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Entries in Fired (14)

Wednesday
Aug142013

AOL CEO Apologizes for Firing Employee During Conference Call

Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for AOL(NEW YORK) -- AOL CEO Tim Armstrong issued an awkward apology in a memo to his staff after firing an employee for taking a photo of him during a tension-filled conference call last week.

On Friday, Armstrong fired Abel Lenz, a creative director for AOL’s Patch local-news business, in front other co-workers and 1,000 employees listening in on a conference call to discuss changes at the unit, including layoffs and site closings.

In a memo to employees on Tuesday, obtained by Bloomberg News, Armstrong wrote, “I am writing you to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz. I am the CEO and leader of the organization, and I take that responsibility seriously.”

Armstrong called last week’s meeting to discuss cutbacks at Patch, a network of hyper-local news sites owned by AOL.  Armstrong can be heard saying during the meeting, “Abel, put that camera down right now! Abel, you’re fired. Out!” He then paused before continuing the meeting.

In the memo, Armstrong wrote that this wasn’t first time the staffer had “recorded” a confidential meeting.

”As you know, I am a firm believer in open meetings, open Q&A and this level of transparency requires trust across AOL,” Armstrong said in the memo. “Internal meetings of a confidential nature should not be filmed or recorded so that our employees can feel free to discuss all topics openly. Abel had been told previously not to record a confidential meeting, and he repeated that behavior on Friday, which drove my actions.”

AOL did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Lenz could not be reached for comment. The memo did not mention Lenz’ status at the company.

An audio recording of the public firing leaked and was posted on media blogger Jim Romenesko’s website.

Lenz tweeted on Friday, “No comment. (at Old Town Bar)” with a photo of the bar.

AOL bought Patch in 2009 when it covered five towns in the Northeast. It has since expanded to covering over 1,000 communities, according to Patch.com. But the service has never made a profit and the latest plans call for closing or finding partners for hundreds of the sites that have no prospect of covering costs.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb222013

NY State Engineer Praised Employer Before Being Forced Out

Michael Fayette(NEW YORK) -- A former employee of the New York State's Department of Transportation maintains that he was fired for speaking to the press, even though he had nothing but good things to say about his employer.

But the DOT claims they fired Mike Fayette, an engineer who worked for the agency for 29 years, because of blemishes on his work record.

In August 2012, Fayette, spoke with the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, a newspaper in upstate New York, about Hurricane Irene. Chris Knight, a reporter with the Enterprise, said he first tried contacting the Department of Transportation's press office but did not receive a response. Instead, he reached out to Fayette, 55.

In the article, Fayette praised his employer over its preparation for Hurricane Irene. The newspaper printed a quote from Fayette in bold on its front page: "We were up for it."

This month, Fayette, of Alexandria Bay, N.Y., chose to retire early instead of fighting charges of "insubordination and failure to comply with settlement terms previously agreed upon."

Those settlement terms were in reference to disciplinary actions against him for a relationship with a subordinate employee over a year ago.

Fayette admits that he made a mistake in using his employer-issued Blackberry, computer, and vehicle during communications with the employee.

"It's an embarrassing chapter in my life. I just want to get past it," Fayette said.

He was suspended for 10 days and he was fined 10 days' pay.

"I held up my end of the bargain. They docked my pay and took vacation time. I complied with all of that. When do I stop paying?" Fayette said.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation provided a statement to ABC News:

"This individual had a record of substantiated violations of state and DOT policy, including the misuse of state resources to further an inappropriate sexual relationship with a subordinate. As publicly available records make clear, his separation from state service was based upon this entire history. Our employees talk to the press every day in the course of their duties, employees are not terminated for failure to follow general media policies and that was not the basis of termination in this case."

The statement that employees are free to talk to the media contradicts Fayette's account of disciplinary actions against him.

In September, after the Enterprise's article was published, Fayette received the first of several letters from the Department of Transportation's Employee Relations Bureau, which ordered him to the agency's main office in Albany on Sept. 12 for a "disciplinary interrogation."

Sometime during the hearing, Fayette said he was shown the Transportation Department's "News Media Contact" policy. It states that the approval of the department's press office is required "for any oral or written statement given to news media representatives," the Enterprise reported.

Two days later, he received a second letter that stated that his employer initiated discipline for "actions constituting misconduct and/or incompetence" and if guilty, "the penalty exacted against you will consist of termination," the Enterprise first reported.

Eventually, the department offered Fayette to relocate to an office in Albany and a permanent demotion in his pay.

