Sunday, March 27, 2005

Well, the Verdict is in...

Carol and I went out of town this past three-day weekend. Planned to play golf on Friday and Saturday in the Texas hill country, then return Sunday morning.

As it turned out, we played 18 holes on Friday afternoon in Kerrville (great weather!), spent the night there, and had plans to play a beautiful little layout called "Lady Bird Johnson Golf Course" in Fredricksburg on Saturday.

We've played there before. Sometimes the weather is perfect for all 18 holes, but often as not our presence there seems to trigger rain. The forecast called for a possibility of mainly afternoon thunderstorms. We had a first tee time for 8:30 a.m., so we thought we had a good chance of getting at least one round in.


Before we made it to the first tee a slight drizzle dampened things. The sky was a solid low overcast, darker in the west than other directions. But the drizzle stopped, so we played the first few holes. By the fifth hole we could hear distant rumbles of thunder. The sky darkened further.

Light rain spattered around us on holes six and seven. By hole eight the light rain had become steady and the rumbles were much louder. We decided to try to hurry through the next hole and head for shelter at the turn. Just after we hit our tee shots on number nine, lightning rippled across the sky overhead and the western horizon, already almost black, became very indistinct.

Fools, we tried to finish the hole. We made it to the green when small hail stones became mixed in with the now heavier rain. We sprinted for the snack bar on one end of the clubhouse, failing to get inside before we were pretty thoroughly drenched. But then the rain REALLY hit.

It was what we Texas refer to as a frog chokin' gully washer.

The view outside the windows remined me of being under a waterfall. After just five minutes of this deluge, the golf course staff informed us (and others who had sought refuge) that we'd better pack up and leave. Why? The only road in and out of the course had a low river crossing. With rain that heavy, the river sometimes flooded very quickly and the road was impassible for hours. We'd be stuck if we didn't hustle!

By the time we had our clubs in the car we were soaked. The good news is, we made it out past the river crossing without incident. The bad news: that was the end of any golf for the weekend.

But I'm way ahead of my real story.

On Friday afternoon, the day before the rains, we were on the ninth hole (what is it about the ninth hole, anyway?) when my cell phone rang. Caller ID showed it was my daughter Christina. I had told her that if the results of her hearing arrived any time over the weekend to call me immediately. Good news or bad, I wanted to know. I was still fighting with Mr. Queen in my mind over what he'd said and what I shoulda said.

Her voice tone was not very positive. "Well, we got the letter. You said to call."

(Gotta make you wait for it.)

(Feel any suspense?)

Then she broke. "WE WON!"

I can't begin to describe the relief that washed over me.

She read me the entire letter, including the background information, the employer's contentions, and then the findings of fact.

I don't have a copy yet (to quote from) and now that you know the verdict the details are probably of little interest. But here were the key points.

We won based on two factors. One of them I take credit for. Despite my fumbling questions I succeeded in convincing the hearing officer that Mr. Queen did NOT follow his own progressive disciplinary policy and didn't give Christina the warnings she was entitled to. I had read precedents in which failure to follow a disciplinary policy had cost many employers their cases, which is why I attacked that point.

The other factor was all Christina's doing. I remain very proud of her!

I told you that she had written out a narrative of exactly what happened — what she said, why she said it, the entire context of the conversations in which her “offensive” comments were made — and that she did a GREAT job of reading these into the record. It didn’t sound like she was reading; it sounded genuine, like she was simply telling her story. And it rang very true.

Ms. Ford (hearing officer) went to some lengths in her written decision to affirm that she believed Christina’s version of the events, and the testimony proved there was NO misconduct.

That is important for two reasons. The first, obvious one is that she will now receive unemployment compensation retroactive to the date of her termination. That was over two months ago, so it means a lot of money (which she needs very much).

The second reason may be even better. As she interviews for new jobs, it is inevitable that she will be asked why she left that medical practice. Now she can freely discuss the “difference of opinion” between herself and her employer, but finish by saying, “a review of all the facts in my unemployment eligibility hearing confirmed that there was no misconduct, and that I did nothing wrong. It was all either a misunderstanding, or possibly just a reduction in force after the practice lost 3 of their 4 doctors.”

That has tremendous psychological value, both for Christina and for someone considering hiring her.

I told Christina on the phone that she had just "made my whole weekend!" From that point on, the golf didn't matter, Saturday's storms didn't matter, nothing could break the gread mood I was in.

The pressure was off. I hadn't blown it. I didn't let her down when she needed me and was counting on me. But much of it she did all by herself.

Pride in her, and satisfaction that justice was done. A great feeling!


Candace said...

Fantastico! Well done! Christina's lucky to have a dad like you. And what a great story you already have for the grandson!

Candace said...

Me? Offended by lawyer jokes?
Hell, I could have written some of them!

Holly said...

WHOOPEEE. WE KNEW IT. I guess there is value in believing justice will triumph and underdogs will not lose. Awesome John. We are so proud of you and Christina.