You might ask why I stayed so long. For a while, it was that I believed in Yahoo! as a brand and as a company and then later, I just needed to have health insurance. Health insurance was later used as a bargaining chip during the layoffs. In this respect, Yahoo! wasn’t unusual, but it does point out how national health insurance would improve the status and treatment of America’s workers.
This also goes beyond just a matter of workers rights, but also the rights guaranteed most citizens of the U.S., those guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, such as the First Amendment.
What price can one place on freedom of speech? Yahoo! put a price on the First Amendment—one month's salary and two months worth of COBRA health insurance for each and every one of the people who were recently laid off.
The news came on 12 February. People were called at home, called on vacation or escorted individually into a conference room before being escorted off the campus. I was called on my way to my doctor's appointment for a workers comp re-injury—a re-injury that could have been avoided if Yahoo! had paid attention to my doctor's orders and my own complaints of pain. This is to say that although I complained to the HR representative on the last day of December and requested to be returned to the job I had been cleared to work full-time at by my physician, yet as of the last few days of January, I was still waiting.
California requires 60-day notice or at least 60 days worth of pay and benefits. In addition to those, Yahoo! was willing to help those laid off find work through a referral service as well as that extra one month of pay and two months worth of COBRA health insurance, if and only if individual employees were willing to sign a severance agreement which included signing off on all claims—known and unknown—of discrimination and signing a non-disparagement agreement.
Non-disparagement agreements are becoming widespread it seems. What is the harm of that? Plenty if the company is violating state or federal labor laws. The Yahoo! non-disparagement clause is as follows:
You agree not to disparage Yahoo! Or its officers, directors, employees, shareholders or agents, in any manager likely to be harmful to them or their business, business reputation or personal reputation; provided however that statements which are complete and made in good faith in response to any question, inquiry or request for information required by legal process shall not violate this paragraph.
This means that I could not work as an Internet services analyst and be critical of Yahoo!'s services in comparison with MSN or Google for the rest of my life. The agreement isn't reciprocal. If there was a subpoena, however, I could respond to specific questions.