back to article Laid-off IT workers: You want free on-demand service for what now?

Some HR person at Atlanta's SunTrust Banks has come up with what they genuinely believe is a clever idea – after dumping 100 of its IT staff, the billion-dollar financial institution is requiring them to remain available to help out for free for two years. You can see how this makes sense; we’ve all had co-workers leave and …


  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    You've missed one out: the bank's customer data going walkabout.

    If you had the choice of being a customer or an ex-customer which would you choose?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Now that one everyone would blame on the Indian outsourcers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The bigger question is how is this legal?

      The bigger question is how is this legal? No employer should be able to make this request.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: bank's customer data going walkabout.

      They bought out one of my credit card holders one. Happily I have been an ex-customer for about 10 years now. Very, very happily.

  2. Ye Gads

    You can just see how this will go

    Anyone who is any good (lets call them "Bob") will tell them to get stuffed and get another job pretty quickly.

    The remainder of people will fall back on one or more of the following:

    1) I didn't work on that part of the system

    2) Bob wrote that, I'm not sure how it works

    3) That code was written after I left

    4) That's not my code

    5) I wrote that but it's since been updated by the outsourcers.

    6) That's a feature.

    7) Yes, I can look at the problem. I can give you a day in three weeks time

    1. Lysenko

      Re: You can just see how this will go

      If you read the full text of the clause it entirely hinges on the definition of the word "assist". You can make a pretty strong argument that responses like: "Yes, I agree, that IS a pretty nasty problem." constitute assistance. You are using expert knowledge to validate a proposition.

      HR ... once you use the word "resource", then "exploit" is never far behind. Just change the name to "Livestock Management" and have done with it!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You can just see how this will go

        HR ... once you use the word "resource", then "exploit" is never far behind. Just change the name to "Livestock Management" and have done with it!

        -I believe they explored this option in Dilbert once.. the problem was that workers could then demand hay...

    2. We're with Steve

      Re: You can just see how this will go

      Never ever trust an IT professional who you have previously shafted.

      1. Tom 13

        @We're with Steve

        I think this pretty much covers it all:

        Roomie has a copy of this on tape and I laugh and shake my head every time we play it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: lets call them "Bob"

      Years ago I was called in to run a weeks training class for a team of programmers about a language they'd not used much. Over lunch I got talking to them about why. Well "Bob" wrote this program and now we need to support it. Now I happened to know this particular "Bob" and so I was surprised that there wasn't excellent documentation to go with excellent code ("Bob" was in the sub category of programmers who if they'd written the flight control SW you'd be happy to fly on the plane) so I asked about the documentation, "Well yes" said the customer, "there is documentation and yes we can see that it is very good" well you know "Bob" even given the documentation we still don't understand it and how he just made everything work.

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: lets call them "Bob"

        I know how this one works. Management quite often confuses programming with writing code because lines of source code are the only tangible product. Unfortunately, as we all know, the real skill is in knowing what to do and how to go about doing it. This knowledge is often a lifetime's worth of experience and quite apart from it being valuable intellectual property -- you're paid to write code, after all -- its rather difficult to transfer it to someone overnight even if you wanted to.

        (BTW -- I work with embedded code so you not only need to know how the software systems work but how they interact with the physical and logical environment that drives the code.)

  3. DrXym Silver badge

    "I've forgotten how to do that"

    That's what I'd say. Once I'm off a project for a while I don't bother hanging onto most of that information any more. And if it were my previous employers (those dicks who just replaced me with offshore workers) then I wouldn't exactly tax myself to remember either.

    1. Philip Storry

      Re: "I've forgotten how to do that"

      Before you leave, send an email to ask if you can take copies of all the {documentation|source code} with you, to help fulfil this requirement.

      We all have a good idea what the answer will be.

      If they call, then remind them that you asked for the resources you'd need to assist - and they declined to provide them. As such, you're working somewhat blind and feel it would be unprofessional to take such a significant risk with a live system. You're happy to help, but feel they need to be reminded - in writing - of the significant risk that this represents.

      Of course, if they want to send over the latest {documentation|source code}, you'll happily read it to get yourself back up to speed, and then assist.

      Oh, and when you've got that {documentation|source code}, don't forget that all of this is at your current employer's agreement. I'm sure they'll schedule time appropriately - you'll probably get through it all in a month or so, maybe two - that's OK with SunTrust, right?

