comment by ITakeBets ·
2014-09-17T00:18:28.156Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I'm posting here on behalf of Brent Dill, known here and elsewhere as ialdabaoth-- you may have enjoyed some of his posts. If you read the comments at SSC, you'll recognize him as a contributor of rare honesty and insight. If you'd had the chance to talk with him as much as I have, you'd know he's an awesome guy: clever, resourceful, incisive and deeply moral. Many of you see him as admirable, most as relatable, some as a friend, and more, I hope, as a member of our community.
He could use some help.
Until last Thursday he was gainfully employed as a web developer for a community college in Idaho. Recently, he voluntarily mentioned to his boss that he was concerned that seasonal affective disorder was harming his job performance, who mentioned it to his boss, who suggested in all good faith that Brent should talk to HR to see if they might help through their Employee Assistance Program. In Brent's words: "Instead, HR asked me a lot of pointed questions about when my performance could turn around and whether I wanted to work there, demanded that I come up with all the solutions (after I admitted that I was already out of brainpower and feeling intimidated), and then directed me to turn in my keys and go home, and that HR would call me on Monday to tell me the status of my employment." Now, at the end of the day Tuesday, they still haven't let him know what's happening, but it doesn't look good.
I think we can agree that this is some of the worst horseshit.
On the other hand, he's been wanting to get out of Idaho and into a city with an active rationalist community for a while, so in a sense this is an opportunity.
Ways to help: Brent needs, in order of priority: a job, a place to stay, and funds to cover living and moving expenses-- details below. Signal boosts and messages of support are also helpful and appreciated.
Ways NOT to help: Patronizing advice/other-optimizing (useful information is of course welcome), variations on 'cool story bro' (the facts here have been corroborated to my satisfaction with hard-to-fake evidence), disrespect in general.
1. Job: Leads and connections would help more than anything else. He's looking to end up, again, in a good-sized city with an active rationalist community. Candidates include the Bay Area, New York, Boston, Columbus, San Diego, maybe DC or Ann Arbor. He has an excessively complete resume here, but, in short: C#/.NET and SQL developer, also computer game development experience, tabletop board/card game design experience, graphic art and user interface experience, and some team leadership / management experience.
2. Crash space: If you are in one of the above cities, do you have/know of a place for a guy and his cat? How much will it cost, and when will it be available? Probably he'll ultimately want a roommate situation, but if you're willing to put him up for a short time that's also useful information.
3. Funds: Brent is not now in immediate danger of going hungry or homeless, but a couple of months will exhaust his savings, and (although it is hard to know in the current state of things) he has been told that the circumstances constitute "cause" sufficient to keep him from drawing unemployment. Moving will almost certainly cost more than he has on hand. There is a possible future in which he runs out of money stranded in Idaho, which would be not good.
If you feel moved to help, he has set up a gofundme account here. (The goal amount is set at his calculated maximum expenses, but any amount at all would help and be greatly appreciated-- he would have preferred not to set a funding goal at all.) Though Brent has pledged to eventually donate double the amount he raises to Effective Altruist causes, we wouldn't like you to confuse contributing here with charitable giving. Rather, you might want to give in order to show your appreciation for his writing, or to express your solidarity in the struggles and stigma around mental illness, or as a gesture of friendship and community, or just to purchase fuzzies. Also, you can make him do stuff on Youtube, you know, if you want.
Thank you so much for your time and kindness.
Replies from: ialdabaoth, tadrinth, Decius, KnaveOfAllTrades, shminux
↑ comment by ialdabaoth ·
2014-09-17T21:37:25.148Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Official update: HR "explored every possible option" but "ultimately we have to move forward with your termination process" after "making certain there was unanimous consensus".
Apparently several people in my now ex-office are upset about this.
↑ comment by tadrinth ·
2014-09-17T03:38:51.679Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Is Austin on the list? I work at a not-evil tech startup called SchoolAdmin that does school admissions software for a mix of public/private/charter schools. We're not hiring devs right now, but that might possibly change since we have a product manager coming in October. The company is REALLY not evil; we've had three different people come down with mental or physical health issues, and the president's mantra has been 'your job is to get better' in every case.
I could possibly also offer a place to crash, I've got a futon, a study it could be moved to, and already have cats.
