Overwhelming evidence indicates that I was canned because individuals in Alabama's right-wing power structure did not like the content of my blog, which has helped expose corruption among Alabama judges and lawyers. I have audiotaped evidence that suggests I was fired because of my reporting on the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
Mrs. Schnauzer, as we have come to call her here, might have become a target of the same political forces. But she does not think that's the case. She thinks her unlawful termination can be traced to unscrupulous debt collectors, who we are suing under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA). In fact, she testified under oath to that effect in a deposition on Monday.
Until about a month ago, September 25 to be exact, Mrs. Schnauzer (MS) worked at Infinity Property and Casualty Corporation, a Birmingham-based insurance company. Here is how Infinity's Web site describes the core business:
Infinity Property & Casualty Corporation (NASDAQ: IPCC) is a leading nonstandard personal auto insurer. Nonstandard auto insurance provides coverage to drivers who, due to their driving record, age or vehicle type, represent higher than normal risks and pay higher rates for comparable coverage.
In other words, if you are a really crappy driver, you might need to know about Infinity. Given the number of really crappy drivers on the road, the company's business has been strong, even during the Bush recession.
One reason Infinity's performance has been pretty good in hard times is that my wife worked her butt off for the company. What was her reward? A bogus pink slip.
I've made a couple of references in recent posts (here and here) to unethical conduct against us involving Infinity Property and Casualty. And I tied it to our FDCPA lawsuit against NCO Financial Services, a Pennsylvania-based debt-collection company, and Birmingham law firm Ingram & Associates. Those earlier references were to this career "hit job" on my wife.
MS worked in a variety of administrative positions at Infinity over almost three full years. Her most recent position was in Salvage, which deals with financial transactions involving wrecked autos that adjusters have deemed "totaled."
Infinity is based in Alabama, but it does relatively little business in the state. Its largest numbers of insured motorists are in California, Florida, and Texas.
Why do I say that MS was cheated out of her job? Numerous factors point in that direction, but let's consider this for starters: Her designated start time for several months had been 9 a.m. But beginning in June of this year, various superiors asked her on at least a half dozen occasions if she would be willing to move her start time to 9:30 in order to help better serve the company's large customer base in California, which has a two-hour time difference from Alabama.
Each time the subject was raised, MS said she would be glad to start at 9:30. Several coworkers told her they also had been approached about the change but could not do it because of child-care issues.
MS's primary supervisors, Greg Kees and Tobin Lunsford, finally announced in a staff meeting on June 26 that she had "graciously agreed" to start working at 9:30 to help cover the California customer base, the company's largest and most profitable. Roughly a dozen people were present at the meeting.
MS started arriving at work around 9:15 or 9:20, always in plenty of time for her new shift. On September 16, Greg Kees called her into his office and told her she was receiving a written warning and being placed on probation. The reason? Kees alleged that she had been tardy some 35 times, all since the June 26 meeting.
As most rational people probably would be in such a situation, MS was dumbfounded. "But you told me, in front of the whole group, that I was to start working a 9:30 shift to help with our California customers. You said that all of the changes announced that day were to take effect immediately. I did what you told me to do."
Kees did not deny making that statement. But get this: He said she was showing up as tardy in the company's eTime system. That, of course, is because he had failed to make the change in the system, which was his responsibility. In other words, MS was being placed on probation because of her supervisor's incompetence.
But that's not the only example of insanity here. The second of two "grounds" for the probation was an allegation that MS had an excessive number of unscheduled absences, implying that she had made it a habit to call in sick on Mondays. MS pointed out that every Monday she had taken off was a scheduled and approved vacation day. In fact, she had taken zero sick days during the time referenced. Kees refused to change the written warning.
MS, of course, told me about this when she got home that night. And she went to her previous supervisor, Mickeye Barfield, and told her what was going on. Barfield said Kees was violating company policy on multiple grounds and recommended that MS go speak to Pam Jenkins, Infinity's vice president for human resources.
Kees, however, made several statements that MS took as threats not to go to HR. At one point, he called her into his office and said "you are fine," and "it's in my drawer," indicating that he was keeping the warning and had not turned it in to HR. In other words, he implied that there was no "official" warning at all.
Fearful of retaliation if she complained--and knowing that her husband had been fired at UAB roughly three weeks after complaining about age discrimination--MS stayed quiet.
On September 25, she was fired.
As MS was being escorted out of the building, Lunsford admitted that she had been told to start working a 9:30 shift to help with California customers. The bottom line? My wife had agreed to make a change that others had refused to make, in order to help serve the company's largest and most important customer base. She was being flexible, accommodating, a team player--all of the things modern American workers are told they are supposed to be.
The result? She was fired.
Have the good folks at Infinity lost their minds or is something else afoot here? MS thinks an off-site "engineer" is driving this train wreck. And she has uncovered evidence to support that theory.
While I was the victim of a political hit job, was my wife the victim of a corporate hit? Mrs. Schnauzer says the answer is yes. And she testified to exactly that under oath on Monday.
(To be continued)