• Report: #174681
Complaint Review:

AmSouth Bank

  • Submitted: Fri, February 03, 2006
  • Updated: Mon, July 16, 2012

  • Reported By:Holiday Florida
AmSouth Bank
5200 EAST BAY DR Clearwater, Florida United States of America

AmSouth Bank Wrongful Termination ripoff Clearwater Florida

*UPDATE Employee: USA Today Article

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: Current Employee and Echo

*Author of original report: Clarifications...

*UPDATE Employee: Both are correct

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: All that for that

*Consumer Suggestion: Clarification for "C" regarding unemployment benefits and at will employment..

*UPDATE Employee: Current AmSouth Employee

*Consumer Comment: false imprisonment

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In September of 2001, I was working for AmSouth bank. I had been working there approximately a year and a half, and had good work reviews. I had been verbally warned about being late (never more than 15 minutes), although I had not had any problems with that directly preceeding the incident in question. I had received satisfactory to superior reviews of my work. I was given supervisory duties, and was given responsibilities befitting my caliber of work, including ATM teller, vault teller, and "TCD" (teller cash dispenser, used in the drive-through) teller. I was terminated on September 12, 2001.

One of my co-workers put in a notice of resignatiotn due to relocating. The assistant manager at the time, Mai, decided that we should have a pot-luck dinner to wish the exiting employee good luck with her new endeavors. All employees, including myself, were asked what we would do to conribute to this affairl. We were not asked if we were able to participate, it was assumed.

At the time, I was living paycheck-to-paycheck, and did not even have a stove/oven at my home. The expected contribution was to feed the entire office, consisting of approximately 12-15 employees. I would also like to point out the exiting employee and I were on good terms, and had attended private functions together outside of work.

I went to Mai privately, and told her in confidence that my finances did not allow for participation in this event. She was very dismissive, and tried to talk me into it. I told her my stove situation, and she insisted I could just buy trays of something at a local grocery store. I continued decilning, and she allowed that I could "think about it".

Throughout the rest of the week, I was asked several times every day about my participation in the planned pot-luck. On the final day, Sept. 12, a sheet was passed around with everyone's names listed, and a line to fill in for what they were bringing to the potluck- including mine. I felt this to be very embarrassing, as I had privately disclosed my financial problems to my assistant manager. I wrote "nothing", and passed the sheet on.

A little while later in the day, I was called into the branch manager's office. This began an extremely belittling conversation about my finances, the fact that I was not being a "team player", that I had a "bad attitude", and that my fellow co-workers would find me rude and distasteful to be around. I was extremley upset already (as most people at that point in history were, given the state of the country) and I had a very hard time with it.

At one point near the end, my manager told me that maybe AmSouth is not the job for me. I was taken aback, and asked her if she was firing me for not joining in the potluck? This made me very angry, and I got up and told her that I think that we should talk to HR about it, because I didn't think they'd agree with her- and walked out of her office.

Up until this point, with over a week of badgering about the party and the half-hour+ berating in my manager's office, I was composed pretty well. When I was going back to my station to get our employee packet with the phone number, my manager chased after me and told me that I did not need to make a big deal out of it. I felt this showed she knew she was wrong and didn't want me to call HR. At this point I said "I'll make a BIG f***ing deal out of it" and kept walking. It is the only time I swore in the whole affair.

When I got my paper, the manager requested that I return to her office, I assume she didn't want the other employees to hear the goings-on or the phone call to HR. I went into her office, and started dialing the number for HR. She yanked the phone out of my hand, and slammed in back into the cradle. I was kind of scared of her after that, as she looked extremely angry. I told her she better get HR on the phone right away. She called security, and I was escorted into a conference room, while she and the assistand manager called HR. I do not remember how long I was in the conference room being guarded by the armed security guard.

I was finally requested back into the manager's office, where someone from HR was supposedly on speaker phone. I was asked about my side of the story, and I told it. I also said I don't feel I should be penalized for not participating in a non-work function funded by my own money. Once my story was complete, I was told that I was no longer to work for AmSouth, because I was insubbordinate. I was escorted to my station, turned in my keys and codes, and left.

I knew what happened was not right. I just didn't know what to do about it. I work in a "right-to-work" state, and was not sure if I would have any recourse if I should try to take steps filing wrongful termination. I relocated due to the lost wages, sold my house, and was unable to get another job at any financial institutions. I had no other skills, many companies stopped hiring due to the national crisis, and ended up being forced to take a barely above minimum-wage part-time job almost a year later until one of the staffing companies I was signed up with found me a position elsewhere.

During my term of unemployment, I filed for unemployment. AmSouth filed a block, claiming I was fired for insubbordination- or employee misconduct. This made me inelligable for unemployment. This I *did* fight, and after several continuances filed by AmSouth, it was determined by unemployment that the incident did not count as insubbordination.

