"Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that
which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed."
Several months after the Registry merged with the Blood Center, I was out sick for a few days. On the third day that I was out, I was notified by my fellow employees at the Registry that something was going on at the office. Apparently, there was some sort of a problem with one employee’s computer, which would not boot up. I guess one or more of the IT people from the Blood Center must have come over to our office to look at it, and the next thing you know, Management is suggesting to my co-workers that I might have sabotaged either that computer or the entire local area network. That same day, they had the locks on the doors changed, and the Staff was told that I was not to be allowed back into the office. My Office.
I was never notified of what was going on by Management, other than a threatening sounding voicemail that was left for me by C.T. She was the Blood Center’s Director of Human Resources as well as the CEO’s sister-in-law, who either on or soon after the day in question left me a message saying that “things do not bode well for me”. After the way I was already being treated by Management at the Blood Center over the previous few weeks, then being suspected of what could be considered a criminal act, and then being locked-out of my own office, I decided to hire an attorney.
For the record I will state that I did absolutely nothing malicious whatsoever, either to the computer they were supposedly having a problem with, or any other equipment at the Registry. I believe Management eventually figured this out on their own. Did Management ever apologize for the misunderstanding? No. Did Management ever acknowledge the true reason they locked me out of the Registry? No. When I raised this issue later on, during a meeting I had with C.T., she gave me some ridiculous, implausible excuse as to why I had been locked out. In fact, during the nearly two-hour meeting I had with C.T., weeks after this incident, I felt there wasn’t any truth in anything she said to me. So here I was, having to deal with their Director of Human Resources who I felt I couldn’t trust. Sure, she was civil, and she smiled a lot, but it seemed to me that she simply couldn’t bring herself to being honest with me. The CEO, her brother-in-law D.T., wouldn’t speak to me. I thought of Dorothy, standing at the door of the Palace, trying to get to see the Wizard of Oz. The Wizard hid behind his Palace doorman. To me, it seemed that D.T. hid behind his sister-in-law. Too bad I didn’t have a pail of water handy. I could have also used a little dog named Toto. He would have pulled back the curtain, exposing the man who was pulling the levers. It worked for Dorothy.
It has been pointed out to me by readers that the Palace doorman in the Wizard of Oz was really the Wizard. That is true. He was also Professor Marvel, the traveling snake-oil salesman from Kansas. In fact, many of the characters in the Wizard of Oz had multiple personalities, as it were. But were C.T. and D.T., in fact, the same person, sort of like Superman and Clark Kent? No. At least I don’t think so. But then, I’m not as smart as Toto was. When Dorothy woke up, she realized it was all just a bad dream. Sort of like my involvement with the Blood Center.
Sadly, the Management of the Bergen Community Regional Blood Center lacked the integrity and decency that I expect from my employer. If the way they treated me is any gauge, they do not know how to treat their employees with respect and decency. I feel sorry for the many good people that work there. If you are a current Blood Center employee, my best advice to you is to once again unionize. And to the members of the Blood Center’s Board of Directors… Wake up!
I suspect that they never acknowledged the fact that they had openly suspected me of sabotage because they were concerned that they could be sued for slander. I also believe they were able to convince themselves that I might have resorted to sabotage because of how they were treating me. I also question whether any of the Blood Center employees that might have tried to diagnose the apparent computer problem at the Registry had sufficient expertise to correctly determine the problem. I have seen many instances over the years where inexperienced computer support personnel have difficulty determining whether a problem is caused by software or hardware. Often, an inexperienced technician’s first diagnosis is that a computer is infected with a virus, which is usually not the case. In fact, during my entire time at the Registry, I never saw a single computer problem traceable to an infected machine. Of course, as corporate and home networks are increasingly exposed to Internet-based threats, the incidence of compromised systems has increased dramatically in recent years. That is why network security has become one of the hottest areas in the IT field.
