Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Back in the saddle

Wherein the following is too damned long

Getting Fired

Last April I rather suddenly shut this blog down. While at work on Monday April 7th, I got a call from the Compliance office of my company. My director requested my presence.

I knew this was a bad thing. Getting called by Compliance is a sign that one is in deep shit, and about to be fired. When I got to Compliance I was greeted by my director, who led me into a room with two people from the Compliance Department itself. They asked, "Do you know why you're here?" I said "No, but I assume I'm about to get fired." Ms. Muckity-muck from Compliance responded, "Then you assume incorrectly." Which was an outright lie on her part, but what the Heck.

Over the next four hours or so I was grilled about my Internet usage at work. "For some reason" IT had flagged my Internet usage and examined it in detail. "They found the results troubling" and forwarded the results to the Compliance Department. Said Dept. also reviewed my Internet usage in minute detail, and then contacted my director so that he too could 'scope me. At least that's the story they told me.

Company policy stated that no employee was allowed to use the Internet for any reason other than work, and that any violation of said policy could result in immediate termination. However, after four-and-a-half years of working for them I knew that policy was never enforced. (Shows what I knew.) Everyone I knew used the Internet for personal use at work to one extent or another, including my director. In fact, I had often used the Internet for non-work reasons at his behest.

During the interrogation they asked me several questions about this blog. My secret identity had been cracked. At the end of the interrogation they told me I was on paid leave, that I shouldn't return to the work site until they contacted me, and that they would review my case and decide which if any punishments I would receive. When I got home I took my blog "private" as a sign of good-faith on my part.

(Note: I had also not "outed" my director on his violations for "good faith" reasons AND because I had been made to sign an agreement at the start of the interrogation that I wouldn't "point fingers" at other people. Advice to anyone reading this: If you get called into such a meeting, screw good faith unless you really trust the person in charge. If you don't, then you may as well drag as many of the bastards down with you as you can.)

Long story short (which means you know you have a damned long way to go), the whole thing had been for show. That Friday they called me in and fired me.

Let me be very clear on several points. First, I had an excellent work record at my company. Second, I was doing four times the work I had been hired to do, and was doing it in half the time, and was doing a far better job than my predecessor. Third, I had requested more work to fill my time and my superiors had no additional work for me. In fact, they had actually taken some work away from me in the months prior to my termination. Fourth, I did NOT visit any porn or gambling sites at work. (I should mention that the director who fired me spends six months out of the year playing fantasy baseball at work for money, sometimes naming his teams after famous Klansmen, and uses company email to recruit participants into his son's nation-wide NCAA Basketball gambling pool.) Fifth, they could not (or would not) tell me why I my records had been flagged at that time. I had done nothing in the previous month that I hadn't been doing for the previous year.

I DID finally get them to tell me who made the final decision, and it had been my director. I don't think he realized that Ms. Muckity-muck told me that given his reactions later. That evening (Friday April 11) I went in to clean out my office. As I was taking down a couple of University of Florida banners in my office, the director who fired me said "I'm finally getting this damned Gator paraphernalia out of here." Yeah, a classy move from a classy man. Even my manager (who was in the room as well) flinched at that one.


So, four months before my fifth anniversary, ten weeks before vesting in my pension, and two days before turning forty, I got fired. Over time I have gone from thinking I had been the victim of a combination of bad luck and a personal vendetta, to thinking it had been a combination of personal vendetta plus the need to slash budget (I know our department was over-budget at that time), to now believing it was a combination of personal vendetta, the need to slash our departmental budget, AND that I was at the beginning of a silent lay off at work. Over the last nine months I've started hearing rumors that salaried heads are getting slashed for exactly the reason given for my termination. In this way the company can decrease its workforce while (a) keeping it silent to avoid bad publicity, and (b) if they're lucky they won't have to pay for unemployment.

I filled for unemployment anyway. The determination letter came in the mail, telling me my application for unemployment benefits had been accepted, and I claimed my first week. A day or so later, a second letter came, telling me that my application had been denied on appeal by the company. I then had to go through a twelve week process of appealing. When the day of the hearing arrived, I discovered that my old company didn't even bother to have a representative call into the meeting. (It was a teleconference, although all participants had to testify under oath.) I won by default. Still, I received permission to read my "Closing Statement" into the public record.

Since then I have been looking for work. Initially I got a few interviews, but people were reluctant to hire me for one of two reasons: Either I got priced out of a job, or they wouldn't hire me because I had been fired by my old company. Since then the employment market in Central Florida has completely dried up. I'm completely humped on that front.

Blogging Then

After I took down my old site, I just left it down. I didn't actually mean to stop blogging, but until unemployment issues resolved themselves I decided to lay low. I did put up another blog as a place holder. But I decided to keep the old blog private. Once my former director knew of my old blog it was possible he would share the knowledge. I had kept it private from work for a reason, and had no desire for those assholes to read it now.

But I did keep my old Blogger account. When I started blogging again I just changed the display name - I figured that the tools I had worked with didn't have the intelligence to track me in that manner. Unfortunately this caused a minor problem for me: All of the posts on my old blog now said "Posted by Outis". Since the blog was private, this didn't matter much, but it still annoyed me. Still, old comments (at Bill's, or XWL's or Althouse's blogs) showed up as Icepick, even though "Outis" would show up if one clicked through to the profile page.

Blogging Now

But now I've decided to make the old blog public again, and I even believe I will start posting under my old handle. Of course, this means that the Searching for Home posts will now state "Posted by Icepick" which loses some of the point. But what the hell, I'm not sure how many of my few readers got the point anyhow. (To be fair I never did make the point explicitly, although I will soon.)

So for now I think I'll quit being "No One", and get back to being Icepick. I was that guy for about four years (I had been commenting long before I started blogging), and this other guy for only about nine months, so the role should feel comfortable.

ADDED: I've imported all the posts from Searching for Home into this blog for now. All posts between May 2008 until the post immediately before this one were originally posted under the name "Outis" on the blog Searching for Home. Perhaps this doesn't make sense, perhaps it does. Mayvhe I'll go back to using the old blog, or maybe I'll just stay here. But it feels right to be posting as Icepick again.

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