Applied Card Systems employees deserved better

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 25, 2003

Imagine showing up for work one day only to have your employer say "we're sorry, but we're closing the office, and you are out of a job. Good luck."

In essence, that is what roughly 400 employees of Applied Card System's Russell, Ky., office heard Wednesday morning. According to former employees, they showed up for work, had a morning meeting, and were then told the office was closing because of a drop in business. They were read a letter from company President Tim Lehmann stating the company had tried to implement alternative business strategies to replace the decreasing volume of business, but could no longer operate without "radical adjustments."

As with any company, drastic measures such as this have to be taken when business is bad. I may not like it, but it's the law of nature. As much as it may hurt, sometimes closing an office or two is the only choice.

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Losing that many jobs in our region will be a terrible blow to our local economy. Many Lawrence Countians are now without a job, and as much as it saddens me to see this happen, I cannot find fault in Applied Card Systems for having to do what they had to do from a business standpoint.

How the company handled closing the Russell office, however, I find downright deplorable.

Even the employees who were not scheduled to work Wednesday were called in to work "overtime." This was just a smoke screen cast by company officials who knew good and well they were going to terminate these people. This kind of deceit is audacious and Applied Card should be ashamed of treating human beings this way.

Many of these displaced workers have families, and really need the income. The company is reportedly giving the employees an extra two-months pay as severance, but that money is not going to ease the burden these folks face in finding another job, particularly in this region where employment opportunities are not the easiest things to come by.

Many of the employees in Russell said they did not see the closing coming, even though the number of employees dwindled from a reported 791 people in

July to around 400 when the Russell office closed Wednesday. Applied Card Systems, on the other hand, knew what was going on.

No business -- no matter how big or small -- scales back its operations or closes locations without considerable thought. And, according to Lehmann's letter, Applied Card Systems has "done everything possible to avoid this difficult decision."

While I do believe Mr. Lehmann is being sincere when he calls it "a difficult decision," I do not believe for one minute that this plan had not been in the works for quite some time. At the very least, the company had discussed this possibility at board meetings or such.

I understand that sometimes upper management has to withhold information from the employees, but something this drastic should not have happened so abruptly. Sure, the company would have been faced with frustrated employees and the work environment would not have been ideal, but they would have earned a lot more respect had they shot straight with their employees in the first place.

Sometimes, tough decisions have to be made, but you should at least have the backbone to face the consequences once such a decision is made. These are people's lives, and they shouldn't be played like a game.

It is common practice for an employee to give an employer two weeks notice when they find another job. It just seems fair that employers show employees that same courtesy. Obviously, the folks who used to work at Applied Card Systems in Russell were not afforded this consideration.

Shawn Doyle is managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached by calling (740) 532-1445 ext. 19 or by e-mail to