The sequel to this chronology is the chronology of the public protests.
[From: S. Mahajan. Source: 3 October 2000 document produced in legal action.]
|1980||Jeff Schmidt receives a PhD in physics from the University of California, Irvine, and registers with the American Institute of Physics job placement service.|
|Early 1981||Physics Today Editor Harold L. Davis invites Schmidt to apply for a job at the magazine.|
|Late February 1981||Physics Today brings Schmidt from California to New York for an interview. American Institute of Physics associate director for publishing, Robert H. Marks, promises that Schmidt can go far by staying with AIP.|
|17 March 1981||Schmidt begins work at Physics Today, at the magazine's offices in the headquarters building of the American Institute of Physics, in New York City (Manhattan).|
|Within a year after beginning work||Management gives Schmidt a booklet that begins, "Welcome to the staff of the American Institute of Physics." The booklet gives examples of "an employee's own time": "meal periods, scheduled breaks, and time before or after a shift." [American Institute of Physics Employee's Handbook, January 1982, page 16]|
|1981 - 2000||Coworker [name redacted], whose timeline of employment at Physics Today almost exactly parallels Schmidt's, openly spends company time on personal activities (rehearsing lines for plays, making personal telephone calls, debating topics at length with coworkers, writing fiction on his office computer, sending personal e-mail, surfing the Web, playing computer solitaire and so on), but is never fired. [Name redacted]'s submissive attitude toward management and open seething with irrational prejudices against minorities, women, gays and so on contrasts sharply with Schmidt's attitude and behavior.|
|1981 - 2000, most years||Schmidt is given bonuses for perfect attendance.|
|1981 - 2000||Schmidt's work is praised by the authors of the articles he edits. Many of the authors are prominent physicists. [Various letters]|
|1981 - 2000||Schmidt does work beyond that required by his job description. For example, he helps coworkers who write news stories and he researches possible feature article topics, proposes the articles at meetings and solicits them. [Example: agenda for 20 January 2000 articles meeting]|
|24 August 1983||D. Allan Bromley, the Yale University nuclear physicist and member of the White House Science Council who later became President George Bush's science advisor, praises Schmidt's editorial work on Bromley's Physics Today feature article. Bromley writes to Physics Today Editor Harold L. Davis: "I must tell you that Jeff Schmidt did an absolutely outstanding job in editing the paper I had prepared on Neutrons in Science and Technology for presentation at the 40th Anniversary of Fermi's First Reactor at the University of Chicago. I made no changes whatsoever in what he had done. You really do not know how unusual that is because, almost inevitably, I end up having giant hassles with editors who work over my papers. Let me then put in a very strong plug for Jeff."|
|Around 1988||Many Physics Today staff members oppose the firing of secretary [name redacted] by Physics Today Editor Gloria B. Lubkin. Speaking for the spirit of the concerned staff, Schmidt protests to Lubkin, who drove [name redacted] to a kind of nervous breakdown. Against Lubkin's wishes, Schmidt and many coworkers meet with [name redacted] in the days after her firing.|
|27 March 1991||Schmidt is promoted from Associate Editor Level I to Associate Editor Level II based on the quantity and quality of his work.|
|27 July 1993||Schmidt is promoted from Associate Editor Level II to Senior Associate Editor based explicitly on the quantity and quality of his work. [Document dated 17 February 1993; memorandum dated 27 July 1993]|
|October 1993||Physics Today moves from New York City to College Park, Maryland. The company moves Schmidt from New York City to Washington, D.C., on 1 November 1993.|
|20 December 1993||Stephen G. Benka starts work at Physics Today as an associate editor, a non-management position. Nine months later he is appointed Editor of Physics Today.|
|4 January 1994||Denis Cioffi and Ray Ladbury begin work as editors at Physics Today.|
|22 or 24 February 1994||Charles Harris begins work as publisher of Physics Today, a newly created position higher than Editor.|
|1994||Physics Today publisher Charles Harris authorizes Schmidt to work at home, in Washington, D.C., one day per week.|
|Beginning around 1995||Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka behaves abusively toward individual staff members, repeatedly blowing up at them, yelling at them. In one incident, Benka angrily follows Physics Today staff member Graham Collins out of the office, out of the building and into the parking lot.|
|Around 1995 to 2000||The American Institute of Physics recognizes that newly appointed Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka is deficient as a manager and requires him to attend management training classes over a long period of time.|
|1995 - 2000||Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka praises Schmidt's work repeatedly. [Various documents]|
|25 May 1995||Schmidt tells Benka that Benka has failed to provide him with an adequate amount of work (articles to edit) and that this is a chronic problem that limits the number of articles Schmidt can edit per year. [25 May 1995 memorandum from Schmidt to Benka]|
|26 May 1995||Schmidt notes that Benka provided him with no work for an entire week (23 May 1995 to 30 May 1995) and that this is the third time in the past 11 weeks that Benka has let Schmidt run out of work. [Note of 26 May 1995]|
