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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Concern About My Wife's Job Proved to be Justified

To a curious, long-time reader of this blog, the following thought might have come to mind: "I wonder why Legal Schnauzer never refers to his wife by name. Why does he always call her Mrs. Schnauzer?"

It's because we were concerned that someone might try to cheat my wife out of her job. And that concern came long before someone cheated me out of my job.

In fact, our concern was so strong that when Mrs. Schnauzer (MS) was hired at Infinity Property and Casualty Corporation in November 2006, we asked human resources to place a letter in her personnel file--noting our concern, stating why we were concerned, and asking the company to alert us if it received any peculiar external communications about MS.

Did our precautions do any good? Obviously not. The letter probably still sits in MS's file, roughly five weeks after someone did indeed cheat her out of her job.

Here is an ironic note: I wrote the letter, thinking that political/judicial/legal forces--the ones who almost certainly cheated me out of my job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)--were the cause for concern regarding my wife's job. But the evidence we've seen so far indicates that Alabama's right-wing political forces probably did not mess with my wife's job. No, evidence points to folks connected to the debt-collection and credit-card industries for the "career hit" on my wife.

That's because we are at a crucial juncture in a lawsuit we've filed against NCO Financial Services and Ingram & Associates LLC, both connected to the debt-collection industry and to a debt we allegedly owed to American Express. Key steps leading to my wife's unlawful termination at Infinity Property and Casualty dovetail almost perfectly with key steps in our efforts to obtain discovery in the lawsuit.

That discovery could shine some interesting light on how national companies like American Express and NCO Financial Services conduct their business.

NCO Financial Services and its representatives are particularly strong suspects in the cheat job my wife experienced at work. We've noted several indicators that point in their direction--and we will be noting more--but here is a key factor: Almost no one in our circle of friends, family, and acquaintances knew where my wife worked. Her own sister did not know where she worked; that's how careful we were about disclosing that information.

Some brief background: During a roughly three-year period, from 2004 to late 2006, my wife had an extraordinarily difficult time finding a job. Considering the strong economy at the time and her spotless personal and professional background--she had worked 18 years at Alabama Power, one our state's most prestigious companies, before taking a voluntary severance package because of downsizing--it didn't make sense for her to have such a hard time. When she lost out on several jobs under highly suspicious circumstances, we began to suspect that someone was tracking her phone communications and using that information to sabotage her job search.

Some readers might find that thought far-fetched, even paranoid. But when you consider that I had ticked off several judges by representing myself aggressively in the lawsuit filed by our troublesome neighbor--and when you know that judges have the power to monitor your phone records, banking records, etc.--we don't think it's a stretch.

My wife finally took some unusual steps in an effort to protect her phone communications. Roughly three weeks later, she had a job offer from Infinity, which she accepted with considerable enthusiasm--and thankfulness.

Below is the letter that I wrote and asked to be placed in my wife's file at Infinity. Nothing strange happened on her job until September 16, 2009, when she received a written warning that accused her of excessive tardiness, even though she had been told about 2 1/2 months earlier to change her start time from 9 to 9:30 a.m. In other words, she did exactly what her supervisor told her to do, and only when our lawsuit reached a critical stage in discovery, did it suddenly become a "problem."

How might someone connected to our lawsuit interfere with my wife's job? After all, even her own sister did not know where she worked. Well, as part of discovery in our lawsuit, we had to fill out interrogatories from lawyers for NCO Financial Services. One of the first questions was about our places of employment.

Thanks to the cheat job I received at UAB, I wrote that I did not have a place of employment. But Mrs. Schnauzer, reluctantly, disclosed where she worked. That disclosure, to the representatives of NCO Financial Services, came in February 2009. By September, as we were seeking our own discovery in the case, she was out of a job.

Infinity--Personnel Letter

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