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Two weeks ago, I was placed on a 3-day, unpaid, disciplinary suspension due to an error in a database.

My job involves manually entering data into a database. When roughly three consecutive entries were incorrect (based on a report pulled by the director), I was placed on a 3-day, unpaid leave.

Two coworkers were tasked with reviewing this report and this database in the time I was gone. The two coworkers concluded that the report was pulled incorrectly by the director. During this leave, I had interviewed for another position at a separate company, been offered the position, and accepted.

My director pulled me into their office the day after my suspension was lifted to inform me that I had not made an error and the report that was pulled, by the director, was incorrect due to user error.

Is there anything I can or should do about this? No apology, compensation, or back-pay has been offered and I feel as if I have been wronged due to incompetence. I want to be as professional as I can about this.

Edits: I am an hourly employee and have a normal, professional relationship with this director. I do not have a contract, and my director has only been in a leadership position for one year, with no prior leadership training. I have not asked for back-pay yet as I am still unsure of how to proceed.

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    Will they backpay you for those 3 days now that they realize it was their error? – user92235 Dec 6 '19 at 14:57
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    Did you at least ask? What does your contract look like? Do you have one? What does your employee manual look like? Where is this? I can't believe such a stupid employer would exist. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 6 '19 at 15:15
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    IANAL and you didn't specify a country, but in some countries this is not only illegal, but can also be considered grounds for a wrongful termination, allowing you to claim a compensation from the company. If you even remotely suspect your local laws allow for this, you might want to consult an employment lawyer. If not, 3-days pay is probably not worth the legal fees. – Blueriver Dec 7 '19 at 0:15
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    Jurisdiction would be useful – Strawberry Dec 7 '19 at 13:48
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    How many days did the director get suspended for their mistake? – Glen Pierce Dec 7 '19 at 16:57
172

Yes, you have been wronged. You can quantify exactly how much you were wronged (in the short run): three days' lost wages.

Politely ask for back pay and whatever documentation is necessary to show any future inquiry that you were not at fault. If you really have a normal, professional relationship with this director, then you will get back pay, and an apology.

If not, then you don't have a normal professional relationship. You only thought you did. Since you already have a job lined up, it's time to tender your resignation.

  • 1
    This answer hits it directly on target. However, after resigning, only the author can decide if they continue to seek the lost wages that they would have been earned. – Donald Dec 6 '19 at 19:55
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    +1. Either way, time to leave. Informing you that you weren't wrong is a darned sight short of an apology. At least now you know exactly what your value is to them. – Wesley Long Dec 6 '19 at 20:43
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    Indeed if they expect you to pay for your mistakes, but not having them pay for their mistake, then no that's not a normal professional relationship. An apology is a good first step, but a good last step is to compensate for the days they wrongly gave unpaid leave for. – corsiKa Dec 6 '19 at 23:06
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    @corsiKa One-sided relationships between management and employees are normal in most of the US. Maybe not healthy, but normal. I've never worked in a place where management is capable of acknowledging a mistake, even an innocent and harmless one, which this is not. – notmySOaccount Dec 9 '19 at 0:53
98
  1. If he didn't offer you compensation, you do not have a normal professional relationship. You have been cheated of three days of pay.

  2. Your company evidently is not careful about making accusations if they can badly pull a report and not be bothered to check that they generated it correctly before they put you on suspension. That is a bad sign.

  3. Apologies are as free as water and should be valued as much as a random bucket of it from a stream. Plenty of people will apologize just to make someone feel comfortable.

  4. Docking pay/unpaid suspensions for errors are often illegal. Check with whatever governmental organization regulates employment relationships in your area. If so, report this incident to them.

It is time to leave, especially since you already had a job linked up. Evidently you had other reasons to leave already (as you were job hunting), so just add these to the pile.

  • 68
    Expecting people to make error-free manual database changes is just unrealistic. A professional company would have a manual review step, or ideally automated validation. People make mistakes, and threatening people for mistakes just leads to them being covered up or blamed on others. – Robin Bennett Dec 6 '19 at 15:26
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    I agree, this is not industry standard. While the company is both small and developing, there is no excuse for a lack of effective SOP. – OneTimePoster_1 Dec 6 '19 at 15:32
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    @RobinBennett, Also, a threat of 3 days suspension is just stupid! It's such a disproportionate response for such a minor mistake! Was he even told about this in advance? Was it in his contract? or in the employee handbook? If you ask me, the Director is just a bully. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 6 '19 at 15:32
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    @MatthewGaiser, I think he knows that. I think his point is that the penalty is counterproductive (even if he had made the mistake -- which he didn't). – Stephan Branczyk Dec 6 '19 at 15:35
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    @MatthewGaiser - Stephan is right. I wouldn't want to work for a company like this, even if they did apologise and pay up. The culture seems to be that directors are allowed to make mistakes for free but employees get punished. – Robin Bennett Dec 6 '19 at 16:05
15

Short answer: You can fight, and probably win compensation for the time lost, but it may not be worth it.

Longer answer: In all practical terms, it will likely cost you more to fight for it. Ask politely for the money, as the suspension was not justified. If you get it, great, if not, I recommend you just move on to the new job you've accepted.

The reason for this advice is that even though you are in the right, the amount of money isn't worth hiring a lawyer, as your layout will likely be more than you lost from this company. Also, you will need to take time off from your new job to go to court, and possibly take time to meet with the lawyer as well.

Also, depending on the industry, going after a company may come back to haunt you. You should always be concerned about the "whisper network". The simple fact is that people talk. Do you really want to be known as the person who sues companies? They won't care if you were right, just that you are a risk.