|Around 8 March 1996||Physics Today publisher Charles Harris meets with Schmidt to discuss management's draft review of Schmidt's job performance. Harris decides to raise Schmidt's job performance rating from "Meets Job Requirements" to "Exceeds Job Requirements." Harris notes in a tone of regret that this change will make it harder for the company to get rid of Schmidt. Schmidt asks what Harris means. Harris explains that should the company decide to get rid of Schmidt, it would now take at least a year longer to do so, because it can't credibly lower its view of an employee's performance abruptly. (Harris says nothing to suggest that he plans to shift from the carrot to the stick in dealing with Schmidt.)|
|14 March 1996||Schmidt's 1996 performance review says
he edited 16 articles and gives him a rating of "Exceeds Job
The review says, "His comments in meetings often provide a useful counterpoint to discussions," and "His comments and views on editorial ideas and policies, while sometimes contrarian, are generally insightful." [Performance review dated 12 March 1996]
|11 July 1996||American Institute of Physics personnel office employee Melinda Underwood informs personnel director Theresa C. Braun that in 1995, AIP employment was deficient at the following levels and in the following ways: - Senior managers (101): Female and minority underutilization - Senior professionals (201): Female underutilization - Other professionals (202): Minority underutilization [11 July 1996 memo from Underwood to Braun]|
|22 July 1996||Schmidt is short of work because Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka has failed to solicit sufficient articles for the magazine. Schmidt writes a note to Benka asking for work. [Note of 22 July 1996]|
|4 October 1996||The only minority group member on the Physics Today staff is also the most underpaid employee. On behalf of staff members who have been pushing for pay equity at Physics Today, Schmidt tells the Physics Today advisory committee, at their annual meeting, that the large salary differentials among the staff are not only unfair, but also divisive and bad for morale and productivity. Schmidt raised this issue at various staff meetings as well. Management is not pleased by the pressure, in part because it forces them to give the minority employee, Jean A. Kumagai, a special 25% salary increase, beginning on 1 June 1997.|
|15 November 1996||The Physics Today advisory committee issues a report strongly critical of working conditions at the magazine. [Committee report e-mailed to staff by Benka 15 November 1996]|
|15 November 1996||Schmidt and some coworkers, after discussions with many more coworkers, give Physics Today managers and staff a list of changes that they want made at the Physics Today workplace. They present their requests in the form of a proposed agenda for a two-day retreat scheduled for 19 - 20 November 1996. Fearing reprisals for making requests that might not please management, those involved do not disclose their names; however, the fact that Schmidt played a leading role is known to all. One item calls upon the company to change its hiring practices to "increase diversity of Physics Today staff." [Document of 15 November 1996]|
|17 November 1996||In response to a request for greater job security by a group of concerned staff members, Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka promises the entire staff that job security will be based on job performance. This is a change from the magazine's previous policy of "at will" employment, in which employment could be terminated for any reason. [Document of 15 November 1996; 17 November 1996 statement by Benka]|
|26 November 1996||Schmidt and Jean Kumagai get Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka to send the current job opening announcement to three minority group organizations.|
|27 November 1996||Schmidt and Jean Kumagai update the Physics Today staff on the status of affirmative action efforts related to the current job opening.|
|Beginning around 1996||Physics Today publisher Charles Harris makes it clear to Schmidt and to many other staff members that their concerted activities have infuriated him.|
|After late 1996||There is a turning point in management's
attitude toward Schmidt, a distinct and permanent change in
management's tactics in dealing with Schmidt, a shift from trying to
incorporate Schmidt into the decision-making process to trying
to exclude him, a shift from the carrot to the stick. Physics
Today publisher Charles Harris is no more Mr. Nice Guy.
Management's anger at Schmidt increases dramatically, and never subsides, when he works with Jean Kumagai and other staff members to assert the need for equal opportunity and affirmative action in hiring at Physics Today, to increase staff diversity. They raise the issue when Ray Ladbury leaves the magazine in late 1996, creating an opening on the editorial staff. Schmidt speaks out strongly on the issue over a long period of time, as Ladbury's position isn't filled until 6 May 1997.
|3 January 1997||Schmidt tells Benka that Benka has failed to provide him with an adequate amount of work (articles to edit) and that this is a chronic problem that limits the number of articles Schmidt can edit per year. [3 January 1997 note from Schmidt to Benka]|
|13 February 1997||Schmidt's 1997 performance review says, "He
edited 15 feature articles in this period, one shy of his agreed upon
goal of 16." Schmidt is given a rating of "Exceeds Job Requirements."
