For anyone stumbling across this, I was employed as a senior-level Software Architect at iApps Pty Ltd from November 2010 to October 2013. By the time I left, I had climbed to ‘Chief Architect‘ status. And it’s time for the truth surrounding my departure from this company to be heard.
Let it be known that all of the information presented here is factual, and that I can prove every single statement made. Further let it be known that I am providing this information not with malicious intent, but to protect my own reputation and to clear up any inaccurate or incomplete tellings of this story that may have been circulated. If my reputation is to be tarnished, then let it be tarnished by nothing but truth.
And to my former employer, I say the following: Everything on this page is true, and you know it. If you genuinely feel otherwise, by all means feel free to skip the threatening letters and head straight to the courts to commence proceedings against me for defamation. But remember, it’s not defamation if it’s true. It’s not even defamation if it’s mostly true. Also remember that I’m still standing strong, unscathed, on the side of truth, transparency, and fairness. These are my principles; I will fight to defend them. All things considered, I think you’d be best off publicly acknowledging your past mistakes, expressing contrition for them, and taking your lumps. There’s a comments section below you may use for this purpose if you’re so inclined. But that’s entirely your decision.
The facts of the matter
This will be a bit dry and boring. As noted, I am simply stating the documented, provable facts of the situation; not providing a narrative. I invite you to color in your own narrative to go along with the facts as you read. Anyways:
- On or around 22 November 2010 I commenced employment at iApps Pty Ltd as a senior-level IT professional.
- The Professional Employees Award specifies the minimum terms of my employment with iApps Pty Ltd, although I was unaware of this at the time (having just migrated to Australia in September 2010, and not possessing any familiarity with the local employment laws).
- The salary I was offered was substantially below the minimum wage for my position. Again I did not discover this until much later. At the time, I knew the offer was low, but not below-minimum-wage low.
- I was told on multiple occasions, both before and after commencing employment with iApps Pty Ltd, that I would receive shareholding in the company. This enticement was a critical factor in my decision to accept iApps Pty Ltd’s offer of employment, and is commonplace when dealing with startup companies. Startups usually provide early or important employees with generous amounts of equity to compensate for the difference between an employee’s salary and their market rate.
- No written document regarding my shareholding in iApps Pty Ltd was ever presented to me, nor were any specific details (allocation, vesting, cliff, etc.) ever clarified. Though I did ask for these things. Repeatedly.
- Over the course of my employment, iApps Pty Ltd often expected myself and other employees to put in uncompensated overtime.
- Although both the Professional Employees Award and the iApps employment contract required annual (or more frequent) reviews, no such reviews took place. One manager did attempt employee reviews, but her efforts were disregarded by higher-level management. This becomes relevant later on, around point #30.
- On 4 October 2013 management issued a directive requiring all employees to take 12 annual leave days to cover a shutdown from 16/12/2013 to 3/1/2014 (inclusive); the directive required anyone with less than 12 days accrued to take the time as unpaid leave. For me, this was essentially the last straw.
- I started researching Australian employment law and discovered that Fair Work guidelines don’t allow mandatory unpaid leave unless expressly permitted by an award contract. I notified iApps Pty Ltd, and the directive was modified.
- I continued my research to determine what an “award contract” is, and finally discovered the Professional Employees Award and determined that it applied to me. I was shocked, and then appalled, to say the least.
- From the Professional Employees Award I worked out that I had been underpaid since commencing my employment with iApps, and not by any small amount.
- On 15 October 2013 I informed iApps management of the underpayment, and included a claim for repayment of the underpaid wages.
- Also on the same day, I informed other similarly-classed employees of the Professional Employees Award so that they could check their own records. I requested that they temporarily refrain from submitting their own claims so that I could take the worst of the fallout from management. However, another employee had also been significantly underpaid and chose to submit his own claim.
- On 16 October 2013, I was called into a meeting with iApps management. I requested the presence of the other employee who had submitted a claim. That request was denied, and I attended the meeting, in a small room, behind a closed door, with myself and three iApps managers. The other employee was eventually brought into the meeting, after a couple of hours.
- iApps management professed a general unfamiliarity with the Professional Employees Award and Fair Work policies.
- In relation to the above; the employment contract I signed in 2010 makes reference to “the Fair Work Act 2009″ and an “associated Modern Award”. It does not specifically identify the Professional Employees Award.
- In relation to the above; the employment contract I signed in 2010 included a section titled “Schedule 2 – Fair Work Australia Information Statement”. The entire content of this section is “See attachment.”. I do not recall if any such attachment was provided to me.
