Is MetLife’s Code of Conduct Recklessly Incoherent Bullshit? — An Open Letter to MetLife CEO Steven A. Kandarian

Hello Mr. Kandarian,

Is it possible that MetLife’s so-called “Code of Conduct” is recklessly incoherent bullshit?

I ask this question because I believe my own apparent failure to understand the Code’s “guidelines for appropriate business conduct and ethical decision-making” has brought relentless woe unto me and my family, not the least of which is now the threat of a criminal conviction and all that goes along with it (fines, possible jail time, etc.).

Of course, I do realize that the Code itself might be just fine, and that my failure to understand it nothing more than a unique consequence of my own idiosyncratic manifestation of Autism Spectrum Disorder. But given that I might not be the only person to find this document dangerously confusing, and of course, on the chance that it might just be equally incomprehensible for everyone, here I wish to explain why I strongly suspect it probably is just that, or as I’m inclined to put it: recklessly incoherent bullshit.

To begin with, on page 2 of the Code you personally exhort MetLife employees to “…read, understand and abide by our Code of Conduct and raise awareness of issues that may undermine the public’s trust in our corporate integrity,” [emphasis added].

Then on page 4, all MetLife employees are charged with the “…responsibility to…Disclose or raise concerns about any potential violations of law or policy, or any other potential issues….” [emphasis added].

Now, the way I see it, for the past two years or so I have attempted in various ways to fulfill this Code-mandated “responsibility”. More specifically, I have tried to raise awareness on a variety of issues, not the least of which is a psychologically damaging procedural artifact I think of as The MetLife Meat Grinder, meat_grinder_MetLife_your_brain_750x500by which I mean MetLife’s systematic, for-profit exploitation of people with psychiatric disabilities (Autism, Bipolar Disorder, etc.). But despite my persistent efforts to raise awareness of The MetLife Meat Grinder and other “issues that may undermine the public’s trust in [MetLife’s] corporate integrity”, I must tell you that the company’s reaction toward me has been not just ungrateful, but in fact quite fiercely retaliatory, and thus precariously out of sync with the company’s glossy promise to not retaliate against attempts to fulfill this “responsibility”.

As boasted in MetLife’s Code of Conduct:

Our commitment to non-retaliation

We do not tolerate retaliation for making a report in good faith. MetLife prohibits employees from engaging in any form of retaliation against anyone for raising concerns regarding a violation of any law, rule, regulation, internal policy, this Code, or about unethical activity….

Code of Conduct, page 6

Yet despite this boast, MetLife fired me illegally last year, subsequently lied to EEOC investigators about why I was fired, tried to bribe me with $37,000.00 to keep my mouth shut about what had happened, most recently requested and was granted a No Contact Order against me, and is now pressing criminal charges against me, all in what looks to me exactly like retaliation for my numerous Code-mandated attempts to raise awareness of The MetLife Meat Grinder and other issues.

Did I get that right? Am I overlooking something?

Actually, I’m pretty sure the source of my hapless misunderstanding of the Code can be traced back to one particular sentence, found on page 6, and which I find especially baffling, thus:

“We do not tolerate retaliation for making a report in good faith“…

[emphasis added]. Now, really, what’s baffling for me about this sentence is that I have no idea what is meant by this phrase “in good faith”, although I do think it’s safe to say at this point that MetLife as a company has somehow decided that my many reports have definitely not been made “in good faith”, and also that in such a case retaliation is not only tolerated, but for me at least to be pursued with fanatical zeal.

That much seems obvious, but what isn’t obvious to me at all is who judged my numerous reports as being not “in good faith”, and by what criteria was this judgment made? Was there any sort of objectivity involved in making this judgment? Was my “faith” evaluated against some sort of checklist?

Was the Bible consulted? The Hadith? The Code of Hammurabi? The I Ching? This can’t possibly be a religious thing, can it? Did you all somehow figure out that I’m an atheist and decide to persecute me for my lack of religious belief? I don’t seriously believe that, of course, but then what?

Why have my attempts to report The MetLife Meat Grinder (and other issues) been judged by MetLife as being made in not “good faith”?