Instead of accepting the drop in pay, which would have cost several thousand dollars a year, and unable to afford to move, Fayette chose early retirement instead.

What has made Fayette even more upset than the forced retirement is that a representative of the state shared a detailed account of Fayette's employee history and disciplinary actions on the radio Thursday.

After the Adirondack Daily Enterprise published a story on Wednesday describing Fayette's forced retirement, Howard Glaser, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's director of state operations, was a guest on a radio show. In the interview Glaser described how Fayette used 2,400 emails "to conduct personal business," some of which were sexually explicit, and he was disciplined for "theft of service" and "falsification of time sheets."

As a state employee, Fayette's employee history is public record, but Fayette thinks Glaser's actions were "malicious."

"It was never ever my intention to embarrass the governor of our fine state," said Fayette, adding that he has met the governor previously.

With over a year between his last indiscretion and speaking with the media about Hurricane Irene, Fayette said it seemed contradictory if the straw that broke the camel's back -- speaking to the media -- was actually permissible under agency policy.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov272012

Apple Fires Manager over Troubled Maps App 

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(CUPERTINO, Calif.) -- Apple has been firing top executives, and now another manager is out at Apple.

Richard Williamson, who was tasked with overseeing Apple's mobile mapping service, was fired shortly before Thanksgiving, the New York Times reports.
 
Even Apple admits its mapping software leaves something to be desired, and has told users to go elsewhere to find directions.  

Apple knew it had problems after it tried to replace Google Maps with its own on the iPhone and iPad, but its own app had streets mislabeled, images missing, and roads where, in real life, there are none.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct262012

Fired or Resigned: Should CEOs be Treated Differently?

Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an informal investigation to determine if Citigroup misled shareholders when it claimed former CEO Vikram Pandit "resigned" on Oct. 16.  Pandit and Citigroup Chairman Michael O'Neill told investors in conference calls and interviews that the decision to step down was Pandit's alone.

"Vikram chose to submit his resignation and the board accepted it," O'Neill said that day.

But according to Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, just after the market closed a day earlier, the board -- which had allegedly lost confidence in Pandit -- told him to step down later that day.  O'Neill failed to mention this during the company's third-quarter earnings call, which, along with O'Neill's statement that Pandit left on his own volition, is a potential regulatory infraction.

"If the board pushed Pandit out, then Citigroup issued a false statement," former SEC chairman Harvey Pitt told CNBC.  "The reason for the CEO's departure is material, and Citigroup had an obligation to disclose any information necessary to render its statements fair, accurate and complete.  If the board forced Pandit out, Citigroup didn't do that."

Whether Citigroup did anything illegal remains to be seen.  But it does bring up another question: Should CEOs be allowed to say they quit when, in fact they were forced out?  After all, unless they have done something terrible, most employees are allowed to say they quit when in fact they were asked to leave.  Should a CEO be held to different rules?

"What often happens when companies do layoffs or want to push an individual out the door, they will do a 'mutual consent resignation' whereby they agree that the employee will go without a fight, and in turn they will not fight unemployment benefits," said ABC's Good Morning America workplace contributor Tory Johnson.  "It will also look better on your record that you were not terminated or fired."

With the head of a large corporation like Citigroup, "Most people know the 'I've decided to pursue other things' is code for 'They booted me!' she said.  "It's totally a courtesy.  Fired, laid off, voluntarily, involuntarily -- it's semantics."

Outplacement expert John Hotard believes the issue is more about compensation and legal issues than anything else.

"The big guys don't want salary because of PR and taxes.  They prefer stock and options.  The law of compensation is that if you get fired you don't get your unvested stock options.  But if you are allowed to resign, then all that money is yours.  You don't want to have a senior person sue a bank or corporation, so you let them resign," he said.

Michael Kaufman, managing partner at Kaufman Dolowich Voluck & Gonzo, which has a specialty in employment law on behalf of companies, agrees that barring some major offense, chief executives should be given the same opportunities as every other employee in America.

"There are a lot of market forces that aren't necessarily a CEO's fault," he said.  "Look at the economic cycle we're currently in.  In some cases it may not be possible for them to hit their targets.  So, they're given the opportunity to resign.  I think it's fine."

However, he added, there is a difference with CEOs of public companies and their boards because they must also weigh their duties to their shareholders.

The main issue with Pandit is timing, Kaufman said.