- In relation to the above; on 13 December 2012, a prospective employee sent to iApps management an e-mail that included the Professional Employees Award as an attachment, and a detailed discussion of its relevance. The initial offer from iApps to this employee included a salary component that was significantly below the minimum award rate. This prospect was hired and was paid the required wage.
- iApps management attempted to convince me that I had violated company confidentiality policies by informing other employees of the Professional Employees Award (note that the award requires that copies of the award be made available to employees) and engaging in discussions about compensation.
- Ultimately, both myself and the other employee were given the same ultimatum; we could 1) retract our claims, or 2) agree that we would accept equity in the company (the same equity that had already been promised to us by iApps, and still not delivered or even properly specified) in lieu of the wages claimed; and in either case continuing to work for below the legal minimum wage. If we did not agree to either of those options, management stated that they would immediately liquidate the company and that we would receive nothing. We were given until the next morning to decide.
- I took the subsequent day off to seek legal advice, conduct further research, and evaluate my options. The other employee involved did the same.
- I returned to the office on 18 October 2013, and was directed to attend another meeting with the same three iApps managers. I requested the presence of the other impacted employee, but the request was again denied. I was threatened with summary dismissal if I did not attend without him. I attended the meeting.
- iApps management did not discuss the ultimatum that had been issued or ask if I accepted (though I would not have). Instead I was declared redundant on 18 October 2013 and asked to work out my notice period.
- In relation to the above; while in the process of declaring me redundant iApps management stated that there was “no redundancy” for the skillset I possessed.
- In relation to the above; on 16 October 2013 iApps management had also stated that there was “no redundancy” for myself or my skillset.
- In relation to the above; iApps was actively advertising for candidates with a similar skillset at the time, and did continue advertising and performing interviews after my departure.
- As part of my redundancy, I was asked to accept an offer to repay an unspecified amount of underpaid wages in small monthly installments. iApps claimed it would need “weeks” to determine the actual amount owed. I did not accept this offer, and we continued discussing terms.
- In relation to the above; I had an HR professional review the facts surrounding my employment and compose a spreadsheet detailing the underpayments, the total amount underpaid, and how that amount was calculated. I provided this spreadsheet to iApps to speed the process along. iApps did not use it.
- iApps management asserted that in seeking to recover the underpaid wages I was “cashing out” the shareholding that had been promised to me, and that I would therefore not receive any shares. I did not accept this assertion.
- iApps management asserted that my position in the company was that of “Software Developer” and not “Chief Architect”. I did not accept this assertion, took it as a personal affront, and demanded an apology.
- Although I continued working at iApps Pty Ltd for two weeks after alerting them of my underpayment, the wages I received on 25 October 2013 (and the entitlements paid out thereafter) showed that no adjustments had been made to raise my salary.
- Due to the above issues and other assertions that caused me to believe that iApps was not negotiating in good faith, on 29 October 2013 I informed iApps that I found their latest offer unacceptable, that I considered their actions a fundamental breach of my employment contract and held the agreement “null and void” (though probably “repudiated and terminated” is the correct parlance), and that I would bring the matter before Fair Work Australia. I then walked out of that office, and never returned.
- I proceeded shortly thereafter to initiate proceedings with the Fair Work Commission, citing the circumstances surrounding my redundancy, the manner in which iApps management had handled our dispute, multiple violations of the terms of the Professional Employees Award (minimum wage and uncompensated overtime, among others), and the nonexistent shareholding.
- As part of the above proceedings, I expressed concern that two other iApps Pty Ltd employees (other than the employee who had also submitted his own claim) might also be underpaid. Both were eventually dismissed, one within hours of when I raised my concerns.
- On 5 November 2013, I received a nice letter (page 1, page 2, page 3) from iApps Pty Ltd alleging some $200,000 in damages for claims that were primarily inaccurate or overstated. My response was essentially “Bring it”, but in far more words than that. iApps did not bring it.
- We went before the Fair Work Commission:
- iApps Pty Ltd failed to pay the final installment that was due on 30 November 2014.
- On 4 December 2014 I advised iApps that I had not received payment (and received no reply).
- On 5 December 2014, I again advised iApps that I had not received payment (and received no reply).
- iApps Pty Ltd failed to remedy their non-payment within the 7 days allowed by our settlement terms.
- On 11 December 2014 I notified iApps Pty Ltd that I acknowledged their repudiation of the deed of settlement, was executing my Common Law right to terminate the agreement, and holding any ongoing obligations that it may have placed upon me as at an end.
- In relation to the above; on 11 December 2014 I did not refer to the previous attempts at providing notice. However, I shortly received a response from iApps management insisting that they had had e-mail problems and that this was the first message they had received from me on the subject, and chastising me for not calling them instead. I maintained my termination of the settlement.