For those who don’t know me, I will tell you what I told C.T. during that worthless meeting; There is absolutely nothing that they or anyone else could ever do to me that would cause me to sabotage an employer’s systems. But having said that, I will also assure the reader of this; If I had wanted to sabotage the computers at the Registry, you can be certain that not a single computer would work, there would be no files on any of hard drives, there would be no backup tapes to restore the systems from, the phones would be dead, the fax machines, printers, microwave oven, coffee maker, clocks, Xerox machines, postage meter and everything else electronic would be completely inoperative and unrepairable, and the toilets would not flush. And you’d better bring a flashlight or candles to work. Elie Katz could have told you that because he knew how capable I am, but at the same time he would have never believed that I would do something like that. Never. Not even for a second. He placed great trust in me. The Management at the Blood Center on the other hand, hardly knew me, and apparently didn’t care to avail themselves of what I had to offer them. That, I believe, is their loss.
I have spent 30 years - my entire career, working in the computer field. I earned three college degrees in Computer Science. Until the episode I have just described, I had never been suspected of misconduct by an employer. Quite to the contrary, I have had former employers tell me that the door would always be open for me. I consider myself to be professional, impeccably honest and ethical. I was not about to stoop to the level of the people I found myself surrounded by. I could do much better than that. So, sixteen years of loyal, dedicated service, down the drain.
To my co-workers at the Registry who demonstrated their trust, loyalty and decency by keeping me informed about what was taking place, Thank You. I will be forever in your debt.
What had taken place with the people from the Blood Center left me angry, very hurt, and concerned that I might have to defend myself against charges that I sabotaged equipment at the Registry. I was also very upset that so many years of work at the Registry had ended up in a situation where the people I was working for did not trust me, didn’t seem to value my input on anything, and apparently felt they didn’t need me.
Prior to the situation I just described with the Blood Center, I had never had occasion to speak with an attorney for any reason, much less retain one to represent me. My only contact with lawyers to that point had been as a juror. It seems the Courts here in New Jersey must like me, because I get summoned for jury service every two or three years. The pay ain’t so great, but it is a priceless educational experience, and I would urge everyone to participate in our justice system when given the opportunity to be a juror. I’ve been a juror in several criminal trials, including a murder trial in which I was the jury foreman. I’ve also sat thru jury selection in civil cases, but was never seated for one.
I never had the contempt for lawyers that a lot of people seem to have, judging by the popularity of lawyer jokes. Some of the attorneys I’ve seen at work in courtrooms were very good, and some seemed barely competent. I guess that’s no different than any other profession. I’ve never considered a career in law, and I don’t think I’d particularly enjoy that type of work.
As an aside - The office building where the Registry was located was owned by a law firm that specialized in construction industry litigation. They occupied half of the building. The only contact I ever had with them was the day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Their IT manager came into our office asking if we could help them. They had lost their voice and data lines because the telecommunications carrier that they were using had facilities at the World Trade Center that were destroyed in the attack. They wanted to know if they could share our Internet connection. We had recently installed a DSL line and we had no interruption in our service. I prepared a connection for them to hook up to, but they located someone else on their floor that provided a connection for them, so they never connected to our network.
I did some research, and called a few law firms in my area that specialize in employment law. The first firm I contacted declined to speak with me because they apparently had some type of prior relationship with the Blood Center, and were concerned that it would represent a conflict of interest. I found a law firm with offices near my home that I scheduled a consultation with. I met with one of their attorneys, and decided to let them represent me.
My attorney attempted to discuss the situation with the attorney for the Blood Center, but didn’t get very far with them. They would not even discuss the events that had taken place that resulted in my being locked out of the Registry. My attorney explained to me that because I did not have an employment contract with either the HLA Registry Foundation or the Bergen Community Regional Blood Center, I was considered an employee “at will”, and there was little that I could expect from the Blood Center. Certainly, I knew I could not count on their good will.
My attorney felt that I could sue the Blood Center for things like accrued vacation and sick time which they refused to pay me, but I could not force the Blood Center to provide severance benefits. He suggested that because of the relatively small amount of money involved, it might make more sense for me to file a civil lawsuit pro se, and try to collect the money I was owed thru the Courts.
