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Liberty Resources, Inc / Painful, Wrongful Termination of Employment

1 714 Market Street--Ste 100Philadelphia, PA, United States Review updated:

Please see (attached) complaint letter. Please bear in mind that although I was terminated 5 years ago, the pain of the situation still effects me today, since Liberty Resources claims to be an organization that employs -- and is sensitive -- to its employees with disabilities. I was one of them, since I am hearing-impaired. They have a very high turnover.

I am not looking for any specific outcome (no legal, no major publicity) -- I just want you to know because you will most likely eventually hear from other maltreated former employees.

Thanks.

Nat E.
*******************************************************************
September 1, 2009

Dear Executive Management:

P lease be advised that this letter is in no way an attempt to reconnect, plead with or establish any contact—either positive or negative—with Liberty Resources, Inc. It is merely to inform you that despite my unjustified, abusive termination, I am established, successful and a strong, known advocate for those with disabilities.

I was hired at LRI in June, 2002 by Leslie Swartley as an administrative assistant. Ms. Swartley was initially cheerful, welcoming and inviting and was quite impressed with my administrative skills and my college degree. Also impressive was the fact that I am a published author and currently hard at work on my second novel. Even upon my hire, however, I was aware that the agency had a high turnover of administrative clerical staff. There were quite a few terminations during my employ.

The workdays went smoothly until a new CEO was hired, Thomas Earle. Like Ms. Swartley, he was also initially welcoming and inviting, appearing very personable. Shortly after Mr. Earle’s hire, employees were informed that major layoffs would be occurring and were inevitable. However, I had received a notice that I did not have to be concerned, as my job was secure.

Major issues later presented themselves. These included that there was insufficient trained on how to do the agency’s filing and how to operate the Braille reader equipment. Two employees from a King of Prussia agency (Michael and Suzzanne) were sent only one time to discuss the Braille reader with me and even then, they did not appear to fully comprehend how to operate it themselves. A similar situation occurred when I was sent to Will’s Eye Hospital for a one day “crash course” on the Braille reader. Surprisingly, staff there also reviewed the sophisticated, intricate equipment without full understanding. Even more importantly, neither day of training was accessible. There were no reasonable accommodations (ex: sign language interpreter) in either instance. I am a medically documented hearing-impaired individual.

Additionally, there was never any formal training on the filing system. Linda Richmond regularly inserted documents into my mailbox with notes demanding that I “please file”. There was no specific order to the documents, which were haphazardly arranged in binders in two large rooms—one on the first floor and the other on the second in a separate part of the building. There was no methodical system, no pattern, no indicators as to how the documents should be filed. I was bombarded with unrelated documents daily.

As time progressed, Ms. Richmond sent e-mails indicating she had observed how “unhappy” I was, but offered no assistance, support, suggestions or training on the filing system. I had informed her that I did not understand how the documents should be arranged. I was expected to know what to do, which, predictably, set me up for failure.

Also, Ms. Swartley informed me that Ms. Richmond had complained to her that I was “reading a paperback” at my desk and “shopping on the Internet.” In reality, I used my lunch breaks as my personal time to read. The so-called “Internet shopping” was actually research on disabilities to extract information for the company newsletter—another massive responsibility that became mine, unexpectedly, with minimal assistance. Had Ms. Richmond approached me professionally instead of assuming I was wasting valuable company time, I would have gladly explained.


Additionally, I was expected to use the Braille reader to transcribe 40 cassette tapes for attorney Steven Gold, despite my requests for more sufficient, accessible training and assistance on what was clearly an unbearably huge project. Expecting me to complete this project with inadequate training and no assistance placed an unreasonable demand on me. When I asked Ms. Swartley for assistance and/ or if the project could be outsourced, her response was an abrupt, “It was already outsourced to us.” Ms. Swartley also regularly blocked my attempts to appeal to Mr. Earle.

In October 2003, Thomas Earle terminated me in a fit of impulsivity and (unexpected), explosive personal anger. He left a very threatening letter in my mailbox, contradicting that I had received a notice the month before that I was in no danger of losing my job. This letter stated his dissatisfaction with my filing and inexperience with the Braille machine. It was obvious that Ms. Swartley and Ms. Richmond had complained. Thomas Earle had no direct contact or involvement with me or my duties during the workday.

Mr. Earle’s diction in the letter was demanding and disturbingly hostile, insisting that I learn the material in thirty days or be terminated. I nervously but respectfully approached him to discuss this and to request sufficient, accessible training and other assistance. Mr. Earle became inexplicably irate. He yelled, “I don’t have time to discuss this—as a matter of fact, why don’t you go clean out your desk?” He also threatened to call the police, although I exhibited no out of control behavior. On the contrary, I was tearful, stunned, hurt and offended by his reaction.

