10 Completely Insane Things That People Have Been Fired For, So Watch Your Back, Literally Everybody
We all complain about our jobs once in a while (or every single day—I’m not here to judge you), but nobody wants to get fired. Although it would be nice to feel like everything we do at work is motivated by our intense love of our jobs, we all do certain things specifically to avoid the dreaded pink slip—from being on time every morning, to sucking up to the boss, to playing nice with that coworker whom you absolutely cannot stand . But sometimes, even when we’re doing our best to stay employed, firing happens for reasons we don’t expect or that we simply cannot control. So I don’t know if it’s comforting or terrifying that people get fired for crazy, completely random reasons all the time. Maybe a little bit of both? Read on for some crazy firing stories, and be thankful that at least your job doesn’t have this much drama:
1. Stopping a crime
Apparently, stopping actual criminal activity is a terrible idea if you want to stay employed:
- In 2007, Juan Canales was fired from his job at 84 Thai Food in Fort Lauderdale after stopping an attempted carjacking. (Allegedly, the boss did not like the resulting attention.)
- In 2011, four Walmart employees in Layton, Utah, were fired after disarming and subduing an armed thief in their store. They had apparently violated a Walmart employee code stating that, when faced with someone with a weapon, employees are required to withdraw. (The confrontation took place when the thief pulled a gun on the employees in a small, closed, room, so it’s not clear that withdrawing was a viable possibility.)
- In 2012, Virginia Autozone employee Devin McClean stopped an armed thief from robbing the store where he worked by retrieving his own gun and confronting the man. Autozone fired him, citing their policy against employees bringing weapons into its stores.
2. EMAILING IN ALL CAPS
Vicki Walker, a financial controller in New Zealand, was fired from her job at ProCare Health in 2007 because her bosses didn’t like her email style. According to the New Zealand Herald, ProCare Health told the Employment Relations Authority that Walker “had caused disharmony in the workplace by using block capitals, bold typeface and red text in her emails.” Walker protested the firing and eventually was awarded $17,000 for unfair termination.
3. Tweeting about your job
In February, a Texas teenager named Cella was preparing to start her new job at a pizza restaurant. The day before she was supposed to start, she made the mistake of tweeting, “Ew I start this f*ck ass job tomorrow.” Her soon-to-be boss, Robert Waple saw the tweet and promptly fired her, tweeting back, “And….no you don’t start that FA job today! I just fired you! Good luck with your no money, no job life!” There’s an important lesson here for all of us: It’s OK to complain about your job, but don’t put anything you don’t want your boss to see on social media. Because he or she will see it FOR SURE.
4. Repeating jokes from Seinfeld (Or, more accurately, using Seinfeld as a cover for sexual harassment.)
According to the Des Moines Register, in 2008, John Preston attended a retreat with coworkers from the Brain Injury Association of Iowa. At the retreat, one of the female attendees referenced a joke in Seinfeld in which Seinfeld replaces “God Bless You” with “You are so good looking” (See above). Apparently, the joke caught on at the retreat, and lots of people were saying, “You’re so good looking” to each other. After the retreat was over, Preston allegedly sent a bunch of emails to the female coworker who had started the joke, writing, “You’re so good looking” repeatedly. She complained, he was warned against saying it again, and then he later stopped her in the hallway to massage her shoulders. It’s not clear if Seinfeld played a role in this second incident, but the emails, the massage, and a later confrontation were enough to get him fired for sexual harassment.
5. Saving someone from drowning...when that is precisely your job
In 2012, Florida lifeguard Tomas Lopez was fired after running away from his post to save a drowning man. According to CBS News, while supervising swimmers in Hallandale Beach, Lopez was alerted to a man drowning approximately 1,500 feet away. The man was outside of Lopez’s “zone,” in an area where beachgoers are supposed to swim at their own risk. Lopez went to his aid anyway. (By the time he reached the man, he had been pulled from the water; Lopez waited with him until an ambulance arrived.) When he returned to his post, he was fired by his managers, who told him he should have called 911 for a drowning outside of their supervision zone.
Two more lifeguards were fired that day and a number of others quit in protest. The company that provides the lifeguards, Jeff Ellis Management, eventually offered Lopez and the others their jobs back, but they refused.
6. Being too sexy. (Yes, really.)
In 2010, dental assistant Melissa Nelson was fired by her boss, Dr. James Knight, after working for him for 10 years, because she was "too sexy" for him to be around. She told ABC News that he called her into his office one day for a meeting with his pastor. (Can we pause to appreciate how weird it is for a guy to bring his minister with him to fire an employee?) She recounts, “Dr. Knight said I couldn't work in the office, because he was becoming attracted to me, and not able to focus on his family, and his family life.” Worse yet, in 2012, the Iowa State Supreme Court ruled that the firing was perfectly legal, reasoning that a boss is within his or her rights to fire someone “simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction.” So it’s her fault that her boss can’t control himself? Gross.
7. Taking bathroom breaks while pregnant
Dawn Steckman was a fabrication technician at Maxim Integrated Products, a cell phone chip manufacturer in Oregon, when she was fired in 2013 for, she claims, taking too many bathroom breaks. Did I mention that she happened to be pregnant? Due to a bladder issue arising from her pregnancy, Steckman had to urinate frequently. She alleges that she was eventually fired for not clocking out during these bathroom breaks, which a company HR manager equated to “stealing from the company."
8. Checking email while on maternity leave
Serena Markstrom Nugent, an entertainment reporter for The Register-Guard, a local newspaper in Eugene, OR, was fired in 2014 for checking her work email while on maternity leave. According to a co-president of Nugent’s union, “The unofficial reason the guild was given for her termination was that she had checked her email while on leave and had deleted one or more emails, which the company considered destruction of company property.” While The Register-Guard could not comment on the story, it seems completely strange that a company would take issue with an employee using email while on leave. Nugent alleged that the firing was the culmination of a number of efforts on the newspaper’s part to fire her, which only began after she announced her pregnancy.
After President Obama’s reelection in 2012, a man claiming to be a small business owner in Williamson, Georgia, told C-SPAN’s Washington Journal that the election made him lay off two workers and cut the hours of many others. The man, who gave his first name as “Stu,” told C-SPAN, “Yesterday I called all my part-time employees in and said because Obama won I was cutting their hours from 30 to 25 a week so I would not fall under the Obamacare mandate.” He also said, “I tried to make sure that the people I had to lay off voted for Obama.”
In Las Vegas, a self-described CEO, similarly told a local radio station that Obama’s reelection played a direct role in his firing of 22 employees. Like the guy in Georgia, this boss also gave only his first name (“David”). Of course, we can’t know if these stories are true without more details, but if they are, then congratulations, dudes! You are truly the Absolute Worst.
10. Giving food to a needy student
In 2012, cafeteria manager Diane Brame was fired after giving free hot lunches to a student. The student had once been on the free lunch program, but his membership lapsed (language barriers may have hindered his reapplying). Children who don’t have money at Brame’s Missouri school are given lunches of cheese sandwiches. Brame reports that these free lunches are often the source of bullying from other students. She began to let the student take hot lunches for free, until she was terminated violating protocol. Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending: After what one news affiliate describes as “a tremendously negative response” to the firing, Brame was reinstated.
Images: Getty Images(2); Giphy(3)