Unethical, Possibly Illegal Daily!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about management misconduct:

I have worked in the advertising sales department of a daily newspaper for over 20 years. It was always a good place to work and I had a boss with very high ethical standards. My boss, who had been there 40 years, was forced out by new top management and in the last several years, the middle management has condoned what I consider to be downright stealing from customers, i.e., billing for ads even when ads did not appear in the paper (“only give credit if the customer happens to notice & calls to complain”) charging for daily internet ads when the website was down for days at a time, neglecting to tell long-time customers that they would actually pay less for their ads if they gave up their so-called special low rate contracts, etc. I could go on and on…

I have brought all these problems to the attention of managers but they do nothing about it. I have always gotten great satisfaction out of my job by delivering outstanding customer service and I have great relationships with my accounts, but now I can’t sleep at night (I’m typing this at 4 a.m.!) and I’m sick-at-heart and sick-to-my-stomach all day. I’m almost at retirement age. How can I hang in there and not lose all self-respect? Can I quit and collect unemployment?

Signed, Sick At Heart

Dear Sick At Heart:

You must decide for yourself whether it is worth giving up retirement benefits if you leave your job. You have not said whether you are participating in the company’s fraudulent behavior or are just aware that it is going on. If you are participating, then that could certainly negatively impact your application for unemployment benefits should you decide to leave your position. On the other hand, if you are simply aware of it and then become a whistleblower and are then fired as a result of informing the appropriate agencies of the fraudulent conduct, you may have a good case to collect the benefits.

Laws vary from state to state, and I do not know of your company’s policy or any agreement that you may have signed that the company could use against you. It might be worth a visit to the unemployment office to inquire as to the availability of benefits for someone who is fired for refusing to defraud consumers. Your state Attorney General’s office would most likely be the best place to report the company’s conduct, or the local Dept. of Consumer Affairs. If you are close to retirement time, have substantial benefits coming and are not actively participating in the company’s seemingly criminal behavior, then if you can make a conscious decision to overlook the behavior for your own peace of mind, this might be the best practical solution. However, if the facts are as I’ve contemplated above, I’d suggest looking into ways to protect yourself and your benefits. Consulting with a good employment attorney would most likely be your very best bet at this juncture if you have a lot to lose. Good Luck. Guest Respondent, Attorney

Guest Respondent, Attorney Bonnie Jordan