In late 1998 I was, quite unexpectedly, escorted by uniformed security personnel off the property of the Houston headquarters of the largest (then and now) bank on the planet; this bank, at the time, just so happened to be my full time employer and had been for over a year prior to the date of "the incident."
I was 31 years old and had worked a year previous, on site, in a contract role as the main administrator, designer and coordinator for an international intranet system for the treasury department of this financial institution; I was, at the time of the expulsion, neck deep in rather complex software and interface projects.
"The incident," as I call it, was nothing more than my going through the HR full time hire process, including a full background check.
My immediate boss, for nearly a year, had been urging me to hire on as a full time employee (FTE) but I had always been reluctant; the ultra corporate, three piece suit culture really wasn't my thing. Professionally, I had always leaned more so towards design firms and other artistically directed environments.
Anyway, in late 1998, having completed some very successful projects in my intranet management position, and actually very much coming to enjoy the work, I succumbed to my co-workers constant proddings and accepted a full time offer from the bank.
It was during what I thought would be a rather innocuous Human Resources meeting, to discuss background, criminal history, etc., that the proverbial ca-ca hit the fan.
One of the questions on the FTE interview form was, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?"
I answered no, but also made a note for a verbal qualification as I did have a transgression on my record, from when I was 17 years old and for which I was never convicted of any crime; I was sure this incident would turn up in any public record background check and so I simply mentioned it.
As it turns out, upon hearing that I had a felony charge on my record, albeit without any subsequent conviction, HR immediately had a genuine grade-A freak out, called security and had me escorted from the building!
A felony charge. When I was 17 years old. A charge I was never convicted of.
After that day, I had to work from my home office; I was on order to not come within 50ft of the bank premises without express verbal consent of my immediate supervisors.
After several meetings with my immediate supervisors and HR, I was informed there was a legal appeal process I could pursue in order to argue for my rights to work at the bank. This involved a rather elaborate process of letter writing, references and finger printing by bank security, all of which was then mailed to New York for review by the FDIC.
My immediate supervisors urged me to begin this process, as we all were concerned for both my own well being and the state of the many projects that we had in motion; after little deliberation, I decided to go ahead start the appeal process.
We did the necessary paperwork with Human Resources, did the fingerprinting, and then sent the appeal to New York for FDIC processing.
We waited for a response …
And invariably, from the first appeal set mailed, ... on through the second ... the third ... and so on ... the response from the FDIC was always the same: we had filled out a form wrong; we had placed a fingerprint to close to a border; we had not crossed a 'T' or dotted some 'I.'
In truth, each and every correspondence was prepared perfectly, both by myself and by the bank security personnel working on the case.
The message from New York was very clear: someone in the FDIC or the upper echelons of this mammoth global financial institution, did not want me working at this bank.
Needless to say, we did not digress in our efforts; upon each return notice from the FDIC that we had done something wrong with the submission process, we repeated the fingerprinting, repeated the letters and, overall, repeated the submission of the appeal, exactly as we had the previous times; this process was repeated over 3 times spanning a period of 5 to 6 months.
All the while, I was working from a home office; the few times I did have to occasionally meet with bank staff or HR, I had to schedule an official meeting with official clearance to approach the bank property.
And then, ...
After doing everything in their power to let me know their true preference was that I simply disappear and quit trying to work in a place I obviously didn't belong, the FDIC replied, doing the only legal thing they could do: they informed me in writing that I could hire on to this bank as a full time, payrolled, employee.
We won the appeal, not because of any tricky maneuvering or legal wrangling on our part, but because, in the end, what this institution was reacting to, in such a profusely paranoid fashion, was an incident which had happened when a 31 year old man was, basically, a child … and, even then, it was an event that had never resulted in any legal conviction; said plainly, the FDIC simply had no legal grounds upon which to bar me from employment with this institution.
Also, I was, by far, the best person in town for the job and I had my superiors and co-workers backing on this. So, upon receiving word of our victory, my boss invited me back to the office.