The review says, "His comments in meetings often provide a useful counterpoint to discussions," and "His comments and views on editorial ideas and policies are generally insightful." [Performance review dated 13 February 1997]
|April 1997||To fill the position vacated by Ray Ladbury, Physics Today brings in three applicants for interviews. All are white males: Charles Day, David Ehrenstein and Corby Hovis.|
|Around late April 1997||(after the three white males are interviewed)Schmidt argues strongly at a staff meeting that promising minority applicants be interviewed for the open position. Physics Today publisher Charles Harris and Editor Stephen G. Benka say no.|
|6 May 1997||Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka
announces that the magazine has hired Charles Day to fill the position
vacated by Ray Ladbury.
Benka says that after filling the position, he phoned six "very promising" applicants, mainly
members of minority groups, to tell them that he will consider them for future openings. Even though these minority applicants were "very promising," none of them were brought in for interviews. [Benka's e-mail message of 6 May 1997]
|2 June 1997||Charles Day, Ray Ladbury's replacement, begins work.|
|Around 25 July 1997||Schmidt begins working at home, in Washington, D.C., three or four days per week.|
|18 August 1997||Schmidt writes to Benka about the chronic shortage of work (articles to edit). He asks Benka for more articles to edit. (Benka responds defensively, as providing the work is his job.) [Memos of 18 August 1997, 19 August 1997, 25 August 1997, 2 September 1997]|
|19 August 1997||Benka surreptitiously changes Schmidt's job description to make it look like Schmidt is partly responsible for providing the work that Benka is supposed to provide but has been deficient in providing.|
|25 August 1997||Schmidt discovers Benka's surreptitious change in Schmidt's job description and agrees to the change because it shifts Schmidt's work from an area in which Benka has been deficient in providing work to an area in which work is available. Schmidt makes Benka write a note saying that Schmidt's job description has been changed. The new job description changes Schmidt's article editing quota from 16 per year to 14 per year. [Note of 25 August 1997]|
|25 September 1997||Near the beginning of a staff retreat,
Schmidt asks if staff members may ask questions. Physics Today
publisher Charles Harris says no. Schmidt argues that staff members
should be allowed to ask questions at a retreat. Harris
angrily shouts "No, That's an order!", ending the discussion.
At the retreat itself, and in subsequent weeks, a number of Schmidt's coworkers publicly criticize Harris for the way in which he shut Schmidt up. A number of staff members -- Graham Collins, for example -- consider resigning.
Some days after the retreat, Harris tells Schmidt that he thought Schmidt's request for the right to ask questions was a disguised attempt to raise issues of staff concern.
|1 October 1997||Gag order put on Schmidt. Physics Today publisher Charles Harris and Editor Stephen G. Benka hand Schmidt a written "notice" that implies that Schmidt will be fired the next time he says anything that management considers to be "counterproductive." The notice also orders Schmidt not to tell his coworkers that he is under this restriction. [Document dated 26 September 1997.]|
|15 October 1997||In a written statement to the Physics Today staff, publisher Charles Harris says that "the staff should be free to engage in constructive criticism and discussion without fear of retribution" and promises that "while we can't guarantee life employment,... continued employment is based on satisfactory performance." [Statement of 15 October 1997]|
|17 October 1997||Schmidt and a group of coworkers, in a
written grievance presented to the Physics Today advisory
committee at its annual meeting on 17 October 1997, ask for relief from
"the increasingly repressive work environment at the magazine."
The appeal describes how Physics Today staff members Jeff
Schmidt and Graham Collins have been warned about speaking up about
workplace problems. It says, "Both Jeff and Graham have been outspoken
about problems that many of us see at the magazine. We feel that
the [gag orders on them] contribute to a repressive atmosphere at
the magazine and restrict all of us."
