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Woman Fired For Using Uppercase In Email 364

tomachi writes "An accountant in NZ has been awarded $17,000 NZD for unfair dismissal after her boss fired her without warning for using uppercase letters in a single email to co-workers. The email, which advises her team how to fill out staff claim forms, specifies a time and date highlighted in bold red, and a sentence written in capitals and highlighted in bold blue. It reads: 'To ensure your staff claim is processed and paid, please do follow the below checklist.' Her boss deemed the capital letters too confrontational for her co-workers to read after they woke up from naptime."


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Woman Fired For Using Uppercase in Email

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  • by GMFTatsujin ( 239569 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @01:15PM (#29263047) Homepage

    I work IT at a home nursing business, and I get work tickets submitted all the time. The nurses and office coordinators use software that -- don't ask me why -- requires them to use all capital letters when entering patient visit notes and ordering medications. They leave the CAPS LOCK key on all the time as part of their professional work, and are so used to it that it doesn't stand out when they use it in other contexts.

    You learn to live with it.

  • by TheRon6 ( 929989 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @01:26PM (#29263167)

    I'd bet there was a more personal confrontation, possibly with a superior, and that email was simply seen as a better excuse to get rid of her than the real reason.

    My thoughts exactly. I don't see this as a story about someone being fired for using caps lock. I see it as a story about a manager who was too stupid to have a legitimate reason to fire her prepared ahead of time and has cost their company $17k as a result. One of my coworkers was fired several months ago because he didn't have one of the certifications that's required of everyone in my department. He'd never had the certification of course but that hadn't stopped my company from hiring him and letting him work there for a year. But he was *really* fired for getting into a very long, personal argument with our supervisor. Clever managers will always have some excuse stashed away to get rid of anyone if needed. Sounds like this manager wasn't nearly clever enough.

  • by 644bd346996 ( 1012333 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @01:42PM (#29263451)

    According to the code you cite, bold, italic, colored, or merely larger are all acceptable ways to make a section conspicuous, whereas the only mention of all caps is for headings. There is no technological justification for using all caps for body text that is required to be emphasized, and it could be said that doing so is actually rather nefarious, given that all caps is second only to poor color choice as a way to make text both noticeable and unreadable.

  • by retchdog ( 1319261 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @01:52PM (#29263591) Journal

    Caps remain caps if read without HTML-formatting?

  • by teh kurisu ( 701097 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @02:29PM (#29264159) Homepage

    Actually the reason for all caps in legal documents is that certain parts of the text are required to have greater visual emphasis relative to the rest of the document, as they tend to be the important parts. If you're working in plain text then all caps is your only option.

    I'm sure that the fact that all caps is harder to read hasn't escaped the notice of these bloodsuckers either.

  • by Jedi Alec ( 258881 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:02PM (#29264673)

    So what exactly is so hard about simply documenting what a PITA this person is, with multiple examples and testimonies from other employees, and then using THAT as justification for dismissal, instead of making up some BS reason like this all-caps email?

    Because in a lot of these cases the crazy person is not so much crazy as frustrated with idiotic co-workers who can't follow simple instructions. Pretty hard to build a case against an employee when all they do is point out inconvenient truths, no matter how annoying the fashion which they do it in, especially if the PHB is (in)directly responsible for those truths being there in the first place.

    Judging from the whole story, it sounds like this particular accountant is "not a teamplayer".

  • by tkg ( 455770 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:11PM (#29264813)

    You aparently didn't read the article.

    "As part of her compensation, Walker was awarded nearly $6000 in lost wages for the 13 weeks between leaving ProCare and finding a new job, but she says she didn't find fulltime work until October 2008."

    Clearly she DID look for another job, and if you think fighting for fair treatment by an employer is abusing the system, then you must be one of those employers.

    I don't know what the legal system is like in NZ, but if it's anything like in the US, the vast majority of the settlement went to the lawyers, making the whole suit primarily a matter of principle.

