Looking For Loopholes

Happily Ever After couple
CBS/The Early Show
Mary Welch thought she had success all figured out.

As a sales manager for Computer Associates, all signs pointed to Welch being an up-and-comer with a bright future at the software giant.

CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan reports Welch's performance review was glowing, with an overall rating of "exceeds expectations."

But that didn't save her from receiving a memo, just days later, informing her that she had been fired because she had "consistently failed to meet the requirements of her position."

Welch says she was stunned.

"I said, 13 days ago, I had my review, and I was ranked as one of the top performers. And now you're telling me I'm being let go for non-performance? You need to explain that," Welch recalls telling her now-former employers.

She says they told her that her sales were in a slump.

But Welch believes the real story is one of the company trying to avoid its financial obligations.

"I think that by claiming this was 'non-performance'-related, they're trying to avoid paying severance," says Welch, who notes that according to company policy, employees fired for bad performance aren't entitled to severance pay.

Welch also says suddenly, there have been a lot of fired employees at Computer Associates - 200 in January alone.

"We became executioners," recalls one regional vice president for the company, Henry Crouse, who as a regional vice president, was told to make a list of employees to cut.

"I don't think there was one of us that didn't actually realize that this was a work force reduction," says Crouse, who adds that company revenues had dropped by 53 percent.

Being the one ordered to make up that list of endangered employees didn't provide any kind of employment protection for Crouse, who wound up losing his own job.

"They terminated the terminators," says Crouse.

Computer Associates refutes the story told by Welch and Crouse and says the terminations really were about bad employees and not the slowdown in the economy.

A spokesperson says the firings were "fundamentally different" from a layoff but it will review some of the terminations to "ensure our actions were appropriate."

Attorney Debra Raskin, who specializes in disputes between workers and employees, says it wouldn't be surprising to see some employers looking for loopholes in the financial packages given to employees who are let go.

"Now times are tighter, perhaps people are regretting that they have been so generous in the past and are looking for ways to avoid dealing with that," says Raskin.

Welch doesn't think this is a situation that should go unchallenged.

She's suing her former employer and says it's about more than money - it's also about the principle of the thing: that the new economy should also have room for old-fashioned trust, between employee and employer.

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