Zero Tolerance Policy Theatens Security of Power Grid

May 29, 2007 · Posted in innovation 

Zero Tolerance Policy This Company is a Thought Free ZoneI feel, stunned, confused, sad and disappointed. Today I became another victim of Zero Tolerance Policies. I was fired from one of the power companies in Michigan today because of a Zero Tolerance Policy. What horrible evil did I do?

For the past year I’ve been contracting to the power company supporting the systems that keep all the power on across the state. I had to pass a background check, get drug tested, plus have a wide range of skills. Only five people in the whole company of 15,000 have the experience to do the job.

The company is really messed up but the people I work with are great. We complain a lot because many of the procedures in place actually have the opposite effect of what is intended. Paper work is insane and there are many things that just can’t get done because of the red tape. Three of the critical systems are constantly failing and we can’t do much to solve the problem because of procedures and policies.

A couple departments are particularly bad, Network Security being one of the worst. When I started working there my accounts and PC were messed up for over a week even though they had 3 weeks notice I was starting work.

The others in my department are actual employees and are very busy on this big conversion project. I’m building a new house and have not been able to sell the one I’m in and really need extra money so I’ve been taking 24 hour on call duty for the last 3 weeks.

Tuesday morning May 29, 2007 at 6 am the pager went off. The system that dispatchers use to send repair crews to fix downed power lines and leaking gas lines was not working. They could not send crews to emergencies like fires.

I jumped out of bed turned on the special laptop and tried to login to the secure network to fix the problem. I tried to login but kept getting an access denied message. As the time ticked by the pager went off again and again.

I called the Help Desk. After identifying myself with the three passwords and telling them this was very important and why I needed to get access immediately I waited.

It seems my account had been disabled over the holiday weekend because I hadn’t changed my password according to the 30-day schedule. So a real threat to the power grid was happening and the person responsible for fixing it is locked out for over an hour.

This wasn’t the first time something like this happened so I asked the help desk person if she could escalate this and do something to prevent it from happening again. Flag my account or something.

She said that she had already escalated it and there wasn’t anything she could do. She could tell I was frustrated and told me it’s not her fault. I said, “I know it’s not your fault.” She said, “You need to talk to the Network Security Department.”

That is when I committed the Zero Tolerance Policy Violation.

I said, “So I need to smack one of those guys in the head at Network Security?”

She snapped at me, “Workplace violence is not appropriate”.

I thought, “What a ridiculous thing to say”. But, I was finally on the network and able to start getting the 6,000 field workers moving to keep the power grid functioning. I hung up and went to work.

The pager went off for 3 hours straight. I was fighting fires until after 9 am when I could finally get into the office.

Around noon, the department head and my supervisor asked to talk to me.

They sat me down in the conference room and explained that my comment on the phone today caused big problems. It went all the way to the top of the company and they even locked down the Security Department and put the whole building on alert.

He said the company has a Zero Tolerance Policy on Violence and he had no choice but to let me go.

He said, “they can’t tell which threats are real and which aren’t so we have to treat all perceived threats the same.

I was stunned. Someone PERCEIVED the figure of speech as a threat? I was in the middle of fixing a real problem that actually threatened lives and they were going to fire me for a figure of speech?

This was crazy. No, warning. No discussion. That was it. With 15 open trouble tickets and users all across the state waiting for a solution. I packed my stuff up and was escorted out of the building.

So now I have no income, mortgage payments, a house under construction and very little savings.

There are now only 4 people to provide 24 hour support to those three critical systems.

I’m just stunned.

And the people in the field doing the real work are still calling my personal cell phone looking for help to get the system working.


Please read my other articles. Since I’m now unemployed I need to come up with another income and I would like to do Predictive Innovation. If you have any questions or suggestions on how I can do this please contact me. Also I am available for interviews and am already scheduled for an interview on a nationally syndicated radio program.

I intend to help other people not as fortunate as me that suffer from these crazy Zero Tolerance Policies.

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