  • Re:the real problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Karellen ( 104380 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @05:38PM (#29266907) Homepage

    The keyword there is *can*. Yes, it *can* add expressiveness to your email. In my experience, most of the time it does not. For about 98% of HTML emails I receive it just adds meaningless noise in the form of horrid fonts, freakishly large or small font sizes, garish colours and completely pointless logo image attachments. (The other 2% of the time it merely adds nothing.) I want to read the text of your email in the font of my choosing, at the size I find comfortable, in colours that don't give me headaches. As for your company logo which you attach to *every* *single* *email* - yeah, that's not at all completely pointless.

    Oh, you could use *bold*, or /italic/, or _underlines_, but my "plain text" email reader will add bold, italic or underline highlights if it sees the preceding markup, which was in popular use at least 5 years before HTML was invented, and about 10 years before the first version of Outlook - the mail client from hell that actively subverted all the tried-and-tested "good practice" conventions for making email actually productive - was ever released and popularised HTML email.

    So, uh, how exactly does HTML email improve communication again? Because I don't see it. I've never felt the desire to bother, and every email I've received where it being in HTML has made a difference, it's been for the worse.

  • Get a grip (Score:4, Interesting)

    by syousef ( 465911 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @07:55PM (#29268221) Journal

    I don't know why she doesn't just go find another job, instead of this silly lawsuit ... oh wait, greed, that's it ... a $17,000 award, nice. Guess who coughs up for that ... people like us who don't abuse the system :/

    How did she abuse the system exactly? She didn't walk up to her boss and ask to be fired.

    Oh please, it's her employer's fault that she has zero savings, yet still bought a house that she couldn't afford without living literally having to live paycheck to paycheck? That makes the employer "responsible" for owing her a living?

    The laws are there to prevent people turning to crime because they've just lost their subsistence wage jobs and need to feed their family. An employer is in a position of power over his employees.

    People aren't disposable. There is a reason we developed a civilisation where it's not dog eat dog. You enjoy the fruits of that civilisation but don't want it to protect others and call their using that protection "greed". Get a grip.

  • Where's the proof? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 31, 2009 @09:23PM (#29268901)
    The company says she was abrasive, but can only present one email which, by its brief description, sounds appropriate and professional...sounds fishy to me. It just sounds like the boss made up some story because they wanted to fire her, possibly for completely unsound reasons, but were trying to lay a paper trail and did a very bad job of it. It's not like you're going to get fellow coworkers coming forward for something like this--if they agree with the employer they're opening up the employer and themselves for libel suits, and if they disagree they'll probably get fired too.

    I once had a coworker who disliked me for unknown reasons get promoted to my boss, and then he tried to get me to quit via things like claiming on my review people found me abrasive (which had never happened in earlier reviews). Since I was basically working an extra shift doing work for other people (in addition to bringing in cookies and other manager's favorite tea) he had a hard time finding people to back up his weird claims, so he just resorted to direct and persistent character assassination to his boss. I got the ax in the next round of layoffs, and am now happily toiling away doing coding I love for more money and reasonable hours with non-crazy people. HA!

  • Re:the real problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Keen Anthony ( 762006 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @10:46PM (#29269401)

    I totally agree. How can you get the full impact of what I've written you if your email client isn't capable of displaying 36 pt comic sans in lavender?

    Kidding. As I remember, I was using PINE as my client when people around me started writing HTML format emails. I don't remember now having been able to read those messages; thus your luddite argument. But even after I was able to read HTML emails, I got sick of email forwards full of photos, animated gifs, and even embedded audio. And so I regarded HTML email as generally being obnoxious. And then came the warnings about executable code being embedded in HTML emails. However, looking back, I don't think I ever got a malicious email that didn't depend 100% social engineering to be effective.

  • by drsquare ( 530038 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @01:48AM (#29270543)

    I don't know why she doesn't just go find another job, instead of this silly lawsuit ... oh wait, greed, that's it ... a $17,000 award, nice. Guess who coughs up for that ... people like us who don't abuse the system :/

    No, it's paid by the company that fucked her over. It took its time, but this thread is finally being flooded by Americans (probably libertarians) outraged that the system actually looked after the little guy rather than the corporation.

    Seriously Americans, stop worshipping corporations, they won't return the favour. I don't see how anyone can be against laws that stop companies arbitrarily taking away people's livelihoods. Only in America I suppose...

If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error. -- John Kenneth Galbraith