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Dear Kathryn:

I've been working for a nonprofit for two years and just got the word I'm next on the layoff chopping block. When I mentioned to my boss that unemployment compensation wouldn't really pay my bills, but I'd manage somehow, she said I wouldn't get unemployment comp! She said that because we were non-profit, I wasn't eligible for unemployment.

I've paid taxes these past two years so I see no reason why I wouldn't get unemployment compensation. I first started as a temp web designer and independent contractor but went on their payroll after three months. I would have gladly stayed as an independent contractor but they insisted on putting me on their payroll.

What's the real story? Will I get unemployment compensation?

SHARON T., West Hartford, CT

Dear Mary Sharon:

Your beef is heard loud and clear, especially if you've been seeing those tax deductions on your weekly paycheck.

The reality is, that if you've been an "employee", and not an "independent contractor", then your employer would have had to match your withholdings, and pay unemployment compensation.

The only way they would have gotten around the "employee" status is if you had stayed as an independent contractor and for that, your role would have had to satisfy the three "A, B, C's" that constitutes independent contractor under CT's Unemployment Law. My guess is you truly didn't qualify as an independent which is why your company changed your status.

I touched base with Attorney Henry Zaccardi of Shipman & Goodwin to clarify the "independent contractor" status. Henry reports the three points to qualify include these:

*+You are free from control and direction in performing the job and you can come and go as you please to perform your work.

+Your service can be performed outside the place of business.

+Your trade or occupation is customarily delegated as a "trade or independent occupation" such as a plumbers trade would be.

My suggestion is to put your mind at rest, gather your paystubs and tax returns, then call the Unemployment Compensation Office @ 860-566-5790.

Dear Kathryn:

I am experiencing the kind of downward spiral that I thought could only happen from bad drugs.

I had a phenomenal career for thirteen years with my first employer until they decided to move their offices out of state. The job I accepted was a disaster. This new employer expected me to learn their specialized software inside of one week. When I didn't memorize their policy manual within two weeks, I started getting the evil eye. I lasted two months after having had rave reviews and an excellent track record with my previous employer.

When I started the interview rounds again, I made a point to ask a multitude of questions about training and the company's expectations to avoid another bad employment move. I felt wary after that bad experience and wanted desperately to succeed.

Well, three months into this new job and I sense I'm not long for this one either. I've worked diligently, trying to bring manuals home to gear up more quickly but everything is so foreign and different than I've been accustomed to.

I think because I negotiated a pretty good salary, matching the one from the long-tenured job I left, they expected me to be a super human producer on day one. My three month probation is nearing and I'm sensing a nasty review. The anticipation of this is making me physically ill.

How could I go from being a stellar employee with a tremendous track record to failing at two new jobs? I'm wondering if they're harder on me then other new employees because I'm making a little bit more than others here.

I smell a possible termination with a job that I just think needs more time.

TAMMY R., Manchester, CT

Dear Tammy:

It's not unusual that an individual that has stayed in a job for a significant period of time such as you have has a bit more difficult time acclimating to a new environment.

The employee that's changed jobs every two years is much more accustomed to acclimating to new cultures and employers' expectations. That person might have the edge over the person who has experienced the same employer for fifteen years at the start of the job, but it's you who has proven you're great in the long haul. You can turn that good track record to work for you and doing so begins with a mind shift.

First, put to paper the specific duties you're having a harder time acclimating to. Whether it's learning specific company software that just might require more time on your part or a task that requires more time functioning in the workplace, you need to pinpoint where your problems lie. By being prepared for a meeting with your boss and showing him you were proactive about recognizing your problem areas, you'll get his attention and respect.

By having some potential solutions and time frame as to how you can conquer your less then perfect performance areas, you'll show you truly are committed to succeeding.

Forget for now the bigger bucks you're making in relation to your coworkers. Your employer hired you because of a strong work ethic and a verifiable track record.

Remember, you didn't keep your job at your first employer for so long because you were just a hanger-on.

Chin up and show you've got the drive and ability to perform the job and are worth every penny you're getting paid.