A couple of weeks ago during the performance review my performance had been marked as good.

I reported some unethical and unprofessional comments my manager kept on making to me to HR in hopes that they would tell him to stop.

The company has now put me on a PIP. The performance improvement metrics are basically giving them a written statement that I lied and made up everything and apologize to my boss in writing for lying about comments he made to me. I think this is because there is written evidence (email) of the complaint I made against my manager and they want to destroy that by making me state that I lied.

What options do I have? I am pretty sure they want to fire me. We have been having a layoff heavy season as it is.

I feel that if I accept the PIP and give the written statement I am admitting to a wrongdoing that I never did and I can be fired for cause.

If I don't agree to the PIP, will I still be fired for cause?

Can I get legal help if I haven't been fired yet? I have some evidence that may come in handy for a legal case.

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    Do you have any written documentary evidence of your boss's comments, or witnesses who are wiling to corroborate the exchange that HR has not seen? You have little chance of avoiding the PIP, or even having any joy with a lawyer without some evidence to substantiate your claims. – Jane S Mar 19 '17 at 4:53
  • I don't have any solid evidence. I have some chats and emails that refer to the incident but nothing solid. But the company doesn't have anything on me either. They are claiming that the PIP is because I lied. Do they not have to prove that? – somerandomdude Mar 19 '17 at 5:04
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    I will make this very easy for you. You have 2 options: 1. Refuse to write what your boss asks and get fired. 2. Write what your boss asks and get fired. – Masked Man Mar 19 '17 at 8:30
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    @concernedEmployee Given that the prosecution also is the judge in your situation, then yes you do need credible, documentary evidence. If you don't have that, then this isn't a fight you can win. A good performance review prior to the incident is largely irrelevant. – Jane S Mar 19 '17 at 10:21
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    @concernedEmployee I would. I'd also show the PIP to a lawyer, as in the answers. – Jane S Mar 20 '17 at 2:03

I reported some unethical and unprofessional comments my manager kept on making to me to HR in hopes that they would tell him to stop.

The company has now put me on a PIP.

Holy crap that's awful! I'm pretty sure that's extremely illegal, but definitely consult with a lawyer.

What options do I have?

Start seriously searching for another job right now. Even if a strongly worded letter from a lawyer made your employer back down on the PIP, it would be a terrible idea to keep working for a company that unethical. No good can possibly come of staying at a company that is punishing you for reporting your boss to HR.

Can I get legal help if I haven't been fired yet?

Yes, you can and should talk to a lawyer. That said, a lawyer is not a magic wand. You cannot wave one around and expect all of your problems to go away. In particular, you should ask your lawyer what the costs of taking your employer to court would be, what the odds of you winning are, what happens if you win, what happens if you lose, and whether you can prevent word from getting out that you sued and/or testified against a former employer. Just because you're morally in the right doesn't mean that other employers in your city won't see you as a potential troublemaker because of the lawsuit. That's hugely unethical of them but it's a risk you should be aware of.

  • I don't want to be at such a place anymore anyway. If I quit I probably can't collect unemployment. If I'm fired without making an effort to comply with the PIP, again I probably can't get unemployment. But I can't comply without signing and admitting to wrong doing. I feel like they are just trying to make it impossible for me to collect unemployment or negotiate a severance package... – somerandomdude Mar 19 '17 at 4:54
  • That sucks and I wish I had some helpful advice but I don't know how PIPs work in your particular location (heck, I don't know all the details of how they work in mine). – Mel Reams Mar 19 '17 at 5:01
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    I can't speak for jurisdiction as I don't know where the OP lives but in many places this looks like a pretty cut and dry Constructive Dismissal case. If this is the case the best bet is indeed to speak to a lawyer who may advise resigning as it could then be treated as an involuntary dismissal regardless. – Vality Mar 19 '17 at 18:47
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    @Vality you should NEVER as a lay person tell some on they have a case for constructive dismissal its asking for trouble – Neuromancer Mar 19 '17 at 20:50
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    @Neuromancer I thought I was being fairly clear I was not telling them any such thing. I say explicitly that I have no idea where they live and they should seek a lawyer. Apologies if that wasn't sufficiently clear. – Vality Mar 19 '17 at 21:29

Can I get legal help if I haven't been fired yet? I have some evidence that may come in handy for a legal case.

Absolutely. There are lawyers who specialize in this sort of thing, and they can give you a good perspective on how the laws work where you live. An hour-long consult would be an excellent investment.

Quietly collect and preserve whatever evidence is available: copies of your recent performance review, any documents related to the PIP, emails voice mails, whatever. This may be considered removal of company records, but they're going to fire you anyway. (If you retain counsel, ask how this should be handled. I'm not a lawyer and don't play one on the Internet. My advice is worth exactly what you paid me for it.) If you find yourself going after the company for wrongful termination, its existence will help in building your case.

To address a comment you made about another answer that I think needs to be part of the question:

If I quit I probably can't collect unemployment. If I'm fired without making an effort to comply with the PIP, again I probably can't get unemployment. ... I feel like they are just trying to make it impossible for me to collect unemployment or negotiate a severance package.

Severance packages are for employees not terminated for cause. Unless your company has a contractual obligation to provide one in this situation, you won't be getting one.

Being fired for cause doesn't automatically bar you from collecting unemployment benefits, and you should definitely apply. Give the unemployment commission as detailed a description of your termination as you can with, if your lawyer thinks it won't land you in hot water, as much evidence as possible. The process in most states is that your claim is initially considered valid and your company will have to contest it. Contesting a claim will cost them time and money. If your story is truly as described, they may think twice about committing perjury and decide against it just to get you out of their hair.

