Culture, Documentation, Ethics, Technology

Bryan Hertz & Telcentris vs. Angela Baxley

voxox for business by Telcentris

This story started a year ago. I’ve waited one year for Bryan Hertz, CEO of Telcentris and my former boss, to do the right thing. However, I did file my complaint with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement in May 2011. The case is still pending.

September 2011, one year after being fired, and denied my final paycheck and reimbursed expenses, I began this campaign for social justice, which may or may not beat the law to the punch.

UPDATE: September 15, 2011, Shekhar Vyas, the lawyer for Telcentris called and offered a settlement. I didn’t even listen to terms, and let them know that while they thought the DLSE case was closed, it was indeed still open. One year later, I will not settle. I deserve full compensation and penalties. It’s the LAW. Bryan Hertz, and the Hertz family of “serial entrepreneurs” apparently think that they are above the law.

“I would recommend not sending out any tweets or communicating anything that could imply or cast the company in a negative light. There is no reason for that.  I would think you’ll want to keep things friendly and professional, and I’d like to do the same.” —Bryan Hertz, CEO Telcentris, September 17, 2010

Wanna skip the story? Just read the State of California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement Wage Adjudication Claim of Angela Baxley vs. Telcentris.

When I left San Francisco, the epicenter of the raging party of technology and design, I had very little oomph left in my heart. I think I’d left it on the Yahoo! Shuttle somewhere on the miles commuting back-and-forth between The Mission and the South Bay. One night, Micheal and I slipped quietly out of the city in a U-Haul headed south for San Diego packed with his belongings and mine. I’ll never forget the listless feeling pulling away that night looking back at the arm-chair that wouldn’t fit. My heart was crushed, my spirit broken.

I spent the months of November and December alone. Many nights I slept on the couch. At some point I started watching LOST and that fascinated me. Day after day I’d get up and move to the couch to vegetate and gaze unmoved at the brilliant blue sky outside beyond my patio. It was right about Christmas time that I’d had it. I was bored. Enough. I needed a job. Something to do. Great timing, the holidays and all.

I’d talked to my pals at Sapient (highly recommend them!) about work on the [redacted] account, but couldn’t even fathom the commute to Rancho Bernardo every day! If I’d wanted to commute, I could have stayed in San Francisco and worked for Apple or Facebook. Then there was this little family company, Telcentris. My Aquent (now Vitamin T) talent agent, Amy McFarland, told me about the family—serial entrepreneurs. I did my homework and learned that they’d had some legal issues with their companies in the past, and had been through more than their fair share of designers, but all-in-all seemed to be nice enough guys. Nothing I couldn’t handle.

I loved the interview. It was like a meeting of the minds. They’d been around the block before, and were tough, but quickly softened up as they determined that I had the stuff they were looking for. We didn’t get very far into looking at the service as everything was so bad anyway. I was happy, I’d been interested in executing my designs for a unified communication system since my days of using Microsoft Office Communicator while at Microsoft. I’d dreamed of a system that simply connected people together to communicate effectively and efficiently. [The designs, of course, are my intellectual property.]

So that we don’t get lost in the details of the deal, it comes down to this—I worked with my agency to ensure that I could go to SxSW and that it would be as an employee, NOT vacation, AND that I had additional flexibility for vacation so that I could do things on long weekends, work from home, and go to Burning Man without burning through all my vacation. Along the way I’ve learned that I need to protect my creativity and recharge it, and that if I’m not careful the corporate mind will lock me away in a cube where I’ll whither and die (cough Travelocity, Yahoo! cough). They agreed in writing, I signed my contract and begun work.

Working for Telcentris was pretty much miserable. I could tell you about the HR woman who was a walking HR violation, and how the good ol’ boys club worked (as long as you were a family friend) but that would all be the kind I’m not used to caring about. The only main point would be that it was nearly impossible to get anything documented (for instance, when I wanted to buy a car and needed additional documentation from work) or getting “office” things done (like vacation, expense reports, purchasing, etc).

Now we’ve fast forwarded to summer. I’d gone to SxSW with great success, even doing an interview with my pal and geek celebrity Jay Adelson (formerly of Digg, now SimpleGeo) reviewing the service and user experience. In preparation for heading out my Labor Day plans, Burning Man, I call my boss (ironically, via Skype, our competitor) on his vacation in Bali to remind him of my absence. He informs me that if I go to Burning Man I don’t have a job, as he doesn’t know anyone else in our company who would have the [adjective] to go on vacation during launch. I found this funny—the answer is he (the CEO and my manager, Bryan Hertz), his brother (CTO, Kevin Hertz) and at least three other of the more senior employees. Let alone that everyone had long known that I was going on vacation, and that I was going to Burning Man for Labor Day.

