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This year, there have been changes in many things as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, including changes in the workplace.

For a lot of large companies, the workplace is no longer in a headquarters building or a group of offices or facilities. Instead, the work is done in a home office, family room or kitchen. Relationships between remote employees are a little different from relationships in person at the office. Since communication isn’t in person, it’s easy to make assumptions about what’s going on in the organization without the necessary facts. Remote employees often feel like they’re out of the loop, relying on email and instant messaging all day long. Employees often feel isolated, working in an one-person organizational silo without clear direction.

Frequently, remote work requires a very high level of self-motivation and independence as well as strong communication skills. Additionally, research indicates that in remote work environments, conflicts simmer for a long time without being addressed or resolved. After all, when a conflict arises, an employee can always log out of Zoom and head to the kitchen for a snack and a break.

Sometimes, conflicts result in an employee quitting or getting fired. Perhaps the employee speaks up in an assertive way, challenges their boss, then the boss dismisses them for insubordination. Maybe the employee is chronically late to work and leaves early; after the employee is put on notice, they’re let go. There are many scenarios of employees and employers parting ways and lots of reasons why.

Last November, Andreas Flatten quit his job as a manager at A Ok Walker Luxury Autoworks in Peachtree City, Georgia. He said that his main reason was that his supervisor wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain to allow Flatten to leave every day by 5 p.m. That bargain was agreed to when they recruited and hired him. Flatten needed to pick-up his children from daycare shortly after 5 p.m., which became even more important during the pandemic when childcare centers began closing earlier in the day. There were a few other disagreements too, so in November, Flatten quit the job.

Unfortunately, months passed and Autoworks had not paid his final wages of $915. Flatten then contacted the Department of Labor who got in touch with Autoworks three times on his behalf. Four months later, Autoworks still had not paid Flatten the wages he had earned.

Then, on the night of March 12, there was a knock on the front door of Flattens house and he was told that his paycheck was at the end of his driveway. It turned out to be over 500 pounds of pennies — 915,000 pennies, in fact. Flatten was aghast. Quickly, he realized that he didn’t want to leave the coins outside all night, so he grabbed a wheelbarrow and with a friend’s help, filled it with pennies. As they pushed the filled wheelbarrow up the steep driveway to get everything in the garage, the wheelbarrow’s wheels collapsed from the weight of the coins. Flatten said the pennies were slippery and seemed to be covered with something that smelled awful. So, he tried to clean a handful of coins with diluted liquid dish soap but it only worked if he cleaned each individual penny. After two hours of cleaning, he had washed only about $5 worth of pennies. Flatten’s garage is filled with coins but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that he’ll be quick to deposit them to his bank account. Every penny counts towards expenses of food, rent, utility bills and such.

According to the Department of Labor, paying someone in pennies isn’t technically illegal. But from my standpoint, it’s just plain wrong, to coin a phrase. These weren’t pennies from heaven because his employer owed him money for work he had done. It was rude, disrespectful, and reflects an attitude of disdain on the part of the employer. Seriously, what was the point? What did he think he was proving by paying wages four months late by dumping coins on a driveway?

That employer should be ashamed of his behavior. Besides, it must have cost a pretty penny to dump all those coins on Flattens’ driveway.

Julie Richman is a freelance writer, project manager and consultant. She and her family have lived on Colorado Springs’ northeast side for 23 years. Contact Julie with comments or ideas for her column at woodmennotes@pikespeaknewspapers.com.

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