Saturday, October 27, 2007

Write Ups

The last week or two, it seems like there's been more than the usual amount of disciplinary activity -- artists getting a curt memo from a supervisor -- often the director, producer or production manager -- that goes something like this:

Dear Bill/Helen/Ted:

This is your first disciplinary notice under Article 16 of The Animation Guild's c.b.a. As we discussed with you on August 1st, you have repeatedly drawn Burlap Bear off model. You've also missed deadlines.

If there is no improvement in your overall drawing, we may take further disciplinary action, up to and including discharge.

There needs to be two written disciplinary notices before a singnatore employer can fire somebody, but employees can be let go the same day they receive notice #2.

I've seen all kinds of disciplinary notices in my time. Ones that go into long, single-spaced detail about what the problem is, how many times the employee has been talked to, and what the employee has to do to correct the problem.

Ones that are cryptic and maddeningly uninformative: "Your work is below the usual and expected standards of a board artist..." (What the hell does that mean?)

Painting with a broad brush, there are two basic types of disciplinary notices.

The first type is where the employer has an actual issue with an employee's work performance. Maybe the artist comes in late over and over again, or the artist never hits a deadline, or the artist's work never comes up to the standard his supervisor wants and expects.

The second type is political. Maybe the artist has ticked off the wrong muckety-muck. Maybe the muckety-muck wants his own close pal in the slot occupied by the artist, and so reasons are invented to get rid of the artist. (In this case, there is nothing wrong with the artist's work, but problems are invented because somebody wants the employee gone. Doesn't happen a lot ... but it happens.)

And here's the rub: It's difficult to prove type #2 because the write-up looks an awful lot like type #1.

Like, identical.

And unless the employee can prove the employer is being discriminatory, unfair, and breaking state and federal laws in the process, his or her head will roll if the employer wants him or her gone.

Which isn't to say the animation guild can't help the employee strategize on remedies to the problem, or slow the discharge down, or secure some kind of settlement on the way out the door. Because we have. But the hard truth is:

If the employer really really wants you to be missing, when the dust settles you'll be missing.

I've learned this from thirty years of first and second-hand experience.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

> The second type is political...
> In this case, there is nothing
> wrong with the artist's work,
> but problems are invented because
> somebody wants the employee gone.
> Doesn't happen a lot ... but it
> happens.)

It happen to a highly-regarded union shop steward over at Disney Features early this year.

Anonymous said...

if a company wants to fire someone, they should be allowed. big deal.

Steve Hulett said...

if a company wants to fire someone, they should be allowed.

Who's saying otherwise? They are.

All they have to do is follow the rules: federal, state and contractual.

Anonymous said...

if a company wants to fire someone, they should be allowed. big deal.

If it's a legit reason, it's not a big deal. But I doubt you'd be so dismissive if you got fired for b.s. reasons, not because you didn't do the job well.

Anonymous said...

I'm the one who wrote the big deal comment... You are right, if I were fired for no real reason, I'd be really pissed off. No doubt about it.

But, not only do I freelance on occasion where this would affect me in this way. I also hire staff for part time work when I do bigger projects. There are times I just want to dump someone because we don't mesh for whatever reason.

Since I've been on the other end of the stick (being let go for no apparent reason), I was pissed. But after a little time to simmer, I realized that it was their company and they should have the right. We didn't mesh. I was okay with it after the initial pissed off period ended.

Steve Hulett said...

Since I've been on the other end of the stick (being let go for no apparent reason), I was pissed. But after a little time to simmer, I realized that it was their company and they should have the right.

In this corporatist age, it's becoming a quaint concept, but it's really simple:

Follow the rules. Follow the law. You don't like the rules or law, then change them. But follow them when they're in place.

Several years ago, a large company hauled a supervisor in and canned him when the division head got ticked off at a meeting, walked out and told an underling: "Fire him."

They did fire him. Like instantly. And by doing that, they set themselves up for a grievance because they didn't first write him up, then give him a chance to correct, then write him up a second time and discharge him.

The company ended up paying a goodly sum of money. Why? Because it had agreed in a collective bargaining agreement to FOLLOW CERTAIN RULES and it didn't.

Same thing with state and federal laws. You break them and you get sued over it, you pay.

Anonymous said...

I've been fired 4 times, and each time I was basically fired despite always doing exactly as I'm told.
A lot of times, your job in the industry hangs on keeping a superior "happy." A lot of times, superiors change their minds about what they want several (hundred) times during the course of a production. Thus, they become "unhappy" if you can't read their minds and keep up with them. If they're not "happy," you're not doing a good job and they can concoct all kinds of creative ways to make it SEEM like you've been doing a "bad" job.

Floyd Norman said...

Don't take the BS! I've walked off more than one job when called up on phony charges. Yeah, it hurts - - but trust me, you'll be better off for it.

On a lighter note, I had one studio boss who canned me actually hide when he spotted me at a gas station in Burbank. I couldn't help but think - - what a pathetic whimp.

Steve Hulett said...

Ah yes, the old "Fire them and then run the other way when you see them later."

I've been dipped in that bucket of excrement as well.

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