Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

Life Is Hard – It’s Harder If You’re Stupid

Your ability to rationalize your own bad deeds makes you believe that the whole world is as amoral as you are.

– Douglas Coupland

Keep that quote in mind.  You’ll need it later.

Prediction:  In the months ahead, get used to a lot of stories bashing business in general and corporations in particular.  When the stimulus fails because,  and you really can’t say this enough – Keynesian economics has never worked anywhere – the blame will shift to the producers of wealth.  It certainly won’t be the fault of the workers and God forbid anything is the fault of The One.  This will happen in a lot of little ways and this shift will start in the press.

In this piece on unemployment insurance in the Washington Post you can start to see the outlines of what this is going to look like.   Now, I don’t mean to bash Peter Whoriskey here because the piece does an OK job of laying out both sides overall.

My point is that sometime late this year and into 2010 you’re going to see a lot more stories with quotes from “the worker’s point of view” laying out their tale of woe and blaming big, bad corporations for their plight and, in some cases, castigating corporations for asserting their legal rights.  (That time will be running concurrently with the time the U.S. Department of Labor changes its mission and its name to the U.S. Department of Labor Unions.)

Under state and federal laws, employees who are fired for misbehavior or quit voluntarily are ineligible for unemployment compensation. When jobless claims are blocked, employers save money because their unemployment insurance rates are based on the amount of the benefits their workers collect.

Simple, right? You lie, cheat, steal, fail to show, fail to follow instructions, and so on, and you get fired, you will not be entitled to unemployment. Why should it be any other way? Should we reward liars, cheaters, malingerers, and the chronically lazy?

No. Most people realize that to reward that kind of behavior is to guarantee more of it. Which is why most people hate federal bureaucrats – they are the living embodiment of this principle.

So now comes one Kenneth M. Brown, alleged mountebank, who can’t understand why he can’t collect unemployment insurance after being fired for being a liar.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Kenneth M. Brown, who lost his job as a hotel electrician in October.

He began collecting benefits of $380 a week but then discovered that his former employer, the owners of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, were appealing to block his unemployment benefits. The hotel alleged that he had been fired for being deceptive with a supervisor.

“A big corporation like that. . . . It was hard enough to be terminated,” he said. “But for them to try to take away the unemployment benefits — I just thought that was heartless.”

Shouldn’t your tax dollars go toward supporting those who can’t keep a job because they can’t tell the truth? No?

Well that’s just heartless.

Take a look at the full blown moral bankruptcy of Mr. Brown on display here. He is essentially saying, “They should pay me because they can afford it.”   No acceptance of responsibility, no realization that he may have screwed up, no waffling, just – they should pay me because they can afford it.  That’s the Cliffs Notes version.  What Brown is really saying, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Hmmmm. Where have I heard that before? Ah yes, here.

Guess what?  He’s still getting paid.  Why?

After a Post reporter turned up at the hearing, the hotel’s representative withdrew the appeal and declined to comment. A hotel spokesperson later said the company does not comment on legal matters. Brown will continue to collect benefits, which he, his wife and three young children rely on to make monthly mortgage payments on their Upper Marlboro home.

So Mr. Brown’s employer, not wanting to deal with the hassle of being pilloried in the press and no doubt expecting unfair treatment at the hands of our moral betters in the MSM, rolls over and pays Brown.

Got that? Our free press at work. Enablers all.

Makes me proud to be an American, or retch. I keep getting those two actions mixed up these days.

“In some of these cases, employers feel like there’s some matter of principle involved,” said Coleman Walsh, chief administrative law judge in Virginia, who has handled many such disputes. But, he said, “nowadays it appears their motivation has more to do with the impact on their unemployment insurance tax rate. Employers by and large are more aware of unemployment as a cost of business.”

Of course they are! Hell, they should have been doing this all along. But in our overly litigious society, it’s just easier to pay off the scumbags than it is to give them the lesson in ethics that no one in their entire sheltered lives has ever bothered to give them.

But even allowing for the fact that employers are willing to go after cheats more often now. They still lose frequently.

Even as more employers have alleged employee misconduct, their success rate has stayed relatively stable — they lose on such issues about two-thirds of the time.

So when an employer is actually willing to waste staff attorney time on going after the losers in their midst – they still lose most of the time.

An entire industry has grown up representing companies who are seeking to deny UI claims to people

One of the largest is TALX, a St. Louis company active in the Washington area, which claims more than 8,000 clients.

