Hi, I have the following questions, and appreciate any expert advices:I worked as a Sr. Construction Manager for Starbucks Coffee Company from June 1996 through December 2008 (12 years). I received many promotions, recognition awards, etc. during my tenor. However, in mid-2007 I took a year sabbatical but returned to Starbucks in early 2008, but could not secure a position despite of handful of open positions that were identical to the position I held prior to my departure for sabbatical. Ultimately I was laid off in December 2008 along with hundreds of other employees due to company downsizing. Additionally, I was not offered any type of compensations/severance pay at the time I was laid off. The company never offered any explanation about why the available positions were not offered to me, nor they explained why I was not offered any compensations. Only at later date, I became aware of the fact that ALL other employees who were laid off around the same time as me, they all received some sort of compensations depending on their duration of employment with the organization. During the past three years I have applied for many open positions at Starbucks but were turned down. Finally, few weeks ago, I decided to write a letter directly to Howard Schultz, the Chairman and CEO of Starbucks (who I have met in many occasions during my time with Starbucks) and express my situations and seeking his assistance. Just last week I received a email from someone in HR explaining 1) the reason I was not chosen for the open positions upon my post-sabbatical, were because a)there were other candidates that were more qualified; b) if my sabbatical was less than six months, then a position would have been guaranteed upon return from sabbatical; 2) the reason i did not received any compensation at the time of my departure, was because I was not 'actively' employed???? My questions are as follows:1) Is there a statute of limitations for suing Starbucks? (Corporate office is in Seattle, WA; I was initially hired and worked in Califonia; but worked out of our office in Florida for the last year and half of employment). 2) The position I applied were identical to the position I held prior to my sabbatical departure, how could other candidates (most likely external/new hire) be more qualified than me?3) In the Starbucks Sabbatical Guideline, there is no mention or any references to the fact that provides an option for an employee to take a six month sabbatical with guaranteed position. All it said in the guideline that i signed was that an employee can take a sabbatical up to one year, and company will try to find a position for an employee upon his/her return from sabbatical, but it does not guarantee a position upon return. Also, there is no mention about an employee will lose severance pay benefits/compensations if he/she takes a sabbatical.
State/Country relating to question: California
please see the note I provided. Thank you
Good afternoon,I'm sorry to hear of the situation.As your place of employment was last located in the State of Florida, then the Florida law would apply to any lawsuit you might have against the employer, presuming your argument was that the company was obligated to rehire you.1. Under FL law, a claim for wrongful discharge must be filed within one year of the act alleged to be wrongful and which results in a person's termination from employment.2. Qualifications---especially the one you refer to---are purely subjective in nature and saying it does not make it so. I suspect that the real reason you were not rehired was because you took the sabbatical in the first place. What ever the reason, unless you could have shown that the reason for the refusal to offer you a position was based on your Ethnicity, Color, Religion, National Origin, Gender or Disability, no civil legal remedy would have flowed from the refusal.3. The simple fact is that after you returned, or tried to return, as you were never placed in a position, legally you were not an active employee. Employers who have policies regarding severance packages need only offer those packages to active employees. I am curious about your suggestion that you were laid off. It is not possible to be laid off if one is not actually employed and working. You may have been actively seeking a position within the company but that did not make you an active company employee---unless you were actually doing work and receiving wages or benefits.I'm afraid that despite the fact that the statute of limitations has run, even before it did, you do not appear to have had any sort of legal remedy related to not being re-hired, or provided any sort of severance once you were told that you would not longer be eligible for rehire based on the restructuring of the company. I'm quite sorry.I wish you the best in 2012.I understand that you may be disappointed by the Answer you received, as it was not particularly favorable to your situation. Had I been able to provide an Answer which might have given you a successful legal outcome, it would have been my pleasure to do so.You may reply back to me using the Reply to Expert link if you have additional questions; and if you do, I ask that you please keep in mind that I do not know what you may already know or with what you need help, unless you tell me. Please recognize that the rating system only gives me credit for working with you when you click one of the 3 stars/faces on the right (positive rating). Also, kindly rate me based solely on my service to you in understanding the law, and not based on whether my answer is what you were hoping to hear. I have no control over the how the law impacts your particular situation, and I trust that you can understand how it would be unfair for me to be punished by a (negative rating) ----the first 2 stars/faces----for having been honest with you about the law.Thank you,Doug
Hi Doug, thanks for your feedback. I heard before that Statute of limitation in State of Florida is 3 years, but you mentioned one year? Also, it sounds like you are not a Florida licensed attorney, is that correct? Regardless, I appreciate if you could provide me with further clarification:
My main argument with Starbucks which I think I have the legal base to stand is mostly on the Starbucks' sabbatical policy:
- Starbucks changed it sabbatical policy in 2006 (the year I applied for sabbatical). The revised policy allows employees to take a sabbatical up to six months with Guranteed position upon return, but the older version, allows an employee take a sabbatical up to one year without a guranteed a position upon return. The sabbatical policy I was given to review and sign prior to my departure was the old version. My claim is why Starbucks did not offered me the revised policy?