About six months after the farewell party that the Blood Center threw for me (not), I received a phone call from D.D., the Bookkeeper turned Director of the Registry. She needed some help with a computer application which, although not written by me, was one which I provided support for when I was the IS manager. I guess she swallowed her pride and decided to ask for my assistance. What do I look like, your help desk? Either D.D. was really, really desperate, very naïve, under the influence of a prescription narcotic that was impairing her judgment, or else she was not as smart as I’ve always given her credit for.
What was she thinking? I explained that I could not help her. Let me rephrase that… I certainly could help her, but I had absolutely no desire to do so. I reminded her that I was no longer an employee of the Blood Center. I assured her that it was nothing personal. If she had a problem with her computer at home, I probably would have offered to come over and help her. That would have been like déjà vu, all over again. Being so eager to help people is what got me into this mess in the first place, back in 1986, when Elie Katz needed help. I told her to have her boss, D.T., give me a call to discuss the situation. I wasn’t about to hold my breath waiting for his call. That’s a good thing, because I like oxygen, and he never called. I doubt that D.D. dared to pass along my message.
Had the Blood Center not treated me the way they did, I would have been more than happy to help them. Why didn’t D.D. ask the Oracle of Paramus for assistance? The Blood Center’s Director of Information Technology should have been the one she went to for help. After all, when I tried to discuss what was going on at the Registry with him, shortly before they locked me out, he said to me, “It’s not your problem, it’s my problem”. I believe he was correct.
Rule of thumb: If there is any possibility whatsoever that you may ever need someone’s help in the future, you are ill advised to treat them the way the Blood Center treated me. I believe it falls under the heading of “burning your bridges”.
I started to read books on representing yourself in Court and researched Internet resources on the subject. In New Jersey as in other states, there are several “parts” to the Civil Courts. Lawsuits are heard in the different parts, depending on the type of dispute and dollar amount being sued for. There are Landlord/Tenant, Small Claims, Special Civil, and Civil cases.
I filed a lawsuit against the Bergen Community Regional Blood Center in Bergen County (NJ) Superior Court, Special Civil part, seeking payment for the accrued vacation and sick time I was owed, but which they claimed I was not entitled to. I was also seeking attorney’s fees (for the legal expenses I incurred when I retained a lawyer) and the cost of filing the lawsuit.
Shortly after the Court served the Blood Center with the lawsuit, their attorney contacted me. They were being represented by the law firm of Peterpaul, Clark & Corcoran, of Springfield, NJ,
and the attorney handling the case was L.P.
L.P. contacted me by phone with good news. They were willing to settle the case. The dollar amount she mentioned was an insult. I told her they could offer me what I was suing them for, or else I’d see them in Court, since I felt I had a very strong case. She did not counter with a better offer, so it appeared we would indeed be going to trial.
One of the ways that attorneys prepare for a trial is thru the Discovery process. The purpose is to learn what evidence the other side intends to introduce at trial, who their witnesses will be, and what they understand the facts in the case to be. Each side can also issue subpoenas for documents and other evidence to the other side’s attorney, who is compelled to produce the items in a timely manner. There are Court Rules, which attorneys must adhere to regarding Discovery.
As expected, I received several pages of interrogatories from L.P., seeking information from me. I also sent my own set of interrogatories to L.P., as well as two Notices In Lieu Of Subpoena requesting various documents, which under the Court Rules, have the same effect as issuing a formal subpoena. I also issued Subpoenas Ad Testificandum to compel D.D., D.P., and K.A., who were employees of the Blood Center that had knowledge of the facts in the case, to testify. I hired a process server to deliver the subpoenas, although under New Jersey law (unlike some other states), any adult may serve a subpoena, at any time, anywhere in the State.
