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  • Paul Allen sued by former security staff

    Former employees working executive protection and security for Vulcan (Allen's co.) contend they had to resign due to unethical practices among the management.

    http://www.seattlepi.com/local/artic...an-2195786.php

  • #2
    Originally posted by Condo Guard View Post
    Former employees working executive protection and security for Vulcan (Allen's co.) contend they had to resign due to unethical practices among the management.

    http://www.seattlepi.com/local/artic...an-2195786.php
    I've read the article six times and I still can't figure out what this is really all about.
    "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

    "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

    "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

    "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

    Comment


    • #3
      One of the problems I see is one that seems to be affecting employees everywhere in our industry. Executives are developing policies that require employees to seek arbitration instead of suing in court. For one thing, you shouldn't be able to force arbitration, but that is what they are doing. Arbitration is what Unions were origianlly designed to be used for. Now that companies are running Unions out of their shops, they're trying to force these arbitrations to get out of court costs and judgements agaisnt their practices.
      Last edited by HC_Security; 09-30-2011, 08:10 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        There's nothing wrong with arbitration. It's actually probably even more beneficial to employees, who don't have the deep pockets an employer has to hire reams of lawyers for lawsuits, and who sometimes have to wait years for court cases to be resolved while the employer's lawyers keep everything tied up, filing truckloads of motions, taking thousands of hours of depositions, etc - just to pad their bill and hope the employee dies before the case comes to court.

        And, for the employer, it avoids those ridiculous multi-$trillion awards that some juries have handed down - which are extremely damaging to society.

        Arbitrators are independent, and they are trained to be fair to both sides - and the remedies that they can apply are also moderate (e.g., restoration of employee to his prior position with back pay, etc.). In addition, there can be no appeals from an arbitrator's decision. The remedy is effective immediately.

        The only losers with arbitration are the tort lawyers, and I can't bring myself to shed a single tear for them.
        Last edited by SecTrainer; 10-01-2011, 12:02 AM.
        "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

        "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

        "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

        "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

        Comment


        • #5
          Paul Allen's deep pockets

          The P-I article is very vague, most likely due to the poor journalism of the local media, and the fact that Allen, Bill Gates and Microsoft are always treated with kid gloves around here because they are major employers and advertisers. (They also have the most expensive law firms on retainer, and can drop attorneys everywhere like the 82nd Airborne...)

          I'll be interested to see if one of the alternative papers picks up the story with more details, or if this one, like so many other stories about the Seattle elite, just fades away...

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by SecTrainer View Post
            There's nothing wrong with arbitration. It's actually probably even more beneficial to employees, who don't have the deep pockets an employer has to hire reams of lawyers for lawsuits, and who sometimes have to wait years for court cases to be resolved while the employer's lawyers keep everything tied up, filing truckloads of motions, taking thousands of hours of depositions, etc - just to pad their bill and hope the employee dies before the case comes to court.
            There are organizations that take care of these kinds of cases at no cost to the employee. If they feel an employer has violated the law, they will handle it in the interest of the employee.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by HC_Security View Post
              There are organizations that take care of these kinds of cases at no cost to the employee. If they feel an employer has violated the law, they will handle it in the interest of the employee.
              What organizations might these be?
              "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

              "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

              "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

              "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by SecTrainer View Post
                What organizations might these be?
                Well, the two obvious ones that deal with safety are OSHA and NFPA. But Metropolitan Human Resources is a federal agency that also handles employee complaints about employers.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by HC_Security View Post
                  Well, the two obvious ones that deal with safety are OSHA and NFPA. But Metropolitan Human Resources is a federal agency that also handles employee complaints about employers.
                  The only one of the agencies you mention that takes any sort of employer action is OSHA, and the only action they take is enforcement of safety regulations - not employee/management disputes.

                  The Department of Labor enforces federal wage and hour laws. (States have their own agencies in this regard as well.) They would become involved if an employee had a legitimate claim regarding unpaid overtime, for instance.

                  The IRS enforces laws regarding the withholding of taxes and related matters (such as whether an individual should be classified as an independent contractor or an employee).

                  The NLRB becomes involved in labor disputes at an organizational (not an employee) level. Things like whether an election by employees to certify a union was conducted properly, etc.

