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UK electronics company is taking legal proceedings against me.

Discussion in 'Jobs and Careers' started by Flyback, Jan 17, 2016.

  1. Flyback

    Flyback Well-Known Member

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    Hello,
    I am the subject of legal proceedings from a UK electronics company who are accusing me of loosing the company money by leaving a project half-way through it.
    (It was a Switch Mode Power Supply project).
    Are there any bodies that I can go to for advice?
    The situation is that I was working on the project, but could tell that the 4 graduates with whom I shared the office were not happy at me working there. I believe that this centred on the mechanical engineer who didn’t think I was up to the job. This mechanical guy is a “perfectionist”, a hard working guy, and I guess for some reason he figured I wasn’t up to making good enough electronics to go in his fixtures , so he tried to “hound” me out of the job..
    One day we were in the office, and our boss got up (this boss was the one who employed me, and he wanted me to stay at the company) and said he would be gone for a while. Just after the boss left the office, the junior electronics engineer got up out of his place and came over to me and fixed me with a menacing stare. He just sat there glaring menacingly at me. As discussed, this shocked me a little, but it didn’t surprise me too much, because I already knew that these 4 guys were well against me.
    Anyway, as he glared at me, I tried unsuccessfully to “soft soap” him and get him talking –to stop him glaring. For quite some time this did not work. As I tried to “soft soap” him, he occasionally looked over to the other 3 guys in the room and sniggered with them, then turning his head back to re-fix his menacing glare at me.
    It was obvious that the guy who was glaring at me had the intimate support of the other three guys in the room. (in other words, the entire graduate workforce of this company were against me)
    As he continued his menacing glare, I thought up a “trick” that would likely “snap” him out of his glaring. That is, I knew that these 4 guys wanted me out of the company, so, there and then, I hashed up a story that very soon I was due to be terminated from the company. The guy that was glaring at me then looked confused, and started asking me when I was getting terminated….i guess my story worked, because I had succeeded in snapping him out of his glaring. The guy that had been glaring then started asking me questions like why I had been employed in the first place etc etc…so I just answered his questions and then excused myself to go for lunch.
    Anyway, after the glaring incident, it was very very obvious to me that these 4 guys wanted me out of the company, and were prepared to do stuff to me like subject me to these weird “glaring” incidents. This was, I believed, a big problem, because if they would stoop to that level, then they would probably also stoop to doing the one thing that I feared…that is, when the hardware phase of the project was to begin, they would be very likely to deliberately damage any hardware that I was working on. –After all, deliberately damaging a hardware contractor’s hardware is one excellent way to nullify them and “encourage” them to leave.
    This was especially worrying to me because the lab at this company was a closed room , separate from the office. –In other words, there would be no bosses or supervisors in there to see what might be going on…..therefore, in this lab, these 4 guys would have a “free hand” to damage any hardware that I may be working on, and no one would see them. One thing was , they had already stooped to this low level by subjecting me to the above explained “glaring” incident. It wouldn’t be much of a sideways step to deliberately damage any hardware that I may be working on. This was my concern.
    The “glaring” incident had taken place just after the boss had left the office, -they had obviously waited for the boss to leave the office –and since all the guys in there were supporting the guy doing the glaring, I therefore had no witnesses to say that it had even happened.
    Another troubling point was that the aforementioned Mechanical Engineer is a very good friend of the guy who owns the company.
    Worse still was that the guy who owns the company did not look keen on employing me when I was at the interview. It was the “boss” described above who had persuaded him to take me on, seemingly against the owner’s will.
    Anyway, they are now taking me to court due to money which they say has been lost due to me leaving the company before the project was finished.
    Any advice on organisations that i could approach for support?
     
  2. JimB

    JimB Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    I guess that it all boils down to what was written in your contract.
    Did it specify that you would work there until the product was complete? If it did you may have a problem.

    But as I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on television, I suggest that you go and see someone specialising in employment law and see what he says.

    JimB
     
  3. zahwi

    zahwi Member

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    For me justice is that you can leave in a middle of a project no matter what is your contract.
    You are only developing a product and any engineer should be able to take from where you left it. You are not an actor who started the filming of a movie and nobody can replace you.

