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 I was recently laid off in that my contract was terminated.

This happened to me while I was on vacation. They had never discussed anything with me before I left. The letter said they were happy with my work and would give me a good reference. They did this by email. They owed me money and I had to chase them up about it.

I get back from my vacation and was back a week and received a text from my old manager asking me when I was coming into work. I was puzzled so I tried to call and got voicemail and left a message politely asking what was going on that I thought my contract was ended.

I hear nothing for more than a week. I receive a call asking me to come in and help them get the new person up to speed as they weren't as skilled as I was. They wanted me to come in for several days to a week, get this, for free. 

I was polite but ticked off about it so I just said I was working and would have to check my schedule and get back to them on that.

Do I have any obligation to go help them for free?

 

 

 

 

 

 

buhlerar's picture

You do have an obligation to hand over any documentation, equipment, or in-process work product you were working on when your contract was terminated.  Also any passwords, etc. that someone else might need to get into any systems that you were accessing (if they can't get into it another way).  And if you already left it all at the office, you might be polite enough to field a brief question or two about where something is.

But of course you are not obligated to work for free -- I'm sure you'll get near-unanimous agreement about that point.  And I would go further -- if they offer to extend your contract (pay you for your time), you are under no obligation to do that even if they offer to pay.  I suppose you could agree to it if you felt so inclined, but even the offer of pay is just an offer, not an obligation.

If you resign, you have a professional obligation to at least give them a couple of weeks notice (may vary by country) and offer to spend time doing a more involved hand-off of your work (most likely to an interim person -- your manager or a peer -- since they usually can't identify a full-time replacement within 2 weeks).  They might decline your offer and walk you out the door immediately, but you should make yourself available as a professional courtesy.

On the other hand, if I lay off or fire someone, I know I can't expect them to do any other work (other than what I said in the first paragraph).  This manager is showing poor taste in even asking, but you should remain professional (remember: you are allowed to be angry, but not allowed to show it).  I would recommend saying something like "I'm sorry I won't be able to help you with the transition.  I'm focused on my next opportunity."  Do not list your grievances or mention how unprofessional they were, just decline politely.

TomW's picture

As long as the company has all of their property, both physical and intellectual, you don't owe them anything.

I'd just politely decline (probably while sharply twisting a towel in my hands)

nadaali's picture

You owe them a handover of company property, passwords, files, data, contacts and so on, which you probably did prior to going on leave.

 Nada S. Ali

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stephenbooth_uk's picture

 As I see it you have no obligation, legal or moral, to go in (other than to return physical property, keys &c) unless there was a clause to do so in your original contract.  I think I'd be tempted, in that siotuation, to decline to go in but arrange a time they can pick it up from my home or ask for them to pay for and arrange a courier company to pick it up.  You might want to check with a lawyer on the legal side.

As for handing over intellectual property...my feeling is that whilst such an obligation would normally exist by laying you off whilst on leave and hiring someone else to take on the work the employer has forfieted that.  On the other hand if you're relying on them for a reference and want to be judged as professional you should as a minimum hand over any documents in the state they already exist and any passwords required to access them (that is any passwords on the files themselves or secure memory sticks, their IT staff can reset passwords for shared drives &c).  Obviously you still have an obligation to not misuse any of their intellectual property, sabotage it in any way (e.g. deliberate infection with a virus, putting a profane audio file in the middle of a presentation due to go to their biggest customer &c) or provide access to it to those who should not have access (e.g. send key design specs of their core product to all of their competitors)

If they want you to come in for a non-trivial period of time then I think it would be entirely resonable for you to request payment and name a day rate significantly above your previous rate of pay (you're a consultant now).

I presume that you're not in the UK.  If they have hired someone to replace you after making you redundant and are in the UK then they have breached one of the few UK employment laws where the tribunal tends to find in favour of the employee.  Making someone redundant so as to take on someone cheaper to do the same work is illegal.  It includes a cost to the state, therefore the state (through the tribunal) tends to take a very, very dim view of employers who do it.

Stephen

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Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack

 

naraa's picture

From what you wrote it almost sounds like somebody else other than your manager decided to terminate your contract, and that your manager was surprised too.  Otherwise, the comment from your manager on when you are going back to work doesn´t make sense!  Was the letter ending your contract signed by your manager?

People from companies can mess things up.  Don´t take it personally.  It is not worthy it.  

But regardless of what has happened you are in no obligation of ever working again for them if you don´t want to, paid or not paid.  Even more so if they call you in to get the person they hire to replace you up to speed.  I bet you would not agree to meet your partner´s new girlfriend/boyfriend to explain to her/him how your partner´s liked his/her coffee after he/she dumped you!  It is not the same situation, but you are allowed to feel angry here too.  It is just not worthy acting based on anger, as mentioned here, and it seems like this is what you don´t want to do, so you are confused whether you should help them.  But not helping your ex-employer is not acting on anger, so don´t worry, it is moving on, and you are more than entitled to do that.