                  The NFPA has no enforcement role whatsoever per se. They promulgate building codes, fire codes, etc., but the people who enforce those codes are hired at the local governmental level - as building inspectors and fire marshals who have nothing whatsoever to do with employee issues.

                  And I never heard of "Metropolitan Human Resources". Can you provide a link?

                  Sometimes a labor union will sue an employer regarding an employee grievance if there's a violation of the CLA (collective bargaining agreement), but that's not the situation here. And, most CLA's provide for arbitration of employee grievances anyway.

                  Bottom line: If an employee is going to sue his employer over the sort of thing related to the case in question here (being made "uncomfortable" by the "unethical conduct" of his employer), there's no agency in the world that will sue on his behalf. He's going to have to hire an attorney to do so. And if you read the article referenced in the OP, you'll observe that the employee-plaintiffs have done exactly that (their attorney's name is Jerald Pearson).

                  So, getting back to the point. You made the comment that employers are increasingly requiring employees to agree to arbitration, and I said that this was actually to the benefit of BOTH the employer and the employee. I stand by my position. Arbitration is vastly more desirable than an employee having to sue an employer because the employer has the upper hand with regard to the money he can spend both to defend the case and to force the employee to spend money on legal fees until he's been bled dry, while making sure that the case languishes in the courts until the plaintiff is a little old ex-employee. The employer, on the other hand, doesn't risk the huge awards that juries have been prone to assess. So both sides win.
                  Last edited by SecTrainer; 10-02-2011, 02:03 AM.
                  "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

                  "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

                  "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

                  "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    You know SecTrainer, and please correct me if I am wrong, I will have to say that when I first found out that my company was switching to an arbritration process that I thought it was total BS. However, after I looked into it I found that as you state its actually better for the employee. One such way is that it is private and not a matter of public record, even if both parties end up having a local judge come in to act as arbritrator. Its still a private action, this allows the employee to take action against their employer without the fear of being labeled as a "whistleblower" or "troublemaker" and cause problems in the future with attempting to get a new job. There are many benefits for companies to do this, both for the employee and employer.
                    Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. - 1 Corinthians 16:13

                    The cleanliness of our hearts, The strength of our limbs, and commitment to our promise.

                    My military contract is up and over. However, I never needed to affirm that I would defend the constitution, our freedoms, our way of life from enemies both domestic and foreign. Do not think that since I am no longer in the military, I will not pick up a weapon to defend my family, my home or my country. - Me!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by FireRanger View Post
                      You know SecTrainer, and please correct me if I am wrong, I will have to say that when I first found out that my company was switching to an arbritration process that I thought it was total BS. However, after I looked into it I found that as you state its actually better for the employee. One such way is that it is private and not a matter of public record, even if both parties end up having a local judge come in to act as arbritrator. Its still a private action, this allows the employee to take action against their employer without the fear of being labeled as a "whistleblower" or "troublemaker" and cause problems in the future with attempting to get a new job. There are many benefits for companies to do this, both for the employee and employer.
                      Thanks, FR - I'd forgotten about the additional benefit of an arbitration action being private, as you correctly state.
                      "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

                      "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

                      "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

                      "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SecTrainer View Post
                        And I never heard of "Metropolitan Human Resources". Can you provide a link?
                        MHR are the dogs that the Bureau of Labor will send out if they feel an investigation is necessary about an employer complaint. If they get a complaint they are required to investigate.

                        At least this is what a prior officer of mine was told by the MHR when he called to inquire his options about being told he had to cut his hair. He had to talk them out of investigating because he wanted to go through our company provided reporting system first and give our company the opportuntiy to handle the problem internally.

                        If the MHR had investigated and found the company acted illegally they would have sent one of their own attornies and pressed charges on behalf of the fed gov.

                        There is no website to look at because typically you do not call the MHR directly. You call the Bureau of Labor (aka dept. of labor) and make your coplaint to them. If they feel your complaint is justied, they will notify the MHR.
                        Last edited by HC_Security; 10-02-2011, 09:26 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by HC_Security View Post
                          MHR are the dogs that the Bureau of Labor will send out if they feel an investigation is necessary about an employer complaint. If they get a complaint they are required to investigate.