- Also, there is no where in the forms I signed explains the benefits of 'active employee' vs. employee on sabbatical.
- lasty, according to the sabbatical policy i signed, I was not suppose to look for another job, however, all my employment benefits i.e. meadical , merchandise discount, etc..were still active so I assumed I was still a Starbucks employee? The 'non active' employee is the first time I have heard in the response letter from Starbucks. Why it took Starbucks over 3 years to provide me with their reason for not offering me position, for not offering me compensations, etc?? Is that leagal?
Thanks for your further clarification.
Good afternoon,I am licensed in CA and GA, however, I am perfectly capable of applying Florida law to your specific factual situation.The 3 year limitation period you refer is like the federal statute for making a wage claim against an employer who has deliberately withheld wages or benefits from an employee. There is also a 2 year statute for unintentional withholding of wages. A wage claim is not the same as a claim for wrongful discharge or failure to hire.If you alleged discrimination, you would have had only 180 days in which to file a claim with the EEOC. Under FL law, written contracts have a 5 years statute after a breach and oral contract have a 4 year statute. However, as you did not have an employment contract, these statutes do not apply.Honestly, I would have no idea why the company presented you with the pre-2006 sabbatical policy when you applied in 2006. Was it perhaps not yet fully implemented yet? The fact is that you took a year---and an argument that you were not given all the information and had you known you would not have taken a whole year---well, I'm almost positive that it would not have made much difference after the fact. You did take that full year.As to why the difference between active and inactive was never explained to you---I just wouldn't have any way of knowing. But all of this is a non-issue if the statute of limitations has already run. And based on all the different legal remedy theories, each of them has passed.You may reply back to me again, using the Reply to Expert link, if you have additional questions.Please recognize that the rating system only gives me credit for working with you when you click one of the 3 stars/faces on the right (positive rating). Would you please rate me highly now, based on my assistance to you in understanding the law.I wish you the best in 2012,Doug
I have more than 25 years of experience in the practice of law, including employment law and discrimination law.
Thank you Doug for your expert, honest, and thorough feedbacks. I wish you all the best, and a pleasant weekend.
Thank you kindly Christopher. Have a great weekend yourself!Doug
Over the weekend, I thought of a question that I neglected to ask you, and I would greatly appreciate if you have a moment, please let me know your thought.
Although its been over three years since I left Starbucks, but do I still have a legal ground against Starbucks and can go after them If Starbucks had me signed on the 'old version' of their sabbatical policy (up to one year with no guranteed for position upon return of an employee), and neglected to offer me their revised sabbatical policy (6 month sabbatical with guranteed position upon return of an employee) if it was in effect at the time of my departure for my sabbatical?
Much apprecdiate your quick reply Doug,
While you could certainly frame a lawsuit like that under a breach of contract theory to get past the statute of limitations for a wage claim---I just don't see it working. You were an employee at will and could have been let go at any time. Also, you would be stuck with the very weak argument that had you known of the 6 month guaranteed position policy, that you would not have taken a year off.You could spend thousands and thousands of dollars running with this theory only to lose. As an employment law attorney I sure wouldn't take it unless you agreed to pay me an hourly fee for my time. It would never be a contingency case I would consider.You also miss the point that the policy applicable to your sabbatical would be that in effect at the time of application---not the time of you leaving, or if the policy changed after you left but before you returned.Doug
Doug, I immensly appreciate your feedback. I couldn't agree more with your assessments. BTW, my email is XXXXX@XXXXXX.XXX and my LinkedIn link is http://www.linkedin.com/in/christophermesbah. Please feel free to look me up whenever you are in California. I am currently being interviewed by McDonald's for Director of Construction position based in Atlanta. If I get the job and moved there, I will need to meet with you and buy you a drink or two!
Thanks again Doug,
Thanks so much for the kind words Christopher. Unfortunately, the terms of JustAnswer prohibit us experts from personal contact with customers outside of the confines of JustAnswer. So the drinks are out.
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