Schmidt meets with the committee privately and, on behalf of concerned Physics Today employees, objects to the magazine's discriminatory employment practices and failure to live up to its claim that it is an affirmative action employer.
|In the weeks and months following 17 October 1997||Physics Today publisher Charles Harris harshly criticizes Schmidt for his leading role in the presentation of staff concerns to the Physics Today advisory committee on 17 October 1997, telling Schmidt and others incorrectly that Schmidt tried to get him fired. Harris makes it clear that he sees Schmidt's actions as an unforgivable offense that obligates Harris as a matter of manly honor to fire Schmidt or eventually drive him out and that gives Harris the moral right to do that by any means.|
|24 October 1997||American Institute of Physics Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Marc H. Brodsky, Schmidt's boss's boss's boss's boss, accuses Schmidt of making "a very, very serious charge" about Physics Today's hiring practices. Brodsky demands that Schmidt bring him the evidence. [Extensive notes available.]|
|24 October 1997||Gag order put on Graham Collins. Physics
Today management lets staff know that problems are to be discussed
with managers on an individual basis only. This is communicated to the
staff through a warning to Graham Collins and in other ways.
Collins sends an e-mail message to the non-management Physics Today staff with the subject line: "My coming silence." [24 October 1997 e-mail from Collins]
|4 November 1997||Schmidt and Jean Kumagai work together to prepare the document on equal employment opportunity and affirmative action that Schmidt will give to American Institute of Physics Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Marc H. Brodsky on 5 November 1997. [4 November 1997 e-mail from Kumagai to Schmidt]|
|5 November 1997||
Schmidt meets with American Institute of Physics Executive Director and
Chief Executive Officer Marc H. Brodsky for one hour and gives Brodsky
a written statement summarizing Physics Today's discriminatory
hiring practices and lack of promised affirmative action. [Two-page
document dated 5 November 1997; extensive notes from meeting available]
Schmidt tells Brodsky that AIP failed to conduct the equal employment opportunity and affirmative action training that it promised the federal government it would conduct. AIP made that promise in its 284-page "1996 Affirmative Action Program for American Institute of Physics," a document signed by Brodsky and filed with the federal government at the government's request. [Pages 44 - 45 of the 284-page document (Schmidt's page numbering)]
Brodsky counters by saying that he is pretty sure that he mentioned affirmative action either at the one-hour question-and-answer session that he held at AIP headquarters on 20 June 1996 or at the Q&A meeting that he conducted for employees at AIP's facility in Woodbury, New York. He indicates that this mention (which, in fact, did not occur at the headquarters meeting) was the promised equal employment opportunity and affirmative action "training."
Brodsky promises to look into affirmative action at Physics Today and tell Schmidt what he finds.
|7 November 1997||Schmidt suggests that American Institute of Physics Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Marc H. Brodsky speak with Physics Today staff member Jean Kumagai about discrimination and affirmative action at the magazine. Kumagai, the only member of a minority group at Physics Today, has been concerned about the issue and has been working on it. Brodsky fails to contact Kumagai. [7 November 1997 e-mail message from Schmidt to Brodsky]|
|Around 13 November 1997||Coworkers force management to agree to rescind the gag orders on Schmidt and Graham Collins. The gag orders had outraged many coworkers, most of whom were afraid to speak out on their concerns but valued Schmidt and Collins doing so for them. Many staff members openly criticized the gag orders, forcing Physics Today publisher Charles Harris, at the November 1997 monthly staff meeting, to agree to rescind them. Harris does so reluctantly and without any decrease in his anger toward Schmidt and Collins. [E-mail message of 1 December 1997.]|
|2 December 1997||Management rescinds the gag orders on Schmidt and Graham Collins. [E-mail messages of 2 December 1997.]|
|19 January 1998||-- Martin Luther King holidayAmerican Institute of Physics Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Marc H. Brodsky tells Schmidt that he is still looking into the equal employment opportunity and affirmative action issues that Schmidt raised. Schmidt answers on behalf of the concerned staff, saying, "We'll stay tuned." [19 January 1998 e-mail messages between Brodsky and Schmidt]|
|22 January 1998||
Schmidt appeals to Physics Today publisher Charles Harris for relief from the pressure to take on additional (clerical) work. Harris says he is not inclined to give Schmidt any consideration, because of Schmidt's and Graham Collins's previous-year organizing activity, which Harris says is a threat to Harris's own job. [4 February 1998 letter from Schmidt to Collins]
|28 January 1998||Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka
breaks up two conversations between Schmidt and coworker Toni Feder
after working hours.
Benka bans private conversations in the workplace, saying that all conversations between staff members must be open to monitoring by management.
When Schmidt asks Benka why, Benka refers to the organizing activity that took place the previous year and says he doesn't want that to happen again.