- In relation to the above; on 29 October 2013 I had advised iApps management that I would only communicate with them in writing, by e-mail. At no point did I retract or modify this.
- In our subsequent discussions on the matter, iApps agreed to undertake repayment of the amount outstanding, owed as damages stemming from their repudiation of the settlement and its termination, and did submit payment.
- I do not personally seek anything further from iApps Pty Ltd, other than perhaps a public acknowledgement of the above facts, an equally public apology for them, and a public retraction of any disparaging remarks made about me or my colleagues to my current employer or to anybody else in 2013 or at any time thereafter.
- Australia has very awesome workplace laws, entitlements, and protections. And unfortunately it does need to have those things thanks to employers who think they can do the wrong thing and get away with it. That’s not a fact but my honest opinion, stated on a matter of public policy/interest. Workplace protections are important. The Fair Work Act 2009 and the various Award contracts are good things, and should never be undermined.
Now, to respond to the allegations leveled against me in that letter (page 1, page 2, page 3) I received. I was held harmless for anything and everything alleged in there, but still. Let’s finish setting the record straight.
Yes, I did seek (and attain) employment with a former client of the company. This occurred after iApps delivered its ultimatum, making it abundantly clear that iApps either could not or would not honor the minimum terms of my employment contract. Why should I then show any further consideration towards an agreement that the other side was clearly unwilling or unable to uphold? Because they got me to sign a piece of paper using promises of a shareholding that was never delivered? Both of those questions are rhetorical.
Yes, I did walk out on the 29th of October, 2013. As clause 13.3 of the Professional Employees Award gives me every right to do when declared redundant. And which I likely was entitled to do regardless, as iApps wasn’t meeting the terms of my employment contract and had demonstrated a clear and persistent unwillingness to do so. The 29th is also my wedding anniversary, so now I have two things to celebrate on that day.
I did contact IBM/Avnet, but only to inform that them I was no longer employed at iApps and to request that they remove the association with iApps Pty Ltd from my personal profile in their system. If iApps’s reputation was damaged by the fact that I didn’t work there anymore…then maybe they shouldn’t have tried so hard to drive me away.
And I did erase my personal information from my workstation. Think things like Internet cookies/persistent logins, stored passwords to e-mail accounts and websites, chat logs, locally cached e-mails, browser history, and the like. All things that are of no value to my former employer, and all things that they have no business using before or after my departure. All of the actual work I did was checked in to SVN, and I did nothing to harm it. My conduct was professional, up until the very end.
However, I did leave behind a nice custom wallpaper, and configure the machine to play some awesome music at login. And to run a script that would set the playback volume to an enjoyable level while simultaneously disabling the system volume controls. It was all good clean fun, caused no harm to the computer, and would take any halfway experienced system admin no more than a couple of minutes to disable. I understand it caused a welcome distraction:
Anyways, back on topic.
No, I did not make “spurious” statements and allegations about iApps to damage their reputation or business. I said nothing untrue, and only discussed my situation in the context of seeking advice and evidence, protecting myself and my colleague(s) from the aggressive and intimidating tactics being used against us, and asserting my rights under Australian law. And besides, wanting to have a good reputation doesn’t mean you can do shady things and then assert that nobody can talk about them because they’re shady and will make you look bad. That’s absurd.
And $200,000 in damages? Fat chance. Though after three years on an iApps-level salary, that’s probably about how much income I missed out on while I was foolishly waiting around for them to make good on their promises of shareholding in the company. I ran my finances backwards waiting on iApps, and when I’d finally had as much as I could stand and demanded nothing more than what I had been promised and was legally entitled to, all they did was try to throw me under the bus.
A number of things fall away as a natural consequence of iApps’s repudiation of our settlement and its subsequent termination by my choice (or to use the legal parlance, by my acceptance of their repudiation). Most important among these various things being terms clause 6, which shrouded all of the above events in secrecy, and terms clause 5, which was so broadly constructed that it made it nearly impossible for me to say anything at all about iApps Pty Ltd, ever.
The value of free speech and the right to free expression should never be discounted lightly. Free speech is important. Free speech is what keeps the tyrants in this world at bay. Without it, we are lost.
I miscalculated gravely when I signed away my right to speak freely. And it feels ever so good to have it back.
To those current and former iApps staff members who assisted me in gathering evidence and building my case, I thank you.
You helped me stand up to an adversary intent on ruining me, and an adversary who likely did their level best to bully and intimidate you as well; your support is appreciated and shall not be forgotten.
Now I don’t usually go for rap, but considering the circumstances I feel this is unavoidably obligatory. Set the volume on your speakers to ‘righteous’, and enjoy: