Company Policy on damages cost, who's responsibility?

I have been working for 6 months as a climber and recently promoted to crew leader for a well established diversified company, that in the past has had some employees who were causing negligent damages. The company announced a verbal policy (over a year ago while those negligent employes were still there) to curb the behavior that held 50% of the cost of damages incurred to the company on the employees who were on the job or operation the equipment damaged, retrievable directly from company pay checks at managements discretion. After our safety meeting this week management announced the sign in sheet was a written document of this policy and everyone must sign it. I contested not to sign. They showed numerical evidence how this policy drastically changed the amount of damages that were being caused. I have an issue with signing the document because of the unforeseen potential for it to be used at the discretion of the business and with no clause for the use of their insurances... 'Negligence' would be decided by administration, not those who were there on the job site or present when damages accrued... Shouldn't I just carry my own insurance then? the list of reasons not to sign it gets longer as this conversation builds amongst my ex-coworkers, but they all felt pressured to sign the document. Management pleaded with me to "trust them to not screw me", but to me it's not about trust it's business and a legal agreement making me responsible for others actions on the job site despite my direct oversight of them... The last 6 months since I started with this company they touted how great the crews of guys were they had now, how limited damages were happening and now at an expected minimal level. Nothing happened to have this policy needed to be re-surfaced, and in writing. After a couple of discussions over 2 days I was given an ultimatum to sign it or not work for the company. Unfortunatly I am now not employed. I just want to hear what other people think about this situation?
 

TimBr

Official Well Known Greeter
Yeah, I'm no lawyer, but this seems completely illegal on its face. I would say good riddance, & find a better company. It would seem possible to me for a low wage worker in this scenario to quickly accrue a debt he cannot ever hope to repay. It is entirely up to the discretion of management to decide if this is the fault of a single individual, and to hang him with a bill of thousands of dollars, possibly, while at the same time paying $10 an hour for his labor? Completely unreasonable. It would have been fun to see the whole crew stick together, refuse to sign, and walk off the job. Even better would be to take all those guys and start your own, new arb company to compete with these jerks.
 

Jehinten

Carpal tunnel level member
Location
Evansville
Just a couple of thoughts. As a crew leader it is then your job to be responsible for the actions of the guys working under you. If you were not responsible for such actions then you would not technically be the crew leader, just another guy working alongside. I imagine that you received a raise for this increase in responsibility? How long have the other employees been working for this company? If you are the new guy on the team it may seem like this is all out of the blue since you were not present when it became a verbal policy while everyone else looks at it like it doesn't change anything, as they had been under that policy for 6 months before you began working there. Also in having a government job, I can tell you that a policy that is not in writing is a policy that cannot be enforced. Which also may be why they got around to putting it all in writing.

All of that said, if you cannot trust the company to play fair by that policy and to cover accidental damages themselves then you are probably better off employed elsewhere anyways.

Not taking a side either way, just a my thoughts on it.
 

Merle Nelson

Carpal tunnel level member
Location
SF Bay Area, CA
Wecome to TreeBuzz Elliot. In CA a company cannot take money out of an employees check.

After you satisfy your interest in this topic check out the threads on companies seeking climbers/foremen. Or maybe make up your own in the seeking positions thread. I can't imagine you'll be out of work a day longer than you want to be.
 

RyanCafferky

Branched out member
I am a subcontractor and as such I carry my own liability insurance so if I the key word being “I” make a mistake, not the crew or anyone else, then “I” am responsible for paying for my mistake.

As an employer, the company that you work for has automatically decided that they are assuming the liability for your actions. They can’t say “well you messed up today so I’m not assuming that liability”. It isn’t legal for them to do that. If the company was a cooperative business model and your bonuses were based on company profitability at the end of the year, then yes you could be directly impacted by the actions of yourself or one of your coworkers. But as a standard employee that isn’t part of the deal. Employers take the good and the bad. They reap profits off the backs of their employees and sometimes they go under because of the mistakes of undertrained, undersupervised, or negligent employees. Instead of trying to make their employees pay for damages they should look in the mirror and ask some hard questions of themselves like:
1. Do we have a safety culture here.
2. Do we have accountability that goes from the top all the way to the bottom of our organization?
3. Are we learning from mistakes? Punative actions without reflection don’t encourage growth. (Just take a glance at our criminal justice system to see this on a larger scale).

If they can’t do that and take responsibility for the mistakes that happen on all levels then it seems to me like you should be looking for a new company to work for.
 

TimBr

Official Well Known Greeter
@cerviarborist; My bet would be that the kind of people that would ask an employee to sign that document are the kind that would also make sure that they were the only ones that got to keep a copy of it, and would not let it out of their sight.

Edit: If you were quick and subtle about it, maybe you could use a cell phone to grab a photo of it, though.
 
