekly ads, recovering the store daily and trying to take care
of the customer whenever we had time. Twenty emails daily would come down and multiple deadlines every month. Between all the tasks, there was no time to actually take care of the customers. I did the best that I could.

Now I've been getting unemployment benefits for a month when the employer appealed. They claim that the discharge was because of being in violation of company policy. It will be decided if the discharge was for misconduct connected with the employment. Let me add that the company's handbook states that "failure to perform the assigned task" is not even under misconduct, but it's labeled unsatisfactory performance. I can't see them winning this case, but I want to make sure I win because I've been out of a job for almost two months and I can't lose these benefits right now. This company also sent me a payroll check the last week of May for a period of days I didn't even work. It was about four days later I received this appeals letter. I haven't spent the money, but I still have it. Could this appeals be related to that mysterious check? My telephone hearing is this Friday afternoon. Thanks for any help you can give me.

I'm going to assume you started receiving benefits because for poor performance to be related too misconduct, an attitude of neglect on the employee's part which shows a lack of trying needs to be shown. Since you were fairly new to being a store manager, it can be difficult for an employer to do that. Especially when you testify to all those efforts you made to meet expectations and the lack of support, guidance and suggestions from the DM about how to get it done.

What the appeal is about however, I doubt it has anything to do with that money, but a disagreement with the initial determination allowing benefits. (Call the appeal office and ask for a copy of the employer's appeal letter if you didn't get it.

But, that extra check (possibly a severance check?) I hope you reported it as income on your continuing claim for that week.

You of course in my opinion would benefit from representation at the Louisiana unemployment phone hearing.

Performance as the cause for discharge is open to interpretation by the person that hears the testimony and evidence. The lack of misconduct being found is about a preponderance of testimony and evidence showing your performance was due to lacking the ability to perform despite working to the best of ability. If you lose and have to repay .. trust me, you wouldn't be the first one blindsided by what happens at UI hearings.

I realize many people think I overstated the danger of representing oneself .. especially when they win, but statistically, the odds a claimant will lose if the employer is represented is 75 percent. When they aren't your odds of losing are only 60 percent.

Referrals to Louisiana Unemployment Appeal Representation

Of course, you may be able to help yourself when cross examining the employer bringing up the fact that you were cut short of being able to meet the PIP by 50 days.

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To Sheila
by: Chris -

Just want you to know Sheila that those who write the original submission, often don't ask for email notifications, or eventually get tired of getting them in their inboxes.

So, if you don't get an answer from this person about which dollar type store it was .. don't be surprised.

got a question
by: sheila

Did you work at Dollar Tree? All the terminology and honestly the unforgiving attitude of the higher ups makes this seem very familiar. Just curious.

by: Anonymous

Thanks for the info. I was unable to get free legal services to help me with representation due to the "lack of severity" of the case and the extensive caseload and limited number of attorney's at that particular firm. They offer free representation for low income people.

I did report the check when filing for unemployment benefits that week, but then they sent me another check for one week of pay that I wasn't aware of cause it went direct deposit into my checking account. I didn't catch it until after filing my UI benefits for that week. I will include it next time I file though. That's all I know what to do. I don't know why I received those checks. They weren't severance pay. I wasn't there but 7 months total with the company.

I tried to get copies of my personnel file but they said that it was company property and I wasn't allowed.

I also want to add that me and wife were planning for a wedding during the months of November thru March and that it was hectic times during those months (the months I received my write-ups). I also had to drive an hour to work and an hour back home at the end of the day. I put in on average 65 hours a week trying to fix that store but was unable. Should I add the part about wedding planning in there or will that hurt my case.

Planning a wedding is irrelevant .. because it's personal business having nothing to do with performance at a job .. in fact bringing it up might sound like you're admitting it was the cause for any neglect of duties .. which is what the employer will likely be focused on proving..

You can always try to subpoena something that would be relevant to your case located in your personnel file.

The hearing instruction should tell you that you can do this, as well as the ability to call or subpoena witnesses with direct and relevant knowledge regarding the reason for discharge.

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