Replies from: btrettel
↑ comment by btrettel ·
2014-09-21T02:23:26.573Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I would recommend Austin as well. There are loads of developer jobs here, though I don't know any particular place that is hiring right now. We have an active, close-knit rationalist community that I think is pretty fantastic. Worth consideration.
Replies from: juliawise
↑ comment by Decius ·
2014-09-17T03:49:30.095Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
That narrative is unambiguously a case of illegal discrimination. Idaho law Defines:
"Disability" means a physical or mental condition of a person, whether congenital or acquired, which constitutes a substantial limitation to that person and is demonstrable by medically accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques. A person with a disability is one who (a) has such a disability, or (b) has a record of such a disability, or (c) is regarded as having such a disability;
It shall be a prohibited act to discriminate against a person because of, or on the basis of, disability in [employment]... provided that the prohibition against discrimination because of disability shall not apply if the particular disability, even with a reasonable accommodation, prevents the performance of the work required in that job.
I am also very confused as to how actual HR drones in an actual HR department wouldn't be familiar with the law and able to create a suitable enough pretext for termination.
Replies from: Prismattic
↑ comment by Prismattic ·
2014-09-17T05:23:18.754Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I already mentioned the A.D.A. to Ialdabaoth, but fighting a discrimination case probably takes more money than he's looking to raise to move, as well as being psychologically exhausting.
Replies from: Decius, CronoDAS
↑ comment by Decius ·
2014-09-17T05:35:04.897Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Either of those reasons is probably enough to convince a rational person. The spirit of Immanuel Genovese still sits on my shoulder screaming "Passive complicity!" at /me/ every time I contemplate accepting an outcome in which it is normal that this kind of treatment happens.
Replies from: ialdabaoth
↑ comment by ialdabaoth ·
2014-09-17T17:40:22.728Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
The problem is... this is a complex and delicate situation, as all real-life situations are.
There are co-workers who have gone the extra mile to help me and protect me. They didn't do everything they could, because they have families, and they know that if they rock the boat too hard it will be them, not HR, that get thrown overboard.
They aren't rationalists themselves (although I was slowly working on one of them), but they are caring and intelligent people who are themselves struggling to find meaning and stability in a harsh world.
If I could find a way to laser-lance out the demons of stupidity from my workplace, I would do so in an instant. If I could do so in a way that could add net funds to my own cause, I would already be doing so.
But as it is, I know exactly who would suffer for it.
(That doesn't mean that I have committed to a decision yet; I am still weighing necessary evils.)
Replies from: othermaciej, Decius, John_Maxwell_IV
↑ comment by othermaciej ·
2014-09-19T23:43:01.622Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I hope this is not patronizing advice but rather useful info. To be clear, I am not pressuring you to do anything, I know there are many reasons not to pursue discrimination claims, but I wanted to make sure you are aware of all your options.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a possibly less costly and less adversarial way of pursuing a discrimination claim. They will investigate independently and try to arrange a settlement if they find discrimination. If settlement is impossible, they may even sue on your behalf. They have won a lot of ADA-related claims. I'm pretty sure they will consult with you for free, so the only initial costs are time and emotional energy.
↑ comment by Decius ·
2014-09-18T01:15:38.207Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I'm letting you know about what my shoulder angel/demon is shouting, because if I follow his advice I am not optimizing for giving you good advice.
↑ comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) ·
2014-09-19T08:09:27.624Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
You can make the empty threat that you will sue if you're not re-hired. Heck, you could even register a law-firm-y domain and copy some law firm's website and configure google apps for email and send them some intimidating email "from your lawyer". You don't have anything to lose at this point do you?
↑ comment by CronoDAS ·
2014-09-18T01:08:14.189Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
but fighting a discrimination case probably takes more money than he's looking to raise to move
You might be able to get a lawyer to work on a contingency basis - they only get paid if you win.
↑ comment by KnaveOfAllTrades ·
2014-09-17T01:04:00.363Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Woah, well done everyone who donated so far. I made a small contribution. Moreover, to encourage others and increase the chance the pooled donations reach critical mass, I will top up my donation to 1% of whatever's been donated by others, up to at least $100 total from me. I encourage others to pledge similarly if you're also worrying about making a small donation or worrying the campaign won't reach critical mass.
Replies from: gjm
↑ comment by gjm ·
2014-09-17T08:37:39.242Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
If 102 people all pledge to donate 1% of everyone else's total, the consequences could be interesting. (Of course it's vanishingly unlikely. But pedantic donors might choose to word their pledges carefully.)