"If the company had waited a month after they had done their earnings call, the SEC probably wouldn't be up in arms," he said.  "But a couple of hours later they say 'The CEO has resigned.'  The SEC is saying, why didn't you disclose this on the call?  It may very well be that Pandit, after the call, said 'I can't do this anymore.'  But that's what the SEC wants to know."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct222012

Arby's Fires Ohio Manager Who Fled from Robber

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(DAYTON, Ohio) -- An Arby's restaurant in Dayton, Ohio, has fired its assistant general manager after she had to jump through the store's drive-through window to escape a knife-wielding robber. What's Arby's beef? The woman, the company says, violated a company rule.

According to the Dayton Daily News, assistant manager Mary Archer had been closing up the store when the incident occurred. In an exclusive interview with ABC affiliate WHIO-TV of Dayton, Archer said her last co-worker had just left for the night when she heard the doorbell ring.

Thinking it was her co-worker returning to pick up something she'd forgotten, Archer unlocked the door, only to find herself confronted by a robber with a knife who repeatedly shouted, "Give me the money."

"I really thought I was going to die," Archer, 56, told WHIO. She did her best to defend herself, she says, pushing the man away while she told herself, "I'm not going to die at Arby's tonight. I'm just not."

She was able to evade the attacker and jump through the drive-through window. Her cries for help then brought the police.

Archer, who says she has worked for Arby's for 23 years, says she was flabbergasted to find the next day, when she returned to work, that she'd been fired. "I just never thought that would happen to me, since my life was at stake," she told her television interviewer.

"I don't want my job back," she says. "I just want everybody to know what kind of company this is. They said I was not supposed to have been alone in the store."

That, indeed, is Arby's position. In answer to a request for comment from ABC News, a spokesperson for Arby's Restaurant Group says in an email:

"We consider the safety and security of our guests and employees to be of utmost importance. We're extremely thankful that no one was injured during this incident. While this did not occur in a company-owned restaurant, we understand from our franchisee that the employee was terminated for her second violation of an important safety and security policy; namely, being alone in a restaurant afterhours."

Arby's rule says at least two employees are to be on duty at any time. Efforts by ABC News to contact Archer were not successful.

Archer said in her television interview that this was the third time thieves had attempted to rob the store. After their first attempt, she says, precautions should have been taken, but they were not.

"We have no alarms, no cameras. That should have been nipped in the bud the very first attempt." The only bright spot, she says, is, "My life was spared."

The suspect in the robbery at Arby's is still at large.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct082012

Fired for Facebook Posts? NLRB Rulings Draw Lines

LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The National Labor Relations Board added a little more clarity to the debate surrounding social media after two recent rulings called one corporation’s policy “overly broad” but also stated that social media postings are not protected under federal labor law.

In recent weeks, the NLRB, an independent federal agency that protects employee rights, ruled that “overly broad” policies are unlawful after the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 371 filed charges against Costco Wholesale Company alleging its social media policy violated the National Labor Relations Act.

The Costco policy stated: “Employees should be aware that statements posted electronically (such as online message boards or discussion groups) that damage the Company, defame any individual or damage any person’s reputation, or violate the policies outlined in the Costco Employee Agreement, may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.”

The NLRB said the overly “broad” policy could be interpreted by employees as an action to prohibit section 7 of the NLRA, which deals with employee rights.

But the NLRB also weighed in on a case involving a car salesman and his series of Facebook postings.  An administrative law judge ruled that the firing of a salesman at Knauz BMW was not unlawful because the employee’s Facebook updates weren’t protected by federal law.

The administrative judge ruled that the Chicago-area dealership did not act unlawfully by firing the salesman after he posted a picture of a Land Rover accident, including the caption “Oops.”  The accident took place after a 13-year-old accidentally hit the gas during a test drive and ran the car into a pond.

“We want to be sure employees know that under federal labor law, they have a right to discuss their wages and working conditions with each other, and to join together to try to improve them.  Those rights have existed since the National Labor Relations Act was enacted in 1935,” Nancy Cleeland, director of public affairs at NLRB, told ABC News.

“Today we are merely extending those protections to new forms of communication, such as Facebook.  But not all work-related social media posts are protected, and some behaviors can cause an employee to lose protection.  We compiled these cases to give both employers and employees a better idea of what is protected and permitted,” Cleeland continued.