Last edited:
Just a couple of thoughts. As a crew leader it is then your job to be responsible for the actions of the guys working under you. If you were not responsible for such actions then you would not technically be the crew leader, just another guy working alongside. I imagine that you received a raise for this increase in responsibility? How long have the other employees been working for this company? If you are the new guy on the team it may seem like this is all out of the blue since you were not present when it became a verbal policy while everyone else looks at it like it doesn't change anything, as they had been under that policy for 6 months before you began working there. Also in having a government job, I can tell you that a policy that is not in writing is a policy that cannot be enforced. Which also may be why they got around to putting it all in writing.

All of that said, if you cannot trust the company to play fair by that policy and to cover accidental damages themselves then you are probably better off employed elsewhere anyways.

Not taking a side either way, just a my thoughts on it.
I do see what your saying, ...yes more pay = increased responsibility, although responsible for judgment calls that I have to trust in my co workers to make right regularly in our industry.., I personally think the written document was to broad and leaning with a large diversified company operations best interest with their resources versus employee(s) who makes <30K/year is asking too much. By good faith in the employees you hire or out of the character of integrity (how ever you want to call it) damages should be prevented upmost, but are corrected by the doer(s) or making an insurance claim is necessary. If negligence is blatant then proceed to terminate the employee if they do not correct their behavior once warned. I was promoted to leadership due to past mgmt. experience, climbing knowledge, administrative duties scheduling, maturity and my personal desire to advance. Everyone below me had years of experience with this company/arboricultural work experience over me. Through out the whole ordeal other aspects of the company were revealed to me showing unfortunatly this is not the company for me. Thanks for your input @Jehinten
 

owScott

Branched out member
Location
Lafayette
@RyanCafferky

Thanks for taking the time to make your post.

I get angry with employers who try this. It turns back workers rights 150 years!

Find a lawyer or your state employment division. That company needs to be taught a lesson
Alot of companies implement policies we dont like and in some states can fire you at will or for not agreeing to a new rule. i don't agree with it ,but it happens .I am thinking its probably not illegal just a shitty policy the company is trying to implement to save money, that's how a lot of big companies operate. If you are a good reliable tree guy you shouldn't have a problem finding a job. find a small company that values its employees and that kind of petty BS will go away, that's been my experience. Lawyers are very expensive , no secret. I had a lawyer tell me years ago never hire a lawyer and take the legal route to teach someone a lesson or for principal. You go to court for money, unless you already have a whole lot of it. Some people will disagree and say you should stand up for this and that,fight the good fight and all that jazz, I say pick your battles wisely. I don't have the luxury of time or money to go around and teach people lessons every time there is an injustice. move on because I suspect there is more lame shit at this company. Finally whats the end game? you go to court, spend a lot of money and win a decision for a lot of money (very unlikely). You win in court they scrap the policy and you have a job where you have to battle the management for whats right? MOVE ON.
 
Last edited:

cerviarborist

Very stable member
Location
Florida, USA
Guys, as long as you want to mutter around and not take action to protect your own rights, and to let employers know that they're not at liberty to break laws to better guild their bottom line, we'll be having this same conversation over and over ad nauseum. They can warn, suspend and ultimately terminate an employee who is negatively impacting the employers bottom line, but they can't take money from the employee.

There's a federal agency who will rip that company a new accounts receivable ledger, if you show them that agreement. The company will then have a renewed commitment to following wage and labor laws. That's the punitive part of punishment, to make sure they don't want to break that law ever again.

It will cost you absolutely nothing but some of the excess time you currently have on your hands, to get this to them.. then sit back and watch a little bit of government assisted Karma.
 
Last edited:

owScott

Branched out member
Location
Lafayette
Guys, as long as you want to mutter around and not take action to protect your own rights, and let employers know that they're not at liberty to break laws to better guild their bottom line, we'll be having this same conversation over and over ad nauseum.

There's a federal agency who will rip that company a new accounts receivable ledger, if you show them that agreement.

It will cost you absolutely nothing but some of the excess time you currently have on your hands, to get this to them.. then sit back and watch a little bit of government assisted Karma.
I respect your right to stand up for yourself and for things that aren't right, and this isn't right. I really doubt though that its as easy as calling up a federal agency and they take prompt action and all is well. In the mean time I advise taking control of your situation. Even if money isn't involved time most definitely will be. spend that time improving your situation. Sounds like this guy wasn't in love with his job and probably had other options. We can all chose our own approach , for me if something isn't working I move to where it is, not try and change things around me. I get that's not what other people would do. If you have the time and energy for it my hat goes off to you. This is ultimately why I work for myself, go figure that my headaches have tripled but they are my headaches. PS I have the flu this week and I am not working so I have some down time and enjoy a good chat on the buzz.
 

New threads New posts

Kask Stihl NORTHEASTERN Arborists Wesspur TreeStuff.com Kask Teufelberger Westminster X-Rigging Teufelberger Tracked Lifts Arbor Expo BayLeafDigital
Top Bottom