    Some lawyers take the case on basis of 'no win no fee'.
    Try a few lawyers until you meet the one that you feel that he is truly on your side and not on his own side.
    Warning: finding a good lawyer is almost impossible.
     
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  4. dave

    Dave New Member

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  5. Tony Stewart

    Tony Stewart Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    "Contingency" is when you are claimant, rather than defendant.
    Did you give fair notice? Maybe you were late on deliverables? or expected to delegate tasks in a teamwork.

    In any case the claimant must prove breach of contract.
     
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  6. Flyback

    Flyback Well-Known Member

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    from my top post, you may have guessed that I felt as uncomfortable as heck in that company..........I got offered a new job which wanted me to start straight away and so I took it, there wasn't time to give notice.....I was getting out of there because for one thing I reckon I have genuine cause to believe that the staff there would have deliberately and discreetly damaged any hardware that I ever worked on.
    I wasn't late on deliverables, we were investigating different ways of doing the SMPS, I was producing the schematics and costing them up, as well as costing up the transformer manufacture. I wasn't late on anything, we never got to the hardware stage because I left before that happened.
     
  7. jpanhalt

    jpanhalt Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    My thoughts are more in line with JimB's. These comments are based only on what I know of the law in the US. I am not an attorney.

    1) You have to read the whole contract. No one can give you legal advice on what you have said.

    2) There very clearly are situations when an employer will include a "liquidation damages" clause. That is supposed to mean that if you fail to meet your obligations, e.g., quit early, the employer can sue you for liquidation damages without having to show actual damages. The former is often spelled out in terms of amount, the latter is quite difficult to prove, which is why liquidation damages were included in the first place. Getting a court actually to apply liquidation damages can be a high hurdle for the employer in the US. The US outlawed slavery a long time ago and courts are often sympathetic to the employee. However, there are substanial awards based on liquidation damage clauses when there is a reasonable connection between the acts of the employee, the reason he was hired, and potential losses. The actor who quits in the middle of filming might be one example.

    3) You need an attorney. One option to consider is that the company is suing you to protect itself from you suing it for hostile workplace and so forth that "forced you to leave." In the US, such cases rarely go to trial and are most often resolved by a settlement with "mutual release of all claims."

    4) This is not a case that a "contingency" lawyer would typically take, unless your counter claim for damages was quite substantial. A counter claim will expose you to serious professional risk.

    Bottom line, it is most likely that your best response would be getting an attorney and negotiating a mutual release of claims. That is said without knowing your contract.

    John
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2016
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  8. Ian Rogers

    Ian Rogers Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    What can they possibly do!!!!

    £10 a month for the rest of you life.... I don't think so... If you have no money they won't even pursue the matter!!
    Tell them to go and shove it... I would offer 50p a week!!
     
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  9. zahwi

    zahwi Member

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    Flyback pay attention, the above post is an advice from a boss.
     
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  10. jpanhalt

    jpanhalt Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Something I forgot to mention, how long ago did you quit? In the US, many contract/tort offenses have a 6-month statute of limitations. That can be gotten around to an extent by filing a 180-day notice (a letter that says a potential plaintiff is preparing to sue within the next 180 days). I agree that it seems very unlikely the company's motivation is to get monetary damages from you. The lawsuit may be to keep its options open should you decide to sue.

    John
     
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  11. Flyback

    Flyback Well-Known Member

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    The fact is that I stayed there throughout the "paper design phase" and really really helped their boss to get his head into the project.
    I wrote them and offered to give them any further help by email.
    All I am saying is that I have had an email with the threat of legal action in it from them.
    Thanks for your points.
     
  12. jpanhalt

    jpanhalt Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Oh, just an e-mail. That may suffice for a 180-day notice in the UK. The motivation is pretty clear now. If you are not currently represented by an attorney, you are per se or pro per or any other bastardized Latin term meaning representing yourself. You can contact the firm's attorney and ask what they want. You might even be blunt and ask whether it wants a mutual release or claims. In the US, offers made in negotiation of a settlement are not admissible. Are you allowed to record the conversation? If so, do it. (In the US, we have one-party or two-party states. Most states are one-party, which means you can record without notifying the other party. Two-party states are notable exceptions, which played a part in the impeachment of President Clinton.)