A post by an employee on a social media website may be protected by the National Labor Relations Act if it relates to working conditions, wages and includes concerted activity.  In the case of the BMW salesman, his Facebook postings mocking the luxury dealership for serving hot dogs and bottled water, including the caption “No, that’s not champagne or wine, it’s 8 oz. water,” may have been protected by the NLRA.  But the Land Rover picture was not protected speech and that was what got the salesman fired.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug302012

Wells Fargo Fires Employee for False Dime Crime in 1963

Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images(DES MOINES) -- In 1963 a 19-year-old Richard Eggers committed a crime, putting a fake dime into a laundry machine in Carlisle, Iowa.  Eggers was spotted by the local sheriff and was convicted of operating a coin-changing machine by false means. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail, of which he served two. He was released early to return to college, and fined $50. Case closed.

Well, not so much. Now, 49 years later, Eggers’ past offense is coming back to haunt him.

Eggers worked as a customer service representative at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Des Moines until he was fired in July.  The reason given for his dismissal: the long-ago incident with the dime.

“We understand the outpouring of concern for Mr. Eggers and we want people to know that we take this matter very seriously,” the company said in a statement. “Wells Fargo is an insured depository institution, a global bank, bound by U.S. Federal law (Section 19 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act) to protect our customers and their personal financial information from someone who we know has committed an act of dishonesty or breach of trust -- regardless of when the incidents occurred. It is uncomfortable, but it is a law that we have to follow. We have the responsibility to avoid hiring or continuing to employ someone who we know has a criminal record.”

Mr. Eggers’ lawyer, Leonard Bates, spoke with ABC News, disagreeing with the company’s decision. “In 1963 Mr. Eggers was young he did something stupid. He put a wood dime in laundry machine,” he said.  “The spirit of the law was to prevent widespread mortgage fraud but does not apply to my client, who is a customer service representative.”

Mr. Bates did not lay all the blame on the company. “The FDIC’s regulation is overly broad,” Bates said, adding, “There are better, less harsh ways that Wells Fargo could do this without turning people’s lives upside down.”

Wells Fargo says it did everything in its power to keep Eggers working and in compliance with the law.

“When we found out about Mr. Eggers situation we began working with him immediately to help him learn about steps that he could take to make him eligible for reemployment at a financial institution. Specifically, he and any other workers in this situation can apply to the FDIC for written permission to work at a financial institution despite the existence of the disqualifying conviction,” Wells Fargo said in its statement.

The waiver process can take roughly six months and does not always result in reemployment. “Wells Fargo is touting the fact that employees can get waivers,” Bates said. “Some of my clients have obtained waivers but Wells Fargo has not yet hired them back.”

There is a faster, automatic waiver process, however.  In order to qualify the waiver-seeker must have committed a crime more than 10 years ago, received a sentence of less than 365 days, received a fine of less than $1,000, and served no actual jail time. Because Mr. Eggers spent two days in jail in 1963, he does not qualify for the automatic waiver.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May222012

New Jersey Woman Says She Was Fired for Being too Busty

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A New Jersey woman says she was fired from her job after her manager told her to "tape her breasts" down, and now has filed suit against the company claiming religious and sexual discrimination.

Former data entry worker Lauren Odes said that after two days with Native Intimates, a midtown Manhattan wholesale lingerie company, a supervisor told her the store owners were not happy with her outfit, suggesting it was too "distracting."

"When I first started working there, I asked what the dress code was, and I was just told to look around and see what everyone else was wearing," Odes said in a press conference Monday.  "So I did.  The dress was very casual athletic wear to business attire."

Odes said the company owners are Orthodox Jews who were offended by her attire.

At a news conference announcing the suit, she said that at first she compromised, saying she'd wear a gray T-shirt and black jeggings with rain boots to work, but that wasn't enough.

"When my supervisors suggested that I tape down my breasts, I asked 'Are you kidding me?'" Odes said.  "The supervisor said, 'Just cover up a little more.'"

The female supervisor then walked over to a closet, pulled out a bright red bathrobe decorated with pictures of guitars, and told Odes to put it on, she said.

"She told me to sit at my desk and wear it all day.  I felt completely humiliated," Odes said.  "She put the bathrobe on me and tied the belt and I returned to my desk wearing it."

Her supervisor then gave her the option of to go out and buy a sweater that "went to her ankles" instead of wearing the bathrobe, she said.  After being ridiculed and made fun of by co-workers, Odes said, she obliged.

But while she was out shopping for the sweater, the 29-year-old got a phone call saying she'd been terminated, she said.

Now, attorney Gloria Allred has filed suit against Native Intimates with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"The treatment was discriminatory, profoundly humiliating and unlawful," Allred said.