Even the swearing was a "one time lapse in judgement" and not a fireable offense because I had never been councelled on inappropriate language in the past. The only councelling I had on my work record was for tardiness, and since I hadn't had repeat offenses within a reasonable time-frame from the termination, it did not count.

I don't really expect to get anything out of reporting this, for the same reason I never contacted a lawyer in the past. I don't have the money for one, and I don't know what could be done about it. Getting my job back? No thanks. It did take me nearly 2 years to get back on track financially, but I look at it now as a learning experience. I just thought I'd put this out there as a warning to other employees who work in a heavy "non-work related functions funded by employees" type of office. You better eat ramen for a week and bring in a veggie tray- OR ELSE!

Echo Holiday, Florida

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 02/03/2006 07:54 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/amsouth-bank/clearwater-florida-33764/amsouth-bank-wrongful-termination-ripoff-clearwater-florida-174681. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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Updates & Rebuttals

#1 UPDATE Employee

USA Today Article

AUTHOR: C - (U.S.A.)

Yes there were talking points that came out the day after the USA Today article, the talking points were sent to officers only. There was a officers meeting in Tampa several weeks after the article, the meeting had been planned in advance not based on the article. Dowd did make comments that the reporter for USA Today was the same reporter that had investigated AmSouth for the article about the fine for the student loan issues several years back (which AmSouth was fined for) and that the reporter for the scorecard article took seven months to research the article before it was published.
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#2 UPDATE EX-employee responds

Current Employee and Echo

AUTHOR: Mike - (U.S.A.)

Current Employee:

I am the manager that appeared in the USA Today article in Janaury to which you referred in your response. More of my story and some of the legal filings in my case made it to the www.badamsouth.com website if you would like to read further.

I was curious about a few things. Can you confirm that there was a meeting led by Dowd Ritter discussing the USA Today article and can you confirm that the morning the USA Today article came out that a "talking points" memo regarding the article was circulated through the bank? If so, do you recall Mr. Ritter's reaction to the article? Also, I would like the opportunity to communicate with you and if you go to the website www.shameonbanks.com you can leave a reply that will not be posted for all the world to see. If you can find a moment, it would be much appreciated.

Thanks and God Bless.
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#3 Author of original report


AUTHOR: Echo - (U.S.A.)

Yes, the manager at the time was Karen.

I had not been warned about being late for a month, maybe two, before this all happened. Possibly more, but I think around one or two months before. I had not been late after that.

Since it was so far before the incident, they couldn't use it. They said I was "insubbordinate", which was the official reason for my termination. The only thing that I refused to do when asked, was the potluck.

I witnessed all sorts of things I really shouldn't have. Inproper audits, etc. Things that should not have been done. I refused a few things they had to ask other tellers to do. I never did anything for anyone above and beyond without initials either.

I know that Karen didn't like the fact that I made them sign off on things they wanted me to do against policy- especially after a direct order. I got many rolled eyes. I believe this may have been what she was referring to when she went into her degrading "not a team player" and "bad attitude" speeches.

My favorite part was when she asked me what I thought my co-workers would think of me as a person if I didn't bring them food. Ugh!

You are correct, I should never have dropped the f-bomb. I was 21, hot-headed, and wasn't really aware of this particular style of "business". Plus, as I said, it was Sept. 12th so I was a little pre-occupied/stressed anyway. I never made that mistake again while in a work environment.
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#4 UPDATE Employee

Both are correct

AUTHOR: C - (U.S.A.)

Steve is correct (though he sounds like an employment attorney who is for companies not employees) and Echo is correct.

A big mispreception is the unemployment benefits are automatic, banks do go to (now on a teleconfrence) with the unemployment division to attempt to avoid having to pay unemployment based on "performance" issues and attempt to documnet employees on non-related issues as in Echo's case (lateness) so that they do not have to pay the unemployment benefits.

AmSouth does attempt to do this, document employees for unrelated performance issues in an attempt to avoid having to pay unemployment compensation, I received this information from an employment attorney. That's what Echo went through. She did receive unemployment benefits but not after the bank attempted to avoid the claim frow what she said on "performance" issues.

As the "at-will" work applies, Steve is correct in the employees that are "at-will" (as AmSouth
employees are and spelled out clearly) meaning that they may be terminated by the company with or without reason at any time.

The only cause and effect is that if a "at-will" employee is fired as in Echo's case, the bank will attempt to show performance standards were not met to avoid unemployment payments. That is where performance standards, even though banks use them for reviews, is simply a business practice rather than a legal contract of employment for "at-will" employees. The two do not really go togeather, only when the employee is terminated (usually for performance issues though no reason is required under the law) and unemployment benefits are applied for, then the "documentation" for performance or substandard comes into play.

