Monday, September 8, 2008

What Was This Employer Thinking?

Many of you might remember the question that was raised in the 1980s when Shelley Long left the cast of the smash-hit sitcom Cheers for a movie career that went pretty much into the dumpster--"What was she thinking?"

Since I was fired at UAB on May 19, after working at the university for 19 years, I've asked a similar question on numerous occasions--"What were they thinking?"

Did they think I was so stupid that I couldn't figure out that my termination was driven by political forces external to UAB? Did they think I couldn't see that I was fired, not because of anything having to do with work performance or misconduct, but because my blog dealt critically with the Bush Justice Department--particularly its handling of the Don Siegelman and Paul Minor prosecutions? Did they think I was stupid enough to believe their allegations that I had used university equipment to write my blog? Did they think I wasn't aware what I had done on my own work computer? I knew I had never accessed my blog at work, I told UAB officials that when I was placed on administrative leave, and UAB's own investigation showed that--but the university fired me anyway. And I'm not supposed to think something smells funny?

I'm not the only one who thinks something smells funny. A Legal Schnauzer reader sent an e-mail to UAB public relations director Gary Mans after the university issued a statement saying my termination was based solely on work performance.

Wrote the LS reader:

Suddenly his work performance is not acceptable after 19 years? I bet you don't even believe that one.

Anyway, it turns out that UAB is hardly alone in making bonehead personnel decisions. I stumbled across a story about another dense employer the other day--and upon first reading, this one boggles the mind.

Angela Whitfield has sued Regions Financial Corporation, saying the company exhibited outrageous conduct in denying her worker's compensation claim and then firing her.

Whitfield worked as a teller at the AmSouth Bank branch in the Inverness area near Birmingham. (AmSouth has since merged with Regions.) The branch was robbed on June 22, 2007, and Whitfield says she was injured when the robber pressed his gun to the back of her head, grabbed her by the arm and shoulder, and forced her to her station.

According to the suit, Whitfield was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and the bank disrupted her treatment by refusing to pay for her to see her treating psychologist. While working at the bank, Whitfield had received positive evaluations, several promotions, and several raises. But she was fired anyway.

And get this: Whitfield had worked at Regions since 1991, 17 years. (That's almost as long as I worked at UAB.) And suddenly she's a malingerer?

Here's a story about the Whitfield case from Lawyers and Settlements.

Certainly, many stories have two sides, and I'm hearing primarily Whitfield's side so far. But you have a 17-year employee who has had a gun pressed to her head during an on-the-job robbery--and you wind up firing her?

I have the same question for Regions Bank that many folks had for Shelley Long: What were you thinking?

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