L.P. did not respond to my interrogatories within the length of time required under the Court Rules, and even when she did eventually return them, some of her responses were incomplete. One of the Interrogatory questions I sent to L.P. asked if the Blood Center had been defendants in other lawsuits during the previous five years, and if so, to provide specifics. Her reply seemed to indicate that there had been other lawsuits, but I was never provided with the details I asked for. If the reader has been involved in litigation with the Blood Center, or if you have knowledge of such litigation, I would be most interested to learn the details. You can contact me by e-mail.
One thing that the Blood Center did acknowledge via their answers to my interrogatories was that there were absolutely no disciplinary actions, reprimands or anything else relating to misconduct or complaints against me in the 16 years that I had been employed by the Registry and the Blood Center. Indeed there was not. I never had a problem there until they took over. As I have said, I enjoyed my job, I got along with my fellow employees, and I would never do anything to damage the Registry, the Blood Center, or any other employer I have ever worked for.
I received virtually none of the items that I was seeking in the two Notices In Lieu Of Subpoena that I had issued, although the responses they gave to some of my Interrogatory questions made it less important for me to have some of that material. I feel that if someone wants to practice law, they should be prepared to follow the Rules of the Court. A judge can find a party in default and issue a summary judgment, or impose other sanctions if one of the parties fails to produce evidence requested during Discovery. I’m really quite surprised that an attorney might risk loosing a case over something as simple as that.
By the time I issued the subpoenas, I was aware that C.T., the Director of Human Resources, was no longer working at the Blood Center, so I could not have her served there. I asked their attorney, L.P., to provide an address where C.T. could be served with the subpoena. Her response, incredibly, was that she had no idea as to the whereabouts of C.T. I thought this was sort of strange, since CT was married to the brother of the Blood Center’s CEO. Could their attorney be shielding C.T. from my subpoena? If she was, is that proper conduct for an Officer of the Court? Come out, come out, wherever you are !
Since the process server did not quickly locate C.T, although both he and I had what we believed were probably good former and current addresses for her, I decided to put on my process server hat. I think that the process server simply felt it wasn’t worth his time to be running all over New Jersey after C.T., since he didn’t have an address where he was absolutely sure he would find her.
If you want something done right, do it yourself, I thought. When I was heading over to one of CT’s possible addresses, I called the local Police to let them know who I was, and that I would be attempting to serve a subpoena at the address in question. I even gave them a description of my car. Clare Boothe Luce would have told me not to bother, but I figured that a concerned neighbor might call the Police to report a suspicious person - me.
It didn’t take long for someone to call the Police. Of course, when they arrived, they claimed to not have any knowledge of me calling Police Headquarters earlier that afternoon. They really didn’t believe that I had called at all, notwithstanding the fact that I was not required to do so. I had simply called as a courtesy, and to prevent being hassled. Why did I even bother. Once I showed the subpoena to the cops, they went away.
My “stakeout” came up empty on that day, but I returned a day or two later, and found a gentleman leaving the home at the address I was watching. I approached him and asked about C.T.’s whereabouts. He claimed to be a friend of C.T.s ex-husband (whom she divorced before becoming the Blood Center CEO’s sister-in-law) who was staying at the ex-husband’s home. While this fellow had lots to say about C.T., he did not have any idea where I could find her. I assumed he was being honest with me, although I thought there was a possibility he might be protecting C.T. from being served. Anyway, I still had the process server telling me that he was attempting to locate C.T., and I had suspected initially that this might have been a former address for C.T. anyway.
I did not bother to continue pursuing serving C.T. myself, since it was time consuming. Unfortunately, neither did the process server. In any case, I intended to bring up in Court the fact that the Blood Center’s attorney would not cooperate with my requests to locate C.T. I could have filed a pre-trial motion asking the Court to compel the release of the information I needed, but by this time, we were only a few days away from the Trial date. I left it to my trusty process server, who never served the subpoena on C.T., although he did serve three of my former co-workers at the Registry’s office in River Edge.