                          At least this is what a prior officer of mine was told by the MHR when he called to inquire his options about being told he had to cut his hair. He had to talk them out of investigating because he wanted to go through our company provided reporting system first and give our company the opportuntiy to handle the problem internally.

                          If the MHR had investigated and found the company acted illegally they would have sent one of their own attornies and pressed charges on behalf of the fed gov.

                          There is no website to look at because typically you do not call the MHR directly. You call the Bureau of Labor (aka dept. of labor) and make your coplaint to them. If they feel your complaint is justied, they will notify the MHR.
                          Your former colleague was mistaken. There is no MHR or anything like it in the DOL (the name alone - "Metropolitan Human Resources" - should have clued you this was probably bogus information), although the DOL obviously has investigators. Also, the DOL is not "required" to (and will not) investigate any complaint unless it believes there is a genuine violation of federal labor laws (which there usually isn't!). They will respond to the complaint, but that doesn't mean they'll investigate it. In most cases, the first question that the DOL will ask an employee is whether they have filed a complaint with their state labor department. If not, they will usually require the employee to do so (and for the case to be disposed of at the state level) before the federal agency will become involved.

                          The reason for this is obvious. What you're suggesting is that all an employee has to do is "drop a dime" on his employer and this will trigger a federal investigation. Do you have any idea what this would mean? If any disgruntled employee could "call out the DOL dogs", as you suggest, the DOL would have to have a jillion investigators - and a $jillion for investigations - which it certainly does not. They have to reserve their limited investigative resources for cases where there are significant violations involving numerous employees. Cases involving individual employees - if they are "investigated" - are handled in a different manner.

                          This is not to say that the DOL does not investigate violations of federal labor laws. They do - and the reason I became a certified employment law specialist is that I happened to be hired as an area manager by a company that was hit with a DOL investigation about two weeks after I came on board. I suddenly realized how little I knew about labor law and decided to remedy that so I became a CELS.

                          The investigation was about overtime that the company hadn't been paying its employees, going several years back. Of course, I knew nothing about any of the circumstances, but I still had to deal with the mess (I think the previous AM must have quit because he knew what was coming). And I can attest that a DOL investigation is nothing to sneeze at. However, this was not an investigation related to one employee - or even a few employees - not being paid overtime. It was about a pattern of nonpayment that affected hundreds of employees at branches all over the country, and over a long period of time. This type of investigation would never have been conducted if it had just been about an individual employee not being paid for 3 hours of overtime. In fact, the DOL has a very civilized, measured process for dealing with individual complaints - if and when they take them at all - starting with a letter to the employer asking for a response - and it often stops right there. The mess that I walked into was not a typical employee complaint situation (and in fact it also triggered an IRS investigation as well, and the IRS determined that a number of employees had been misclassified as independent contractors when they should have been classified as employees...which meant that the company now owed its share of these employees' FICA contributions going back several years as well. It was Bankrupt City! Since I had sold my home and moved to another state it wound up costing me big-time, and I'd have sued the company myself for failure to disclose this situation to me when I was hired because it had been pending for awhile, except there was nothing left to sue when the DOL and IRS got finished with them).

                          I'm not interested in having an argument with you here, but I've actually had to deal with these issues in the trenches, and I'm always concerned when forum members might pick up inaccurate information. I spent many, many hours slogging through employment laws to obtain certification in the subject, and I know that there are many misconceptions about the role of the various federal and state agencies in the area of employment. I discovered that I had many wrong ideas of my own on the subject, and I've had several occasions to be glad I studied the law instead of picking up my information "on the street". Doesn't make me a lawyer, of course, but it did give me a good grounding in labor law.

                          So let me return again to the topic of this thread. There is no suggestion in anything that I've read that there is any governmental agency - at either the state or the federal level - that would investigate the complaints of these employees, much less "sue" or "resolve" it on their behalf. Vulcan Security is a privately held company owned by the Allens (not issuing public stock), so there would be no "whistleblower" issues with respect to things like investor fraud. There's no Sarbanes-Oxley issue. There's no suggestion that the company defrauded a government or defense agency (DOJ/DoD). There's no interstate commerce issue. There's no OSHA issue. There's no EEOC issue (e.g. racial discrimination). There's no employment tax issue (IRS). There's no illegal worker issue (ICE). I could go on and on...but I think you get the point.