Management's disruptions of the two Schmidt/Feder conversations on 28 January 1998 and ban on future private conversations appear to be aimed specifically at Schmidt even though Benka says the rule applies to all employees. [4 February 1998 letter from Schmidt to Collins]
|Shortly after 28 January 1998||News of management's dislike
of private conversations in the workplace spreads quickly throughout
the staff (by way of private conversations) and puts a chill on everyone's
Paul Elliott complains to Physics Today publisher Charles Harris about the ban on private conversations between staff members. Harris takes no action.
|20 March 1998||American Institute of Physics Executive
Director and Chief Executive Officer Marc H. Brodsky meets with
Schmidt and tells Schmidt that Brodsky investigated Physics Today's
hiring practices and found that the magazine's affirmative action
program was doing very well. Brodsky explains that he judges
the program by its results. At the time, Physics Today has an
all-white staff of 18 employees, with only one exception.
Schmidt asks Brodsky again (as he did on 5 November 1997) about the equal employment opportunity and affirmative action training that Brodsky promised the federal government that AIP would conduct. After extensive questioning by Schmidt, Brodsky says that his supposed mention of the issue at the Q&A meetings constituted only "part of" the promised training. Schmidt then asks Brodsky to do "the rest of the training." Brodsky very reluctantly promises to look into it, but such training is never conducted.
At the end of the meeting, Schmidt tells Brodsky that Schmidt and the other concerned Physics Today staff members still believe that their concerns about the lack of diversity in Physics Today's hiring are well founded, and that the concerned staff are therefore disappointed with Brodsky's response. Brodsky's apparent view of the upshot of what happened is that Schmidt leveled totally unfounded charges at AIP, and Brodsky is not happy about that. [Notes of 20 March 1998 meeting available]
|20 March 1998||During Schmidt's meeting with American Institute of Physics Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Marc H. Brodsky about staff concerns about discrimination and lack of affirmative action in hiring at Physics Today, Brodsky tells Schmidt that some of Schmidt's workplace activities, presumably reported to Brodsky by Physics Today publisher Charles Harris, are "counterproductive." [Notes of 20 March 1998 meeting available]|
|24 March 1998||Schmidt meets with Physics Today
Editor Stephen G. Benka to discuss his 1998 performance review.
Benka condemns Schmidt's organizing activities at the magazine, focusing
in particular on Schmidt's leading role in the concerted activity
around the 19 - 20 November 1996 Physics Today retreat, even
though that activity occurred before the period covered by the review.
Part of that activity aimed at changing Physics Today's hiring
practices to "increase diversity of Physics Today staff."
Benka characterizes the staff actions in which Schmidt has played a leading role as nothing more than "disruptive." Benka says: "You have spent a lot of time in, shall we say, disruptive efforts."
This meeting is the first performance review discussion in which Benka criticizes Schmidt for his organizing activities around the 1996 retreat. Benka strongly condemns this 1996 concerted activity, in which staff members anonymously proposed an agenda that addressed their concerns. Benka calls the group of staff members who did this "your cabal." He calls them "people who wouldn't step forward," but he talks as if he has no doubt that Schmidt was not only one of them, but also a leading member. Referring to the group's efforts to get its concerns discussed, Benka warns Schmidt: "Anything -- any behavior that generates such feelings, such divisions, such divisiveness, such disruption among the staff -- is not going to be tolerated anymore."
Schmidt tells Benka that staff members fear reprisal for speaking out about workplace problems. Benka responds: "Now, why would they fear that? If they're acting in good faith, then why would they fear it? But if they're not acting in good faith, they may have reason. If they're acting in order to engender divisiveness and trouble, if they're acting in bad faith, they may have reason to fear." Benka adds: "If they're that afraid, maybe they should go where they're less afraid -- if it's that unbearable."
The performance review lowers Schmidt's performance rating from "Exceeds Job Requirements" to "Meets Job Requirements" even though Schmidt did more work and more innovative work. The review makes what it admits are "new demands," which amount to a sharp increase in Schmidt's workload -- from 14 feature articles per year to 18 -- a 28 percent jump.
Schmidt asks Benka to make corrections in the review. After consulting with Physics Today publisher Charles Harris, Benka refuses to make any changes in the review.