Echo's plight is common. She had a warning for being late, but there was a conflict with her supervisor, that could have been handled better on both sides (bad language never helps the situation) the bank decided to terminate her employment without notice which it legally is allowed to do but when she went for unemployment
her performance became an issue and there was a attempt on the bank's part not to pay unemployment.

The sad thing is that if the management had been better "Mai" would have simply let the matter of the lunch drop and it would have not been an issue and without seeing both sides at least a performing employee would have been with the bank loger. Poor management was part of the case here. It would be interesting to know the first name of the branch manager at the time of "Echo" firing (Karen?) since what some of Echo wrote may show a pattern of behavior, as well as turnover for the office, and be considered a hostile workplace, or maybe not. Again, it might be of use just to speak to a employment attorney since there are lost wages involved and there are other employees who have similiar reports working for the same company.

There is one attorney that is in the paper a lot who at one time did work on behalf of two employees at two different banks who had an issue with banks and employement issues. Banks never like bad publicity, even though they have a lot of lawyers on staff to fight things. Most employeees just go away and get another job or (attempt) to collect unemployment until something like this happens. The laws in the State of Florida are very much for the employer when it comes to employment issues and banks are very clear that even the employee policies are not a "contract" and may be changed or disregarded at any time. While this is legal it's not a good business practice and sometimes poor business practice's as in Echo's case turn out not to be legal since the law can always change or a different case can be made. The point (Angelia I believe it was) who was in law school is a good one, where Echo might have been held against her will.

There have been legal cases on how an employee is escorted from the property and judgements for the employee. That's why Echo probably still needs to consult an attroney to see if she has a case there.
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#5 UPDATE EX-employee responds

All that for that

AUTHOR: Echo - (U.S.A.)

I think the point C was trying to make, is that they use "at will" to mean they try to force people to quit- thereby causing people to forfeit unemployment. If someone is fired for insubbordination or wrong-doing, then they lose it as well. I imagine they will try to make things up to avoid that- like my "insubbordination".
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#6 Consumer Suggestion

Clarification for "C" regarding unemployment benefits and at will employment..

AUTHOR: Steve - (U.S.A.)


Being an "at will" employee has absolutely nothing to do with unemployment benefits.

"At Will" employment is provided for under state law. It simply means that you can quit at any time without reason or notice and your employer can terminate your employment at any time without cause or notice.

Collecting unemployment in Florida has absolutely nothing to do with "at will" employment. EVERY employee in the State of Florida is required to be covered by unemployment insurance by his/her employer.

Unemployment eligibility is based on the eligible earnings and number of quarters worked and the reason for termination. Thats it.

If you intentionally provoke your termination or engage in direct insubordination you will be disqualified. If you quit without just cause, you will be disqualified.

Many people misunderstand what "at will" employment is. "At will" employment goes hand in hand in most cases with "right to work" laws.

Florida is a "right to work" state, which is misleading as that term or the law itself does not actually give an employee any more rights, it actually gives the employer the biggest benefit and enables exploitation of employees.

"Right to work" means that you have the right to work without being forced to join a union or pay dues. However, without a union, you are an "at will" employee as you have no employment contract or representation.

It's nice to actually know the law before posting nonsense.
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#7 UPDATE Employee

Current AmSouth Employee

AUTHOR: C - (U.S.A.)

I am a current AmSouth employee and what you describe is not a surprise. The poor treatment of employees by AmSouth is staggering. Human Resources does not know employment issues and changes the rules to fit each situation if they like (or their boss) the employee.

The turnover rate of employees including managers is crazy. Over 50% in managers in the Pinellas area alone. Morale is in the pits. The sales goals are unreasonable and the preasure to meet them leads to some situations not in the customer's best interest.

The article in USA Today about the AmSouth manager in Louisana that was fired was very much along the lines of what you went through. You still may want to consult an employment attorney. The standard rate for a consultation is $100 to $150 per hour.

You are correct in that Florida and AmSouth employees are "At-Will" and AmSouth does use that to attempt to avoid unemployment benefits. There are some firms that do pro bono work that you might want to seek out. More negative publicity is something the bank would not want right now.
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#8 Consumer Comment

false imprisonment

AUTHOR: Angela - (U.S.A.)

If they called security and you felt you were held unreasonably and detained for an extended amount of time you can file charges against the corp for false imprisonment. I am a prelaw student and in one of my classes we read of a case where a bank teller was sick and told she could not leave until she counted down here drawer. The employee sued and won b/c it was considered false imprisonment.

You can also file criminal charges against an entire corporation, although very few judges will allow this to proceed into their court, their are those who will allow it. Unfortunately, I do believe the statute of limitations has probably run out on your case. However, this knowledge may help you in the future.
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