Monday, March 12, 2012

Tilting at Windmills

I've been dealing with a claim against my former employer for unpaid vacation time. The telephone hearing was today, a hearing my employer attempted to stop on several occasions and was denied. I won the claim, not for as much as I should have had, but I was willing to give a little to get my point across. My ex-boss also has to revise her handbook, which was the crux of her case, because the NJ Dept of Labor rep saw it as I did. Vacation time earned/accrued is vacation time that must be paid. I see an overhaul in the future.

I didn't fight this claim to get anything back, other than the money owed, and I'll never see the tens of thousands of dollars I lost on the account I was stuck on, but to win a moral victory. I got that.

My mother always told me to take what I was given and not squawk about it. I've never been good at keeping my mouth shut when moral issues are at stake. I've been fired on a few occasions because I chose to take on the company, but I won my point and the policies were changed. I urge anyone who is faced with a similar situation to fight for what they believe, no matter the consequences. I also fought the IRS and won that, too, saving myself untold grief and several thousand dollars.

You can fight city hall -- and win. You may not win everything, but if you change a bad policy and it helps others, it's worth the fight.

Mom also told me that I should fight against the big guy, that I should knuckle under and keep my head down so that I was less likely to end up with a target on my back or my forehead. I wasn't good at following that advice either. There is really no point to living if living under despotic rulership or being afraid of speaking up is all you can do. Nothing get changed unless someone stands up and says loudly and clearly, "NO!"

What this judgment in my favor cost my employer is a pittance compared to what they owe me and what they owe every other employer they've cheated this way. She didn't like it, and she has 45 days to appeal, but I doubt she'll go that far. She doesn't want to have to pay her attorney only to lose again. Her own words tripped her up.

I could go after her for the double standard when it comes to page and an account that I worked on for 4-1/2 years, but dealing with this issue was strain enough and I know she'd fight harder to keep me from getting the $50,000+ she owes me on that score, just like she fought to keep me from getting unemployment, a case she won by default because I didn't receive the notice of the appeal hearing. I've made my point and will continue to make my point whenever I -- or anyone else -- is being cheated. I will not live my life in fear. I spent nearly 7 years at a company keeping my mouth shut about this issue, except for complaining that I was not getting paid for vacation time I had earned, because I was afraid she'd fire me, and a job in the hand is worth five on the proverbial bush, especially if there is no guarantee I'd get one of them.

I am luckier than most people because I have highly marketable skills and decades' worth of experience at the top of my field. When I was fired, I had a new job within 2 weeks, although it took nearly 6 weeks to get my first paycheck. It was worth it getting away from the stress, hassle, and lies I had to deal with every single day, and to not have to pick up the phone after a long shift and work another 2-3 more hours at regular pay as a favor. I cannot tell you how many times I had to do that, and there was no appreciation from my boss either, just more demands and more expectations for little or no remuneration.

Yes, I am glad I won the claim and I'm even gladder I thanked her for firing me, a thank you she actually used in the case in evidence against me. She missed the whole point. My stress level has dropped considerably, and even more so since the end of the telephone hearing this morning. I don't know how long I could've continued working for someone like that without doing something about it, something more than keeping records of how much money I was losing by being stuck on this one account. I understand why the company has such a high turnover in transcriptionists; it's issues like this one.

It's over now and I can happily take my check and cash it when it comes, hopefully before the 45 days in which they have to appeal. If they appeal, I'll know how to handle things the next time and we'll get this done with a whole lot sooner.

I've always believed in tilting at windmills and my favorite song is The Impossible Dream. What else would it be?

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