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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Read before you sign

This is a long question, so I'm going to break it into parts and answer each part separately. Oh, and Class Factotum, this is for you, since you asked for more posts. I've been busy learning German. I conducted an entire transaction in German yesterday--granted it was just dry cleaning, and I mainly said, "Ja, ja!" but importantly, I knew what she said. At least, I think I did. Maybe when I go to pick up the pants, they'll be dyed purple or something. Anyway, back to our regular topic.

My husband gave his 2 week notice on Tuesday because we have decided to move back to the UK. He found out today, Friday, that they are planning to send him home on Monday. They said they are not firing him that they accept his resignation and are moving the last day up!! This was all unofficial as the nice HR lady told him in confidence, his boss does not plan on telling him until monday a.m.!!!! That means he loses a weeks pay - can they do that?? The said he is an exempt employee so they are not obligated to pay him the remaining days if they don't want to!

I don't have any idea what being an exempt employee has to do with this. But, in the USA almost everyone is an at will employee, which means you can be terminated at any point. No severance is owed. No notice required. No cause needed. Should they pay him out his notice period? Of course. It's the right thing to do. Do they have to? Perhaps in your state, but (in my thoroughly non-lawyerly way) not in all.

The boss is a jerk with a capital J. Technically, he can probably file for unemployment, but that may be a bigger pain than it's worth.

Also, the tuition reimbursement. my husband says that they are going to try to get him to rollover his 401k to guarantee the tuition reimbursement that he owes. I don't mind paying it but in my own time please. What are his obligations to pay it on the spot!

I haven't seen the paperwork he signed for the tuition reimbursement, but I doubt it said anything about taking money from his 401k. I understand why they want him to do that--it's very difficult to get money from someone once they've quit. Please understand, he owes the money and he should pay it. But, they know that it will be nearly impossible to get it from him if he doesn't wish to pay up--especially since you are moving to a different country. The cost of legal proceedings would be too high to bother with.

Repay the amount owed according to the contract he signed. Don't let them take the 401k money. Penalties are way too high for that kind of thing.

Lastly, he works for a credit union and we have a car financed through them. The car loan is in both of our names but as an employee they gave him 2% off the regular rate. He has heard that they will increase the rate to whatever the standard rate is now. Is that legal?? I have read over the contract and no where does it state that the rate given is an employee rate!

Speaking as a non lawyer, of course that is legal--as long as it was in the loan documents signed. If it wasn't in the loan documents, then it's not legal. Easy-peasy. Pull out your documents and look.

Don't sign things you don't understand. Ask questions before signing. If your boss is a jerk while you work for him, he's likely to be a jerk when you resign. And have fun in the UK!


RJ said...

Hmm, I'd be tempted to say; suggest that they take the last week's pay (that they owe you morally, if not legally in the US) for the tuition reimbursement.

Seriously, it totally sucks that no-notice dismisssal can be legal.

I come from a culture where both parties give a minimum or 3, but more likely 4 weeks, 1 month, or 8 weeks notice (3 months is not unheard of for senior posts).

We have a principle that there is an underlying relationships of mutual trust and confidence in the relationship, not that people are a disposable commodity.

Here there is an expectation that people will have time to wind up their work and train replacements, have exit interviews.

2 weeks notice seems really short to me, and filing a cross-notice seems petty and pointless.

For one thing - how does it affect morale of the people who are staying?

They'll know not to trust the employer, and to give their own notice the day before they leave.

Olivia said...

I understand why companies sometimes pull the plug early when someone's due to a fear that the employee will use the remaining time to collect contacts, trade secrets, or otherwise steal from or sabotage the company.
Usually, though, they do pay for the notice period, just to be professional.

Dan Erwin said...

The lesson here is that when you sign on you quietly learn about the termination stuff, etc.

A clue: One of the things I learned from a brilliant exec is to stay in the loop with a smart labor lawyer. The best ones don't act in your behalf, they coach you. On occasion, because of my business he gets some of my clients.

He's a great guy with a great reputation. He says point blank--never get a lawyer directly involved between you and your company.

My clients have walked away from their jobs with a pocketful of cash...almost immorally so, all as a result of his coaching. You're too far along in the process now, but I'll be glad to share the name and phone with anyone needing it.

I also have a nephew in-law in the legal bankruptcy business--I don't need him. My business is recession proof. But, I couldn't find him in this world if I tried. I asked his young wife if he can now retire. Her response was "most anytime he wants to." Amazing how some business is such a response to the environment.

Anonymous said...

EHRL, Be careful with "Ja, ja". The Germans I work with say if this is said quickly, it's the equivalent of "kiss my ***" Maybe it's only a regional thing, but I thought you'd want to know.

ann said...

