As I’ve mentioned in posts on a few occasions, on my ill-fated twitter account, companies have been including statements on their job applications which is an agreement to hold all past employers harmless for any information that they may supply when contacted. This grants those past employers unconditional freedom to lie without any fear of repercussion.
I’ve been reading over PA code 18, looking for crimes that match the behavior of my most recent employer, and I came across Title 18 statute 7322 “Demanding property to secure employment.” This forbids any agent of an employer from soliciting, demanding, or receiving, directly or indirectly, any money or valuable thing for the purpose, actual or alleged, of either obtaining employment or the continuing of such employment.
I would argue that, “valuable thing” would definitely include indemnity for past employers. Firstly, if it were not valuable, they would not bother to ask for it, and although they may say that they ask for it to prevent harm to themselves rather than to gain value, it is easy to disprove that argument. You see if a perspective employer receives a bad reference from an employee’s past employer, they don’t want to have to accept the risk of having to validate that information. So they have two perfectly legal options, they can disregard the reference and risk being slandered themselves by the past employer, or they can accept the past employer’s word as absolute truth and thus risk only being accused by the employee of being foolish enough to believe hearsay. Since the employee is already at a disadvantage in this case when compared to any past employer, they choose to accept the bad reference as absolute truth, and the only risk to the employer is that the employee can accuse them of taking bad advice. But this is not an unreasonable risk. The company takes an equivalent risk to that every time they order staplers, because other competing stapler manufacturers may accuse them of choosing the wrong supplier.
Therefore, it is a thing of extra value for them to secure an agreement from the employee to hold their past employers harmless, They can advertise it, they can use it as a selling point when dealing with other companies, “You’ll never have to worry about a past employee telling their side of the story with us, your word will be gold.” Asking for such indemnity and including it on an application as part of the signing statement should be considered a violation of PA statute 7322 and thus should be a third degree misdemeanor.
But, in my opinion, just enforcing that law is not sufficient. I would go a step further. It should not be legal for an employer to accept past employer’s references as absolute truth and either deny the employment or fire the employee without telling them why, because the perspective employee is already at a disadvantage when compared with the past employer(s). To ensure a truth supporting system which does not allow companies to, under the guise of risk aversion, team together and attack an employee, these companies should be required by law to inform the perspective or current employee that they received a bad reference, the nature of the bad reference, and from whom it was received. This will provide that beleaguered employee with the hard evidence needed to sue the past employer for the harm that they did with the bad reference if it contained false or misleading information. This will make it so that the ultimate choice of the matter will be in the hands of the judicial system which is already trusted to decide matters such as whether or not to place people in prison for the rest of their lives, rather than in the hands of some management person who’s sole motivation is ongoing personal profits.
Now, is my most recent employer guilty of a violation of Pa statute 7322? Yes, I believe so, but not because of this specific indemnifying of past employers. To my knowledge, nothing that FirstEnergy Corp’s agents made me sign included such a statement. No, FirstEnergy Corp’s (or it’s agents’) violation came indirectly. I was accused of nonsense, and asked to perform nonsense, in what I believe to be the hopes of conveying to me the impression that if I didn’t renege on my absolutely true observations that I would be terminated. Can I prove that? Of course, not. Even with voice recordings from my person, I would still need one person that was involved to come forward and admit that one of three individuals that I believe to be complicit: Wayne Freeman, Scott Bergstrom, and Gerry Crum, had told them that they were trying to get something from me.
Even if they weren’t after some piece of my property in exchange for continued employment, then they were trying to trump up charges so that they could claim misconduct, and defraud me out of the relocation expenses that they paid to get me here. i cannot find a specific law which states that that is a crime, but it is certainly a tort in and of itself. You see, i agreed to repay the relocation expenses in the event that I was terminated for misconduct or if I quit the job. I had informed Wayne Freeman, Scott Bergstrom, and Gerry Crum that I was looking for work elsewhere but that I was willing to stay on as I needed the money. At that point they had two perfectly legal options: 1. they could have allowed me to find another job, at which point I would quit the FirstEnergy position and reimburse them, or 2. they could have fired me without dishonesty and eaten those expenses. Those three choose a third option, in which they falsely fabricate misconduct charges and in so doing fire me, and get to steal back the relocation expenses and/or defame me by telling people that they have a right to do so. They do not, that is also a tort in and of itself. But let’s look at this a little deeper. I was told by both Gerry Crum and Scott Bergstrom that they had not heard that my work was deficient, and in fact that they had found or heard it to be good. In that they were telling the truth, and even if they say later that they weren’t, that will just serve to demonstrate a policy of dishonesty that undermines any other statements or testimony they may make. But, accepting the fact that they found me to be a good engineer, good at my job, and continuing with that idea the question becomes: Why did they not allow me to continue to work while searching for another job? It has been a political talking point in recent years that the world needs more engineers, but these three seem to think that taking the risk of defrauding themselves in order to steal back some $4000+ dollars was better than keeping a good engineer in their employ for a few months and eventually getting that money back anyway. (paragraph added 2016-04-22)
Even if they were guilty of a violation of 7322, wouldn’t this be balanced out by the possibly illicit nature of the voice recordings that I made from my person? No, I don’t believe so. None of my voice recordings were made or have ever been used to harm anyone in a dishonest manner. So even if those recordings were an actual violation of the law (refer to my past post http://jonathanhartpage.com/hartwp/vault/392 for my full opinion on that), there would still not be any victims. When there are no victims, there is no crime. Conversely, for the 7322 violation that I believe occurred, I would clearly be the victim, and allowing them to proceed without penance would only encourage such behavior in the future.