      Cue a few questions occasionally over the coming weeks to show that you're reading the {documentation|source code}... Some people might accuse you of delaying things by asking questions, but you're actually just ensuring you have a full understanding of the system. Very professional of you, and good mitigation of that risk.

      I reckon you could easily spend a full three or four calendar months doing that. The word "risk" is a magnificent motivator in a paper trail...

      Now, naturally, they'll probably decline this request for {documentation|source code} anyway when they call. But now you have a paper trail, established from before you left. You can remind them that any changes you make are naturally more of a risk than ones done by those done by the new owners of the system. Keep reminding them of this, in writing, before you make any change.

      Congratulations. You're now highly unlikely to be called more than once, and there's no way they can say you were unprofessional or unhelpful. After all, the paper trail shows that they were the ones being unhelpful...

      1. Dominic Connor, Quant Headhunter

        Re: "I've forgotten how to do that"

        You're right that a paper trail is a great ally in this sort of mess

        Dominic (the bloke wot wrote the article)

      2. Fatman Silver badge

        Re: "I've forgotten how to do that"

        @Phillip Story,

        I like YOUR way of thinking!!!!!

        So have one on me.-------------------------------------------------------------->

      3. Elf

        Re: "I've forgotten how to do that"

        @Phillip Storry

        You are, of course, a genius. (Paper trail has saved my arse so many times in the past.) Another one for you. Figuring you can kick back and collect these for the rest of the day ----->

      4. 404 Silver badge

        Re: "I've forgotten how to do that"

        I have email going back to 1996 - I believe in documentation and I'm not afraid to shove it right up your ass.

        Have a great day!


    2. CP/M-80

      Re: "I've forgotten how to do that"

      Been there, done that. After my plum project was moved to a golf-playing buddy of the manager, and I grumbled and he said (on Monday) "if you don't like it, there are plenty of jobs out there". Thursday I put in my notice having got one of said jobs. That was sweet. But we had a 2-year release cycle (imagine that!) and we'd just done one so he was thoroughly unpleasant through my notice period. A month after I left they found so many errors in the data that the software was processing he had to 'phone me up to ask me to contract to help them out. "Sorry, I've forgotten it all already".

      1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: "I've forgotten how to do that"

        Some number of years ago a former boss rang me up asking for advise on some problems on their systems. Now, my departure had been less than friendly from this particular job. So I gave some non-commital, IT-sales-speak answer, then sent him a bill for 2-hours consultation time. Never heard back from him ever again. Didn't get paid either, but the point was made (and I got a chance to practice being an IT Consulting Sales Droid).

    3. hititzombisi

      Re: "I've forgotten how to do that"

      "Such assistance may include, but is not limited to, telephone or in-person meetings with SunTrust employees, attorneys and/or accountants, or the provision of truthful testimony by way of deposition, hearing, trial, interview, subpoena response or affidavit. SunTrust will be responsible for any reasonable and necessary expenses incurred by me and approved by SunTrust in connection with such services."

      Actual severance clause.

      The bastards are actually asking you to come over, sit in front of a computer, fix the problem, for free. They will pay for the expense, but not time.

      1. david 12 Bronze badge


        "SunTrust employees, attorneys and/or accountants, or the provision of truthful testimony by way of deposition, hearing, trial, interview, subpoena response or affidavit. SunTrust will be responsible for any reasonable and necessary expenses incurred by me"

        "expenses for the provision of truthful testimony" normally includes payment for time.

        Which is what most of "costs" go to when a court awards you "costs". The "costs" include the reasonable and necessary expense of paying the empolyees, attorneys and/or accountants to mount your case.

        Of course you can't compel people to help you with your court cases, so it's a resonable kind of thing to put in your severance agreement.

  4. Wommit

    BUT!!! WTF!!!!!!!!! How can...

    Words fail me. Its not April fools day is it?

    Surely this cannot be legal? If I was their IT manager I wouldn't dare ask any one of them to come back in, not ever.

    Seriously whose fucking idiot idea was this. Fire the twat as soon as possible. You DO NOT WANT those people to come back in after treating them this badly.

    1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

      You know, this seems too idiotic to be accidental. Even if the clause is never acted upon, it demonstrates a level of anti-clue so profoundly horrifying that I for one would view that bank as a terrible organisation to be looking after my money. I would therefore start looking to see if some of the HR of SunTrust have been bribed by SunTrust's competition to put this clause in as a form of economic sabotage.

