December 5th, 2012

Let’s Talk with Kalola: IT Support


Let’s Talk with Kalola, where targets can share their experiences with WBI’s blog readers. Here we go!

Dear Kalola,

I currently work for a major corporation. This is my first corporate job. My title is IT Support. As soon as I became hired I started getting harassed until I complained. I was being harassed on a daily basis. The person who harassed me is a temp employee who still works there. Today I was told by another new employee he harassed him too. Soon after I complained I no longer was invited to meetings, lunches and conversations. I work in the IT Dept. Soon my emails were being read by my peers without my knowledge and I was poked fun at by them. My social media account was being hacked as well. My work is sabotaged. I was accused of stealing to make me feel bad and make me quit.

I was so happy I had found this job. I left another new good non-profit job to be here and I regret it.

My wife and I had a newborn baby on the second week I was hired. I asked for time off and was harassed by my VP, and I was told I could only get 1 week off. My wife had a C-section. I get assignments beyond my knowledge to stress me off. I am currently looking for work elsewhere. I have a newborn to feed so I cannot leave.

Two days ago they fired another person without a notice. They always fire people without a notice right before they leave to go home. They do not even let them clear their desk. This job has affected my relationship with my wife and new born baby. They at work on a daily basis say things in double meaning to hurt my feelings. I was being influenced to commit a computer crime.

I am trying to apply to become a school teacher now. I am stuck here for now. I’ve worked for the government and public sector for 14 years and regret this new corporate job.

Ray


Dear Ray,


Recently, you took a job with a large corporation as an informational technology (IT) support person. You had only been on the job for two weeks when your wife had a baby by c-section.  You requested time off, and your employer only gave you one week off.  You feel you have been harassed by your VP and co-workers.  Your IT co-workers have been able to access your e-mails, and someone hacked into your social media account.  Someone at work has accused you of stealing, and you have been asked to commit a computer crime.  You have complained about a temporary worker who has harassed you since Day 1 on the job. Since making the complaint, you feel you have been excluded from meetings, lunches, and conversations.  You are still working but you are looking for another job, and you are considering changing occupations.

—Workplace Privacy (for the benefit of all our readers).  Yes, e-mails can be accessed, social media accounts can be hacked.   The work computer is a work tool provided by the employer.  Do not use the work computer to write up your résumé or send those funny jokes and photos to friends or send flirtatious and/or threatening e-mails to others or surf the internet.  It is inappropriate and can get you fired.  I can hear the moans, “but everyone does it.”  Yes, it may seem that way but if you are being targeted by a bully, you can be sure that the bully is watching and waiting for you to do something inappropriate so she/he can fire you or get you fired. 

The e-mail account that is supplied to you by the employer belongs to the employer.  The employer’s IT department can easily access the e-mails that are sent and/or received on the work computer.  An employer can put programs on work computers to check to see that their employees are, indeed, doing what they are suppose to be doing, that is, work. With that said, make sure that your work e-mails are work related e-mails.  Do not access personal social media accounts while at work on the work computer, do this at home or when you are not at work.  If you feel so compelled to check your personal or home e-mail account(s) or your social media accounts, then do so on your own time outside of your work hours and not while at your desk or in the workplace.  For increased privacy on your personal smart phone, personal tablet or laptop you may want to consider using a virtual private network (VPN) service.

Employers can monitor your work telephone calls.  Employers can keep records of all calls placed and received on your work telephone, and the length of each call.  Some employers will record telephone calls for what they call quality assurance.  If your employer supplies you with a smart phone, all of your text messages are stored by the cellular service provider, and can be retrieved. 

Suggested reading:  Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Fact Sheet #7:  Workplace Privacy and Employee Monitoring https://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs7-work.htm

New laws giving protection against employers requiring that their employees or prospective employees give up their usernames and passwords—On Sept. 27, 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1844 which prevents an employer from asking employees and prospective employees for their usernames and passwords in order to access the employee’s social media accounts.  Workers cannot be disciplined or discharged for refusing to give up their usernames and passwords.  Governor Brown also signed SB 1349 into law that prohibits a public or private postsecondary institution from requiring that their students, prospective students, and student groups disclose their usernames, passwords or other information about their use of social media. Illinois and Maryland also have social media privacy laws that have been signed into law while other states are considering similar legislation.  These laws will take affect January 1, 2013.

reference:  http://gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=17759

reference:  http://thenextweb.com/insider/2012/09/27/california-social-media-privacy-law/

—Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Eligibility.  As a new employee of only two weeks, you were ineligible for an FMLA leave.  Eligibility under the California Family Rights Act is nearly identical to the federal FMLA.  Under the circumstances, your employer was generous in allowing you one week off to be home with your wife and newborn baby.

To be eligible for FMLA benefits, an employee must:

  • work for a covered employer;
  • have worked for the employer for a total of 12 months;
  • have worked at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months; and
  • work at a location in the United States or in any territory or possession of the United States where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles.

reference:  U.S. Dept. of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, Fact Sheet #28:  The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993:  http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28.htm#.UKW0hWez6sQ

—At-Will Employment.  California Labor Code 2922:  “An employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other.  Employment for a specified term means an employment for a period greater than one month.” 

