Discussion: March 8, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

From a reader:

I was let go suddenly from a very small business after only one month, despite being told I was doing a fantastic job. (They had me doing three jobs: office manager, paralegal and client intake.) To make a long story short, this two-attorney firm has a pattern of hiring and then firing both attorneys and paralegals before the benefits are due to kick in. Would you happen to know if there is any “red flag list,” maybe through the department of labor, to place suspect employers who are taking advantage of the high unemployment rate and changing employees like pantyhose?

Hmmm, a red flag list. A gallery of rogues. Pantyhose… I’d contact my state department of labor and ask whether any complaints have been filed about this company. Who else has dropped a dime on the firm? Get in touch, compare notes, then file your own complaint if you feel you have a legitimate beef. If others have complained, an investigator may look into any funky doings — and these attorneys may find they need a lawyer…

That’s my two bits. Is there somewhere you guys drop a dime on misbehaving employers?


  1. Well, have you proof (email or VM or letter) that they thought you were doing well? And what was their reason for firing you? Lastly, are you part of a protected class?

    If you answered Yes, None, Yes, then you’ve got a strong case. Each question that deviates from that gets harder and harder.

  2. http://www.Glassdoor.com is a great place to drop a dime on bad guys. Employees and former employees give candid reviews of the companies that employed them and also talk salary.

  3. Depending on what state you’re in, there may be nothing that can be done legally. I live in a “right-to-work” state, which means they can let you go for no reason at all. There’s good and bad about that – the employee is truly free to leave when they want and isn’t limited by union rules, and the employer is truly free to unload bad employees, though the wise will be careful about exercising that freedom. Sounds like your former employer is unwise.

    One way I research companies is to hop onto Google and do a search for “Company X sucks” in the search term. You’d be surprised how much you can find that way. Could lead you to a place where you can warn others. Of course, depending on the company and industry, it could lead you to sites where people who refuse to take charge of their own careers gather to whine about their misfortune, so use discretion.

  4. We are totally and completely responsible for the situations in which we find ourselves.

    Every action we take and how we respond to circumstances beyond our control lead us to our present circumstances.

    My advice: put the experience behind you,keeping any lessons learned; focus on your future and how you can improve your life.

    Reporting them, etc. will have the ironic result of turning in on you, while they carry on their merry way without a thought of you. Furthermore, they are attorneys. Don’t you think they have thought through the legal issues?

    The best of luck. Remember. What you focus on is what you get.

  5. Ditto Erika, http://www.glassdoor.com is the place to post an employer review for the benefit of others. Always be truthful — for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is not libelous.

  6. Another vote for http://www.glassdoor.com, but do be careful what you post, often it’s who has the most money will prevail in civil court cases, the facts be damned.

  7. Are there professional organizations that concentrate on what you do? Poison the pool–let people know that this happened and ask if anyone else has experience with this firm.

    I’m a paralegal, and the state I’m in has chapters of NALA (Nat’l Association of Legal Assistants); a local, similarly oriented organization; and the State Bar has a chapter for paralegals. As a class, we tend to have long memories–especially for firms that are dealing in what might be considered less than good faith.

    Besides, here’s a great AtHH resource for finding out who does business with whom, who has openings coming up, and who the managers are. At a minimum, you’ll find the movers and shakers among your peers at places like this.

  8. Thank you everyone for your advice; I appreciate it.

  9. I’m going to post a different point of view.

    Often when people are fired, they assume the company is in the wrong and there was some nefarious reason for their firing. But often, there isn’t: Instead, there were performance problems. Perhaps the company here erred by not being straightforward about the problems; that happens (and it’s bad management, outright incompetent management even, but not something nefarious). Or perhaps the manager did talk to this person, but this person tuned it out (which happens a lot).

    Or maybe I’m completely off base. But it’s hard for me to see how the company would benefit from hiring and firing people after one month, over and over, because of the time it takes to hire/train/get someone up to speed. Unless these are the simplest jobs in the world that don’t have much of a learning curve, of course.

  10. Try going to this site to post your experiences (good or bad): http://www.jobvent.com/

    With regard to Ask A Manager’s comment, you’re not off base but sometimes some people who are in business just don’t belong there. Sometimes business owners are like small appliance bulbs-just not that bright. Unfortunately, good people who want to work and do the best they can get caught up in these circumstances.

    It’s not unreasonable to think some of those small appliance bulb business owners think it’s good biz to hire and then fire right before benefits kick in (I’ve seen it myself). They think this saves them money, but it’s shortsighted and only stands to hurt the reputation of these businesses. Word gets out, customers see turnover is high and pretty soon, they’re out of business, where they belong.

  11. Remember that, like Beth says, we circulate in our professional community and we all talk. I wrote an article about this quite a long time ago, but I think this kind of thing still happens: http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/halethalrep.htm

    And I remind employers that word gets around about your behavior. We are all followed around by our reputations.

  12. Thanks again for the feedback.

    I think it’s unreasonable to have a turnover rate of e.g., 30 people in one year (both attorneys and paralegals) who were either let go or left themselves, for a very small business – a two attorney firm. I was told for 3 1/2 weeks – repeatedly, “You are doing a great job; you have so much on your plate, great job. . .” I was doing the work of at least three people (not unusual, I realize, and I am no stranger to hard work), however, given the workload, I had to work overtime even though I was told the firm did not pay overtime. My colleague (who started around the same time I did), was just recently fired. This former co-worker mentioned that after I was fired, no one was rehired to fill my spot; my colleague, in addition to also being overwhelmed with work, had to do my job as well.

    I am more than willing to accept responsibility for my own shortcomings, however, this is a rogue employer – plain and simple. We are not always, “totally and completely responsible for the situations we find ourselves in.”

    If a brick falls on my head, is that my fault?

  13. Sadly, an education/skill at a profession does not mean that one knows how to effectively manage people.

    Three points: First, owning a business should not imply that one knows how to run a business. Second: Many owners/managers don’t know how to hire the right person for a role, let alone manage them. Third: Many managers do not have the personal wherewithal to effectively and constructively develop/correct/discipline/feedback an employee. The result can be a total breakdown in the employer/employee value proposition and employee churn. Fair? No. So what?

    I can tell you one thing for certain: No one can effectively run a business terminating people after 3.5 weeks. They aren’t saving any money. High turnover is much more expensive than the “benefits” afforded a small business employee.

    I wouldn’t waste my time or professional cache’ slagging an employer. Pick yourself up, move on, and practice reading between the lines. I’ll bet there were plenty of signals (pre-termination) that these guys didn’t know what they were doing. Read ’em and live with ’em or move along. It’s not about you.