Some skeletons need to stay in their closet

Date: 2010
Author: Daniel A. Lublin
Publication: Metro
Employees often author their own workplace misfortunes. Few take advantage of laws that are construed in their favour. Fewer will challenge their employer’s decisions, however unjust. Most will just complain. But if you have an inclination to fight back, here are some do’s and don’ts:

  • Do not sign severance agreements without asking for more. Companies deliberately offer you the minimum payments only since, statistically, most people will just take what they are offered, happy to get anything at all. This is a critical mistake. There is usually some flexibility in the figures – so ask for more.
  • Do be wary of skeletons in your closet. Just about every employee has one. If yours is so bad you can’t risk it being exposed, then do not challenge your employer’s decision to discipline or dismiss you, however unjust. Some workplace skeletons, although not harmful to your case, will ultimately be harmful to your reputation.
  • Do protest your employer’s decisions that you disagree with, such as not receiving a salary increase or promotion, and do it in writing. Failing to respond simply conveys to your employer that you agreed with its decision or at least that you did not care enough to complain. Similarly, many good constructive dismissal cases die on the vine because of a delay in mounting a complaint. For a court to believe that you had no choice but to leave, then swiftly do just that.
  • Do not use your workplace computer for personal matters. Since privacy laws do not apply when you use your employer’s computer, it can read and keep records of what you’ve written and done – without your consent.
  • Do not assume your position is safe. No job is. Employers maintain the right to restructure, without an explanation, as long as some notice is provided.
  • Do pick your battles prudently: In one recent case, the employee lost because he challenged his employer’s efforts to restructure, although it was done to limit lost inventory. Do not expect the sympathy of your employer or a court when you challenge good faith decisions to cut costs.