Here I wish to submit for your consideration that there is no rational answer to that question. Here I wish to propose that the aforementioned judgment of my “faith” as not “good” was made for no rational reason at all — that it was in fact made whimsically, nonsensically, wholly arbitrarily. Here I will publicly suggest that the human beings who judged my utterly sincere reports did so impulsively, thoughtlessly, and with great and continuing negative consequence to me and my family.

To be clear: I’m not claiming here that these individuals are actually as incompetent as they appear. On the contrary, I think they did what they did because the Code itself is confusing, by which I mean recklessly incoherent bullshit.

Sincerely,

Daniel L. Scholten, a.k.a. “The Walrus”

The Morally Mature, Civic-Minded, Grown-Up Thing to Do: Yet, Another Open Letter to the Mysterious Mr. Phicks

Dear Mr. Phicks,

little-boy-hiding-under-cushions_750x500

Oh, come now, Mr. Phicks, don’t be that way. Really, there’s nothing to be afraid of!

I know you asked me not to contact you again, but I also know that your request arose from a state of ignorance and cowardly panic. You didn’t have all the facts and mistook your fear as evidence of actual danger. You saw that I got arrested for something, jumped erroneously to the conclusion that I was therefore guilty of something, subsequently forgot that you were an adult, and chose to flee and hide like a frightened child.

Hey, I get it. It happens. Behaving like a morally mature, civic-minded grown-up is often a challenge. But that was a few weeks ago, and you and your client have had a chance to breathe, cool down, come to your senses, get your bearings, pull yourselves together, think things through.

Perhaps by now you’ve recognized that innocent people do get arrested sometimes. Perhaps you’ve taken a closer look at why I got arrested, and why I committed the alleged “crime” (they’re calling it “misdemeanor breaking or entering”). Perhaps you’ve come to see, as I do, that what I actually did was really just what any morally mature, civic-minded grown-up would do in the situation I was in at that time, which is to say:

Perform some alarming (and of course non-violent) gesture in order to draw attention to, and warn the public about The MetLife Meat Grinder

…which is to say, MetLife’s systematic, for-profit exploitation of people with psychiatric disabilities.

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MetLife wants to crush me like an egg for exposing their cruel, for-profit exploitation of people with psychiatric disabilities.

Mr. Phicks, make no mistake: MetLife will stop at nothing to guard the secret of this corrupt and diabolical revenue stream. No doubt the company wishes to crush me like an egg for trying to expose it. If I am successful in doing so, MetLife could face tremendous losses due to litigation, not to mention the effort it will take to revisit millions of previously denied disability claims, and of course all of the benefit payments MetLife will eventually have to disburse as many of those previously denied disability claims are finally approved. Who knows how long MetLife has been cheating and shenanigizing the psychiatrically vulnerable in this way?

The upshot here is that my success will entail an epic financial disaster for MetLife, and I expect the company will spare no expense in order to avert that disaster. Heck, really no one should be shocked or surprised if I die mysteriously or disappear suddenly in the coming weeks or months. At the very least MetLife will try to discredit me, make me look like a criminal, and send me to prison for as long as possible.

I need help here, Mr. Phicks, and by “help” I mean corporate sponsorship. If I am to see this project through to success then I need a corporate ally to have my back on this: one who can match MetLife’s financial muscle. I need at least one major corporation (the more the merrier, really) who can fund my legal defense: a company like your client, I believe, is exactly what I need right now.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s no middle ground here, Mr. Phicks. Last year when MetLife did what they did to me and my family, it was like the company drew a line in the sand and shoved me on one side and themselves on the other, and now absolutely everybody else on Earth must choose a side, including your client. Unfortunately, your client’s expressed wish to “not participate”

line in the sand me vs MetLife_445x300

There’s no middle ground here because MetLife captured it from all of us. They invaded it, took it over, built office buildings and parking lots on it, leaving the rest of us with precisely two places to stand: MetLife’s side or mine. Ugh! What a sucky situation!

is simply not an available option. Especially since they have also exploited my psychiatric disability for profit, then to my view they definitely do not have the option of not participating. Of course, your client is definitely not obligated to choose my side, but with just two sides available in this situation, if they refuse to sponsor me in some way in this fight, then by default they ally themselves with MetLife.