The termination naturally distressed me profoundly. Mr. Earle had obviously abused his power as the newly appointed CEO. I had no history of being a problem or incompetent employee prior to or during his hire. It was assumed that because of Mr. Earle’s high position, he exercised sound judgment and was infallible. On the contrary, his, and the (managerial) behaviors described above, is a poor testament of an agency that reputedly displays sensitivity towards people with disabilities, including in the workplace.

LRI frequently attempts to recruit people with disabilities, encouraging application to the agency. I was qualified, respectful, skilled and a competent employee at all times, but I was wrongfully, unlawfully and abusively terminated. It should not have been assumed that I knew how to operate a Braille reader and/ or a highly unorganized filing system when management themselves were clearly inept at both. The excuse that I was an employee “at will” is weak and ineffective, since failure to provide accessible or adequate training is discriminatory and against ADA regulations.

I relayed that I was hurt, angry and offended by my needless termination through voice mails to management. I had previously requested a post-termination hearing and wished to file a grievance. This was disregarded. Instead of honoring my request or providing concrete reasons for my termination, Mr. Earle contacted Jennifer Will, his colleague who is also an attorney, and threatened to sue me. Ms. Will forwarded an extremely harassing, inappropriate letter, calling me “foul”, attempting to intimidate me and indicating that my termination was “deserved”. Her correspondence was promptly disregarded and returned to her. I had done nothing to warrant losing my job and had been unlawfully, unjustly treated as an employee with a disability—ironically, by managers with disabilities themselves!

I planned to file a countersuit had Ms. Will’s harassment continued. There was no reason for her to contact me. Mr. Earle’s prompting was inappropriate. My anger was justified because my termination was unnecessary, impulsive and was maliciously implemented despite LRI’S standards. I made no threats to anyone. I merely conveyed my anger and pain, as anyone in my situation would. This includes Ms. Swartley, Ms. Richmond and Mr. Earle. No employee is indispensable, including LRI’s executive management. They would have also been infuriated, particularly if their rights had been violated.

Additionally, it is strongly suspected that I was given bad references in my employment search following my termination. At least one agency that strongly considered hiring me claimed to know Mr. Earle directly. Making disparaging comments about a pervious employee is unprofessional and inappropriate. However, I have been quite successful without LRI, secured other employment, and, as previously stated, am now a tireless advocate for others with disabilities.

I have written to countless disability rights agencies and President Obama/ Washington D.C. I have informed him of my experiences in the workplace, citing examples. I relayed the need for more sensitivity, accessibility and resources. This includes adequate jobs that not only claim to uphold disability rights in the workplace, but follow through. I also requested more funding for job training, legal assistance and various other resources. I am enclosing a copy of his response letter.

Finally, it is unfortunate that LRI allowed me to be terminated in such a hostile, impulsive, demeaning manner. I had a mission even back then to advocate for disability rights and to promote more sensitivity to those in a protected class. I had a desire to write for the newsletter and to speak on behalf of LRI at the events in Washington. I would have proved my true dedication and abilities as an eloquent, effective speaker.

It is unfortunate that management did not see me as the valuable, dedicated employee that I was. Instead, management, up to the CEO, chose to act indifferent to my need for sufficient training and reasonable accommodations. Management chose to believe distorted, false perceptions in an effort to impress, support and empower the new CEO. I valued my employment and did nothing to jeopardize it. I am confident of my ongoing mission, valuable skills (including having authored two novels) and friendly, professional workplace—qualities that LRI so obviously lacked.

What occurred to me late in my employment at LRI was painful, but my termination has allowed my success at another employer who could appreciate my true worth. I was truly the victor in this. I have never had any regrets.

And life goes on.

No abusive responses/ correspondence will be accepted or tolerated.

Sincerely,


Nat E.

Enclosures
Cc: Washington, D.C.

Na
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Comments

  • Cj
      12th of Aug, 2010
    +1 Votes

    Hi there Nat,

    I read your letter with interest and quite a bit of sadness. Unfortunately this behavior has been and apparently continues to be standard operating procedure with LRI. I am a person with a hidden disability, one that affects my joints. My story, occurring a decade earlier, curiously parallels your own. In my case I was told after 6 years, my position as a skills trainer was being dissolved so that "consumers" could do the training. I was quite confused because my manager at the time was unaware of any position change. I also had routinely received stellar job reviews. During my exit interview I repeatedly asked and was told repeatedly that this was not a performance-related termination. Despite the reassurances of the Director, I was told to quickly clean out my desk and not even allowed to say goodbye to the staff I had come to know well over my 6 years there.

    After some time past, I applied for other positions that opened at LRI for which I was well qualified. But I never got a response from them. At that point I wondered if there was more going on here than I was told. After some legal guidance, I applied as a consumer to the organization. I was rebuffed and told to go somewhere else. All this despite Liberty's rally cry of "Consumer choice". At that point I decided to do a little self-advocacy and contacted an attorney.