Looking out from my girlfriend’s window in San Francisco, I recall the shadow entering my crushed heart again. What was I doing working for these kinds of people? Those who would lock me up in my cubicle or dingy dark office to get more, more, more! out of me? I had just put in a week of working 140 hours as documented by my friend who is a government official. She was in shock to hear that I got fired. My friends were all outraged. I tried my best to squelch my panic and enjoy my vacation—I knew the truth. I was screwed.

I was still carrying expenses on my credit card, and I knew there was no way I was going to see that money now. I was broke. I needed money. I’ve never had someone to take care of me. I had an ex-husband who made no money, couldn’t keep a job, and left me with a house and $30k in debt. I sold our home, and worked for years to pay off all his debt (which, in marriage, was now my debt). In Seattle, I bought my condo, and started school paying tuition as I went along (tuition was exorbitant!). When I left Seattle, I didn’t have much in the bank, but I didn’t owe anything (besides my mortgage).

When I had left Microsoft, it was under duress (that is another story) and it was a terrible time in the housing market. My condo in Bellevue stayed empty bleeding me dry every month while I paid both my mortgage and my pricy rent in San Francisco (my rent was $1,000 more than my mortgage payment even!). That wiped out my savings, slowly but surely.

Moving from San Francisco to San Diego was the last of credit that I had. That’s why I had arranged for Telcentris to cover my SxSW expenses, and frankly, mostly why I took a job (instead of “buying” myself some time to start my own company).

What can I say? I’m embarrassed.

And now? I’m broke. I have creditors calling me daily. Harassing me for money I don’t have.

I think of Bryan Hertz and his brother Kevin and their wives. My friends (former and current employees of Telcentris) tell me about Kevin and Bryan buying new cars for their wives and how they go on vacation to Costa Rica, all the while they are being told that there isn’t any money to pay them. It was always about waiting for that next round of investment.

Since I didn’t have any money I didn’t have any way to hire a lawyer, but my friends came through with the best. A guy named Alex (contact me for info) who knows his stuff, and helped me out anyway. I filed a claim with the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement.

Time and unforeseen occurrence out of my control meant that I wasn’t able to make it to the mediation meeting (my car, and then my roommate broke down) and they logged it a forfeiture. Then I end up in San Diego County Mental Health for not sleeping (since I was completely at that point stressed out) and finally get to reach out to the DLSE to appeal for another hearing.

It’s now September 2011. One more year later.

You can call the DLSE, but you can’t get through. I’m sitting here writing this all out because now I’ve been evicted, and have no car, thus cannot even drive over to DLSE and see about asking them if they’ll help.

How long must I wait patiently for the right thing?

I gave up waiting. I’m broke people. I have no less than a half dozen phone calls per day from creditors who want money from me. Soon you won’t be able to call me anymore.

I’m miserable because it’s sunny outside, and now I’ve been evicted, and have but a few more days to sit here. Should I go play in the sun?

I have posted the State of California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement Wage Adjudication Claim that I created to take with me to the mediation case. I’m very proud of it. It took me several hours to prepare and “my” lawyer Alex said that “if it were me, I would just pay you”. It’s cut and dry.

The last year I made a point of living what I termed “my zero sum life”. It was my rebellion against the greed and mean spiritedness around corporate America. They’ve forgotten that there are real people here affected by the high level politics. I started my own company, and started thinking about the world. The Zeitgeist. Our failed communication systems. My broken heart and broken dreams.

Then I decided I’m over it. I gave him a full year to pay my last paycheck, and to pay my expenses.

I’m fighting back.

And guess what? I’m relentless.

I’ve been successful at everything I’ve ever put my mind to. I dare you to prove otherwise.

And guess what? I have put my mind to making Bryan Hertz pay every penny of what he owes me, according to the government’s own calculations (including the penalties).

Let’s see who get’s him to do the right thing first, me or the government.

Meanwhile, let’s see what social media can do to make him hurt. He threatened me not to speak a year ago. I resent that.

If you have any desire to assist, please let yourself be known.

Bryan Hertz and the Hertz family, founders of Telcentris, Inc, and Voxox in Business.

Telcentris, Inc.

10180 Telesis Ct #120
San Diego, CA 92121-2741
858.587.7036

You can call Bryan Hertz’ cell phone, which he manages using Voxox (meaning, you won’t get him, you can just flood him with calls and make him miserable) at 858.336.3383.

Telcentris, Inc. and Voxox in Business

The company doesn’t have a Facebook presence anymore, but you can tweet them at @voxox, or @VoxOxInBusiness.

For those of you that have been concerned about my wellbeing post making such a big stink about Telcentris, please don’t. If you hadn’t noticed already, I’m not going to be operating in that world anymore. I hope more people have the courage to stand up and do the right thing instead of quietly sitting there and taking it. I’m on a journey through the depths of the American culture, and it’s looking bleak guys.

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