Worker Gets Fired for Complaining E-Mail

October 8, 2002 ( - An employee at a Kansas City-area company got the ax last week after complaining to the company chief executive about the executive's brother's $7.6 million severance package.

According to a Kansas City Star report, the employee of Aquila, Inc., Stephen Millan, got fired after sending a complaining e-mail to chief executive officer Richard Green.

The Star said Millan’s note was prompted by an invitation from Green for employees to share their thoughts about the company with Green.

Millan took Green up on the offer. He also sent copies of his e-mail to other Aquila employees.

According to the Star’s report, Millan questioned whether the severance package — given to Robert Green when he was replaced by his brother as chief executive earlier this week — was ethical.

Millan noted that the severance came at a time when the company was making various cutbacks to save money, including removing free hot cocoa from company break rooms.

An Invitation to Leave

Millan sent the e-mail at 11 a.m. Friday. A half hour later, he said, he was told that sending it to other employees violated the company’s e-mail policy, which says e-mail is to be used for business purposes only, the Star said.

Millan said that by 2 p.m. he was told that he would not be allowed to continue to work at the company, effective immediately. He will be paid, however, through Oct. 18, the Star reported.

Millan joined Aquila in July 2001 as a telecommunications engineer at the company’s call center. Fears about additional layoffs got him looking for another job, which he landed recently.

Having the other job, he said, put him in a better position to question the severance package. Millan said that other employees shared his concerns but were reluctant to voice their opinions to management, according to the Star.

Millan’s e-mail mentioned Aquila’s stated code of conduct, including the core value of integrity — the need to act responsibly and ethically. He asked whether top executives were meeting that standard by giving the $ 7.6 million severance package to Robert Green and additional bonuses to Green and other top executives in March, according to the Star.

The $ 7.6 million could pay the salaries of 152 persons for one year if they made $ 50,000 each, he told Richard Green in the e-mail. the Star reported.