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Wrongful Hiring
December 27, 2011 5:38 PM   Subscribe

Can an employer "wrongfully hire" someone? Apparently so, at least in the State of Minnesota, where Chandramouli Vaidyanathan successfully sued Seagate Technology to the tune of $1.9 million based on Minnesota's "False Statements as Inducement to Entering Employment" statute, which makes it illegal "to induce, influence, persuade, or engage any person to change from one place to another in this state, or to change from any place in any state, territory, or country to any place in this state, to work in any branch of labor through or by means of knowingly false representations".

Vaidyanathan claims he uprooted his family from Texas, where he worked for Texas Instruments, to Minnesota after being recruited by Seagate for a position that "did not actually exist, but (Seagate) falsely represented that it did so in order to use Vaidyanathan’s credentials to better market one of its divisions to be sold to another company" (and then laid him off 9 months later).
posted by The Gooch (46 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Fraudulent inducement claims in employment law aren't exactly a new thing. Why is this one particularly post-worthy?
posted by leotrotsky at 5:42 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow "wrongfully hire" is the most inflammatory possible way to phrase this. "Wrongfully induce to quit a steady job and uproot his family" would be a lot more accurate, but then we'd miss the delightful talking points about "tort reform" and "McDonald's hot coffee lady."
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:56 PM on December 27, 2011 [24 favorites]


Interesting legal anecdote. (Law weenies: in the absence of this law, the suit would be a regular tort, right?)

But the "wrongful hiring" neologism is a little too smart alecky.
posted by ocschwar at 5:56 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Vaidyanathan claims he uprooted his family from Texas

"Claims?" He and his family either moved from TX to MN or they didn't. Strange "claim" to doubt.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:57 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


How the hell did they know about this law? It looks like it was exactly written for him, only 100 years in advance.
posted by Tarumba at 5:57 PM on December 27, 2011



""Claims?" He and his family either moved from TX to MN or they didn't. Strange "claim" to doubt."

Good point. Bad phrasing on my part.
posted by The Gooch at 6:00 PM on December 27, 2011


I was the victim of falsehoods intentionally given to me as inducement to move myself, at my expense, from Louisville KY to San Francisco for a job (1994). I was unemployed and desperate so I moved at my expense. When the position was completely eliminated (as they knew it would be) in less than a year, I was left holding the bag. It took me years to pay off the resulting credit card debt. And again, another round of long distance moving. What a nightmare! A major life lesson, with long consequences for me. I have met other women who left solid jobs for false promises of an even better position. I doubt this is a rare occurrence.
posted by Galadhwen at 6:12 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


How the hell did they know about this law? It looks like it was exactly written for him, only 100 years in advance.


It takes a surprisingly short amount of time to read all the way through a state's current laws. (It's the case law that's a tome).
posted by ocschwar at 6:15 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Wrongfully Hired" sounds like a spin phrase written by the same people who brought you "right-to-work".


I am not fond of those people.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:19 PM on December 27, 2011 [11 favorites]


The guy who wrote the Hirecentrix article seems to make it clear where his biases are in the little biography at the bottom.

Chad W. Moeller represents corporations and not-for-profit organizations of all sizes in employment matters in federal and state court litigation, including in non-competition, trade secrets, employment discrimination, wage and hour, and contract matters. Chad counsels employers on preparing non-competition agreements and executing “lift-outs” of competitors’ employees in a lawful manner. Chad also advises employers on a daily basis how to avoid, address and/or remediate employee relations issues.
posted by Pseudology at 6:25 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the "Wrongful Hiring" framing is an odd twist of the language. "Wrongful Firing" boils down to someone firing someone for reasons that are in some way not allowed (for example, 'That woman got married, so I will fire her.'). The corollary to that on the hiring side would be, I don't know -- hiring someone that you're not allowed to hire, legally, or hiring them for reasons that are illegal.

The actual problem here is lying to someone to get them to leave their old job.
posted by verb at 6:33 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


This happened to my brother's girlfriend for a paralegal position-her position was eliminated maybe three or four days into the job, after she was promised a job and moved halfway across the country for it.

