Thursday, September 3, 2009

YOU'RE FIRED!

Capitalizing words in IM and e-mail is called "typing in all caps" and is indicative of "yelling." However, certain fields and industries - such as Law - require various words, phrases, and even entire sentences be capitalized, usually to make the selected text easier to read (as opposed to emphasizing it). While "all caps" is considered rude, a New Zealand boss took his observance of proper Netiquette a bit too far when he fired an accountant for sending electronic correspondence in all caps.

In 2007, Vicki Walker was fired for "creating disharmony in the workplace" with her "confrontational" typing style. While the company claimed Walker had sent a number of so-called "confrontational" e-mails which led to her dismissal, only one was ever entered into evidence. In it, a time and date was capitalized and set in red boldface. Another sentence, also boldfaced and capitalized, read, "TO ENSURE YOUR STAFF CLAIM IS PROCESSED AND PAID, PLEASE DO FOLLOW THE BELOW CHECKLIST." The corporation further cited Ms. Walker for asking to view complaints made against her by her co-workers. She had worked for the company for two years prior to her sacking.

Walker won her first wrongful termination case against the corporation, but was awarded just over $15k, which she says is nowhere near enough. "I have spent thousands defending myself and there are so many issues that are unresolved," she said. She also told reporters she was forced to re-mortgage her home and borrow money from her sister, as she is a single mother who was out of work for several months afterward. The reward included the first 13 weeks she was out of work, but Walker says she did not find full-time employment until October 2008! Walker plans on further pursuing the matter.

The Employment Relations Authority found that Walker's use of red, boldface typeset, and - especially - all caps did promote disharmony in the workplace, but not to the extent that it justified her termination.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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