Tuesday, March 02, 2010
I am a legal secretary who worked for Connell, Connell, Camassa & Yuro for 13 years. I am writing to you to appeal the decision to disqualify me for benefits from 2/7/10 through 3/20/10. I believe I have suffered from a long, systematic harassment and abuse by my employer and various employees of the firm, including the office manager. I am only one of many such former employees who have suffered such abuses. I believe my termination was, in fact, a "set up" of sorts by the office manager and certain employees.
After a shift in partner ownership and management in January of 2008, the firm has suffered numerous losses, financially and with clientele. As a result, there has been a drastic change in staff over time and a total of five employees have been dismissed from the firm.
In November of 2008, I indicated to the office manager that my work load had decreased (after the near-50% loss of incoming files) and I requested to be given additional work. She advised Senior Partner, Ronald Yuro, of the same and immediately he wanted to cut my hours. Instead, I requested taking on additional work, offering to help out other employees with heavier workloads and Mr. Yuro agreed this was a viable solution. However, no additional work was provided. Other employees would not share their workloads and, in fact, work was taken from me and distributed to already work-burdened employees.
On or about February 4, 2009, I was reprimanded for using the internet for personal use. Mr. Yuro suggested that it must be because “I didn't have enough work to do” and he thereby cut my hours and put me on probation. He indicated that when my work load increased, I could have my hours back. Since that day, I have never again been on the internet for personal reasons, despite the fact others in the office continued using the internet daily for personal use (including making wedding arrangements and Christmas shopping). On numerous occasions, Mr. Yuro sent out memos and held several office meetings about continued use of the internet by employees. Attached is a copy of one such memo dated October 28, 2009 (Exhibit A). This memo indicates all the problems he wanted corrected by the employees. Note that it is dated more than six months after I was reprimanded, and no where does it mention the use of instant messaging. The same is addressed to everyone. I did not use the internet service for any reason other than the Court websites, electronic filing, and other work-related usage as permitted..
In July of 2009 I was told that due to lack of work, my hours were being cut yet again. Mr. Yuro said, “This is something that John and I have been discussing and has no bearing on your work or past wrongdoing. It's just because of lack of work”. Indeed, there had been a loss of incoming work and the firm was suffering financially. I would also note here that when instances occurred wherein the workload did increase, I was the only employee who worked unpaid overtime, in hopes that my hours would be increased and my efforts recognized.
At the time of my firing, Mr. Yuro indicated to me that he was upset that I was using the instant messaging system on our computer. At no time was I advised, either verbally or in writing, that instant messaging was not to be utilized. In fact, the system was used by everyone in the office for work and personal use regularly. He claimed he had removed the ability from my computer 3 weeks prior, so I "should have known that there was a problem." I asked why no one had ever received notice that instant messaging was not permitted, but I was not given an answer. Further, since it was allegedly removed from my computer, the only way I could use it would be to reply to any instant messages sent to me initiated by someone else in the office. Thus, it is clear that this restriction was only placed upon me. (As seen in the attached memos, the instant messaging protocol was never addressed).
Mr. Yuro claimed that he had concerns that I had wasted time during work, although he said he had no proof of such allegation, nor was he able to dispute that all my work was completed in a timely manner, despite the limited hours I was permitted to work. In fact, he stated that my "work product was fine." Unlike several others in the office, I came in on time, went right to my desk and started working.
At this time, I would like to describe the level of stress caused at the job by certain employees which resulted in pain and suffering due to deliberate and obvious segregation among the employees, causing a prejudiced situation to occur which I believe ultimately led to my termination.
In January of 2008, I spoke to Mr. Yuro about an escalating volatile situation in the office and he said he would take care of it, but the situation never changed. By way of example, I have attached copies of several memorandums which document the situation. First, a memorandum from Beatrice Estelle dated October 17, 2006 indicating a stressful situation that needed to be addressed, but was not (Exhibit B) and eventually, Beatrice quit. Also attached are two memorandums dated September 1, 2009 and October 29, 2009 from me to Mr. Yuro (Exhibit C). I put these two memorandums on Mr. Yuro's desk on or about October 29, 2009, but never heard back from him. I do not know if he received them or if someone removed them.
I did not participate in the constant hurtful conversations about others behind their backs. In fact, in a manner consistent with intimidation tactics practiced by high schoolers, I was regularly alienated by certain co-workers and constantly ignored and often not included in office gatherings or social activities which took place in and out of the office.
Two days before I was fired, the office manager engaged me in an after-work hours text messaging conversation that I believe turned out to be a successful attempt to bait me into office gossip which was ultimately used against me leading to the cause of my termination. I have available, if needed, the text messages, as well as letters from past coworkers, to support my position.
I believe that I should be entitled to Unemployment Benefits because my termination was unwarranted and; (1) one year ago I was given a verbal warning about internet usage, and such usage immediately ceased, (2) I was told that there was no problem with my work, (3) I was never told verbally or in writing that instant messaging was not to be utilized. I was a dedicated and loyal employee of the firm for 13 years, despite a constant turnover of personnel. I worked on both a full time and part time basis for both current and former partners of the firm. I believe that I was the victim of an abuse of power, as well as a victim of sophomoric games practiced by management and co-employees in a discriminatory manner.
I thank you for your courtesies and cooperation in this matter.