In its employee handbook, the American Institute of Physics promises employees that their annual performance review will feature a discussion of "mutual goals." Without explanation, Benka follows neither the letter nor the spirit of this policy, and doesn't even pretend to be interested in what direction Schmidt might want to go in his work at AIP. The discussion is unlike anything Schmidt had experienced in previous years. Benka simply announces a big change in Schmidt's job description -- an increase in Schmidt's workload by as much as three months' worth of work per year -- and discusses it as if he were a dictator giving orders. Rather than follow the participatory process promised in the employee handbook, management changes Schmidt's job description by unilateral dictate, without discussion or agreement. [Notes of 24 March 1998 meeting available]
|24 April 1998||Schmidt's fellow outspoken coworker Graham Collins leaves Physics Today. In explanation of the dissatisfaction that drove him to resign, Collins tells the American Institute of Physics that "Marc Brodsky [AIP executive director and chief executive officer] wishes to believe that the only problems are employees who complain too much." [Collins's exit interview form, 24 April 1998]|
|27 April 1998||Schmidt appeals his 1998 performance review to American Institute of Physics director of human resources Theresa C. Braun and director of physics programs James H. Stith. The appeal details some of the ways in which the review is inaccurate and explains how it is a reprisal for Schmidt's organizing activity and is part of a series of attempts to stop him from engaging in further concerted activity at Physics Today. The appeal puts greatest emphasis (more than 13 pages) on the issue of discrimination in employment and lack of promised affirmative action at Physics Today. Schmidt shows his appeal to 12 coworkers. [Document dated 27 April 1998]|
|30 April 1998||The American Institute of Physics formalizes its computer use policy, saying that it "makes its computer equipment available to employees for personal use" on a causal basis for non-commercial purposes such as "educational, recreational, hobby, and community service." [18 June 1998 memorandum from Marc H. Brodsky to all AIP employees]|
|25 June 1998||Schmidt meets for two hours with American
Institute of Physics director of physics programs James H. Stith
about Schmidt's 1998 performance review appeal. Stith refuses to make
any corrections at all in Schmidt's 1998 performance review.
Stith does not defend the review's criticisms of Schmidt, nor does he dispute Schmidt's detailed claim that the review makes many false statements about Schmidt. Stith says he decided to leave these statements in the review (and thus in Schmidt's permanent personnel record) because he had talked to Physics Today managers Charles Harris and Stephen G. Benka, who told him other things about Schmidt -- things not mentioned in the review -- and these things justified the lowering of Schmidt's job performance rating. Despite vigorous questioning by Schmidt, Stith refuses to say what these things are. However, Stith makes it clear that the problem is Schmidt's organizing activity, just as Schmidt had claimed in his appeal. Stith tells Schmidt that when you do things that your supervisors would be happier that you not do, then you have to be willing to pay the penalty, even if what you do is right. Schmidt responds that he expects Stith to protect people from being punished for doing the right thing. But Stith makes it clear that he will not play that appellate role at AIP. Stith says that in his younger days, he challenged the status quo. He says that even after the status quo yielded to change, he still had to pay a price for his actions, implying that paying such a price was right.
Schmidt appeals the ban on private conversations in the workplace to Stith. Stith tells Schmidt he knows about the ban, which was described in Schmidt's 27 April 1998 performance review appeal. Schmidt asks Stith to retract it. Stith promises to look into it, but never lifts the ban. [Stith's memo of 24 June 1998; notes of 25 June 1998 meeting available]
|20 August 1998||Schmidt meets with American Institute of Physics director of physics programs James H. Stith about Schmidt's 1998 performance review. Stith admits repeatedly that the performance review was "subjective," but he refuses to put that in writing. [Notes of 20 August 1998 meeting available]|
|23 September 1998||Schmidt notes in an e-mail message to a coworker that Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka has failed to provide him with an adequate amount of work (articles to edit) and that this is a chronic problem. [23 September 1998 e-mail message to coworker]|
|6 October 1998||Physics Today publisher Charles Harris, in a conversation with Schmidt, criticizes the management abilities of Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka and tells Schmidt that Harris is going to take away Benka's right to issue performance reviews and memos concerning personnel matters on his own. Harris will have to approve all such material before it is issued. [6 October 1998 note written on memo of 1 October 1998]|
|Mid-December 1998 to mid-June 1999||Schmidt takes a six-month unpaid leave of absence.|
|Around 2 March 1999||Physics Today publisher Charles Harris is fired.|
|Mid-June 1999||Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka criticizes Schmidt harshly (and for the first time, even though it has been 14 months since it happened), for showing his 1998 performance review appeal to coworkers. That document reviews workplace issues, focusing most closely on the issue of discrimination in employment and lack of promised affirmative action at Physics Today. Benka says, "You are lucky you still have your job after doing that."|
|29 June 1999||In response to the sharp increase in his workload imposed by management, Schmidt asks to work on a 2/3-time basis, writing in his request that "after all these years, at my age, I am not prepared to take on additional work." [Memo of 29 June 1999]|
|9 August 1999||Benka tells Schmidt that his request to work 2/3 time has been approved and will take effect 20 September 1999.|
|17 August 1999||Schmidt is given an inaccurate and punitive
1999 performance review covering February 1998 to August 1999.