I'm not really sure why they were surprised when she turned around and tried to sue them for it.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:34 PM on December 27, 2011


but then we'd miss the delightful talking points about "tort reform" and "McDonald's hot coffee lady."

Oh boy I can't wait.

I'm glad this law exists, and I am glad Chandramouli Vaidyanathan won his case. He was deceived and used by Seagate, without regard for his career and family. They lied to him for their own gain.

I would like to think this would serve as a warning to other companies who pull this shit, but "wrongful hiring" indicates that this will instead lead to railing against excessive damages and lawsuit craziness and how this is unfair to poor corporations who NEED to lie to people and fuck up their lives otherwise Communism!
posted by louche mustachio at 6:43 PM on December 27, 2011 [18 favorites]


I was promised a job in the 90s that didn't materialize because the person hiring me didn't clear it through their boss. This wasn't revealed to me until I had produced a considerable amount of tangible work for them, only to find out on payday I wasn't "really" an employee. I successfully filed for unemployment as my old job had been eliminated when I quit to take the new one, but it never once occurred to me to sue anyone.
posted by PapaLobo at 6:46 PM on December 27, 2011


""Claims?" He and his family either moved from TX to MN or they didn't. Strange "claim" to doubt."

Good point. Bad phrasing on my part.


Your phrasing is fine, the claim comes later in the sentence.
posted by victors at 6:47 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


but it never once occurred to me to sue anyone.

Maybe it should have.

When I took my current job, my company payed me a signing bonus of $1000 on the agreement that I would work there for 1 year. If I had quit before 1 year was over and not returned the money, they would have grounds to sue me and most people would understand that decision.

In the converse situation (I agreed to move across country in exchange for a work contract), why is a lawsuit unthinkable or even mockable? (not that anyone in this thread is mocking the idea, but the framing of 'Wrongful Hiring' is suspicious)
posted by muddgirl at 7:32 PM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Inducing someone to move cross country, uprooting family in the process, to take a job that has no long term future is a crappy move. Bad faith and poor ethics.
posted by arcticseal at 7:47 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Capital does the same thing -- why not labor. A few hours in China, then an afternoon bouncing between Germany in France, before retiring at night split between sitting in an American bank and being passed around as an odd hand for ten different transport companies providing super-quick loading/unloading duties.
posted by Shit Parade at 7:52 PM on December 27, 2011


The "wrongful hiring" term is stupid but the main article wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. It seemed to be more telling companies to not be idiots/assholes and less trying to say the law/case outcome was wrong.
posted by kmz at 8:00 PM on December 27, 2011


I actually worked for a company that relocated someone from Colorado to Boston and laid them off 6 months later due to a "personality clash" with their supervisor. She ended up actually owing them money because of some crazy scheme they'd set up for her relocation funds. I thought it was one of the scummiest scumbag moves that was ever scumbagged, and it had a lot to do with why I ultimately became disillusioned with the place and left.

Good for them for suing and winning. If a company fails to treat its employees with decency and respect it deserves whatever comes its way, regardless of whether it had some thinly justified profit motive in doing so or whatever bogus post hoc rationalization you care to come up with.
posted by feloniousmonk at 8:01 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the converse situation (I agreed to move across country in exchange for a work contract), why is a lawsuit unthinkable or even mockable?

Asking this question is class warfare.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:11 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


why is a lawsuit unthinkable or even mockable?
I can't tell you personally why I thought it unthinkable in my own situation ... it just didn't occur. And I'm certainly not mocking the idea, and did not mean to give that impression.

In a day and age where a potential employer can make moral judgements on you just by looking at a perhaps-not-secure-enough Facebook page or similar, I think an potential employee has every right to sue for deceptive hiring practices.
posted by PapaLobo at 8:16 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I know that you personally weren't mocking it, but I have visions of Glenn Beck or the like complaining about how American workers are too entitled, and that they should feel grateful for any job.
posted by muddgirl at 8:25 PM on December 27, 2011


lawsuits like this are necessary, because unless you're some superstar, you're not going to be able to negotiate the kind of language necessary to give yourself the right kind of protection. you'll be seen as a trouble maker, and they'll just move on to the next guy on the list.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:28 PM on December 27, 2011


I took the "wrongful hiring" as an ironic title. The opposite of wrongful firing, but with so many people out of work, it sounds like nonsense. Then the article explains why it isn't nonsense.