Please, Mr. Phicks, perhaps millions of psychiatrically vulnerable people are counting on you and your client to step up and do the right thing here. Please do not turn your back on us like the effete, privilege-bloated cowards who run MetLife. This is your opportunity to do some good for a great many people. I implore you: embrace this opportunity to act like the morally mature, civic-minded, grown-up we both know you can become!

I believe in you Mr. Phicks! You can do it!

Sincerely,

Daniel L. Scholten, a.k.a. “The Walrus”


Image Credit: (mysterious businessman skulking away in the night) Pixabay

The MetLife Meat Grinder: A Significant Public Health Concern

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This is what I think of when I think of MetLife’s Short-term Disability Insurance Product. Image Credit: Shutterstock

In preparation for my upcoming defense against criminal and civil charges filed recently on behalf of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife), here I wish to document and explain the machinations of an internal, reusable process that MetLife has in its Human Resources toolkit and which not only did the company use to unlawfully terminate my own employment on May 19, 2017, but which the company is also free to use whenever it wishes to shirk its responsibilities as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Armed with this cold, algorithmic process — I have come to think of it as the MetLife Meat Grinder due to the trauma it can inflict on a person with a psychiatric disability — the company can dismiss with impunity any otherwise qualified employee with a psychiatric disability and simply for having that disability[1].

Such a discriminatory dismissal is supposed to be unlawful under the ADA.

Furthermore, the MetLife Meat Grinder is potentially damaging not just to thousands of the company’s own psychiatrically vulnerable employees, but is also potentially damaging to the psychiatrically disadvantaged of any company that offers MetLife’s Short-Term Disability Insurance product to its employees as an employee benefit. It’s important to recognize that this may represent not thousands but millions of potential victims of the MetLife Meat Grinder, making this process a significant public health concern.

The MetLife Meat Grinder

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If you have a psychiatric disability and believe it to be covered by MetLife’s Short-term Disability Insurance product, be very, very careful about filing any claims. Image Credit: Shutterstock

What I’m calling The MetLife Meat Grinder is a re-usable process that MetLife has developed and which can be used by the company whenever it wants to shirk its ADA-mandated responsibilities. Beginning in late October, 2016 and continuing till today, my family and I have been suffering from the inside the debilitating effects of this process, which not only traumatized us, not only jettisoned us all into an unpredictably long period of financial free-fall due to the loss of my job, not only caused me to fail at the job I finally found five months later, but is in fact now threatening to result in a criminal conviction, all because I have dared to complain and to keep complaining about the MetLife Meat Grinder.

I urge you not to underestimate the public health risks posed by The MetLife Meat Grinder. Not only does it jeopardize the health and safety of every MetLife employee with a psychiatric disability, but this inhumane device can actually be exploited by any other company that offers the MetLife Short-Term Disability product to its employees as a so-called “benefit”. This is a potentially huge number of people whose psychiatric disabilities are being exploited to protect and pad the bottom line profits of MetLife and the companies that purchase MetLife STD insurance for its employees.

Here is a summary of how it works:

  1. meat_grinder_210x314

    If you have a psychiatric disability and need to take time off work to recover from a flair up of symptoms, please use extreme caution with MetLife’s Short-term Disability Insurance Product. Image Credit: Shutterstock

    When an employee with a psychiatric disability attempts to use the MetLife Short-term Disability Insurance product while on a doctor recommended medical leave, the MetLife Claims Department takes a very long time to process the claim, during which time the employee has no income, which puts intense financial pressure on the employee to return to work before his or her symptoms are being properly managed, thus increasing the likelihood that the employee will manifest potentially disruptive psychiatric symptoms in the work place.