I agree on what has been said before that any work related documentation, equipment, in-process work, etc must be left behind or hand over for the next person to continue with the job.

I always like to think and act on the job as "the company" (or my manager from this company) owns nothing to me and I own nothing to them.  So in case something happens and we get appart (and lot´s of things could happen...) we are both fine and can both move on with our "lives" apart from each other.  Things will be different on both sides, but there will be no regrets.

Nara

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jib88's picture

I have a difficult time imagining someone doing this without cause. That doesn't mean stuff like this doesn't happen, but they apparently have the budget to hire someone different, so why the sudden change in personnel? At any rate, I think you owe them nothing at this point, regardless of whatever access, files, etc you may have had. Let them come pick the stuff up themselves if you do have anything physical. If it's passwords, let their IT people figure out how to reset them and unlock stuff. The manager that would do this deserves to deal with the mess it creates.

In general I would not want to burn bridges, but I think in this case I would not give them any consideration. I think you should remain polite, but I would not return for anything. The behavior you described is atrocious. Laying you off while on vacation, and doing it via email? That's someone I would not consider working for again.

-Jib

Tribble's picture

Thanks for all the great replies. No I didn't show any anger to them in any way at all. I was just thinking how absurd. Of course I wouldn't say or do anything unprofessional. 

This place was so hot for me to renew my contract and was hounding me daily to do it. So less than 2 months after my renewal they tell me by email my contract is ended. I am very expensive and difficult to engage because I am usually booked solid. 

I suspect my replacement is someone who already works there but just doesn't have the skill set and is paid a lot less than me.

Fortunately, I don't have any obscure passwords just tags to 5 different buildings but I'm sure they were de activated. I could drop them off at the security desk but they are just plain access cards.

I suspect they just wanted me to get the person up to speed on what I had done. It would be obvious to anyone who knew what they were doing. A nightmare for someone who doesn't. haha. And some companies try to say 25 years of experience doesn't mean anything and any kid fresh of out uni can do what I do. hahaha Good luck with that!

 

 

PaulSchweer's picture

TRIBBLE said:  "I suspect they just wanted me to get the person up to speed on what I had done. It would be obvious to anyone who knew what they were doing. A nightmare for someone who doesn't. haha. And some companies try to say 25 years of experience doesn't mean anything and any kid fresh of out uni can do what I do. hahaha Good luck with that!"

haha?

hahaha?

Paul Schweer

gpeden's picture

A few thoughts:

" I was recently laid off in that my contract was terminated." Too be clear you were not laid off, your contract was terminated.    You can't have it both ways (the high pay of a contractor, but the job security and rights of an employee).  I contracted for awhile, and came in one day and found out the project was cancelled and they would not longer need my services.  That is the contractor gig.

* your comment : "I was polite but ticked off about it so I just said I was working and would have to check my schedule and get back to them on that." strikes me as passive/aggressive and unprofessional. Not doing the work because you are 'mad' seems a bit childish.

* Doing a few days of work for free could generate a lot of goodwill. You take the high road, "give to get".  Since you are out of there anyway. leaving them thinking 'Wow, we pull the plug on Tribble and he really handled it with poise and integrity and didn't try to stick it to us". They might even think they made a mistake and in a few weeks want you back (at a higher rate...).  

* Seems a good middle ground could be to negotiate a short term T&M contract  / SOW for the handoff and move on. "Sure, I can help, my short term rate is X/hr". If they decline then you can both move on, if they say yes then you leave on good terms with a bit of cash.

 

g

 

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Mark's picture

I generally fall on the side of trying to be helpful, but this is too much to ask.  It's incredibly rude of them, and I would politely decline.

I would NOT recommend being snarky or clever.  Just say, I'm sorry, I'm busy, best wishes.

Mark

naraa's picture

 Mark, thanks for giving your point of view on this discussion. Before i read your comment i read the previous one and thought perhaps i am wrong and even if the company hás acted badly, the contractor should still help them out to generate goodwill as was said.  

You have asked which topics we thought could be most helpfull for women to advance on their carreer and there were discussion saying the podcast didn't have to be specific for women.  I think of women as i give you a suggestion of a podcast which is linked to the essence of this discussion, just because that is the experience i have had observing my own life and young professionals, but it most possibly applies for a lot of people regardless of their gender.  

Some people are very centered on their own needs and fail to see or be concerned about the impact of their actions on the company or other peoples needs.  Some are so centered and concerned about other peoples needs and wanting to be helpfull that fail to act properly to defend their own needs.  Others swing between the two and only sometimes find the balance.   Can you give us some directions to make finding the balance easier?  Where does one draw the line between acting towards promoting goodwill, showing understanding, avoiding friction and fighting for and defending  one's own self worth?

It sounds rather philosophical... I am sure if anybody can put it in practical recomendations is you.  perhaps there even already are podcasts along that line....

Thanks,

Nara