Monday, June 14, 2004

Getting to the Bottom of Things

I've enjoyed teaching crochet at Michaels Arts and Crafts Store for over four years now.  But some red flags went up last week.

I wasn't going to put this in my Journal as I'd rather keep it upbeat and fun, but now think, that if you're placed in my situation, you'd want to know about it.  So here it is:

Last weekend while shopping at the store, an employee told me there was a sign by the time clock stating something about some paper I need to fill out for them.  I thanked the employee and said I'd look into it when I'm off vacation (meaning in July).

Then in the middle of the week I got two phone messages: one from the Store Manager requesting I come in to fill out the paper work, and one from the Store's Office Manager DEMANDING I come in or consider my employment with them terminated. 

Later I conversed with the SOM, and inquired if she was having a better day.  I advised her that the tone & message on the phone was not necessary.  She pushed that I get to the store ASAP for this paperwork, and I advised her that I'm on vacation and am knee deep in family & charity obligations right now (thus the need to take the month off).  It wasn't good enough; she insisted I call her by Friday and tell her which day I WILL be showing up to complete the paper work.

So on Friday, with all the Federal buildings being closed due to Reagan's passing, that left an open in my schedule.  So with ds toting along for the ride, off we went to Michaels to get to the bottom of things.

The SOM demanded I fill out a form that lists

  • my name
  • my age/birthdate O
  • my address
  • my SSN
  • my driver's license number O
  • and my Mother's Maiden name O

    Are you having problems digesting the amount of information they want me to fork over after four years of employment?  I did.   O Red Flags went upinside my head immediately!
  • I inquired what the information was for and she got upset with me.  She couldn't answer my questions.  She did say she'd protect it, but when I pressed on how, she got more upset with me.

    Then she demanded that I sign another form giving them authorization to do a check on me that included a Credit Standing O, a Credit Capacity O, Character O, General Representation O, Personal Characteristics O, and Mode of Living O.

    I pressed further and again inquired about what all the information was needed for.  Again, she couldn't answer and her language became foul.  In front of my ds, age 5.  (She did later apologize, but not with her heart.)  Throughout the whole ordeal I kept my cool and just kept asking over and over for the reason behind why asking so much information that could, in the hands of someone unscrupulous, ruin me financially.

    I filled out some of the information on the first form, and signed (and legally voided my signature) on the second form, along with writing my objections on it and signing it.

    I then posted this to one of the online groups I participated on, and this is all news to them.  Most said I should leave my teaching job with such a company that wants to stick it's nose where it doesn't belong.

    I did lodge a complaint on the employee hotline.  And today I put a call into the Connecticut Department of Labor and am presently awaiting a CB from them. 

    Don't get me wrong, I can fully understand an employer needing some information: Name, address, phone number & SSN for tax purposes, for contacting for scheduling; I can fully understand an employer's need to do a criminal background check; I can fully understand an employer's need to check with former employers ... but I think to be teaching fiber arts, what they're asking is too much, and possibly is not legal. 

    I hope the CT Dept. of Labor returns my call soon....I'll post if anything develops.


    UPDATE 12:26PM:  I don't like waiting around for the phone to ring, so I called the Labor Department back.  I got through.  They were stumped why after being employed for four years that the company is suddenly asking for information, and that being highly sensitive.  They think my Human Rights are being violated; gave me their number to contact.  I called the Bridgeport office and left a message for the Intake Officer.  They also think that a law is being infringed upon, so they gave me the number of the CT Bar Association.  I'll call them after I speak w/someone at Human Rights.


    6/15/04 UPDATE:  I received a ) call from CT's Human Resources Department and had a long conversation with the rep.  In a nutshell, he said, if the company is asking ALL of the employees the same information ... and he focused on that Michaels is requesting we list our age/birthdate ... "then there's no discrimination being done.  If all have to comply, and it's their policy, then it's OK."  He said, though, that they are required to provide a specific reason on why it's being asked and strongly recommended that I call the company's HR department.  He didn't really dwell on the fact that the other information requested could financially ruin me should they not be able to secure it, so I'm not really satisified with his answer.  I do plan on calling Michael's HR department, and then calling the CT Bar Association.  Why would the Dept of Labor think something is fishy and then the State HR folks say no, I don't know.  I'm still not comfortable with this entire situation.

    BTW, I'm plannning on sticking all the updates in this Journal Entry to keep them all together so that I'm free to go back to posting thoughts on crocheting.  So if you're interested in keeping up with this issue, click onto the "link to this entry" and save it as one of your favorites so you can go directly to it.


    UPDATE 6/18/04:  I came home this afternoon and found a message on my machine from the the DM (District Manager) saying he wants to discuss my concerns.  He left no call back number so I'll have to wait until he calls again as I don't want to call him and get that "rushed" feeling because of possible distractions.  I'd rather he call me back when he has allotted time to discuss this matter with me fully.


    UPDATE 6/23/04: The DM has not called back.  In the meantime an email I had sent to the Dept of Labor came back stating "The Consumer Credit Reporting Act is a federal law and not within the jurisdiction of this Agency.  However, I looked up the law and in order to get the credit report, the company needs your authorization.  Therefore, the company may ask you to provide the information they are requesting.  If you choose not to give the authorization, the company may terminate your employment.  You do not have a contract with them and therefore, you are an employee at will and as such may be terminated for any reason or for no reason.  I am not sure if there is anything in the law that would give you recourse for a termination and you might need to contact the Consumer Credit Unit of the Banking Dept.  "

    The key words used here are CONSUMER CREDIT REPORT.  I am not applying for a credit card, nor a mortgage, and cannot possibly see how this has anything to do with crocheting, or teaching crocheting.  Looks like my next step is to contact the Consumer Credit Unit of the Banking Department.


    Anonymous said...

    Red Flag, Red Flag after 4 yrs what could they possible need to know that should already know!! I wouldn't have signed anything until I got some answers. I will make a long story short I called my cell phone company and made a payment, the next day the phone was off so I called back and they said No I hadn't made a payment and wanted my credit card info I refused. I told him I will not give you my info when I know I made a payment yesterday through the automated service that has my card stored. I felt as if SOMEONE wanted my card # if you know what I mean. Your mothers madien name is a very big deal cause we all use them at banks,credit card companies,etc... Please keep us updated on this I would like to know why they needed this info after 4 years ~~Angela~~

    Anonymous said...

    Hi Dee,
    I came to your journal from the message boards.  Something seems very suspicious with your employers.  It's ILLEGAL to ask for age, birthdate, gender, religion, race, among other things on an application, so I find it odd that they are requesting this very sensitive info.  I think you did the right thing by notify the Labor Dept.  Has your SOM always been defensive in her behaviour, or did she only get like that with asking this...someone may be breathing down her neck as well.  Doesn't  excuse her behaviour, but this is all very odd.  I never have understood doing credit checks for employment reasons, that seems unfair as well.  Alot of places no longer do that, but do criminal backgrounds which I can see.  I think you did your readers a service by writing this, as in this day and age, this could happen to any of us.  I hope you find the right anwsers to this.

    Anonymous said...

    Oh yeah, I wanted to add, the fact that they threatened you will termination seems suspicious too!