On Monday, June 14, 2004, I showed up at Bergen County Superior Court in Hackensack, NJ . After negotiating the magnetometers and x-ray machines, I found my way to the courtroom. As I walked down the corridor, who should I find sitting on a bench outside the courtroom? Why it’s L.P., the attorney for the Blood Center. And who is that sitting next to her? Gee, it looks like the elusive C.T. Why, it is C.T.!!! I guess L.P. did know where to find her after all. Sneaky, sneaky.
I had anticipated this happening. If the Blood Center’s attorney were to call C.T. as a witness, and I had not issued my own subpoena, I would be limited to cross-examining her, and I would be barred from direct-examination. I pulled out a subpoena for C.T. and served her with it on the spot. L.P. complained that I could not serve her client inside the Courthouse, but then said she would waive that immunity, since as a practical matter, I could follow her out the door and immediately serve her outside. C.T. got served.
The real reason I suspect that L.P. allowed me to serve the subpoena inside the courthouse is that should it have become an issue in Court, there is no way the Judge would have tolerated her previously shielding C.T. from being served, and L.P. realized that.
Of course, I didn’t know for certain why C.T. was there. Perhaps she just wanted to see how the justice system works. More likely, L.P. was planning on calling C.T. as a witness.
The first floor courtroom we were told to report to was really just an initial screening process, not the Trial. When my case was called, the Judge wanted to know if we had tried to reach a settlement, and both myself and L.P. indicated yes, but without success. I had been told to expect that the Court would require both sides to meet with an arbitrator prior to trial, to see if a settlement could be reached.
Instead, the Judge tells us to step out into the hallway and try to reach a settlement on our own. What happened to my arbitrator? L.P. did indeed have a new offer for me, which was, if I remember correctly, double the original offer she made on the phone shortly after I filed the lawsuit. Oh, and she’s telling me how great a guy everyone at the Registry tells her I am. What do I look like, an idiot? I already knew that my co-workers at the Registry thought pretty highly of me, and I didn’t need their lawyer buttering me up. Then she tells me that they will structure the settlement for “pain and suffering”, so it will be tax free. I told her I’d rather get everything I’m suing for and pay my taxes. No deal. We go back to the Judge and tell him we can’t reach a settlement. As it turns out, and no big surprise to me, there is no way the settlement could have been structured to make it tax-free. I checked the IRS regulations regarding financial settlements for pain and suffering, and unless the case involves significant physicial injury, the settlement proceeds are taxable. If L.P. didn’t know this, she certainly should have. If she did know, then I would think it is unethical to suggest otherwise.
The attorney I had initially retained had warned me that the Court will try to talk me out of a Jury trial, since they tend to take much longer than a case tried by a Judge. However, I had the right to request a Jury trial if I so wished, and I did. Sure enough, this first Judge turns to me looking exasperated, and says “Do you know anything about picking a Jury”? I assured him that I did, and that in fact, I had even prepared questions for the voir dire. He warned that we would probably have to come back another day if it was going to be a Jury trial. With that, we were sent upstairs to see an Assignment Judge, whose job it is to assign the case to a Trial Judge.
The Bergen County Courthouse, like many courthouses, consists of an old courthouse and a newer annex, but to get from one side of the complex to the other, you have to take the elevator up to another floor, walk across a connecting corridor, and go back downstairs, or to whatever floor you are heading to. In addition, the old building has a rotunda and some labyrinth-like corridors. You almost need a GPS receiver to navigate the place. I kept getting lost. Miraculously, I got to the courtroom where we were to see the Assignment Judge. He said he had a couple of Trial Judges ready to go (sort of like the sign at the barber shop “Six Barbers – No Waiting”), so it looked like the Trial would begin today after all. If, that is, I ever find the next courtroom.