Basically, an employer can terminate an employee for good cause, bad cause, or no reason at all except in Montana where there is a law that says a worker can only be fired for cause.  However, there are exceptions, for example, an employer cannot discriminate against a worker or a job applicant based on the following according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination:

  • “Unfair treatment because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”
  • “Harassment by managers, co-workers, or others in your workplace, because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”
  • “Denial of a reasonable workplace accommodation that you need because of your religious beliefs or disability.”
  • “Retaliation because you complained about job discrimination, or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.”

reference:  http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/

reference:  http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/.html/lab_table_of_contents.html

If a worker feels she/he was unjustly terminated from his/her job, the worker can see an employment and labor attorney to determine what rights or recourse the worker may have, if any.  If you see an attorney, please be prepared to show the attorney the documentation you have to support your claim. 

—Workplace Bullying is not against the law in any state in the United States.  There are no state or federal laws prohibiting workplace bullying.  Being mean to you, yelling at you, icing you out, giving you too much work or too little work, excluding you from meetings, gossiping about you, not giving you the tools to do your job, isolating you is not against the law.  Let’s be clear, just because it is not against the law doesn’t make it right or justifiable to bully another.  Repeated acts of abuse can be harmful to a person both physically and emotionally, and over time can take a toll on the person’s overall health.

 

If you can show that the employer treated you unfavorably and discriminated and/or harassed you because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information, it may be illegal discrimination/harassment.  The EEOC has a toll-free number:  1-800-669-4000 if you need clarification on what is considered illegal discrimination/harassment.

—You state:  “I was being influenced to commit a computer crime.” I would strongly advise you to talk to an attorney.  You cannot be fired for refusing to commit an act that would violate public policy.  Depending on the illicit act or crime, if you were fired for not doing the illegal act then it could be a wrongful termination but you would need to prove it.  If the boss has put anything in writing about what he/she has asked you to do, keep that document.  If you were aware that something was wrong and unlawful, I hope you did not commit an unlawful act.  It would be in your best interests to ask your supervisor to clarify what she/he is asking you to do.  And, if the clarification reveals that the he/she wants you to commit an unlawful act then it is up to you to refuse.  Be professional in all your interactions with the employer.  If the boss says he/she is going to fire you if you don’t commit the crime then let him fire you.  If you commit the crime and are caught, no one is going to believe you when you say, “but he made me do it.”  If you have nothing to support your claims, you will be left out in the cold.  Keep a record of the date/time, and the details of what you were asked to do.  Were there any witnesses?  Ask a witness to sign a statement of what he/she heard or saw.

 

—IT support staff are the go-to people for help when someone has a computer problem.  The workers who use IT services have high expectations that the support staff can fix their computer problem(s) and/or guide them through the issue.  Often times training for IT staff is continuous due to the nature of rapidly changing technology.  It is expected that the IT department can maintain the employer’s computer network.  To learn more about what IT support staff do go to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook at: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm#tab-4

—Thinking of changing careers?  Be sure to do your homework before changing occupational careers.  You may want to talk to a career counselor at your local college or university before making a career change.  Your local college career center offers career aptitude tests, career interest inventories to help you determine what jobs might be a good fit.

 

You mentioned that you were interested in becoming a teacher.  To see what the credential requirements in California are for pre-school through 12th grade, go to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing website at: http://www.ctc.ca.gov/.  In general, to learn about occupations in “Education, Training, and Library Occupations” go to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook which can be found at the following website:  http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/home.htm.

—Other comments.  One-week off of work for the birth of your child (even with your wife’s complicated delivery) was still very generous all things considered.  Yes, it would have been nice to be able to stay home longer and bond with your newborn child, but that doesn’t mean just because you didn’t get more time off of your new job that you can’t bond with your child.  It is called quality time.  Yes, it would have been nice to be at home to help your wife as she was recovering from her surgery, but you did get one week off which was time enough for you to arrange for extra help at home for your wife and baby.  For the next time, your wife’s doctor can tell you ahead of time whether she will likely need a c-section for future births.  With that knowledge, you and your wife can plan ahead.  And, still even with the best laid plans things can happen and that is life.  We do the best we can under the circumstances that we are given. 

The temporary worker sounds like a troublemaker.  If you can, stay away from this worker.  Your communications with this worker should be about work only.  If you get into it with this person, it can be turned around on you to make you look bad.  Some people are just trouble, and that other worker isn’t worth losing your job over.

If you are being excluded from going out to lunch, and conversations that is not always a bad thing.  Going out to lunch costs money, and adds up quickly.  Too much conversation will interfere with your job.  Conversations should be kept to a minimum, and be related to the job.  You can still smile, and be friendly without revealing too much about yourself.  If your IT co-workers are making fun of you at your expense then there is no reason for you to have personal conversations with these individuals.  Be professional even if your co-workers aren’t.

If I were as unhappy as you sound in your letter, I would stay on the job but be planning my exit by actively looking for another job.  Don’t tell anyone at work that you are looking for another job as it may only hasten your departure.  In the meantime, try to maintain a positive attitude, and do the best job that you can do. Be helpful and friendly to those workers from other departments who call you and ask for your assistance.

 

Sometimes the grass may look greener across the street, that is, until we get to the other side of the street. Before you go for your next job interview, research the employer.  Do your homework.  Ask friends, relatives about what they know about the employer.  Once you find another job, keep a positive attitude, and do the job to the best of your ability.

 

My best to you and your family.  Enjoy your new baby. 

Sincerely,

Kalola

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 at 9:00 am and is filed under Let's Talk with Kalola. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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