Ask, but don't push, it won't be worth the time, money, and stress

  • 7
    In the UK, and probably anywhere in the EU, such a simple and small case is unlikely to involve much in the way of fees. Typically you would use the Small Claims track of the County Court, pay a small court fee (which is recoverable if you win), each side bears their own costs, and you self represent. In OP's case, the defendant has already admitted they are wrong and it is a simple money claim. Plus that any sane employer is unlikely to allow it to proceed to court without settling. (IANAL). – Jon Bentley Dec 7 '19 at 14:39
  • To add to @JonBentley's comment: in The Netherlands you can insure yourself for the need of legal aid due to anything workplace (rechtsbijstandsverzekering). Got it myself, haven't needed it as of yet (hope never to), but it's reasonably expensive (varies from E10 to E15 p/m). Then again, if you need a lawyer, just once, for an hour, you probably would've compensated that if you had the insurance for about 4 years. So, there's that. Also, if you get them involved and a claim is below X amount (varies) they will just pay instead of sueing (cheaper for them). – rkeet Dec 8 '19 at 13:01
11

You have an offer for a new job. If that offer is better than your old job, then figure out what your notice period is, and accept the offer.

With that done, you have the choice: a. Go to your old company and give notice. b. Go to your old company and ask for payment for these three days. If they don’t pay you give notice. If they pay, you put the money in your pocket and still give notice.

Your boss thought nothing about taking three days wages away from you. Worse, the fault was his and not yours, so a decent person would take three days unpaid leave in his place. Much more worse, he didn’t do the only possible decent thing which would have been to apologise and pay the three days.

  • 6
    If you have a notice period, it doesn't seem unreasonable to subtract 3 days from that period, since they've already not paid you for it. – Dancrumb Dec 7 '19 at 0:03
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    I would also say that if someone gives notice under these circumstances, no reasonable person would expect them to work with the usual enthusiasm. – gnasher729 Dec 7 '19 at 9:11
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    @gnasher729 no reasonable person would dock you three days' pay for their own mistake, either. I'm beginning to think his boss might not be a reasonable person :( – MadHatter Dec 7 '19 at 13:05
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    @MadHattersupportsMonica Unfortunately had to upvote your comment. – gnasher729 Dec 8 '19 at 18:54
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You should ask for compensation for that unwarranted suspension period. Placing someone on unpaid suspension for a suspected error may or may not be legal or allowed by your contract or local employment laws. If they choose not to pay you, you may want to contact an employment lawyer to see if they are required to pay you.

Regardless of if they pay you or not, I would go with the new employer. If your contract stipulates a mandatory notice period, provide it. If you don't have a mandatory notice period, you're free to terminate your employment immediately and without notice. If you do have a mandatory notice period, serve it out.

You may be asked by HR to provide an exit interview, and you can be quite candid with them in this and tell them exactly why you're leaving.

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    The plot thickens: I am HR, and this is the HR director. Unfortunately, I am hourly, as well. My company does not offer exit interviews (conducted by HR) to HR employees. – OneTimePoster_1 Dec 6 '19 at 15:00
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    @JRodge01 For the sum of money we are talking about, it would hardly be worth the legal fees, or the hit to the reputation that one may get for being someone who sued their company. That is absolutely NOT the rep someone in HR wants to EVER be saddled with – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Dec 6 '19 at 17:22
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    @RichardSaysReinstateMonica That's an absolutely ridiculous viewpoint. An employee standing up against a potential illegal action of their employer shouldn't worry about how they'll be viewed, especially if they already have another job lined up. You also don't know the details of the asker's lifestyle. Missing those three days of pay could be crucial. – JRodge01 Dec 7 '19 at 19:01
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    @JRodge01 You're very brave with someone else's livelihood. You should always be concerned with how you would be viewed. What do you think will happen the next time the OP would go through a background check and it was found that he sued his previous employer. What is foolish is to believe that such actions wouldn't be taken seriously by the next prospective employer, especially for an HR position – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Dec 8 '19 at 19:12
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    @JRodge01 experienced (and very successful) litigator here. Choosing your fights is NOT ridiculous. Actually, it's the secret to my success. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 9 '19 at 21:09
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Two weeks ago, I was placed on a 3-day, unpaid, disciplinary suspension due to an error in a database.

It is sort of a red herring that this wasn't even your fault. Monetary consequences of common errors in work are for management positions or mission-critical positions that are paid according to the responsibilities. Even if you had made one or several mistakes, a job where this leads to consequences like that is a shit job. Unless it pays very highly, leave. That you apparently have not even been offered compensation shows how much of a shit job this is.

0

My director pulled me into their office the day after my suspension was lifted to inform me that I had not made an error and the report that was pulled, by the director, was incorrect due to user error.

Is there anything I can or should do about this? No apology, compensation, or back-pay has been offered and I feel as if I have been wronged due to incompetence.

Your suspension is definitely on company records due to the consequences in payment and work load. It appears that nothing contradicting this record is being communicated to HR, or backpay/compensation would have been clearly on the table (unless it is being pocketed by someone else).

This will not just mar your future standing with this company but also any references given by them.

At the very least you need to go to HR and figure out what the story they are being given is. Make sure that it matches what you have been told (it's not even unheard of that pay docketings of unconventional or legally dubious manner are just a pretense for stealing wages).

And afterwards, I strongly recommend leaving that company unless you are convinced that they address the clearly toxic structures and attitudes towards their workers.

  • OP stated in a comment to another answer that OP is HR. – CGCampbell Dec 9 '19 at 15:57

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