I've participated in some contract negotiations (from the sidelines, but I'm good at legalese), and have been surprised how much we could actually quibble over details (my spouse's job). We've sharpened our negotiation skills on leases and employment as a result. But it's also surprising how stressful that can feel. Or, ha, how bloody OUTRAGED I can get if the other party should dare violate a clause I wrote myself! LOL!
posted by Goofyy at 8:47 PM on December 27, 2011


PapaLobo: "I was promised a job in the 90s that didn't materialize because the person hiring me didn't clear it through their boss. This wasn't revealed to me until I had produced a considerable amount of tangible work for them, only to find out on payday I wasn't "really" an employee. I successfully filed for unemployment as my old job had been eliminated when I quit to take the new one, but it never once occurred to me to sue anyone."

I can see how that might not occur to you, but I really think that in that kind of situation you should have. It really is against the law to have someone do work under the pretense that they're going to be paid and then not pay them. The fact that someone didn't clear it through their boss is immaterial; you were given the impression you'd be paid.

I'm not so much trying to make an argument as saying this for the benefit of anyone who might be in this situation. In fact, a big hire-lawyer-and-get-saddled-up lawsuit probably isn't even what's needed. In most situations like that where it's only one paycheck's worth in dispute, the best course of action is to get the paperwork for a Small Claims Court claim and fill it out and file it yourself. It's a low-hassle way to initiate a claim to money you have a legal right to.

Like I say, I mention this because I think some people might need to know. Back in the day, a job usually meant steady work, so this kind of thing was so odd and rare that it makes sense that getting your money didn't occur to you. Now, sadly, this kind of underhanded stuff is much more common as employers move toward hiring freelancers and contract workers to try to save money, and cutting corners like that has become distressingly more mainstream. Workers have to know how to protect themselves nowadays.
posted by koeselitz at 9:53 PM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


In two different jobs, I've been promised moving expenses by the employer via the headhunter, only to discover it was never discussed.

The first time, shame on me for not getting it confirmed in writing, but thankfully the employer retroactively paid for my move.

The second time, I stalled at the signing until the demand was met. The scumbag headhunter tried to claim it was all my fault for "waiting until the last minute", but in truth I'd asked for it weeks before, and they simply didn't follow up (possibly out of fear of losing the employer, assuming I'd cave - bad assumption!). I had the pleasure of reading an email from the employer, lambasting the headhunter for not following through with the reimbursement request in a timely fashion.

Thankfully, I've never been used by the company that hired me in this way. Nonetheless, it's a good lesson that no one in the entire hiring process is your friend, except you. And some people are outright assholes.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:16 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


muddgirl I have visions of Glenn Beck or the like complaining about how American workers are too entitled, and that they should feel grateful for any job.

The evil ones are perfectly capable of devising their own evil lies to put about. There is no need to do it for them.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:17 PM on December 27, 2011


Vaidyanathan claims he uprooted his family from Texas

"Claims?" He and his family either moved from TX to MN or they didn't. Strange "claim" to doubt.
posted by drjimmy11


The depth and viability of the roots in Texas need to be established.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:49 PM on December 27, 2011


American workers are too entitled, and that they should feel grateful for any job.

Beck would do that too. (Insert standard Beck-is-an-idiot-line here)

What is missed is that it is the companies that are too entitled. They create these non-existent jobs and mess with people's lives like they are just trying out a new fax machine they can return to Office Depot if they don't like it or find a better bargain or whatever. I am not a fan of superfluous litigation, but businesses have brought this one on themselves by treating people like office furniture.

And for this one example of a guy getting his just due, there are probably tens of thousands of people who got shafted by companies doing more or less the same thing.
posted by lampshade at 10:52 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


A friend of mine was hired by a California-based tech startup and a month later asked to take a permanent > 15% pay cut because the company was short of cash. The company must have known this at the time they made the offer.