Odes, who said she is also Jewish, said no employer has the right to impose their religious beliefs on employees.

"I do not feel an employer has the right to impose their religious beliefs on me when I'm working in a business that's not a synagogue, but sells things with hearts on the female genitals and boy shorts for women that say hot in the buttocks area," she said. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May172012

Fired Las Vegas Hotel Worker Sues for Pregnancy Discrimination, Wages

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LAS VEGAS) -- Melodee Megia, a former employee at The Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, claims she was told she was fired from her job for saying "bye bye" on the telephone instead of "goodbye" while eight-months pregnant.

She has filed a lawsuit against the hotel for pregnancy discrimination and a class-action suit for workers' wages, saying employees were not paid for the time they had to wait for and change into their uniforms on a daily basis.

Megia worked at the hotel from November 2010 until September 2011, when she said she was fired "based on her pregnancy," according to court papers filed with the Clark County District Court in Nevada last week.

Megia was a "room service sales" employee answering the telephone when hotel guests called for room service, and occasionally assisting in room delivery, her lawyers said.

She is represented by labor attorneys Mark Thierman and Jason Kuller.

Thierman said "she was denigrated verbally and was mistreated because of her pregnancy," while having a "behind-the-scenes" job at the hotel.

Amy Rossetti, public relations director of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, said in a statement, "As a matter of company policy, we do not comment on pending litigation."

In March 2011, according to the lawsuit, Megia was asked to deliver a "pleasure packet" of condoms to a hotel customer, when Megia's supervisor said, "Isn't it too late for that?  You should have thought about it before getting knocked up."

"From that point forward, the director of room service frequently gave [Megia] dirty looks or shook his head disapprovingly," the suit said.

On Sept. 16, 2011, when she was eight months pregnant, the "stated reason for [her] termination was that she said 'bye bye' instead of 'good bye' on the telephone to a room service customer," according to the suit.

"In fact, this was merely a pretext as [Megia] had been subject to harassing conduct and other pretextual discipline leading up to her termination since the time her pregnancy was learned by [the hotel]," the suit added.

In the same filing to sue the hotel for unspecified damages for pregnancy discrimination, Megia also made class-action allegations for unpaid wages on behalf of the hotel's employees.

Workers were not permitted to wear their uniforms outside work and had to pick up and drop off their uniforms before and after their shifts, often leading to additional overtime for which they were not paid, the suit claimed.

The suit said employees also had to change into their uniforms on-site in an area away from where they clocked in and out for the day.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr192012

Four Men Say Texas IHOP Franchise Fired Them for Being Muslim

Steve Floethe/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Four former managers of IHOP restaurants in Texas are fighting the owner of the franchise they worked for in court, claiming they were wrongfully terminated based on their "nationality and religion."

The four men, all identified in court papers as "Muslims of Arab descent," worked as managers at the Dallas/Fort Worth area locations.  Hussein Chamseddine was employed by the franchise for 12 years, Rami Saleh and Brandon Adam each for five years, and Chekri Bakro for 24 years.

According to a complaint filed in a Texas district court, the men allege they were fired without cause.

"They weren't terminated because someone complained or because someone didn't like their attitude," said Sara Kane, a civil rights attorney representing the men.  "They were fired because of who they are.  That is the determining factor."

All four men were terminated between March and October of 2010.  Together they filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found merit in the men's claim that they were harassed and terminated due to religion and national origins.

"The IHOP corporation has a four-step disciplinary procedure," Kane said.  "The franchisee did not follow any of those steps."

Kane, along with attorney Jay Ellwanger, filed suit on behalf of the men on Tuesday, against IHOP and Anthraper Investments, the firm that owns the four franchises involved in Arlington, Burleston, Fort Worth and Plano, Texas.

The suit alleges that the men experienced harassment from Anthraper management, including derogatory comments made by the company's President and COO John Anthraper, Vice President Alex Anthraper and Texas District Manager Larry Hawker.

Representatives of Anthraper Investments did not return phone calls to ABC News for comment.  A woman who answered the phone at the home of John Anthraper said he was out of the country.

The IHOP Corporation issued the following statement regarding the lawsuit: "We believe the employment practices of our company and our independent franchisees are non-discriminatory and inclusive.  We have a long history of supporting diversity in all aspects of our business.  Our franchisee believes the allegations are without merit and looks forward to the fair conclusion of this matter."

Kane said her clients are seeking back wages and payment for emotional damages following their terminations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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