Several of Tulley's coworkers, workers who all outranked him and were paid accordingly, weren't so lucky. As a result, Tulley's manager -- his fourth superior in three years -- dumped their collective workload on him. Tulley, the lowest-rung technician, who hasn't received a raise in his entire Sprint tenure, now inherited the responsibilities of workers with more experience and better salaries. And there was one more thing.
"Now I have to take a class on how to be a team player," Tulley says.
For Tulley, avoiding the Sprint guillotine did not necessarily translate into happy holidays. Deceitful management, obtuse policies and the constant threat of termination have made working at Kansas City's largest private employer a depressing endeavor. "It's just kind of discouraging," Tulley says. "Everyone you're working with, their jobs are on the line."
There seems to be no intelligent method for determining who will go next.
In 2002 Sprint changed its system for evaluating employees. Workers had received a number between one and five (one being the best, five the worst). The new system still assigns employees a number, but their ratings are subject to a bell curve. "So if you have five people on your team, one of them is getting a one, three are getting a three and somebody is getting a five," Tulley says. "Somebody's going to fail."
Tulley, a two by the old standards, received a four rating when the bell curve took hold.
Discouraged by the poor grade, Tulley estimates his productivity dropped significantly -- from "110 percent to 80 percent," he says. The fruits of his slacking labor? His next evaluation actually went up.
Tulley scoffs at Sprint's evaluation policy, but laid-off workers are using it as cause for litigation. "We think there have been some procedural irregularities," says Dennis Egan, an attorney representing several former Sprint workers.
Egan claims that the bell-curve system allowed Sprint to discriminate against his clients based on gender, age and disability. One such complaint alleges that Sprint management produced "pre-layoff work sheets" -- lists categorizing employees by their age, ethnicity and gender -- to determine which workers would lose their jobs. Egan says he intends to file a collective-action lawsuit -- similar to a class-action case -- against Sprint based on those discrimination charges.
Though it's not surprising that Sprint faces numerous lawsuits in the wake of extensive downsizing, the company's legal battles have spiked in the past few months, adding to an already tumultuous year.
In December, Sprint made national headlines when it settled a pair of shareholder lawsuits accusing company executives of misleading investors about the likelihood of a 1999 merger with WorldCom. American and European regulators ultimately opposed that deal, sending Sprint stock tumbling. Earlier in 2003, Sprint settled another shareholder lawsuit over the stock options that certain executives earned when investors approved the WorldCom merger. Such "golden parachutes" allowed a handful of Sprint officials to leave the company with millions of dollars' worth of options, despite the merger's failure.
Now, former employees have pinned Sprint with a rash of new charges. Since last summer, more than twenty new lawsuits have been filed by laid-off workers, and Egan promises more discrimination plaintiffs.
Sprint spokeswoman Jennifer Bosshardt downplays the impact of the court filings: "These type of lawsuits aren't unusual," she says. "They're routine employment litigation cases that large employers like Sprint face, particularly when downsizing has recently occurred. This isn't an unusual set of circumstances."
The complaints, filed in a Kansas federal court, offer some memorable details about work life at Sprint's sprawling Overland Park campus. According to one complaint, filed by a 52-year-old disabled woman, a Sprint department manager was overheard telling another department manager, "Your team is nothing but a bunch of old, sick people."
In July, Sprint settled out of court with a former engineer who had accused the company of withholding 1,000 hours' worth of overtime pay. According to the lawsuit, Sprint routinely demanded that the employee work as many as eighty hours a week in violation of federal labor laws.
In another case, in-house Sprint attorney Rebecca Ware, who had represented the company in a past discrimination lawsuit, accuses the company of discriminating against her. In January 2000, Ware informed Sprint management that she had been sexually harassed by a superior. She alleges that Sprint management not only disregarded her January 2000 claim of sexual harassment but also punished her for making it, systematically reducing her responsibilities to that of a paralegal before firing her in August 2002. At the time of her termination, Ware had been working on behalf of Sprint on a job-discrimination lawsuit filed by a disabled man.
"We're vigorously defending that case and deny all the allegations in that suit," Sprint's Bosshardt says.
If the environment is grim, however, some employees have found creative ways to keep a sense of humor -- even if it endangers their job security.
In September, after Sprint officials announced they were sending thousands of technology jobs overseas, a satirical news article floated around Sprint offices claiming that the company had constructed a 10,000-mile tube running between Kansas and India.
The accompanying photo, featuring four smiling Sprint employees crammed inside a giant cylinder, was clipped from the company's in-house newsletter, The Point.
"Sprint employees based in India say the tube saves the environment by using less petroleum-based fuels than the SUVs they formerly commuted in and saves Sprint lots of money by allowing them to live in a third-world country," reads the caption.
In October, the story appeared on the satirical Web site sprintcampus.com and became an instant hit with Sprint employees. According to the site's publisher, the article received more than 10,000 hits within a few days. When Sprint officials learned that the site was operated by one of their own contractors, they demanded that the contractor shut it down.
But that wasn't enough. A few days later, Sprint gave the site's publisher the same treatment it has bestowed upon thousands of Sprint employees over the past few years. "I was approached by my supervisor," the Web site reads, "[who] took my ID badge, my Sprint pager, and I was then escorted out of the building."
In the end, an article that brought levity to a company devastated by layoffs and outsourcing cost one more worker -- in this case a contractor -- his job.
Bosshardt declined to comment about the Web site.
After a brief hiatus, sprintcampus.com returned, this time with a contribution from Tulley, who tells the Pitch he's "95 percent sure" Sprint's downsizing will catch up with him soon.
So does that mean more satirical stabs are in the works? A grin spreads across Tulley's face. "Oh, yeah," he says.