The company’s Web site says that it removes “over $6 billion in unemployment claims liability annually.”

Using the figure of the employer being unsuccessful in these cases two-thirds of the time, there is still $12 Billion out there in arguably bullshit unemployment compensation floating around. And by “bullshit” I mean, “claims which can and should be legally denied.” And that’s just from one company which specializes in this trade. There is far more out there which can and should be recouped in the name of the American taxpayer but – good luck with that.

So much for big, bad corporations, huh? Looks like stickin’ it to the Man is still pretty good good business. If you’re a liar and a cheat that is.

Really, when did we become so afraid to call a thing what it really is?

Rick McHugh, a staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project who began handling such cases in the 1970s, said court rulings have slowly enlarged the definition of employee misconduct, making it easier for employers to say they rightfully fired a worker.

“The courts are just not showing as much sympathy for employees who get fired,” he said. “There’s a higher standard of behavior that is expected of employees.”

Yes, employees shouldn’t lie, cheat or steal. Yup, that’s a pretty high standard there, Rick. Almost unachievable, wouldn’t you say?

To use the text patois of today’s tweens – OMFG, is he serious?

Whoriskey then offers more examples:

A former assistant manager at Ri Ra, an Irish Bar in Bethesda, fended off complaints that, among other things, he’d failed to greet guests at the door and one time poured a beer for himself after hours.

Listen, if the boss told you part of your job was to greet guests at the door then, hey, that’s part of your job. Similarly, if the boss doesn’t want you drinking the profits then it’s stealing when you do.

Overblown on the part of the Ri Ra owner? Maybe. But, and here’s the real issue, it’s his place. Follow his rules and there are no issues.

A Verizon technician was charged with, in company terms, “detour and frolic.”

Is there any sympathy out there for the cable guy who tells you he’ll be there at 2 and shows at 6? Really? “Detour and frolic” is the reason he’s not there at 2.

And a former salesman at Ethan Allen complained that there was no way he could have made his $35,000 sales quota — and that’s why he quit.

Lemme see, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that his sales quota was one of the serious topics of discussion in his pre-hire interview. Wouldn’t you think so? Here’s a guy who takes a job knowing what the expectations are, quits because he can’t hang with the big dogs, and then would like you and I to pay for that privilege.

This is why I say I am not bashing the writer of this article here. He doesn’t offer any examples of the companies trying to defraud those legitimately laid off from their unemployment insurance. (No doubt, there are a few of those cases out there too.) To me, this is a story about cheaters and assorted other n’er do wells who have been getting over on the system for a long time and who are shocked to discover that companies can’t afford it anymore.

Like I said, get used to a lot more of these stories. The glaring subtext of this article is there not, nor should there ever be, a cost to be paid for personal failings. It is always someone else’s fault.

Lincoln is spinning in his grave today.

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5 thoughts on “Life Is Hard – It’s Harder If You’re Stupid

  1. ‘Detour and Frolic’ are not company terms, they are legal terms. Of course, I wouldn’t expect a reporter to get that the filing may contain technical terms.

  2. Most people realize that to reward that kind of behavior is to guarantee more of it.

    That’s why Wall Street bonuses should be eliminated.

  3. That’s why you need documentation.
    Spell it all out loud and clear on paper. Have the employee sign it. Detour and frolic? Spell it out , sign it. Not meeting guests at the door? Spell it out, sign it. Swilling from the tap? Spell it out, sign it.

    Document, document, document!!!

    Yeah, it’s a shame, but have your back-up.

    Document, document, document!

  4. Uh. Wow? The key point of the article is that the percentage of unemployment claims being disputed has been higher than it’s ever been in the last year or two. But a statistic by itself does not constitute a news story, no matter how interesting, revealing, or timely it may be. Which is where the journalistic “color” comes in. Some anecdotes to pad out the thing. And it’s those anecdotes you’re getting all right-wing-foamy about.

    While you’re working yourself into an indignant lather about “fucking morons,” the actual salient point of the article sailed right over your head. If you want to go ahead and try to make a case that it’s just *coincidence* that disputed claims have gone north as the economy’s gone south, now that would be worth reading. Or if you can make some attempt to convince us that incompetence, misbehavior, and “frolic and detour” just *happen* to go up in a weak job market, and *that’s* why disputed claims are rising, then go for it. I’m all ears and I would love to hear it. Meanwhile, until then, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the reanimated corpse of Abraham Lincoln just yawned and rolled his eyes at you.

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