    What Liberty has done and continues to do as far as I am concerned, is to discriminate against some kinds of disabilities, particularly those with hidden disabilities. Folks with epilepsy, and hearing impairments among others, were all denied reasonable accommodations when I worked there. I advocated for those folks on many occasions for accommodations or jobs. The LRI yardstick is not the ADA's "Qualified" person with a disability. The overriding consideration is that you are a wheelchair user. Fit THAT criteria and you are given the total CIL experience. As long as you use a wheelchair you can become a consumer, or a staff member easily. Your qualifications for a position are not necessary. The organization will also keep you indefinitely, no matter what your performance is.

    I also find it ironic Nat, that given the nature of your position at an advocacy organization, that you did not advocate for yourself. If you felt that you were wrongly terminated a complaint to the human relations board might have been in order. Liberty uses different standards of behavior and conduct depending on your disability. The management acted capriciously in your case and there should have been documentation in your personnel file for corrective actions prior to termination, as per their employee manual. I remember in my case that I used Liberty's employee manual to their detriment. Of course a human relations conference and my own attorney didn't hurt.

    I am also saddened by the fact that you joined an organization that is morally and ethically, a shallow ghost of itself. Early on, LRI truly was a grass roots organization, with a small staff that really connected with consumers. RLI as it was known then, practiced legislative, systems and personal advocacy equally, with room for all under a big welcoming tent. This is only possible when the CEO is a person of vision and can set the proper standard for assisting ALL folks with disabilities; consumer and staff-wise. Unfortunately the presidents and vice- presidents have been dysfunctional for a long time and really have trouble running an organization that has grown this large. In addition, LRI's vision has been co-opted by the more fringe elements of the Philly disability community. These folks are more interested in protest than in real change. They only need warm bodies to fill out the group in Harrisburg and DC. Never mind that the rank and file members are educated about the issues they are protesting. Just ask a rank and file member at any of the protests LRI sponsors and you'll see what I mean.

    All that being said, I LOVED my time at Liberty. I learned a lot. Mostly from the consumers coming to the center. They constantly made me re-evaluate what I thought and why I thought it and made me the better for it. It kills me to see what LRI has become in the last decade. This begs the question that haunts some of us ex- staff and former consumers. How big is too big? At what point does a grassroots organization become something else? Liberty has many complaints from consumers that I know, about being uncaring, unconnected, difficult to interact with and interested only in how the consumer can be used to forward the CIL's agenda. I feel that an organization like LRI that has grown to the size that LRI has grown to, becomes less able to FULLY serve their mandated population. Or stratifies into something that serves only one function.

    To my mind the best answer is to split this Super-CIL, into four smaller ones. Each one serving Philly in the North, South, East and West. This is the best answer to the issues that you have unfortunately been exposed to and to help Liberty regain that coveted brand name —a GRASSROOTS organization.

    Nat good luck!

    Sincerely,
    CD

  • So
      20th of Jan, 2011
    0 Votes

    Good Evening,

    I would like to say that unfortunately two years later there has been no progress. I am a current LRI employee and I have continuously seen other employees terminated for unfounded reasons . I have also seen HCBS Management and Directors terminate individuals out of spite or personal vendettas. These decisions are often supported by certain Human Resource staff that happen to have close friendships with certain HCBS management staff. LRI services people with disabilities throughout the philadelphia area and surrounding counties. Most consumers only ever come in contact with their HCBS Supports Coordinators who they look to for assistance with managing their services. What consumers do not know is that there Supports Coordinators works within a number of workplace limitations. Consumers often complain that they cannot access LRI employees when they have questions or need to dispute certain issues. What they do not know is that the person coordinating your services is also at the will of someone (anyone getting back to them in a timely fashion). Recently, (and by recently I mean the past two years) I have been getting numerous complaints from consumers regarding their consumer option attendant care services. COnsumers frequently complain that their attendants are not being paid, that LRI is not receiving important personal documentation that is being mailed and that no one in attendant payroll every responds to any phone calls regarding these issues. Unfortunately, I have to say that it isnt any better on the inside. I constantly have to call and call and call and leave numerous emails before just getting up to find the person I am looking for. I have often questioned whether or not this is really a consumer controlled service since I speak to so many consumers that express their feelings about no having any control. What do you tell a consumer who just explained to you that after 2 month of no payment, their attendant is no longer willing to work for them. Well, Ive had to tell these same consumers that Attendant Payroll is telling me that they have to wait another two weeks for payment. It burns me up inside to have to say this to people but as many other LRI employees know by now, If you rock the boat too hard you will end up unemployed. Liberty has a way keeping the employees they want and disgarding the one they dont want (or dont like) without any REAL reason, (I GUESS THAT's WHAT "AT WILL" IS ALL ABOUT).