This is not HR Related, but I have a fun German word for you (OK it is really Bavarian but whatev!): Augenschmauss. meaning "Eye Candy" as in "Brad Pitt ist ein Augenschmauus!" you will get some good laughs.

love your blog.

llamaface said...

I agree with all of the above, but I will say one more thing - depending on the terms of employment with the tuition reimbursement, they may be able to keep part or all of his last paycheck to cover the cost.

Also, my boyfriend works in IT for a large university - in some departments it is common practice to not accept notice. When you give notice, they escort you out. I'm not sure how they handle the pay, though.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I wonder what the rules are about tuition reimbursement for employees who are terminated? It seems a bit odd that the company can expect terminated employees to repay tuition reimbursement, rather loss of the reimbursement seems to be a cost of firing someone.

They can't have it both ways -- if he's fired, then you lose the rest of his pay, but they don't get the tuition money back. If he gives notice, then he gets the rest of his pay and you need to repay the tuition money according to the contract.

Also, if he's terminated, then he should apply for unemployment -- if only because it would make them do the paperwork and/or deny that he was fired... thus, proving that they owe him the rest of his salary.

class-factotum said...

Thank you! You have no idea how crushing it's been to check your site every morning before I go to the gym and not find an update.

As far as not knowing what you are saying, I insisted to the baker by my office in Chile that I came from the place in the US with all the bones. He looked at me funny and I kept saying, "You know! The state with the BONES!" Huesos! Huesos!

Except the word for cowboys is huasos.

Huh. Who knew?

Anonymous said...

Just for a different opinion I'd like to offer another viewpoint. This person actually works for an employer who paid for his education (as a benefit) and offered a lower interest rate on a purchase (all in all a pretty good employer). Then the employee wishes to "go back to the UK" ...ok, that's cool ...but the employer has sunk some $ into this employee and may have not seen a return on their investment. Should an employee wish to resign - I would also offer a "transition" work plan. In the next 2 weeks I'll provide you with etc. This then gives the employer some incentive to keep him the next 2 weeks. If not, then we've all heard about "short-timer syndrom" and what may or may not get done in those final weeks of employment.

As far as the education contract is concerned ...I agree with Evil .. pay it back. You got the benefit of the education - man up.

And the contract for the rate is just that .... a contract. Look at your documents.

We really don't know if the manager was/is a jerk, but we do know the employer gave some great benefits expecting a return for their investment. I always say ... "There is a right way to leave." (there might be a country song about it). Good Luck

Anonymous said...

I'm curious as to why he owes them tuition reimbursement. Are they leaving in the middle of a semester?

I suppose that's beside the point...

Anonymous said...

Many organizations agree to pay for education (as a benefit) - but also want the organization to reap the benefits from that education. For example - in my organization we offer $2,000 per year of educational expense (for all full time employees) and then you must work for the organization for a year (after the payment of your last course). His agreement may have had a stipulation similar to ours. It wouldn't be logical for organizations to pay to educate folks up and out of their organization - as employers are looking for programs to retain their employees.

KellyK said...

@anonymous, a lot of companies pay for your tuition contingent on you continuing to be employed by them for a certain number of years after. Basically, if they're paying for it, they want it to benefit them for at least a couple years.

Personally, I think terminating someone should be grounds for losing what you spent on their tuition, but it depends on the company's policies. Mine states that "any funds issued less than 12 months before an employee's voluntary termination can be withheld" from their paycheck.

I'd really encourage the letter writer to check the policy. If they didn't accept notice and only require repayment on *voluntary* termination, I don't think you owe them. (IANAL, though.)

I agree that not accepting notice is extremely stupid. You're punishing someone for trying to do right by you and wrap up loose ends, and you're encouraging other employees to leave you in the lurch.

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Lempskies said...

EHRL, I am a friend of Marshall's and greatly enjoy reading your blog.

I just started an HR blog also:

I would love your input on it.

Staci Foss said...

Regarding the tuition reimbursement - usually the contract signed allows the employer to use the final pay, including last paycheck and accrued vacation, to apply toward tuition due. Unless the tuition contract spelled out clearly that they can take from his 401(k), they can't. I can't believe the "nice HR lady" doesn't realize that.

HolidaysForFun said...


baby221 said...

I don't have much to offer, only that I wish him well with the tuition reimbursement stuff and I hope he does offer to repay it. My husband worked for a small company who went back to college on his boss's word that he'd have partial reimbursement, only to find that boss had changed his mind and he wasn't getting a dime. Thankfully, that allowed him to quit in good conscience and move on to a better-paying position while he finished his degree!

Anonymous said...

Is it true that if a company started eating it's own employees, HR would find a way to spin it as a positive for the workers?

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