On May 1, 2017 — International Workers’ Day — a UK firm named The Conversationalist Agency (TCA) bought the social intelligence division of SDL. TCA had no significant USA presence, so they formed and completed the purchase under the name Social Data Intelligence LLC (“SDIL”). At the time of purchase, SDL laid off the majority of the US employees. They were provided severance packages from SDL in accordance with the WARN Act of 1988. All SDL employees in Vietnam were transferred to the new employer under existing employment contracts.
Hearsay reported to the author is that SDL sabotaged the sales process. TCA was in the process of finding additional investors, but had been dragging the process out for some time. SDL was losing money with the division and in their haste to divest, backed out of their planned investment in the new entity and proposed a final “take it or leave it” deal, planning to shutter the division if the deal was rejected. TCA took the deal.
After the acquisition, SDIL promised to:
- Apply for green cards for employees present in the US on SDL intra-company visas. This was promised to the affected employees as a condition of the sale.
- Provide similar benefits to those provided by SDL.
These promises were made by Badri Nathan (@badri_nathan), original CTO, Paul Brothers (@paulbrothersuk), owner, and Alfonso Eusebio, current CTO, on behalf of the company. These promises were made in person and over phone, email, and chats. All promises, and others, were plain lies.
On 14 July 2017, Jackie Cuyvers (@jackiecuyvers) dismissed a Seattle-based employee with zero notice or severance. While this action was legally allowed under US and Washington state law, it was morally reprehensible.
On 25 January 2018, another Seattle employee was dismissed, this time with two weeks notice, but without severance.
On 2 March 2018 the twice-monthly salary payments of the Seattle employees, normally processed by TriNet had not been deposited. This payment would have covered work performed in the second half of February.
On 7 March 2018, the office in Vietnam was closed with zero prior notice. Employees were dismissed without their final paychecks and in violation of their employment contracts. In Vietnam, severance of three months pay is required when an employment contract is cut short.
On 9 March 2018, TriNet officially terminated the employment of the Seattle employees. Their company sponsored health care was automatically scheduled for cancelation at the end of March. Convosphere representatives denied that they were laid off and represented that it was a temporary setback, but made assurances that they were still employed.
On 23 March 2018, the Seattle employees resigned. After ten months of employment at SDIL, no green card process was ever started. SDIL insisted, against the opinion of third-party legal counsel, that the SDL intra-company visas were still valid.
On 26 April 2018, the @fuckconvosphere and @coward_convos Twitter accounts were created to pressure Convosphere into paying the debts owed to their former employees. Paul Brothers immediately accused several of Convosphere’s former employees of the postings and demanded the author be revealed. None of the authors are owed anything by Convosphere.
On 30 April 2018, the WeWork office in Seattle was closed.
At the end of April, a Seattle employee returned to Vietnam with their family. A valid visa was never transferred to SDIL or Convosphere and the green card process was never started.
On 2 May 2018, Convosphere promised to immediately pay 50% of the earned wages owed the employees in Vietnam, with the remainder paid 7-10 days later. The first 50% payment was received on 10 May 2018.
On 18 May 2018, Convosphere said that the remaining 50% of the earned wages owed the employees in Vietnam would go through by the end of the month. At the same time, they promised to pay 10-20% of a normal monthly paycheck to the Seattle employees each month until the balance was paid.
On 29 May 2018, the first payment since February was received by a Seattle employee.
On 14 June 2018, Convosphere finally paid the earned February wages owed the employees in Vietnam. As far as has been reported, no contractual severance pay has been paid nor any interest on wages for the delayed payment. The statute of limitations for such a violation is one year. Employees who are still owed that severance pay should consider legal action before February 2019.
As of 22 June 2018, Convosphere had still not completed payment of the February and March salaries of the Seattle employees. The statute of limitations for such a violation is three years. Employees who are still owed salary, interest for the duration of unpaid wages, and damages resulting from late payment of wages should consider legal action before February 2021.