  2. When an employee with a psychiatric disability requests reasonable accommodation for that disability, the Human Resources Department takes a very long time to process the request, during which time the employee is required to work without the necessary accommodations while continuing to fulfill all of his or her professional expectations, putting unreasonable stress on the employee and again increasing the likelihood that the employee will manifest potentially disruptive psychiatric symptoms in the work place.
  3. When an employee with a psychiatric disability is working full-time and waiting for requested reasonable accommodations, the employee’s manager assigns tasks that are unreasonably difficult, thus increasing the employee’s stress and the likelihood that the employee will manifest potentially disruptive psychiatric symptoms in the work place.
  4. When the employee with a psychiatric disability becomes symptomatic on the job under the above described conditions, the employee’s symptoms are deliberately misconstrued as violations of company policy and the employee is fired for these alleged violations.
  5. Following termination, any formal complaints (e.g. EEOC) or lawsuits are settled in mediation for a price that is far below the true actuarial present value (APV)[2] of the employment opportunity that has been lost by the employee.

Please let me know if you have any comments, suggestions, or questions regarding the above.


[1]e.g. Autism Spectrum Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Depression, etc.

[2]An APV is a rational estimate in today-dollars of a stream of future payments (e.g. salary, bonuses, benefits, etc.), discounted according to interest, mortality and other relevant contingencies. For more information on APV, see the Wikipedia Article.

A Cow and 3 Hours of Jazz While I Ponder My Options…

Not quite sure what to say at this point other than that I’m thinking things through and trying to figure out what’s next.

In the meantime, above is a funny picture of a cow (thanks, Pixabay!) and a YouTube Jazz compilation that’s, like, three hours long. Enjoy….

🙂

I Hereby Dedicate My Next Incarceration to the 2500 Immigrant Children Victimized by Trump’s Cruel Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy

So, I’ll be going to jail again soon…

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Soon, I’ll be doing this again, but in my mind I’m going to dedicate the experience to all the immigrant children who have been cruelly kidnapped from their parents by the Trump Administration and held in border detention centers.

I’m not sure when or on what grounds exactly, but apparently I really botched up on June 14, 2018 by strolling peacefully and politely throughout two of the office buildings on the MetLife campus in Cary, NC.

It might have been the hat I wore. MetLife has a dress code policy that prohibits the wearing of hats, and I had forgotten to remove mine after entering the buildings.

Lesson learned:

Always obey the rules of the MetLife dress code.

Joking aside, I’m now facing some serious misdemeanor Breaking or Entering charges which carry a maximum penalty of 3 months incarceration, and I have reason to believe that the rich and powerful white folks who are actually running things are going to take this opportunity to “teach me a lesson”, so to speak. I don’t think any of them even understand the first thing about Autism, let alone give a crap that I’m actually autistic, but maybe they’ll take into consideration the fact that I am also white and “pull their punches” a bit. Not that I’m seriously hoping to benefit in that way, but I may not have a choice. The sad truth is that white privilege makes everything easier, even crime.

My trial isn’t until August 7, but the rich and powerful white folks actually running things have made it incredibly easy for me to get locked up again before then. At this point I’m pretty sure all I have to do is forget to wash the dishes and back to jail I go. I’m pretty good about washing my dishes, but there are so many other rules I have to follow now. Two days ago a District Judge ordered me to give MetLife a copy of all the videographic footage I shot while touring harmlessly through the buildings. I have until 2:30 today to comply or I’ll be held in Contempt of Court and probably arrested immediately. Although I definitely plan to comply with the order, what if something happens to stop me? What if I get stuck in traffic on my way to their lawyer’s office? What if my daughter has a seizure and I have to spend the day with her in the hospital while she gets checked out? At the moment I’m trying to encrypt the file, and the process is taking forever.

Although a good excuse might earn me eventual forgiveness, that forgiveness would only come after I’d already been arrested, booked, and incarcerated for many, many boring hours.

I’m in a precarious situation right now. One way or another I’m going back to jail soon,  and so I want to try to make the most of it all by dedicating the experience to a worthy cause. In fact, I think I’ll go ahead and dedicate it to every worthy cause — every cause that a rational and morally mature person should support — but I’ll also pick a particular cause as well,

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Central Processing Station in McAllen, Texas. Center for Border Protection (CBP). Found here.

which is the 2500 kids who were recently kidnapped from their families and jailed in border detention centers as a result of the Trump Administration’s cruel Zero-Tolerance immigration policy.