    I am assuming an average private-practice labor attorney probably charges $150 to $300/hour. You need to assess whether the $1,500 to $3,000, minimal charge by such an attorney versus you simply asking what your previous employer wants is worth it. Do not use e-mail. Make a phone call and ask for a meeting. Ask at the beginning of the meeting whether it is being recorded. Even in one-party states, such a question needs to be answered honestly, or nothing is admissible. Never, ever say anything that could be construed as you resigning voluntarily. Whomever you talk to will be much more experienced in UK law and will only have one goal -- to save the company money or risk. BTW, few corporation litigate their own cases in the US. An in-house attorney may instigate something (like an e-mail), but when a large corporation actually gets into court, it hires an outside firm at a price considerably in excess of what it pays in-house counsel.

    Again, what you are willing to spend has to be considered relative to what you stand to lose. From Ian's comment, I suspect you are not independently wealthy. I don't have a clue about your status.

    Good luck.

    John
     
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  13. Ian Rogers

    Ian Rogers Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    Are you wealthy?? If they sue, it can only be for the price of the job at hand!! If you haven't got the money, where is it going to come from?? Return the email and tell them there is no money... Any money you earn is for the up keep of your life / dependents.... I doubt they will pursue with a strong chance they will get nothing!!
     
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  14. jpanhalt

    jpanhalt Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Hi Ian,
    I have thought about this evolving story a bit. In the US, it would be extremely unusual (aka unheard of) for an attorney representing a company to make such a threat by e-mail.

    Flyback, Please confirm whether an attorney representing the company sent you the email.

    If it was not from an attorney, I would disagree with your advice on one detail. I would not return the email nor have any contact with the sender, but I would recommend saving it. It might come in very handy later, and Flyback should not tip his hand.

    Now, if it was from the company's attorney, then you get into an issue that depends on British law. If such action is considered acceptable and is the equivalent of a 180-day notice in the US, Flyback needs to consult an attorney or decide to represent himself at this early stage. Swapping e-mails is usually not a good idea -- an e-mail is too easily converted to e-vidence to be used against you.

    John
     
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  15. granddad

    granddad Active Member

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    Reading your story it sounds to me as if you have a case of bullying against them, or at least constructive dismissal ...
     
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  16. spec

    spec Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Flyback,

    This is the most extraordinary story I have ever heard. There must be more going on here. When you say the company is taking you to court. What exactly does that mean? Is it a small claims court writ or what. You say they are suing you for damages- how much for? Are you a UK citizen. Do you now live in the UK.

    I can tell you are worried- don't be. Collect your thoughts.Try to get more facts about your function on the project. What was your job description. What instructions did you have. I know that the way you have been treated is unforgivable but try and be objective. Once you get the facts together, go and see the citizens advice bureau. You could also write a letter to your MP but make the letter short and succinct.
    Finally, as has been said here already, unless you are rich, what are they going to sue you for?
     
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  17. Flyback

    Flyback Well-Known Member

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    it wasn't an attorney that sent the email with threat of legal action, , it was the company owner.]
    Ref your question I am UK citizen and I live in uk.
     
  18. jpanhalt

    jpanhalt Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    That company hired an idiot as its owner. Is there someone you can inform of that problem? ;)

    Ignore and save the e-mail, no contact at all with the owner or its attorney (if he has one).

    John
     
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  19. alec_t

    alec_t Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    The wording of that email may be critical. I could be wrong, but I believe it is an offence in the UK to threaten legal proceedings (as distinct from advising that legal proceedings are being taken). I think you should get legal advice on that before taking further action.
     
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  20. spec

    spec Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    The company owner is either delusional or really want's you to go back to his company and sort out the mess this design is in.
    You have nothing to worry about- SO STOP WORRYING This is Bitain you are living in. As the other members have said, from what you have told us, you have a strong case for suing the company for a number of reasons. My guess is that you are young/inexperienced - right? That is what they are playing on.

    Have you got another job?
    Have you got a life?

    If so work at your new job
    Live your life.
    Go for a beer

    (remember this- most people are nice but there are many a-holes too. Don't let them get the better of you)
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016
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  21. Tony Stewart

    Tony Stewart Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Is he merely venting anger from consequences or he is demanding something in return. In either case, Threats are pointless unless backed up by a Notice for a Claim Hearing date, delivered in person.
     
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