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Former at-will employee being harassed for alleged underperformance - Illinois

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  • Former at-will employee being harassed for alleged underperformance - Illinois

    Sorry for the length of this, but I am quite worried and any help would be appreciated.

    I was an at-will employee at an academic institution - I did research for a teacher on a project. I was paid twice monthly and I was only allowed to work 39.5 hours a week. All of the work was done in spreadsheets and, approximately once or twice a month, I sent the spreadsheets with all of my work to a supervisor. My supervisor informed me that my weekly updates were put into a database to make sure the information was not lost.

    I worked for approximately 5 months and was never told that my performance was lacking. I was paid on time and without problems. I never billed an hour that I didn't work. I left the job on good terms and without any idea that there was a problem with my work.

    Approximately a month after I left, I got an email informing me that my output was completely unacceptable as compared to my colleagues doing the same job. Basically, my numbers sucked. I don't dispute that and it's embarrassing. But my former employer (or maybe she is not the employer, since she works for the institution and the institution paid me) has sent me a number of emails - the first asked for an explanation of my poor performance and I tried to explain. I even offered to reimburse a reasonable amount if it would make the problem end. The teacher said that reimbursement was too much of a hassle and that she'd like me to do some work on my spare time to compensate. I agreed to do a reasonable amount and she sent me a totally outrageous number of hours to work. I want to refuse, but I am worried about this continuing.

    What are my rights? What are her rights? Can she take me to court? How far is this going to go?

  • #2
    I am going to give you two different answers.
    - From strictly a labor law situation, the employer is in a very weak situation to get you to give money back. They are in an impossible situation asking you to work for free, since that is illegal on it's face. If you were a bad employee, then their sole recourse was to fire you. The closest thing that they could try is to claim that your output was poor because you were not really working and that you functionally billed them for time never actually worked. The argument might work. It might not work. The employer is responsible for supervision. If/when I had employees or temps reporting to me with performance problems I got and resolved the situation quickly. Most jurisdictions are not very impressed with the "its the employee's fault that we are incompetent at supervision" argument.
    - Not all law is labor law. Any one can sue pretty much any else for pretty much any thing they want. Your employer could claim that you personally went back in time and caused the Fall of the Roman Empire. I am not saying that they would win, but they could sue. I generally have had both Accounts Payable and Payroll reporting to me, and I have had many times fake vendors not only send fake invoices, but send collection notices and threats of court actions if we did not pay for things that we never ordered or received. That is what the waste basket is for. Now, I cannot guarantee that no one will never sue you, or that you will not draw a judge that thinks you remind them of their ex, but if what you say is correct and complete, your former employer is not in a strong position.
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
    Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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    • #3
      Thanks so much.

      While I understand that anyone can sue anyone for anything, what rights does the employer have if she were to file suit? Assuming that the judge is as neutral as to be expected, how far can the employer go in discovery? Am I going to have to turn over my computer, etc?

      Again, thanks for your prompt assistance.

      Comment


      • #4
        I am not the right person to answer such questions.
        "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
        Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

        Comment


        • #5
          Ignore this person. Delete her emails unread. She has no legal right to require you do anything more, especially work for free.
          I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

          Comment


          • #6
            I agree with Patty.
            Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

            Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

            Comment


            • #7
              I would add, don't worry that your ignoring her will result in giving you a bad reference. She may or may not based on what has already happened; nothing you do now is going to change that. The fact that she feels she can demand that you work for free shows that she really doesn't understand.

              Giving money back? H___ No! You were an employee "selling your time" to her. You put in the time, you get paid. Contrast this with a contractor with a contract that has stated product and/or performance specifications.

              If you don't want to ignore her completely, forward her note asking you to work for free to the institution's HR department and ask them if this note constitutes a job offer. They'll explain it to her.
              Please post questions on the forum rather than sending me a private message or email. That way others who have similar issues have access to the discussion.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Scott67 View Post
                If you don't want to ignore her completely, forward her note asking you to work for free to the institution's HR department and ask them if this note constitutes a job offer. They'll explain it to her.
                I love that.
                I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Me too, Scott.
                  Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                  Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

                  Comment

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