      1. HmmmYes Silver badge

        Too idiotic to be accidental. True.

        Too idiotic to come from the HR/legal depts? Nah.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > ...I would therefore start looking to see if some of the HR of SunTrust have been bribed by SunTrust's competition to put this clause in as a form of economic sabotage.

        I have often suggested that this is the precise scenario to explain the vast majority of executive decisions at IBM. I mean really, I know MBAs are chronically stupid, but they go beyond even the stupidity level of our modern-day MBAs.

        AC because, well, obviously.

    2. Keith Langmead

      Especially idiotic when you consider how common garden leave seems to be within IT these days, especially for people like SysAdmins, regardless of whether it's an acrimonious split or not.

      1. Raoul Miller

        Garden leave is not an option in the US - I have only heard of it in the UK.

        Yes, companies here expect sysadmins, developers, etc. to continue to work on stuff until 5:55pm on their last day. You can imagine the high quality of such work.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      It's one thing to insist on "assistance"... it's quite another to force one to do it for "free". I can't believe that this didn't get waved at the lawyers. Sorry, unless your severance includes a check for assistance for the next 10 years... fuck off.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't skip over the basics..

      You DO NOT WANT those people to come back in after treating them this badly.

      You do not want to end up in a situation where you have to treat people this badly in the first place. This whole idea of training the people who are about to take your job can only have come from someone who is so far removed from human beings that an hour's worth of education with a 4 by 4 should be mandatory.

    5. Tom 13

      Re Surely this cannot be legal?

      As part of the termination, it's not.

      As part of the deal to get your severance package... Yeah, you can get seriously fucked over with regard to your legal rights in the US. When I was RIFed from my last job they offered a weeks pay per year worked with the company. At twelve years and as it was right after the economic collapse on this side of the pond, I had to take it. As part of the deal I agreed that they were harmless for any discrimination or fair pay suits I might otherwise have been able to lodge against them. I could have refused those terms and gotten the standard two weeks severance pay.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paging William Wilberforce...

  6. Tony S

    I saw the article on this a couple of days ago and also some fairly angry responses from people (that might or not might not have actually worked there). It seems likely that that there's a lot of disaffected staff and if I were anyone in the C-Level at SunTrust, I'd be getting very worried indeed.

    But I suspect that the whole affair really shows what a clueless bunch they actually are; I'm betting that they think that they have been exceptionally clever and are already thinking about how they will be spending their next bonuses. If I were a shareholder, I'd be dumping their stock pronto; when it goes titsup, it will be messy.

    1. Tom 13

      @Tony S

      Sadly Sun Trust is one of those megabanks that have been deemed Too Big To Fail by the US government. So they won't ever actually go titsup. But still solid advice for the pro-active investor. You might be guaranteed some level of return, but you can probably do better elsewhere.

  7. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    I'm not one to speculate on NYSE

    ... because that's too much trouble for tax and compliance reasons.

    However, no responsible financial would let go IT staff with such a bad deal, if they were not desperate to cut costs now. Which I implies that either 1) some bad news are on the way or 2) they are irresponsible kind of financial institution. The latter implies that there might, or might not, be some some skeletons hidden in the closet. Either way their share price is about to be dented.

  8. 45RPM Silver badge

    Yeah. Thing is that Programmers are way worse than operators. You know the Iron Maiden cover with Eddie controlling Satan controlling Man? Well the BOFH is Satan. The Programmers are Eddie. BOFH can make your life miserable for a period of time. A programmer with a grudge can make you wish you’d never been born.

    Don’t piss off the programmers. ’t’ain’t worth it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That would be Crazy Eddie.

      1. David Lewis 2

        +1 for the MIGE reference!

      2. Midnight

        "Say there's a city that's gotten so big that all efforts of everyone have to be directed towards importing food and sanitation. There are no resources left for anything else, and all man hours are required to keep the city alive. Crazy Eddie chooses this moment to lead a strike of garbage workers, demanding better working conditions.

        "Now say that there's a company which has lost so much money that it can no longer pay its IT staff..."

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Severance - I sense a ploy

    Presumably, if these programmers don't take the severance benefits and, in effect, resign, this would save the bank a lot of money?

    Anon, because it's a sodding work issue.

