Friday, August 24, 2012

Silicon Valley job security

When Wayne Goodrich's story crossed my breakfast table yesterday I didn't know what to think. In an article titled (in the print edition of SF Chron of 23 August) Former employee sues over dismissal, Karen Gullo wrote:

Wayne Goodrich says he was a confidant, sounding board and close adviser to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who he says told him he'd always have a place at the company.

Now he's suing Apple, saying he was fired for no legitimate reason despite Jobs' promise of job security.

Goodrich said he was fired in December for what Apple said were "business reasons" not connected to his performance, according to a complaint filed Aug. 17 in California state court in San Jose.

Goodrich, who began working for Jobs in 1998, says in the complaint that in a one-on-one meeting in May 2005, the late chairman of the world's most valuable company pledged that he would always have a job at Apple. The conversation took place after Jobs' return from medical leave to receive treatment for pancreatic cancer, Goodrich said.

Okay, wait.

First of all ... he'd always have a place at the company ... do people still believe in that sort of tooth fairy job security???

This guy has to be putting on an act, right?

Because if it's true that he was Steve Jobs "confidant" he can't possibly be stupid. I haven't read the Walter Isaacson biography, but I've heard stories from colleagues in the world o' IT I inhabit here in the SF Bay Area. If there's one thing anybody knows about Steve Jobs it's that he was highly intolerant of incompetence.

So ...

  • Goodrich worked with Steve Jobs
  • Steve Jobs was afflicted with pancreatic cancer, and took a medical leave from his position at Apple to receive treatment for his illness
  • Pancreatic cancer is a nasty, deadly disease
  • Goodrich had a one-on-one meeting with Steve Jobs, whom he (and everybody else) knew was striken with a nasty, deadly disease
  • In that private meeting, Jobs allegedly assured Goodrich he'd be employed at Apple for the rest of his life
  • Goodrich ... believed him?
Something in this picture is ... odd. Wouldn't you say? Did the CEO of Apple mean for the rest of Steve Jobs' life? Did Goodrich believe Jobs would assure his continued employment from the afterlife?

To be sure, there's money at stake here:
Goodrich alleges breach of contract and unfair business practices and seeks damages for lost restricted stock units, wages, benefits and emotional distress.

He's seeking compensation for loss of restricted stock that was worth $97.40 a share when awarded in 2008 and about $635 a share as of Aug. 17. Apple discharged him to avoid paying the restricted stock, Phil Horowitz, Goodrich's lawyer, wrote in the complaint.

And Goodrich, according to the complaint, does claim that Jobs promised him an alternate job even if Jobs wasn't around to run Apple any more:
Goodrich says he was assured by Jobs in 2010 that he would be given another job at Apple if anything happened to his position and Jobs wasn't around.


I'm going to go out on a limb here and speculate that -- if Karen Gullo got the facts right -- by the time this story plays itself out, Wayne Goodrich's photo will illustrate definitions of "frivolous lawsuit" in somebody's dictionary.

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