Your success in applying for benefits may be a good litmus test for how well a wrongful termination suit will go. As always, consult counsel.

But I can't comply without signing and admitting to wrong doing.

You're being forced into a catch 22. There is, as others have pointed out, no way to resolve this situation in a way where you remain employed.

I can't stress this enough: do not ever sign your name to a statement which isn't true, even if it means the loss of your job. If they fire you and you have to discuss it with someone later, you will be able to say "I was asked to sign a false statement and refused to do so." You want to come out of this as squeaky-clean as you can; this is an opportunity to force the company into being the party doing all of the wrong things.

If you're going to provide them with a statement, write one that fully describes the situation and indicates that you refuse to sign anything to the contrary. Send it to the company via certified mail so there's a record that you sent it and that the company received it.

  • I'm trying to comply with PIP as much as possible so that my employer will feel like they have a weak case for termination. I've heard of a lot of people who did this and eventually ended up getting a severance package in exchange for not waiving their right to sue. This is what I am after. Also, I feel that if I comply, even if I don't sue, I have a better chance of getting unemployment from the state (obviously would have to appeal since the company would say I was terminated for a cause). – somerandomdude Mar 19 '17 at 18:32
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    @concernedEmployee You're not on a PIP unless signing false statements is one of your regular duties and weren't doing a good job. You're being railroaded into termination. When the state asks why you were terminated, they're going to get a copy of a statement that you lied with your signature at the bottom and you won't be getting any benefits. To be blunt, I think you're taking a huge, ill-advised gamble that things will turn out in your favor. Even if you win in the end, having signed a false statement will hang over your head for the rest of your life and may come back to bite you. – Blrfl Mar 19 '17 at 20:40
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    I guess I wasn't clear. The PIP has other parts too. They just say be positive and do your work. It doesn't say I was bad at my work and I should improve. It just says meet year deadlines and finish your projects which I have always been doing. The being positive part says I'm negative (basically because I complained to HR) and I should prove I'm positive every week by giving two written (email) statements describing good things my manager said. I will not comply with the first part. I want to comply with the rest so that the only part I haven't complied with is that first part. – somerandomdude Mar 19 '17 at 20:48
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    @concernedEmployee That one part is enough to show that you're being railroaded. The rest is just fluff to make it look legitimate. – Blrfl Mar 19 '17 at 20:50
  • I'm basically planning on giving a signed statement saying that all those statements I made were true and I made no false statements. I will then proceed to say that I will comply with the other parts of the PIP (and state that I believe I've already been doing that anyway). My goal is that once I'm fired I can use that statement to show that I had intent to work on the parts that had a place being on a PIP. – somerandomdude Mar 19 '17 at 20:50

Here's the good news: A PIP should be a "performance improvement plan". If they ask you to sign that you have been lying about your manager when you said the truth, that isn't a "performance improvement plan"; it would be obvious to anyone that falsely admitting to a lie isn't an improvement. So when you get fired, your lawyer will be given material that shows there was no "performance improvement plan", which should help you financially.

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    That's what I'm hoping for. The company is laying off a lot of people recently and I suspect that part of their goal here is to keep me from getting unemployment. Their unemployment insurance tax rate must be going up because of all of the layoffs they've been having and more layoffs are to come. I think this PIP is mostly and attempt to get me to sign that statement and giving them ammunition to terminate me without any consequences for them. – somerandomdude Mar 19 '17 at 18:36

You should raise a grievance using your company's procedures against your boss and the hr manager concerned, if they have a pip procedure they should have a grievance procedure.

You should make notes of what happened and any future interactions with the manger and hr.

This may not let you keep you job but it will help in any negotiations about severance.

  • Thank you. I will look into the grievance procedure. Unfortunately much of companies policies are not readily available and I have no idea how to figure them out. Who would handle the grievance procedure? Our company has a policy that clearly states that if you see someone doing something illegal or something that you just think is inappropriate tell HR and their manager (which is exactly what I did), and they guarantee no retaliation. I don't who I should talk to for that though. Also, I'm sure my emails are being closely monitored now so as soon as I send an email to HR they will know. – somerandomdude Mar 20 '17 at 1:58
  • I can call corporate HR but with what has happened to me up to this point I feel like any non-written communication is useless. I need a paper trail. – somerandomdude Mar 20 '17 at 1:59
  • Your company grievance procedure should be in the company hand book it does depend what country you are in though. – Neuromancer Mar 21 '17 at 0:33

PIP is usually a preliminary to termination. Start looking for a new position as soon as you can. Your best recourse is to spin the process out as long as you can until you have another job offer.

  • I would not want to stay at such a place either way. The issue is if I quit I can't get unemployment. – somerandomdude Mar 19 '17 at 4:51
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    where did I say become unemployed? Get another job, then quit. – Kilisi Mar 19 '17 at 4:52
  • They only gave me 3-4 days to give the written statement (stating that I made everything up) otherwise I'm fired. That is the first step in the PIP. In my field of expertise and considering where I live I would probably need at least a month, probably two, to get another job. – somerandomdude Mar 19 '17 at 4:55
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    So?... just don't comply, make sure they are giving you the instructions in writing, otherwise just ignore it and leave the ball in their court. If they're stupid enough to tell you in writing you need to make such and such a statement or you will be fired, that's clear grounds to take to a lawyer. – Kilisi Mar 19 '17 at 5:03
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    Good enough, clear attempt at coercion, the thing is you may be fired anyway, they don't really need a reason in most places. The idea behind a PIP is it makes it easier for them in case you take legal action or see a union rep. – Kilisi Mar 19 '17 at 5:25

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