                          The only question I have is whether the employees are alleging that Vulcan created a "hostile work environment". If so, a complaint like that might be handled at the state level by Washington state's Department of L&I, if at all. However, it apparently wasn't. And, from the fact that these people hired an attorney and are suing privately, I think it can be reasonably assumed that either they did not take their complaint to L&I, or if they did, the state declined to take any action based on their allegations. I'm guessing their complaint was rejected by L&I, but that's just a guess.

                          Incidentally, something more general that you might be interested in. ALL federal and state agencies with enforcement responsibilities have a "priority list" that determines how they will allocate their scarce resources. This means that they set certain thresholds or "triggers" for cases that they'll investigate and take to court. If a case doesn't rise to a certain level of "importance" or "criticality" (my words), they're just not going to waste time or money on it. How many people are involved? How much money is involved? How long has the situation been going on? Or, sometimes the agency will take a case that doesn't quite rise to the required thresholds because they want to make an example out of this company in order to discourage other wrong-doers (yes, policy questions enter into the decision and these agencies are not shy to admit it).

                          In other words, these agencies want the "most bang for their buck" when they take a case. Yes, it means that the "little guy's case" often gets round-filed, but that's how the government cookie crumbles. From what I've been able to read about the case, I don't think these employees could interest any agency in their complaints. If we weren't talking about the Allens and their $billions, I doubt they could have interested an attorney in the case either! It all seems rather petty and tawdry to me.
                          Last edited by SecTrainer; 10-02-2011, 12:00 PM.
                          "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

                          "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

                          "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

                          "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by SecTrainer View Post
                            From what I've been able to read about the case, I don't think these employees could interest any agency in their complaints. If we weren't talking about the Allens and their $billions, I doubt they could have interested an attorney in the case either! It all seems rather petty and tawdry to me.
                            Since no REAL information has been released yet, it's a bit premature to label their complaints as petty and tawdry. We don't even really know what those complaints are. There is, however, something that MOST security professionals seem to forget and that is that we are responsible for maintaining our own integrity as well as that of our clients. If our client decides to engage in behavior we feel is immoral or irreprehensible in any way we have a decision to make regarding our employement with that client. We are not paid to be moral compasses for our client, but we do have a responsiblity to maintain our own integrity. Without it, no one will hire us. The credentials of the manager who left over these issues should at least deserve the benefit of the doubt in regard to the possibility of validity of his complaints/concerns. Don't forget there is corruption at some level in many corporations and bureaucracies. Even child services is often staffed with incompetent, uneducated, untrained, and over emotional case workers who make decisions based more on their feelings than what the facts present.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by HC_Security View Post
                              Since no REAL information has been released yet, it's a bit premature to label their complaints as petty and tawdry. We don't even really know what those complaints are. There is, however, something that MOST security professionals seem to forget and that is that we are responsible for maintaining our own integrity as well as that of our clients. If our client decides to engage in behavior we feel is immoral or irreprehensible in any way we have a decision to make regarding our employement with that client. We are not paid to be moral compasses for our client, but we do have a responsiblity to maintain our own integrity. Without it, no one will hire us. The credentials of the manager who left over these issues should at least deserve the benefit of the doubt in regard to the possibility of validity of his complaints/concerns. Don't forget there is corruption at some level in many corporations and bureaucracies. Even child services is often staffed with incompetent, uneducated, untrained, and over emotional case workers who make decisions based more on their feelings than what the facts present.
                              Whatever. You're certainly entitled to your opinion, and you're quite right that if our own integrity is being compromised we have might have to make a choice about our ongoing employment. I'm just not sure that you can sue an employer because he doesn't happen to conform to your personal ideas about what's "ethical" or not. If so, it would be a rather weird legal theory of liability - and it would be a mess to enforce because there can be many perfectly legitimate disagreements between employers and employees about a whole host of "ethical" questions. At the same time, the courts enforce the law. Courts will not enforce someone's notion of "ethics" (unless that "unethical" behavior also involves a question of illegality, etc.).
                              Last edited by SecTrainer; 10-02-2011, 03:57 PM.
                              "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

                              "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

                              "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

                              "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

                              Comment

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