RE: What a predicament!

Subject: RE: What a predicament!
From: "Wilcox, Rose (ZB5646)" <Rose -dot- Wilcox -at- pinnaclewest -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 10:33:50 -0700

[snip description of the power struggle over intellectual property rights.]

I don't know who was right or wrong about the intellectual property rights.
What I hear going on is a power struggle. It seems like you had limited
choices in the situation:
1) go ahead and do what the VP said, breaking the law, and not protecting
yourself
2) quit
3) go ahead and do what the VP said, breaking the law, but cover your butt
4) sidestep the VP or manipulate the situation so that you seem to be doing
what the VP said enough to make them happy, but you also didn't break the
law

I don't know if what you were trying to do was 3. I don't know if you
consulted a lawyer about your liability in the matter. What would you have
to do to cover yourself? There were other issues. You were being told to
create documentation not only in a manner you thought was illegal, but also
you said there were usability issues. Those issues possibly added emotion
to your thought processes. The reason I assume that is that is how I might
feel in the situation. The combination of feeling forced to break the law as
well as to create poor quality would drive me over the edge. When you put
the poor job market on top of the equation, that makes it even more
difficult.

<<
without that, I had no confidence that he
would find my work satisfactory and I anticipated
being let go last night.

Admittedly, I'm a nervous wreck! Yesterday morning
I had an appointment with a psych counselor and he
put me on disability for major depression caused
by work. I'm out of work for at least a month.>>

It seems like the combination of stress factors was too much. It may even
have been that you wouldn't be let go. It's hard to say without being
there, but sometimes stress causes people to overreact to fear.

<<

So, now at least they cannot fire me and I have
my medical insurance. Disability payments are
a little more than unemployment and I needn't
be too concerned about making some money contracting
or whatever.
[snip aside]
The phone book is open to the employment attorney
page. Certainly I have a harassment and hostile
work environment suit against them. I could also
be a whistle-blower, either through the lawyer or
by calling the other doc manager directly.

What would you do?
>>

Sounds like a good time to get more information before proceeding. What are
the chances your law suit would succeed? I don't know the extent that
intellectual property laws were actually broken. Was style copied or was it
actual words? What percentage of the design was used? How does the law see
that? It may not be that laws were even broken based on the little data I
have from your email. Or it may be a close call in the courts. Or it may
be egregiously illegal.


<<Will blowing the whistle hurt my chances
for getting another job?

How much would you tell prospective employers about
what's gone on here?

How can I get through this without losing my sanity,
my house, my car,...?

Advice, please!
>>

1) It depends on how badly your employer was actually behaving. Whistle
blowing *is* risky, no doubt about it. If your company comes across as
innocent in public opinion, let alone court, you are not going to look good.
You must weigh the risks against potential evils and goods and make your own
decision based on the facts. I would get more information first. On the
whole as an individual, I tend to leave an unpleasant situation rather than
fighting it. I would fight if I felt the evil from not fighting would be
greater than the evil from fighting it. If my personal sacrifice would save
others, such as in a horrible sexual harassment case, I would fight. If my
personal sacrifice would not save others, say the case had very little
chance of winning, I would retreat and find other avenues of protest.
Perhaps working to help others understand intellectual property laws would
be a greater good, if your case doesn't look very good in court. It's a
judgment call really and there is not enough data to tell.

2) If I didn't blow the whistle, I would not mention it to anyone. If I
did, I would merely say it is confidential as there is a case pending in
court.

3) Your sanity: Get plenty of support. Hang out with people who care about
you. Rest. Dream. Nurture yourself. Hang in there. This too shall pass.
Your house and car: I don't have enough data to tell. If I were you I would
probably work on finding other employment whilst out on leave if I had the
option. (Unless I was so ill, that I couldn't look. Then I would rest and
regain my strength and worry about it after I felt better. Health is number
one.) I don't know what your financial situation is. There are usually
solutions, and after you get through the stress a little, you will probably
be able to see them.

Hang in there. It *will* get better in time. After you get away from the
constant stress, you will see more clearly your options and be able to
competently choose the one that makes the most sense for your situation and
ethics.

Rosie
celebrating "no sig" Friday


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