    As far as the wanted employees, they tend to be the typical go with the flow type person who is willing to cover up the occassional fudged consumer record or hide or "misplace" files when it is time for the state to show up for an audit. Despite LRI's philosophy about consumer advocacy, I feel like they frown upon employees advocating for themselves. As stated before, an employee who does not agree with certain LRI philosophies or does not agree with certain rally topics, stands up for themselves or appears to have more knowledge than his or her superior will definitely start getting called into meetings and/or find themselves being reprimanded frequently and totally out of the blue. Ask any Supports Coordinator about how they feel about their job and he or she would more than like say, stressed! Supports Coordinators are lucky if they have a good supervisor but unfortunately most do not. Not because the person that supervises them is mean or uncaring but because that person is untrained and sometimes not qualified for their position. Yes that's right ..people recieve promotions undeservingly too. In my years at LRI I have noticed a trend with HCBS Management and Directorial Staff and it is "you're either with us or against us" If you are a Supports Coordinator you know that you must conform to the cut throat mentality of whathas become the HCBS department. I often wonder why so many Supports Coordinators can be fired uder the same few people without that person's job performance ever coming into question. I then realized that its because these are the type of people that they want to have around to do they're dirty work. I have worked with a number of supports coordinators that have gotten fired under Heather Lawson or as a result of her running back and forth to the Human Resource department making complaints against employees without them having any knowledge. One might ask, "How can a person correct a behavior that has not been presented to them as an issue or concern?" The answer is that they are not supposed to correct it because this person as already been picked out by Ms. Lawson as next on the list to be terminated. In speaking with current and former employees and management staff what she is known for doing to staff is very inappropriate, unprofessional and needs to be investigated. Heather is a very unpleasant person to be around and most staff members steer clear of her because they know she would rather catch you making a mistake than to assist you with becoming a better employee. She helps to make this work environment very unpleasing and uncomfortable. I havent really figured out her motive for being mean towards other staff except for maybe it being some type of personal insecurity. She has been known to pick on staff members by going through their files without reason, harassing staff by constantly finding something wrong with their job performance and bringing attention to HR and the staff member's direct supervisor without the staff member having any knowledge and pressuring managers to write up or reprimand staff members that she does not like (for whatever reason). There have been numerous complaints to Human Resources about her conduct and nothing has been done. This leaves a bad taste in the mouths of most HCBS staff whose job it is to advocate for LRI consumers but cannot get anyone to move on or express concern about complaints made within the company itself. Recently there have been a string of terminations that have happened after the staff member gave their proper two to four week notice. Once again, injustice in HCBS because as much as they may want you to go...they make it very clear you will only go on their terms and that is by being embarassed and belittled by an unnecessary termination.

    Personally I feel as though HCBS is a small scale of what LRI represents as a whole and that is an agency that has gotten too big for its britches. In my opinion this agency has become less concerned with providing satisfactory consumer services and more concerned with money and media attention. Employees are asked to send letters, make phone calls and pressured to attend events without any prior knowledge of what exactly "we" will be rallying about today. Yes, I agree with the comment above that it is about the numbers, how many consumers, how many employees and how much money. Employees=consumers=money. We are often told how many employees currently work for LRI but a more interesting number would be how many and how often employees are booted out the door and for what reason. Recently we were given a speech concerning roughly 900 consumers that have been sitting in waiting for services and how HCBS really needed that money for these intakes. I sat back wondering where all of these people were going to go seeing as though staff is already over-worked and underappreciated. What the " powers that be" fail to realize is that increasing an already oversized caseload and bringing in more consumers means the quality of service will decrease because Supports Coordinator and other department staff have already proven that they cannot meet the demands of the growing number of consumers. My suggestion, for HCBS a complete overhaul, not one that involves office changes and "restructuring" and internal promotions but one that involves a real close look at what real progress if any has been made with the department and what employees, outside agencies and most importantly consumers have to say about the services that are supposed to be for them. The agency as a whole can also follow suit.


    Sincerely,

    Ready to Roll

  • Cj
      20th of Jan, 2011
    0 Votes

    Dear ready to roll,
    some of LRI's consumers have contacted me regarding the issues you outlined. As a current advocate and former employee, I feel compelled to assist where I can. Also if we are truly advocates--we must advocate--wherever it may lead.

    Other consumers in the past have taken back their CILs when it was necessary and perhaps that is what must happen.

    Finally, I would be more than happy to assist any of your consumers (or in fact any consumers) that may be having trouble-- Liberty hates when I would come in to advocate for their own consumers.
    Consumers can contact me at dolltoy@hotmail.com
    I would love to hear from them...or you as needed.

    Good luck and keep the faith!
    CD

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