The review says, "During this review period, Jeff repeatedly engaged in disruptive and counterproductive behavior, damaging a collegial office climate and thereby undermining the editorial effort of Physics Today. Such behavior is unacceptable." An example of such behavior, according to the review, is Schmidt's showing coworkers his 1998 performance review appeal -- the document that focuses most closely on the issue of discrimination in employment and lack of promised affirmative action at Physics Today. The 1999 review criticizes and punishes Schmidt for this communication with coworkers. It says that such communication serves to "undermine...the staff's respect for management." [Performance review dated 13 August 1999; Schmidt's 19 August 1999 comments on the review; Benka's 19 August 1999 response to Schmidt's comments]
|19 August 1999||Schmidt meets with Benka about his 1999 performance review. Benka admonishes Schmidt for talking to coworkers about the punitive review, which Benka wanted to keep secret. Benka verbally demands that Schmidt tell him which coworkers Schmidt has spoken with about issues raised in Schmidt's 1999 performance review. Schmidt refuses. Benka insists. Schmidt says he will ask the coworkers for permission. (In an e-mail message later the same day, Benka says, "I still would like you to tell me which member or members of the staff you have discussed this year's review with.") Benka says he is concerned about Schmidt talking to coworkers because Schmidt has a lot of influence in the workplace. Soon after Benka's 19 August 1999 demands, Schmidt and coworkers confer and decide how to respond to Benka. [Notes on 19 August 1999 meeting available]|
|26 August 1999||Schmidt reports to Benka that Schmidt and
coworkers decided that Schmidt should not reveal any names to Benka
or give Benka anything that Benka could use to try to identify which
staff members are involved in private discussions. Schmidt and
coworkers decided that Schmidt should give Benka only a verbal
report on their views, based on notes that they agree on. Schmidt
does that, but Benka then demands that Schmidt give him the notes, too.
[Notes of 26 August 1999.] Schmidt refuses but agrees to consult
again with coworkers. Schmidt and coworkers decide that Schmidt will
give Benka a brief, agreed-upon written report, which Schmidt does.
Benka states his opposition to private conversations between staff members, saying that everything is in his domain. Schmidt, speaking on behalf of many staff members (those he consulted), defends private conversations. [Notes on 26 August 1999 meeting available; memo dated 30 August 1999]
|26 August 1999||Schmidt and Benka agree to change Schmidt's job description back to 80 percent article editing.|
|17 September 1999||Schmidt and the American Institute of Physics enter into an agreement specifying the amount of work Schmidt will do and what he will be paid in return for doing that work. The written agreement is approved by Schmidt and signed by a director of the American Institute of Physics (James H. Stith). [Document dated 14 September 1999]|
|20 September 1999||Schmidt begins 2/3-time work with full benefits.|
|24 November 1999||Jean Kumagai leaves Physics Today, in part because of Physics Today's discriminatory practices and affirmative action hypocrisy. Kumagai was widely considered to be one of the best editors at the magazine. She was one of Schmidt's partners in concerted activity.|
|24 November 1999||Jean Kumagai's 24 November 1999 departure leaves Physics Today with an all-white professional staff (editors and writers) and an all-black staff of secretaries.|
|9 - 10 November 1999||Schmidt requests permission to either
use his accumulated vacation time or carry it over to the year
2000; his request concerns only the amount of vacation time beyond
the amount that is automatically carried over to the next year.
(Verbal request 9 November 1999; written request 10 November 1999.)
Management doesn't respond for a full month, giving vacation-use
permission on 10 December 1999, which does not leave enough time
in the year for Schmidt to plan and use all the vacation time.
Management's response is partial, saying that the issue of carryover
will be addressed later. After many written communications with
Schmidt and two meetings with him over a period of a few months,
management makes Schmidt forfeit much of his vacation time. Also,
without Schmidt's knowledge and without notification, the amount of
vacation time that he is allowed to carry over automatically (to
the year 2000) is lowered to 175 hours from 262.5 hours the previous
year; Schmidt discovers this after the fact, when he sees his earnings
statement of 15 January 2000.
Schmidt's coworker Paul Elliott is in an identical situation and makes an identical request exactly one week after Schmidt's 10 November 1999 request. However, management allows Elliott to carry over to the year 2000 all of his unused vacation time -- but makes him promise not to tell his coworkers.