Miraculously, I find my way to the next courtroom, where the case will be tried. It was in the old part of the courthouse. Have you ever seen the movie Inherit The Wind? It was pretty hot for mid-June, and this courtroom could have been right out of that movie. Easily 90 degrees Farenheit inside. There were two ineffective window air conditioners that did little to cool the courtroom. I think a puddle formed around my feet. I thought I was going to suffer heatstroke, so I took my jacket off. That poor Judge had to wear his robes. Maybe he only had underwear on underneath – I didn’t ask. All we needed was Spencer Tracy, Harry Morgan, Gene Kelly, a monkey, and everyone waving those little handheld fans to cool themselves off. This is the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth. We put men on the moon more than 35 years ago… We can send a Cruise missile 1,000 miles, in complete darkness, and have it hit a dime… We can wave our keychain in the air and magically pay for our purchases… But our justice system is still stuck in the first half of the 20th Century. You know that statue of blind Justice holding the scale, in the lobby of the courthouse? Remove her blindfold, and I bet you’ll see that she’s crying.
When the panel of Jurors filed in, it only sent the temperature even higher. Then the Judge starts addressing the Jurors, but because they are seated in the back of the courtroom, and the meat grinders/air conditioners are making so much noise, they can’t hear him. He orders one of the air conditioners turned off. Oh no. Please dear God, no.
I prepared three pre-trial Motions for the Judge to consider. One of them was seeking the disqualification of L.P. as the defense attorney. It had been brought to my attention by my friends at the Registry that they were doing bone marrow donor recruitment drives for L.P.’s nephew (small world, isn’t it?), who was in need of a transplant, and L.P. was involved with the drives. About a month before the Trial date, there was coverage of one of the drives in the Morristown (NJ) Daily Record, along with a photo of L.P. working at the drive. I printed several 8 x 10 copies of the photo, and I attached the newspaper article to my motions. I realized that if L.P. were representing me, her involvement with the Registry would have been a clear-cut conflict of interest. I wasn’t sure if the Court would have a problem with her involvement with the Registry and the Blood Center outside of her role as their attorney.
I was approaching the Clerk with my three Motions, but I didn’t even make it to the bench when L.P. caught a glimpse of her photo in my hand. She jumped out of her chair and started protesting to the Judge about how unfair it was for me to be bringing up her nephew’s medical problems. She sounded on the verge of tears. I wasn’t sure if she was putting on an act or if it was genuine emotion, but I was really surprised by it. Don’t lawyers learn to grow a hard shell that can deflect what their adversary throws at them? I wasn’t even a lawyer, and I wasn’t even trying to rattle her cage, but it appeared that I had just penetrated her armor.
It turned out that the Judge summarily denied two of my Motions, which included the disqualification of L.P., and conditionally denied the third Motion, so it was much ado about nothing.
One of my Motions was seeking a summary judgment because L.P. failed to provide the items I had requested in my Notices In Lieu Of Subpoena, both of which were delivered to her office by Certified Mail with Return Receipt. While she claimed to have received only one of the notices, and that it wasn’t practical to provide everything I was seeking, the Judge was buying none of it. He admonished L.P., and with respect to the contents of my personnel file which I had requested, he told L.P. that I was entitled to my personnel file in it’s entirety, and that she will have it in Court the next morning. That made me very happy.
Before we started Jury selection, the Judge called L.P., and myself, alternately, into his chambers. He is trying to get each of us closer to a dollar amount we can both agree on. This goes back and forth a couple of times before we start trying to seat a Jury. Maybe he wanted to get out early for a round of golf, or maybe it’s just in the interest of swift justice to try and dispose of cases as quickly as possible. Whatever the reason, he was trying real hard to get us to reach a settlement.
So, we proceed with picking a Jury and the voir dire. I was much more finicky than L.P. was. She did not excuse a single prospective Juror, which surprised me a bit, while I excused three or four. Another thing that slowed the Jury selection down was the questions I submitted for the voir dire. I wanted the Jurors questioned as to whether they had ever donated money or blood to the Blood Center, ever received a transfusion at an area hospital, or had any family experience with bone marrow transplants or joining a bone marrow registry. L.P. wanted each Juror questioned privately at sidebar for the medical questions, so everyone had to keep running up to the bench and sitting down, as each Juror was questioned. Miraculously, we seated the Jury before the lunch break.
