In November, 2005 Lou Ron pulled into a gas station with a co-worker, both wearing their white painting overalls. He was approached by the executive officer of New World Industrial Coatings, and asked if he wanted steady work at Santa Rosa junior college. "I told him that I needed to finish the residential job I had," says Ron. "I called him a few days later and he told me to show up for work in one week."
At the time Ron was living in Santa Rosa and working as a journeyman painter but he didn't have any work lined up, so he jumped at the chance, even though it meant relocating to Sacramento, where New World was based. Ron was promised to be reimbursed travel expenses and $70 per diem, tax free, until he found an apartment, so he packed up and moved to Sacramento with his girlfriend.
"We drove to Sacramento right away and started to look for an apartment. The first day we arrived, the executive field officer came to my hotel room (200 miles from where I live) and said I had to work the following day otherwise I wouldn't be able to work with the company," says Ron. "So I worked the entire week and lived in the hotel. I worked on various jobs in the area, all more than 70 miles away and not once did I get any travel time." At the time, Ron didn't have a driver's license as he had a DUI seven years prior but it wasn't a problem as the other painters car-pooled. He was never required to drive and told his employer the day he was hired about the DUI.
Ron got his first paycheck minus any travel expenses or per diem. When he asked about getting compensated, he was told that "If you want that money, you won't be working."
Shortly after that incident, "We were working at a high school in Sacramento when the president of the corporation asked me if I wanted to buy his truck. I said I couldn't and a few days later he left a message on my phone telling me this was my last day on the job and my check would be in the mail tomorrow. I couldn't believe it!
"It took a week to get paid, still without my expenses reimbursed. I called the office manager and she told me that nobody gets travel time or expenses. I calculated they owed me $1,500, not even taking into consideration the expense of moving here. They promised me work and brought me down here only to cut me loose. This guy is such a chiseler, and it's not just me he screwed; here's another promise that wasn't kept: he wouldn't pay any of us for exotic coatings - we were supposed to get paid about $2-3 more per hour, but he would only pay regular rates right across the board, even for specialized work such as this.
I've been a painter for 15 years and do good work. I have never been reprimanded, either verbally or by letter, but I was fired for misconduct. I started to get unemployment checks but after a few checks I received a letter, telling me that I had to contact my unemployment office. My employer had said that my work was sub-standard and that I didn't have a driver's license.
But Unemployment determined that I was not fired for misconduct. Rather, it was for other reasons, which didn't have to be determined. But this guy, the president of the company, appealed their decision because he didn't want to pay part of my unemployment.
So we went to court.
I went before the administrative judge in California but nobody was there representing the company. Instead, they just sent a declaration stating misconduct claims, saying that 'The claimant was told he had to have a driver's license and he performed unsatisfactory work. He is not entitled to unemployment benefits if discharged for misconduct.'
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The claimant was never told that he needed a driver's license nor was there any reason that he needed one. There was not a breach of duty. There is no evidence that the claimant deliberately failed to work up to the standards required by the employer. There is no evidence the employer counseled the claimant about work or work performance. Instead, the evidence is that the claimant was praised about his work. His subsequent discharge was for reasons other than misconduct.So I received my unemployment benefits. But I am still entitled to more. This guy has to reimburse me. And then some. The best thing this guy did for me was to appeal."
Are promises worthless? Ron was fired one week before Christmas - for no reason other than that he wanted to be reimbursed for expenses.