After Schmidt is fired, he is paid for his remaining vacation time, which does not include his forfeited vacation time. He is paid for only two of the total of four "personal days" and "bonus days" due him. [E-mail messages of 10 November 1999, 23 November 1999, 13 December 1999, 15 December 1999, 5 January 2000, 13 March 2000, 15 March 2000, 16 March 2000, 28 March 2000, 6 April 2000, 11 April 2000; note of 9 November 1999; memoranda dated 10 December 1999, 3 April 2000; notes of 15 March 2000 meeting with Nanna available, notes of 5 April 2000 meeting with Nanna and Benka available]
|5 April 2000||Schmidt meets with Physics Today publisher Randolph A. Nanna and Editor Stephen G. Benka about vacation carryover. When Schmidt objects to AIP's decision to make him pay for AIP's admitted mistake, Nanna says, "And that's my opinion [too]. Would I like it done to me? Probably not." [Notes of 5 April 2000 meeting]|
|5 April 2000||In the course of Schmidt's meeting with Physics Today publisher Randolph A. Nanna and Editor Stephen G. Benka about vacation carryover, Benka praises Schmidt's job performance in glowing terms: "You're editing at a level that I find very good. At a level, frankly, I haven't seen from you before. It's terrific." [Notes of 5 April 2000 meeting]|
|Around or just after mid-May 2000||Schmidt and coworker Toni Feder are talking alone in the Physics Today art office when Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka enters the room and points out to them that he noticed that they stopped talking when he showed up.|
|22 May 2000||Schmidt's immediate supervisor, Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka, learns of Schmidt's book, Disciplined Minds, when Benka comes upon a Physics Today staff member reading an article about it in the 'Hot Type' column of the 26 May 2000 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.|
|30 May 2000||Historian Spencer Weart, director of the
American Institute of Physics Center for History of Physics, reviews
Disciplined Minds and sends his comments to Schmidt. Weart gives
the book a very positive review and approves it for inclusion in the
physics community section of the Niels Bohr Library, a specialized
collection with limited space.
Schmidt distributes Weart's review to all Physics Today staff and management. [30 May 2000 e-mail from Weart to Schmidt and 30 May 2000 e-mail from Schmidt to Physics Today staff and management]
|Around 31 May 2000||Schmidt fulfills his entire annual review-period work quota in the first 10 months of the period. That is, he is two months ahead in his work.|
|31 May 2000, morning||Physics Today fires Schmidt.|
|31 May 2000, afternoon||Physics Today Editor Stephen G. Benka goes from office to office at Physics Today, telling each staff member that American Institute of Physics executive director and chief executive officer Marc H. Brodsky authorized him to say why Schmidt was fired. Benka tells people that Schmidt was fired for doing something other than what he was paid to do.|
|9 June 2000||The Chronicle of Higher Education reports Physics Today's firing of Schmidt.|
|9 June 2000||Schmidt's long-time Physics Today coworker [name redacted], responding to Schmidt's questions in a telephone conversation, details [name redacted]'s use of office time and details his annual workload. The amount of break time [name redacted] takes is very much greater than the two 15-minute breaks specified in the employee handbook, and his annual workload is significantly less than Schmidt's, because management counts his short "picture caption" stories as "big-ticket items." [Notes available]|
|12 June 2000||The National Writers Union protests Physics Today's firing of Schmidt. [Union press release of 12 June 2000]|
|Before 16 June 2000||Physics Today charges Schmidt with misconduct, telling the State of Maryland Department of Labor, Office of Unemployment Insurance, that "The employee admittedly used company time to work on a personal project over an extended period of time."|
|16 or 19 June 2000||Physics Today tells Maryland Department of Labor, Office of Unemployment Insurance, claim examiner Tasha Owens, as evidence that Schmidt was writing the book on company time, that Schmidt had asked for reduced hours.|
|20 June 2000||Regarding Schmidt's request to work reduced hours, state examiner Owens tells Schmidt that the company "did not specify why you needed that time." According to the company, said Owens, "you didn't say what it was for; you just asked for reduced hours. And that they granted you the request." Owens tells Schmidt that the company "could not say what hours you spent doing the book. They don't know."|
|21 June 2000||Sixteen former Physics Today staff members, including many who were involved in concerted workplace activity with Schmidt, protest the firing of Schmidt.|
|26 June 2000||George Washington University management professor Denis Cioffi, a former Physics Today staff member who was involved in concerted workplace activity with Schmidt, protests firing of Schmidt.|
|26 June 2000||State of Maryland Department of Labor, Unemployment Office, issues its determination, finding no evidence that Schmidt engaged in even simple misconduct on the job by writing Disciplined Minds. The state awards Schmidt full benefits, retroactive to 4 June 2000. Physics Today does not appeal the state's finding.|
|5 July 2000||Chris Garlock, editor of the online newsletter of the Washington, D.C., local of the National Writers Union, notes that physicist Albert Einstein wrote the theory of relativity in part during his spare time at the Swiss patent office, where he was employed.|