Yes, of course, I realize that Trump has agreed to stop treating any more children in this Draconian fashion, and that 500 of the children have been thus far re-united with their families, but there are still some 2000 kids trapped in these detention centers and in any case, even those who have been reunited with their families were probably so traumatized by the experience that they are going to need lots of support to get over the trauma. All 2500 of them have been victimized by the Trump Administration, and I hereby dedicate my inevitable next incarceration to all of them, specifically; and of course their families too, who have all suffered unjustly; and most generally, I dedicate my inevitable next incarceration to all charitable causes that a rational and morally mature person should support.

Now, in order to make this dedication financially useful to the actual victims, I’m asking my readers here to consider making a contribution to one of the organizations dedicated to helping them. If you happen to have a favorite, then I encourage you to choose that one. And if you would like some suggestions, I invite you to consider those discussed in Here’s how to help immigrant children separated from parents at U.S. border.

I’m also open to any suggestions you’d like to share for good organizations to give to. Please leave their links in the comments below.

Thanks in advance!

 


Header Image Credit: By U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP Processing Unaccompanied Children) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Me Problem: My First Real Hate Mail, Part 2

When I first read the aggressively critical reader comment which I re-posted in A Me Problem: My First Real Hate Mail, Part 1, my initial response was the following defensive volley of sarcasm:

First, thank you, Sulla Felix [the name used by the reader in question; I suspect it’s a pseudonym], for taking the time to think about all that and to go through the effort of writing it. Actually, I do have a “mental health professional”. She’s a psychiatrist at the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, and I will certainly share your insights with her so that she can benefit from them and do better in her work with me and all of her other autism patients. She also trains Duke University medical students, so maybe she’ll even invite you to give a guest lecture to them. How much would you charge for that sort of thing? Oh, and if you give me your contact info I’ll pass it onto her. Maybe you two can co-author a paper together….

Now, to be honest, I’m actually quite pleased with that bit of sarcasm, such as it is. It makes me chuckle every time I read it, and it aptly illuminates the absurdity of the author’s pretensions to legitimacy. In many ways I think it’s a great comeback —

Such as it is.

But even when I wrote it I knew that it was probably the wrong way to handle the situation, so I continued with:

LOL. Sorry about the sarcasm, but you really lobbed that one to me.

Listen, I think it’s great that you’re at least thinking about the issues you’ve mentioned, but your ignorance is dangerous to everyone you care about and who has any sort of psychiatric disability, especially autism.

And although I do think that response is better, my sense is that it’s still fundamentally flawed. Most likely it will only serve to maintain or possibly augment the obvious ideological rift that exists between Sulla Felix and me. It’s also needlessly evasive, and it passes up a great opportunity to practice the craft of Diversity Acceptance Consulting.

Which brings us to the question: can I do better? And without pretending to offer the last word on it, following is what I would like to submit for your consideration; please let me know what you think in the comments:

Thank you, Sulla Felix, for taking the time to think about all that and to go through the effort of writing it. Actually, I do have a mental health professional. She’s a psychiatrist at the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, an expert in autism and other developmental issues, and even trains medical students at Duke University. I see her about once a month to monitor my medications, and will certainly share your insights with her because I think you raise some valid points.

In particular, I agree that the issue of using autism as an excuse for inappropriate behavior is an important one, even though we clearly disagree as to whether doing so is ever justified. To briefly clarify my own stance: the question of whether autism is a valid excuse for anything seems to me quite equivalent to the question of whether autism is a disability. To the extent that one accepts autism as a disability, one must also accept it as a valid excuse, at least in some situations. By comparison with the Celiac Disease that imposes restrictions on what your niece can eat, autism imposes restrictions on what autistics like me can do in some, but clearly not all, circumstances.

Since neither of us is anything like an autism expert, I don’t see much point in us debating this issue, but I thank you for drawing attention to it, and as I said I will definitely bring it up with my psychiatrist.

Yeah, I feel pretty good about that, but it can probably be improved. Please post your suggestions below, especially if you are Sulla Felix! 🙂