Before we broke for lunch, the Judge calls each side into chambers once again. Now we are up to a settlement offer that is roughly 75% of what I’m suing for. He reminds me how unpredictable and fickle juries can be, and in his very avuncular fashion tells me it is a very good offer. He urges me to accept it. Perhaps, having to wear his robes, he was even hotter than I was. I asked him if I could think about it during lunch, and give him my answer when we return from lunch. He agrees.
It was a difficult decision for me. I was suing on principle just as much as I was for the money I felt I was owed. I could not imagine what defense the Blood Center could possibly mount to convince a Jury that I was not entitled to what I was seeking. It appeared to me that the answers they supplied to my interrogatories supported my case. Actually, I was surprised at the extent to which their interrogatory answers agreed with my contentions. It didn’t seem to give them a lot of wiggle room, but perhaps L.P. had a secret weapon at the ready. Somehow though, I doubt it. I also would have liked to have a Jury pass judgment on my claims, and for the verdict to be on the public record.
On the other hand, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Besides, I feared that tomorrow would be even hotter than today, and I didn’t think I’d survive another day in the oven.
We recessed for lunch.
When Court resumed, I told the Judge I would accept their settlement offer, provided that there was no confidentiality clause in the agreement. L.P. asked the Judge for a short recess, apparently to call D.T. and get his approval for the settlement amount that she had offered me. The settlement offer was approved by the Blood Center. You didn’t really think he would say no, and proceed with the Trial, now did you? The Judge dismissed the Jury, and he instructed L.P. to draft the agreement and get it to me quickly, and forward the settlement monies without delay once I executed the agreement. The Trial was over before it started. The Jurors looked happy. The best part… I didn’t have to come back to the sauna tomorrow.
I wonder how many truces have been signed, union contracts agreed upon and court cases settled because it was just too hot to continue the battle. It makes me wonder… If the courts have figured out that the number of cases that get settled without going thru a complete trial is directly proportional to the temperature in the courtroom, maybe they keep it hot on purpose.
As everyone begins walking out of the courtroom, L.P. comes over to me, and asks if she could have the photos of herself at the bone marrow drive. I gave them to her. I don’t remember if she said “Thank You”.
When doing research for this story, I learned that L.P.’s nephew subsequently died. He was only 11 years old. I was truly sorry to hear that. Wouldn’t it have been both ironic as well as wonderful, if a bone marrow donor that was identified because of a computer system that I created had saved his life?
Hopefully, L.P. and her family, the people at the Blood Center, and the reader will recognize the contributions I made to the Registry, and realize that individuals like L.P.’s nephew have benefited from the organization I had a hand in building.
A week or so later, I received the prepared settlement agreement from L.P. by Certified Mail. It arrived POSTAGE DUE. Perhaps it was simply an oversight, or perhaps it was intended as a slap in the face; I don’t know for certain. In any case, I attempted to get L.P. to reimburse me for the postage. I even brought it up with the Court. I was not able to get reimbursed. To some, it probably seems frivolous, and indeed it probably is. The point was not the money, but rather the principle. If I learned that correspondence I had sent to someone arrived postage due because of my mistake, I’d be mortified. I’d certainly send an apology and money to cover the recipient’s expense, simply as a matter of courtesy, and without being asked. Sadly, not everyone feels that way. What would Miss Manners say?
Because of L.P.’s refusal to reimburse me for the postage, I will no longer accept postage due mail from anyone. I will also not accept Certified, Registered, or Return Receipt Mail. I will only accept regular First Class Mail that bears the correct postage. Of course, there’s always e-mail.
I signed the agreement and returned it to L.P., and received a check for the full amount of the settlement shortly afterwards.
The moral of the story ? If someone, especially an employer tries to cheat you, take them to court. Never accept their initial settlement offer. When you get to court, don’t settle on the ground floor (both literally and figuratively). If you feel you have a strong case, don’t compromise - unless it’s too hot.
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the courtroom.
If you don’t see a CHAPTERS index to the left, click here !