    1. jonathan keith

      Re: Severance - I sense a ploy

      I don't know what the law in the US is, but surely there's some protection against constructive dismissal (as it's known here in the UK)

      1. PatientOne

        Re: Severance - I sense a ploy

        Would be contract law: Pretty sure you can't impose conditions when *you* terminate a contract. It's your decision to do so, and it is the other party who can invoke conditions that were in place at the time they signed the contract (or were agreed to as an amendment). Conditions for terminating a contract outside of an agreed process might be levied but that's about it as far as I can recall - but I'm not a lawyer etc.

        Telling someone they either agree to new terms or they are resigning is very much constructive dismissal (I know companies that have done this and it was declared illegal at tribunal and appeals court - the company had to pay redundancy rates as per contracts as a result. Once company never did pay, though - Finance director did a runner with the money, leaving a lot of very unhappy former staff).

        1. NotBob

          Re: Severance - I sense a ploy

          In essence, the bank is saying

          "Your job will end no matter what on or about this date. We will pay you $XX in severence, but only if you agree to bleat when we want you to..."

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Severance - I sense a ploy


            More like "Squeal, piggy! Squeal!"

        2. Tom 13

          Re: Pretty sure you can't impose conditions

          See my reply above.

          The conditions are nominally voluntary. The minimal offer meets the contractual terms from when they were hired. But, they'll give you more if you accept these additional terms. And the minimal offer from when you were hired are so bad you pretty much HAVE to agree to the terms. And as another poster noted above, if you take the minimal offer, they win by not paying out more money.

      2. pollyanna

        Re: Severance - I sense a ploy

        > I don't know what the law in the US is, but surely there's some protection against constructive dismissal (as it's known here in the UK)

        Alas, in the US there are 'at will' States; employment contracts are at the will of the employer. If they want rid of you, they don't have the will to employ you and you're gone. There is no such thing as constructive dismissal.

        The only recourse is if a Federal discrimination law has been broken; e.g. fired because you're black, disabled etc.

        A few States are with cause (similar to the UK, a reason is required but they can be pretty trivial and you have no recourse).

        1. Number6

          Re: Severance - I sense a ploy

          On the other side of that, as an at-will employee, you're quite at liberty to walk into HR and hand them a letter saying "I quit" and pretty much walk out. No notice works both ways and your average US tech business suffers for it with the knowledge that walks out the door without a proper handover period.

          1. Tom 13


            Yes and no.

            IIRC law usually says two weeks notice. Employers normally translate that to: don't let the door hit you on the way out, here's two weeks pay. When you give notice if you don't permit them to keep you you forfeit that pay and get a black mark on your record vis-a-vie references (in the sense that all new employers ask about your former employer and will call them).

            As for proper handover periods, they mostly don't exist in the US. The standard management training classes tell you that regardless of whether you are firing or they are quitting, you walk them out the door the day notice is given and give them a check for two weeks. It is regarded as simply too much risk to the company for them to continue as an employee. Too much data to be pilfered, to many chances to sow the seeds of trouble down the road. Short-sighted or no thinking, but there it sits.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Number6

              Interesting - I have lived and worked in the US for over 25 years and have changed jobs multiple times and been made redundant a couple of times. In one case I was paid severance, in the other the company was bankrupt and not only did we not get severance, our last pay check bounced, and we were not paid for accrued holiday or sick days.

              Every time I have given notice I have worked the complete period and never been walked out - and that includes working fro major, brand name tech companies. I've been happy in my consulting job for the past 5 years, so maybe things have changed since 2010?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Severance - I sense a ploy

        Nope - "at will employment".

        You can leave or be sacked for any reason at any time. Severance is usually only given as a favor (with strings like this), although there are some state and federal laws that require severance in the case where large numbers of people are getting "downsized" or sacked at once.

        Capitalism, bitches.

  10. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Quite a daft idea. In fact, it ranks first before Waterloo and Germany's invasion of Russia, and the experiment at Chernobyl (prior to meltdown).

    Whose idea was it anyway? Epic rolleyes.

    Now that the cat is out of the bag/horse has bolted/beans have been spilt, all they can do now is to acquire a new IT team, but that will be next to impossible since nobody will touch them with a barge pole.

    Any investors or people having their savings invested in this bank must take note and withdraw it all lest their savings goes walkabouts, because walkabouts it will go.

    The road forward will be very interesting.


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