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Destined to fail (California)

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  • Destined to fail (California)

    1. Recently hired (~7wks) as a Program Manager to manage development of new product under awarded Govt contract

    2. Company did not conduct proper due diligence and engineering during the Govt solicitation & proposal process. Nonetheless the company was awarded the contract

    3. Company was working contract for ~3mos prior to my employment

    4. Company failed to properly staff program (lack of resources w/ appropriate experience)

    5. I have 15+ yrs of experience in new product development as an Engineer and Program Manager and have always been a top contributor

    6. I have an "at will" employment agreement w/ a 3 mo probationary period (although I understand that there really isn't such a thing as a probationary period when it comes to hiring/firing practices)


    I was hired as a Program Manger to manage a technical team in the development of a new product under a Govt contract. Immediately, it became obvious that even though the program had been underway for ~3mos there was a lack of adequate systems engineering and progress. The team did not have a comprehensive technical solution and current spending was exceeding expectations. Requests for additional resources were denied, in fact I was told to perform some of the engineering myself. I regularly communicated the program poor health status to my direct boss (VP/GM); evidently he was not communicating the entire story to Sr. Mgmnt. That boss was recently replaced, moved back to his previous position for lack of performance, and replaced w/ a new one who I don't think likes me. Under my watch (acting as Program Mgr., Mechanical Engineer & Systems Engineer) technical progress was made. It is worth noting that all progress made to date should've been conducted prior to contract award in support of writing the proposal.

    The company corporate culture as well as experience base is not rooted in new product development which is evident from all of the mistakes made to date. The program is grossly over-budget and is looking for ways to reduce cost. As of ~2 wks ago, Sr. Mgmnt. is listening at great political expense on my part. Nonetheless, I get the sense that they may now be looking for a scape goat and/or a way to reduce cost. This is an extremely dysfunctional situation and as such I am currently looking for another job, however, I feel that my days are numbered.


    1. Is it better to quit than be terminated?
    2. If I quit or am terminated will I be eligible for unemployment?
    3. If I am "let go" during the "probationary period" because "I am not working out" am I eligible for unemployment?

    Thanks in advance,


  • #2
    At the end of the day, both parties tell their stories to the state and the state gets to make THEIR decision. No one here knows what that the decision will be. No one here knows what story your employer will tell the state. So, most of your questions do not actually have meaningful answers. I can make some obvious statements. Talking about UI only:
    - The employee quitting ALWAYS reduces the chances of getting UI, generally a lot. Not to zero, but the chances are getting UI are always better when the employee does not quit. There is no legal intent that people who quit get UI, so basically when a quit is involved, the employee tells a story where the employer is the villain, the employer uses the "liar, liar, pants on fire" defense, and the state gets to decide whose story they like best.
    - If the employee is terminated by the employer (not quit), then generally the employer must make a "for serious cause" argument AND the state must believe the argument.
    - A complicating factor is that the state (all states really) are broke. There is some reason to believe that the state is more likely to decline UI claims then a few years ago.
    - IF the employer tells the state that the termination is a function of "the employee not working out", then it is still the state's decision. It is always the state's decision. There are no sure things here. But if both parties agree on this particular story, then in theory this would be a good story to get UI.
    - If you are trying to come up with a specific story that will guarantee that you get UI, there is no such story. The state gets to make the decision, and the state is very clear that it is THEIR decision. Also, the state gets lied to (a lot) by both parties and tends to have a certain caution regarding anything anyone tells them. This is as much a matter of facts (often conflicting claims of facts) as it is law.
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
    Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


    • #3
      1. Is it better to quit than be terminated?

      No. (a) You won't be eligible for unemployment if you quit. (b) Why wouldn't you want to collect a paycheck for as long as possible? (c) Use what may remain of your working time there to aggressively look for a new job. (d) You'd still have to explain during an interview why you resigned without another job lined up, which is always akward; better to be let go due to lack of funding, "not working out" or whatever.

      2. If I quit or am terminated will I be eligible for unemployment?

      If you quit, no. If you are terminated for virtually any reason other than willful misconduct, yes.

      3. If I am "let go" during the "probationary period" because "I am not working out" am I eligible for unemployment?



      • #4
        Also, find our what government department the contract is with.

        If its the federal government, each dept will have its own OIG--Office of Inspector General. They will be interested in any reports of waste, fraud, or abuse. This doesn't sound like fraud, but waste or abuse of taxpayer funds? Maybe.

        If it's a state government, find out what state agency (maybe the Comptroller's office or dept) handles waste, fraud, or abuse of gov funds.

        Most of these entities have whistleblower protections for people who report waste, fraud or abuse in good faith. Some even have incentives for whistleblowers.


        • #5
          Thanks to everyone who provided a response thus far.

          In general, I would prefer to stick around as long as I can while attempting to find another job; especially in this job climate. I also want to do whatever I can to ensure that I am eligible for unemployment in the event that they decide to terminate my employment. Hence the quit vs. resignation questions. Most importantly, I want to circumvent the awkward situation of having to explain that I was discharged, especially when I don't feel that is is my lack of performance that is responsible but rather a dysfunctional work environment.

          WRT CA labor law and the "covenant of good faith and fair dealings" is it possible for an employer to discharge someone, for lack of performance without providing proper written evidence that the employee was notified and given the opportunity to improve? If I don't have to worry about being terminated on the spot w/o notification then perhaps I can sleep better at night and ride this out for a while longer.

          WRT the possibility of notifying the Govt about contract abuses - the thought has crossed my mind, especially when tinted with thoughts of retaliation. I assume that this course of action would require additional consideration and obviously evidence of any intentional misdoing. This company is not intentionally defrauding the Govt. - they just don't have their act together. I think it is safe to say that their business practices in this area are very naive and irresponsible.



          • #6
            With regard to waste, fraud and abuse in government contracts, it really depends on the gov department whether they only act on intentional fraud.
            Some departments, like health & human services, will go after recklessness and use standards like "knew or should have known" to prosecute or otherwise sanction companies for sloppiness that leads to waste & abuse of gov funds.


            • #7


              2011-07-26 - Laid off today


              • #8
                If you haven't already applied for UI, see the EDD website for detailed info on unemployment insurance at

                Once you have reviewed the site, you can file for unemployment insurance benefits on line at
                While I may work for lawyers, I am not an attorney. Comments I make are based on my working experiences and should not be interpreted as legal advice.