I worked for Company for 14 years. I loved working there for 12 of those years. There were 2 main parts to the job. The first part was the "sales" side of things. This was away from the office, in the customer's location. This involved quite a bit of driving (and on a couple of occasions flying abroad) to work face to face with the customers to deliver a high quality product. We weren't the cheapest, but we were the superior product. And I was the best employee when it came to delivering the product. I consistently got rave reviews from customers for my personal style when it came to delivering the product and executing the customer's vision. I got a huge amount of repeat business and I got a lot of new business through word of mouth with customers recommending the company based on their experiences with me.
The second part was the office side. This was my weaker side. I hated cold calling "potential customers" with numbers I found in the phone book. When it came to answering the phone and speaking to potential customers who initiated contact with us I was fine! But I wasn't great at making the calls. This was my only real not-great part of my job.
So, in the office I wasn't asked to make any calls. Instead I prepared product. Designed new product. Trained new staff members (ended up being one of the biggest parts of my job). I was also the problem solver, helping out whenever and wherever. Filling in for sick employees whenever I could.
I liked the owner and I liked the manager. I liked all the staff who were around me. All in all it was a great job that I was really good at and took pride in.
The company had been doing so well that the owner had slowly expanded over the 12 years since I started working for Company. I had joined about 3 months after he started, so I'd been a part of this expansion. I worked out of my nearest office, but often travelled to other areas to train their staff. I was "loaned out" as it were to other companies to help train their staff. At one point I was a guest lecturer at a University teaching medical students how to deliver complicated explanations to people who don't have the base knowledge that you yourself do.
After 12 years I was on a decent salary. Not massive, but I was happy. Then the owner decided to sell off part of the company. He was selling the area where my local office was. He told me he would love for me to remain as his employee, but I would need to work from a different office. This was either require me to move, or to quadruple (at a minimum) my daily commute. The other option was to remain working from my current office but with a new boss. I chose the second option.
Before the new owner bought the company she worked alongside the staff for a couple of weeks to see how we operated. This was before any of us knew she was about to buy the company. As far as we knew she was just another employee, and she was shadowing us to learn. She came with me on assignments in the field and saw my abilities.
When the sale was announced and we were informed that she was the new owner, everyone was very surprised. She made some sweeping staffing changes. The manager left to start her own business, since the new owner was also going to be the manager. A lot of staff were let go. The secretary, myself and a couple of newer hires were kept on. The new hires were on the lowest wages (not salaries). Anyone who had got to a decent level was let go. Since almost everyone was on a zero hours contract, she was able to do this.
Whilst technically it was a "new company" for the customers it was the same old business. The company still had the same trading name. The only real difference was that there was a new owner and the registered business name was now different. As far as the customers were concerned nothing had changed.
My job for the first few months after the sale was to train up the remaining staff to replace the more experienced staff members who had been let go. I recommended a couple of new hires who I had experience working with in the past. I was open and honest with the owner, and let her know that one of them was a close friend and one of them was my girlfriend. Both were more than qualified for the work and both were happy to join. My friend had recently come back to the country after a year of travelling, whilst my girlfriend could only work during school holidays (worked in a school). The owner gave them both interviews then hired them, since we needed the staff.
Over the next 2 years business started to fall. The reason was simple: The new owner decided to try and maximise profits by increasing prices whilst decreasing the quality of the product. For new customers this wasn't noticeable. They just thought we were expensive and the product wasn't the best. But for old customers who had been with us for 10+ years, they immediately noticed. They were being charged more and were receiving less/worse quality. So the owner doubled down and increased prices again. 95% of our old customers left us. New customers almost never became repeat customers. Complaints sky rocketed.
Whilst all this was going on our staff turnover rate was ridiculous. People left after a few months when they realised that the minimum wage they were being paid wasn't worth it. Under the old owner the average hourly wage for new employees was around 2.5x the minimum wage. This made people care about their jobs and want to keep them. My girlfriend quit. My friend remained, but was looking for something new.
Then I got a phone call. The owner needed me to come to the office. This was unexpected. I had just finished working on location with a customer. My next customer was in 2 and a half hours. It was a half hour drive away. The office was about an hour and 10 minutes away from both locations. If I drove back to the office I would have about 5 minutes in the office before leaving. My mileage was paid above my regular salary, so I was saving the company money by doing this. Also, parking was a nightmare around the second location, so I intended to get there as early as possible to find parking, then read a book. The manager didn't care. She needed me to return to the office. So I did. I arrived back to be handed a letter by the owner. It was informing me of a disciplinary meeting to take place in a couple of days time. I could bring a "witness" along if I so desired.
This knocked me for 6. I was the best employee. I read through her list of complaints about my performance and started working on my defence.
At the meeting I declined to have a witness. Instead I decided to record the audio of the entire meeting on my phone without informing her. Where I live this is legal and I didn't need consent. The boss' witness was her friend who she had met at Yoga and hired for an office role, firing the secretary who had been there long before the takeover.
Every point she raised I could counter. They ranged from the weak:
"You were unavailable to work for a week in August"
"I booked a week's holiday so I could attend my cousin's wedding on the other side of the country and turn it into a holiday."
To the pathetic:
"You were late for work on the 12th of May."
"Is that the day my car broke down and I called the office to let you know?"
"I don't know."
"I do. Here's the receipt from the garage dated May 12th."
To the downright lies. This one I can't write as a quote. Basically, she accused me of gross misconduct for breaking health and safety laws in the way I was delivering a product for a customer. I hadn't broken health and safety laws. I knew exactly what I was doing since, as I've mentioned already, I had been doing this for 14 years at this point. She had witnessed me do this on multiple occasions and had never mentioned it before. Because it wasn't an issue. She even had me train staff in this specific delivery method. Because it wasn't an issue.