There ought to be a Federal law to discourage bad-faith hiring like this in every state.
posted by zippy at 12:08 AM on December 28, 2011


In my experience, in the business world it doesn't hurt to be know as litigious. I've been in very high level meetings where the CEO and board members have discussed the personalities of potential investors and business partners. I've heard executives say, "if investor XXX comes out of this deal feeling like he got the shaft, he will definitely sue us. His family is like that." We didn't avoid those people, though. We just spent a bit more time explaining stuff to them, and a bit more time double checking the paperwork. And if things had gone sour, I'm sure the more litigious investors would have ended up with a bigger part of the assets.

I guess what I'm saying is, don't be afraid to sue people.
posted by ryanrs at 1:14 AM on December 28, 2011


Don't be afraid to assert your rights. Every time you don't it's a freebie to the assholes.

A dentist close to me works at several clinics, and at one of them the owners take the most profitable treatment opportunities from the lower dentists and do them themselves, collecting the money. They have done this to pretty much everyone that works there.

When my friend's time came, the patient had sought her out specifically, on a recommendation, but due to insurance issues she could not treat the patient at one of the other clinics she worked at, and the asshole owners immediately said they wanted to do the treatment themselves. I suggested that rather than immediately yielding like the other dentists, she should bluff and imply that she could move the patient to another clinic and they would lose it altogether. Naturally those selfish bastards relented.

Being pathologically selfish makes you even more predictable than being merely intelligent.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 2:00 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Something like this actually happened to a friend of mine, who is a lawyer, by another lawyer. He had been looking for work for years after graduating law school. He finally got one, paying about $30k doing some random corporate B.S, not lawyering.

Finally he gets a job with some lawyer, actually doing legal work for, I think $45k or so. And the boss was going to pay him to take training courses for the first week or so.

Anyway, a couple days into the job the boss, who was (unknown to my friend) monitoring his internet activity catches him looking at some emails, etc, relating to the job search he'd been doing. I guess he replied to some of them, I'm not sure.

Anyway, he gets fired right away. So, after that he was basically totally screwed and out of a job again.

Not exactly the same thing, since he didn't move, and he was fired 'for (a totally bullshit) cause', but yeah. I told him he should sue (since he's already a lawyer right? Wouldn't cost him any money) but he didn't think it was a good idea.
posted by delmoi at 2:51 AM on December 28, 2011


"False Statements as Inducement to Entering Employment"

Heh. This applies to nearly every job I've taken in the last decade.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 4:48 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was promised a job in the 90s that didn't materialize because the person hiring me didn't clear it through their boss. This wasn't revealed to me until I had produced a considerable amount of tangible work for them, only to find out on payday I wasn't "really" an employee. I successfully filed for unemployment as my old job had been eliminated when I quit to take the new one, but it never once occurred to me to sue anyone.

In at least some states, no lawsuit would be required to get the earned pay. A call to the state Wage & Hours office, or the equivalent, would have the employer in hot water.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:03 AM on December 28, 2011


In 1989, my first ever external hard drive was a 20 megabyte (!) Seagate in an Ehman enclosure. It failed within a year, costing me all my writing from my first year of grad school that I hadn't printed out and teaching me, ever since, the importance of backing data up. But at the time I thought Seagate deserved to be nuked from orbit. So this is sweet revenge, deferred.
posted by spitbull at 6:22 AM on December 28, 2011


^The depth and viability of the roots in Texas need to be established.

Are you going be the one who gets to decide what counts as "viable roots"? Leaving a steady job and moving a young family generally counts as uprooting.
posted by molecicco at 6:32 AM on December 28, 2011


Wish I knew about this before. Took on this job as a senior position, signed on the dotted line and noticed it was a bump down. Their excuse was "oh things change". Had to wait 6 months and a threat of I'm leaving before they bumped me back up to hiring promise.
posted by stormpooper at 7:02 AM on December 28, 2011


^The depth and viability of the roots in Texas need to be established.

