Monday, August 29, 2011

My first lay off

Not me, I wasn't laid off. But today, at 3:30 pm, I had to sit in on a lay off. I've known since I came in today that this was happening at 3:30, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I barely got anything else done because I was too busy wiping the sweat from my palms. Sitting in my office and overhearing the staff planning someone's birthday lunch tomorrow was awkward. I wished I could warn them that they might not be in the mood for a party.

As In House Counsel, I don't have much to do with the day to day operations of the company. All I do is sit in my office and give advice, which may or may not be followed, to those who do make the big decisions. The fact of the matter is that almost every company is suffering right now. Those who said that jobs in the healthcare profession were recession proof were dead wrong. Medicare and private insurance companies are giving fewer and fewer reimbursements, which means that either medical services are being given at the patient's own cost, or, most likely, at the healthcare provider's cost. I should probably be keeping better informed on what's going on politically with all this, and I will spend most of the day tomorrow doing research.

How it translates to my company's everyday life is that we are barely meeting our payroll (My payday was the 25th and I haven't seen my check yet..., but I'm not complaining, at least it's coming), and that came down to laying one person off. For now. My company hires a lot of foreign workers, being fully honest, for positions that we cannot fill with U.S. citizens because of shortages of Physical Therapists and other professional positions. It's really expensive and pretty complicated to be a company in the kind of situation of having so many foreign workers, hence the need for an In House Counsel.... I swear, if I wasn't here to listen to the decisions being made, they'd be in violation of the Department of Labor's rules a thousand times over). One of those rules does not allow a company to lay off US citizen workers if there is a foreign national in the same department, with a similar function. So, this lay off hurt even more, because it means that at the end of her two week notice, she'll either have to have found an alternate company to sponsor her visa, or she'll have to go back to her home country. Starting to lay people off was inevitable, and the decision to start doing so should have happened months ago, but the execs pushed it off as long as they could. The decision was made on Thursday.

Watching someone cry in front of you and ask if I knew that she has a son who is started first grade yesterday, and if I knew that she was the only person in her family with an income was seriously painful. She seemed totally shocked. It can't be a surprise that layoffs had to happen, but I guess you never think it's going to happen to you. I hate that the Company has to put her in this position, but the DoL's rules are clear and make tons of sense. I can only imagine how much she is going to have to scramble in the next few weeks to find someone who is in the position to hire anyone, let alone someone who will be willing to go through the process and cost of picking someone's visa up. Not to get technical, but a visa petition costs anywhere between $750 and $3200, depending on the company, not to mention the legal fees that most companies will have to pay because they don't have an In House to handle their petitions.

My workday is technically over, but I have to sit here in my office and be the last to leave, because someone has to make sure that her departure goes smoothly. No matter how often I wish I could stay home and take care of Mia full time, right now, I'm really glad to be coming back to this office tomorrow morning.

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