She finished her list by telling me that she doesn't want to lose me, but she can't justify keeping such a poor employee at my current salary. I had 2 choices: I could either sign a zero hours contract and work for minimum wage, or she could fire me with 2 weeks notice.
I countered that she would have to give me 12 weeks notice, since my contract guaranteed me 1 week's notice for every year of employment, up to a maximum of 12. She argued that I had only been her employee for 2 years, since before then I worked for the previous owner. I informed her that with how the business takeover had run, it counts as continuous employment. I quoted the exact law and code that backed me up. She asked for a 30 minute break in the meeting to "let me think about her offer". She went to call her lawyer.
When she came back she informed me that since she was firing me for gross misconduct, she didn't have to give me any notice at all. If I wanted to remain and move to the zero hours contract, I could do that today. But if I didn't then she would have to fire me. But because she was nice she would give me the 2 weeks notice. I asked for a couple of hours to go home and think about this. She allowed this.
I knew the reason she wanted me to remain for at least the 2 weeks was because one of our few remaining bigger customers were set to have a product delivery from me in that time. They would only work with me. The owner had tried sending other staff in my place an several occasions, and each time there had been problems. It wasn't the staff's fault. It was just a very difficult delivery for a very specific customer which needed to be perfect. As a result this customer would only deal with me.
I called the office and spoke to the owner. I declined the offer of a zero hours contract and said I would be leaving. She then said she was giving me my 2 weeks notice. I declined her offer of 2 weeks notice. I informed her that if I was being fired for gross misconduct then surely I cannot be relied upon to safely deliver the product. Therefore it would be best for everyone involved if I didn't return to work. She panicked and said that she needed me for those 2 weeks. I feigned ignorance and let her know that I was just thinking about what's best for the company. After all, you can't have unsafe staff delivering your product to your customers. However, if she wanted to rethink the "gross misconduct" accusation then I would work my 12 weeks notice. They were her options. 0 weeks or 12. She chose 12.
For those 12 weeks I worked the same way I had for 14 years. I didn't coast. I didn't slack. I didn't badmouth the company on my way out. I continued to train new staff. I continued to deliver the product in my own, personal, exceptional way. I also got in touch with an lawyer who was a specialist in employment law.
For those 12 weeks the Owner barely spoke to me. She resented the fact that I knew my legal rights and didn't just believe her lies. She hated the fact that I could defend myself. She was petty. She accidentally dropped my mug in the kitchen, breaking it. Most petty of all, she paid for every member of staff in the office to have a spa day... except me. I was asked to work my day off to answer the phones whilst everyone else was being pampered. Nobody knew I hadn't been invited until they arrived at the spa and I wasn't there. Here's the thing; I'm a big fat bearded guy. I have no interest in a spa day. If she had offered it to me I would have thanked her and declined the kind offer. But by pointedly excluding me she was making herself look terrible. For the last 2 weeks I was training up my friend to basically take over from me.
At the end of the 12 weeks my final day came around. The owner had nothing planned. Not so much as a card after 14 years (2 for her). The office assistant manager who had become a friend had got me some presents, but had to give them to me once the boss was gone, for fear of reprisals.
The day after my final day 2 things happened. The first was my friend who I had been training up to replace me quit. He was on a zero hours contract so required no notice. He was unhappy with her treatment of me, and was unhappy that she expected him to do my (previously salaried) job for minimum wage. He hadn't informed me of his plans to leave, and I only learned of it when he knocked on my door in the middle of the day when he should have been at work to let me know.
The second was the owner received a letter informing her that I was bringing legal proceedings against her for constructive dismissal unfair dismissal. I had arranged this with my lawyer to be delivered the day after my final day. According to the office assistant, she went pale and started crying, before leaving the office to call her lawyer.
She refuted my claims for constructive unfair dismissal. Said it was gross misconduct. Tried to come up with some more reasons for firing me. But the truth was that the company was making less money because of her business practices, and I was the highest (and only) salary. I had evidence that I was a great employee. I had evidence that she asked me to move to a zero hours contract. She initially tried to deny this, since the "gross misconduct" fabrication makes no sense if she wanted me to stay. But once my lawyer provided hers with a transcript of the entire meeting along with a copy of the recording, she knew she was fucked. Still, she let the case drag on for over a year. I think she hoped that the legal fees would lead to me dropping the case. Little did she know my lawyer was working on a no-win no-fee basis, whilst hers wasn't. She ended up settling out of court.
The office assistant who had become a friend quit a couple of months after I left. She hated how I was treated and didn't feel feel safe working for such an untrustworthy boss.
Several former customers contacted me personally to enquire why I was no longer with the company. Apparently the owner was telling them that I just quit. I informed them that I had been fired for cost cutting reasons. They moved their business elsewhere. Several offered me jobs. One went so far as to offer me a part time job and to pay for me to attend college to earn a degree required for them to hire me full time. This was a lovely offer, but they were one of the customers who were a bit too far away to commute, and I wasn't ready to move. In the end I found a new job in a different industry where a lot of my skills transferred over. Currently earning more than I was, working less hours and for better owners.
The business is floundering. COVID left the new owner desperate for cash. She cancelled orders but refused to refund customers money, citing an "act of god" clause in the contracts. The business' Facebook and Google reviews have tanked. Most staff left. The business is still afloat, but barely.
TLDR - Owner fired me as a cost cutting measure. I sued and they ended up settling out of court, whilst the person they planned to replace me with quit.
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