Friday, October 24, 2008

Unemployment challenges

Normally, I don't challenge unemployment claim decisions, but a recent one got to me so I went to the hassle of challenging it. A former employee of whom I have various problems with came to work bragging that she was drunk. I could see that there was some kind of problem with her that day and was even told that she had bragged to our cashier that she was hungover. Lana, I hope you are reading this.

When Summer, our bookkeeper called me and told me that she had tripped in front of her and when asked if she was OK was told that she was more intoxicated than she thought. I told Summer to send her home immediately. The next morning, I questioned other employees to find that she had been bragging of her intoxication to them. I told Jim to cover her and let her go.

When they called me regarding the issue, I told them the story. Summer even told them her part of the story but the employee denied being drunk and the investigator went with her. I felt the need to challenge for a few reasons. 1. To show the crew that I was not going to just roll over in these kinds of situations, 2. To back up the crews claims as not doing anything to me kind of was showing them that I might not believe them either, and 3. Probably a little pride in that I didn't like the fact that they took her word over mine and Summers.

I knew that it would be a hassle and time consuming but I went ahead and put in the request for a hearing. The hearing was set up for yesterday afternoon at 2:30. I asked the various people for written statements that I could use in the hearing and an hour or so before the hearing, I began looking over the paperwork regarding it. I found that they requested that I be on a corded land line. The only corded land line that we had was in the cashier station on the telephone that I had set up for employees. I realized that with no cashier at the time, that their was a possibility that I might have a situation where a customer would come up and not knowing what I was doing, might not understand when I could not ring them up.

My first thought was to find the extension cord that I had used during the remodel and run it out into the back room so that I could have the privacy. I searched and searched and finally found the cord with fifteen minutes left to spare. I plugged in the cord and then attempted to hook it into the phone only to find that the phone's line was hard wired so I would need a converter to patch the cords together. I knew that I one somewhere but with the time closing in could not find it.

So, I went to my plan B and asked Judy to stay close by to handle the register while I handled the hearing in the cashiers station. I felt that the hearing would only take a few minutes and would definitely be done before she had to leave and take Trinity to the airport.

I rushed out to the office with only minutes to spare to grab the envelope with all of the written statements in it and then back to the cashiers station and the corded phone. As I rushed through the waitress station, Toni was talking and turning at the same time with a full tray of ice water which ended up all over the front of my shirt and down my pants. I could not stop to address the laughter coming from the kitchen and other employees and customers who had witnessed the event. I just did not have the time. I quickly set up all of my paperwork around me trying hard to not notice the chill of the water. As I sat down, two pieces of ice popped out from my waist dropping underneath me and between me and the seat thus sitting on them. Trying hard to remain calm and collected, I threw the ice into the trash can and told myself how much I loved Toni.

I managed to get into the hearing with no time to spare and we began. I was the first to be questioned and I must admit that some of the questions just plain didn't seem to make sense. For instance, have I ever gotten the crew together and told them that I would not allow them to drink or be drunk on the job. I asked the hearings officer if she was in my shoes, would she allow someone who was drunk to work and was told that she was the one doing the questions and I was not allowed to ask her any. I read all of my statements and realized that this was going to take a little longer than I had expected.

Judy left me a note stating that Toni had reassured her that she would remain close by and alert if someone came to the register area and that she had to leave.

So, in the middle of this stressful questioning, someone came to the till to pay and no Toni. My stress level fairly high by now, I snapped my fingers hoping that Toni would hear but only startled the person at the register. I excused myself from the hearings officer and asked the customer if she could ask for Toni on the main floor. Toni was not close by and the customer looked at me with those eyes of "Why do I have to do this, I only want to pay and leave.". Meanwhile the hearings officer is letting me know that I need to give the hearing my attention. Toni shows up apologising but I cannot talk to her as I go back to my answering of the questions. After ringing up the customers, Toni once again attempts to apologise but i can only smile and wave as the hearings officer is speaking and I need to listen to what she is saying. I make a mental note to myself to buy a better phone. Some of the crew had told me that their phone was hard to hear from and I admit ignoring that somewhat. Now, I was paying for that ignorance.

The questioning went to the employee who answered that she was hungover but not drunk. She said that she had a very bad head ache but was able to do her job quite effectively that day. I listen intently as I could to her answers as I was going to be given the chance to question her once she was finished and did not want to sound stupid by asking her a question that she had already answered. I had written a few on the back of a sheet of paper and marked them off when they had been answered. The officer asked her if she remembered the event very well. The employee stated that she remembered it perfectly just as if it happened the week before. The officer asked her how she could have such a good recollection with such a bad headache. The employee informed her that the type of headache that she gets from hangovers is not one that affects her memory but is just annoying. I felt that the officer might have her trapped there but only time will tell.

Then it was time for my questions. Just at that minute, Toni told me that she was leaving and that Casey would be covering the till for her. I could not say anything but only watch her jet out the door. Immediately, another customer came to the register and my mind raced with what to do. The hearing officers asked me again if I had any questions and I said yes. Fortunately, Casey came walking around the corner and I was able to retrieve my paper and go over my checked off questions.

I asked her if she had made any statements that day to any fellow employees of being either intoxicated, drunk, or any words that might elude to that fact and she said no.

I then asked her that on the day that she came in to pick up her check, what was written on the piece of tape above the Jake's logo. She said their was no tape on the shirt. the officer then asked me what I felt was written on the tape. I told her that I did not want to say the word but spelled out the four letter word that started with an F that both employees and customers had witnessed. My intention was to show her personality more to the officer. The officer asked her if that was on the shirt and she said, yes but not on any tape, she had written it straight on the shirt.

Inside myself, I let out a big "Yes" and said, no further questions. I felt like an attorney that had just made a point to a jury.

Now, I don't know how the hearings officer will decide on this case. And I realize that the financial burden of it will not be that big but I walked away with the satisfaction that I was at least allowed to state my case and make my point but in doing so took a while to calm down from the stress of the whole thing. Maybe the glasses of cold water should have come afterwards instead of before.....


Lana said...

Lyle you made my day!! Don't ya just love Toni!! She's a doll... Ok I have to say the water was FUNNY!! I really wished you would have asked me for a statement I would have gladly given you mine!!
I miss you and Judy so much I miss the Diner and everyone there and my customers..... keep on writing I am reading :) take care!!

Keeneye said...

Oh Lyle - man, I feel your pain. We had an employee in our kitchen who just couldn't do a good job no matter how hard he tried. We finally cut his hours to only 8 a week.

Turns out, he admitted to co-workers that he was making more on unemployment payments by working only a few hours a week vs. working full-time for us. Why work 40-hours a week when you can work 8 and get paid the same amount?


SJacobus said...

So sorry you had to go through that. Better luck in the future that you'll never have to deal with something like that again!