Are you going be the one who gets to decide what counts as "viable roots"? Leaving a steady job and moving a young family generally counts as uprooting.
posted by molecicco


Just being pedantic. As a matter of simple decency, even a tumblin' tumbleweed shouldn't be made to roll from Texas to Minnesota under false pretenses.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:21 AM on December 28, 2011


...why is a lawsuit unthinkable or even mockable?

Because Americans, in general, are taught that employers have the absolute right to do whatever they want and you, as a worker, must simply grin and accept it or find a new job.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:06 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]



There's a neat documentary called Hot Coffee, which discusses "Tort Reform" and how we as US citizens are handing over our legal rights with both hands and a shovel.

I'm surprised the gentleman in the article wasn't forced into "binding arbitration" based upon something he signed when hired.

Our legal system is designed to be a fair place to address disputes. Not everyone who sues is looking for a windfall, most of us just want what's fair. I'm not even going to concede that some lawsuits are frivolous.

In the future, I'm going to ask more questions and try to keep my options open.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:51 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not even going to concede that some lawsuits are frivolous.

What? Why? Some lawsuits ARE frivolous. Lawsuits get thrown out of court for being frivolous or having no merit frequently, and often they don't even get that far. A lot of the suits are about duty of care and whether something is reasonably foreseeable, and I could see how this guy's employer had an obligation to let him know this position might not last given they knew they were trying to sell off the division. It doesn't seem unreasonable to call what they did misrepresentation, and in my mind $2 million could very easily be in the ballpark depending on the salary and the nature of that sort of position in the industry, plus penalty to Seagate/disincentive to other employers, etc.

I'm not sure this is exactly the same thing as the hot coffee case everyone seems to be pre-emptively bringing up (maybe a lawyer could shed some light), but regardless of whether you feel that suit was frivolous or not it's not to say there can't be such a thing as a frivolous lawsuit or even excessive penalties in some cases. We had a guy in Canada in the last couple of years sue a water company because he found a fly and a half in his bottle of water. No denying that's gross. But he goes and sues for $300,000 -- for depression, phobia, anxiety and their effects on his work and sex life. He initially won and then the decision was reversed on appeal, and he had to pay for the water company's legal costs. I don't mind saying that was a frivolous lawsuit. $300,000 for a fly in your water is ludicrous. It's also ludicrous when people sue for a bajillion killion dollars for controlling your brain with space rays, which is indeed a type of case that does happen and while the suits don't get far people still need to put time and resources into getting them dismissed.

This American "tort reform" conversation is a real minefield; I've already learned that you guys have to pick a side when I accidentally stepped in it in a previous thread. It's a shame it has to be so black and white for you because when you've gotten to the point that you can't even believe there's such a thing as a frivolous lawsuit both sides look over-the-top. You can be critical of certain awards and decisions without advocating a Republican solution or whatever the hell "tort reform" might mean. I have no idea what's being proposed down there or if any kind of reforms are either possible or desirable to stop or limit fringe cases like these, but man y'all are kinda sensitive.
posted by Hoopo at 11:35 AM on December 28, 2011


I hate the "Hot Coffee" lawsuit; its trotted out so often as an example of a frivolous lawsuit without any understanding of what the actual details surrounding the case was. I'd guess that 90% of the suits that the general public perceive as frivolous are because they're reading "headlines" and not actually understanding the details of the case that make it obviously not so.

With that note, I should probably check out the hot coffee movie, as it sounds like it covers exactly what I'm bitching about.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:10 PM on December 28, 2011


The movie is actually very much about the political side of it; i.e. very much told in the context of current American "tort reform" political climate. I found it a bit one-sided and axe-grindy, but yes it would give people slightly more info about the details of the case. For people interested specifically in the details of the case, the Wikipedia article is actually pretty good.
posted by Hoopo at 12:38 PM on December 28, 2011


Yeah, don't think that the movie Hot Coffee is actually about that lawsuit. It is, but it's about SOOO much more. Watching it definitely changed my opinion about tort reform and whether we should want it or not.
posted by hippybear at 3:32 PM on December 28, 2011


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