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About your situation, I am curious why you felt you might be headed for court with your employer.

Well, to put it bluntly, having dealt with cases like mine, I decided to take them through the entire federal-mandated process including the EEOC, the state version of the EEOC that my state has, and then, once I got permission from the EEOC, the federal court system, which is the only forum in which you can pursue a lawsuit based on employment matters.

Did you have a hunch they would try to fire you first? How would that impact your pension?

No hunch was involved. I am a senior litigation specialist with 26 years experience. What they did to me was textbook, and clumsy textbook to boot. Most employers who are trying to pull something like mine are too smart to outright fire an employee before vesting (years ago they called that the 'Friday afternoon bloodbaths', but things have changed.)

The action that was taken with me is called 'constructive discharge' in which they make things so unpleasant for the employee that they want to ditch that he or she decides to forego the pension vesting and leaves. The courts look rather dimly on this action - if it is documented. In my case, three months out from vesting my (former) employer started doing things, and I started keeping records, copying documents I received, making notes of conversations and emails and copying things as appropriate for my own offsite records, which I turned over to my attorney.

Our situation is one where they are nearly pleading with the remaining staff not to leave just now... of course, this means, "just hang in there until we're ready to get rid of you".

Due to that and some other current events, most of us believe we have a few months before the tsunami hits - but the problem now remains how to prevent burn out from occurring before then.

I can only give you my own perspective. I knew I was in for a horrible, draining several months, but I did not want to lose my pension, and I did not want to lose my eligibility for unemployment, so I resolved to hang in there. It was very, very hard and draining. I have learned that if (God forbid!) I am in a similar situation in future, I must do the following, which I recommend to you:

* Get your doctor involved at once. Let him or her know that you are under a tremendous amount of stress and need some medical input.

* Going along with this, and at my doctor's recommendation, do not allow yourself to get skimped on sleep. Go for the full eight hours. Cut back caffeine intake after noon, and don't drink alcohol after 7pm because it interferes with sleep.

* If you find you're running on empty, don't hesitate to go to your doctor. In my case, by the end of March, just as I vested, having hung on as long as I could, I went to my doctor and had a frank talk with him about the crying jags and insomnia. He ordered 2 1/2 weeks off from work. It was the best thing I could have done, since I rested, got my strength back, and got my sense of perspective back (I also got a good laugh when I saw the reactions of my former employer's people when I walked back in at the end of the 2.5 weeks). You need to step outside of hell in order to see what you are doing, if that makes sense. Then when you have to return (in my case for another month and a half) you can deal with it. Generally, as a point of information which had no bearing on my case, you can't be summarily fired if you're out on disability.

* Set up a support network. Family, friends, people you can talk to and whine to. This includes social activities that are outside work and where you can lose yourself. In my case (don't anyone laugh at me or I will put you in my p-box forever) I have a beautiful pedigreed cat that I started taking to shows. It was therapeutic - I met other pet lovers and made friends who weren't just interested in cats - and I was able to forget my problems.

* Make a plan and review it periodically. In my case, I knew I was in for a bad time and I had to remind myself that I was aware of it.

* Fight back. I don't mean be nasty. Make photocopies. Keep records. Clear out your personal drive, put the items on floppies or whatever and take them safely home.

* Talk to an attorney. Find one with good credentials. Pardon my language, but you don't want a plaintiff's whore. You want someone with excellent credentials who can sit down with you, go over your situation and give you advice. It will cost you some money - usually around $300 for a consultation - but it can give you an idea of where you stand.

I am sorry for the personal nature of this, but it was, and is, a personal situation I'm going through. I am better off than some because my career has brought me into contact with cases like mine and I could, to a degree, see outside the box in which I was being put.

My very best wishes go out to you and your co-employees. If I could summarize my advice it would be this: take care of your health. Job uncertainty is one of the prime stressors. Get your sleep. Find your friends and get support. Keep on top of that. Don't let yourself be run into the ground.

A final piece of advice which, if you will believe me, I am following: once whatever is done is done, let it go. If you are pursuing remedies, as I am, that is fine, but do not let the situation fill your day and make you brood over what was done to you. Move on.
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