Favorite Firings – First in a Series


Mitt Romney has taken a lot of heat in the last several weeks for saying he likes to fire people.  Some of his Republican primary opponents misinterpreted what he said, but Romney’s intent was clear:  He wants to be able to fire his health insurance company, if he isn’t happy with its service, just as he would fire any service-provider.

I don’t want to give the impression that firing is fun, any more than Romney did. Terminating someone’s employment is one of the most difficult tasks of management, as any good manager knows.  But sometimes firing an employee is the right action for the company, the department, and often even for the employee.

I’d like this to be the first in a series of occasional posts on “favorite firings” – stories about employee terminations that make you shake your head and wonder about the state of our workforce.

My purpose is to make you chuckle, but also to make you think.  Was termination the right thing to do in each situation?

Here is one of my “favorite firings”:

The Facts:  An employee claimed he had been injured at work, and he filed a worker’s compensation claim.  His doctor imposed lifting restrictions prohibiting him from lifting more than twenty pounds, which kept him from doing his job as a stock handler. Therefore, he was off work on disability leave.

Some of the man’s co-workers noticed his picture in the local newspaper, depicting him carrying a wild turkey – holding the dead bird out with one hand, his shotgun in the other hand, and a big grin on his face.  He had won the local turkey shoot competition, and the newspaper prominently reported the weight of his bird as thirty pounds – more than his lifting restriction. 

So, yes, this man was fired for lifting a turkey.

The Moral:  An employee’s behavior away from work can lead to serious workplace consequences.  More and more employees are disciplined, fired or refused employment because of Facebook or other social media postings and pictures, or other publication of their non-work actions.

It is unlawful for an employer to fire someone for filing a worker’s compensation claim.  But an employer can take action if the employee lies about his restrictions.

If you don’t want your employer to find out about something you’re doing, don’t let it be publicized anywhere.  Even if you won the turkey shoot.

* * *

If you have any ideas for stories of “favorite firings” to publish, please email me or leave a comment below.  But please disguise the facts to protect the innocent (and not-so-innocent) unless the situation is well-publicized, and then include a link to support your story.  Only verified stories will be published.

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2 Comments

Filed under Human Resources, Law

2 responses to “Favorite Firings – First in a Series

  1. Mike Lance

    You “wonder about the state of our workforce” as if the fact that there are malingerers and cheats in the workforce is a new phenomenon. Further, you extend the anecdotal to encompass the rest of our hard working citizens.

    That's akin to reporting on H. Toulouse-Lautrec and wondering about the marvels of inbreeding.

    The sensitivity demonstrated in planning a series on favorite firings as our country struggles to claw its way out out of depressing economic times might reinforce a lawyer stereotype.

  2. Mike,

    You make a good point about me generalizing from a small segment of the workforce. I agree that most employees are hard-working. In the HR and legal world I have inhabited, we say that 3% of the people cause 90% of the grief. (Some would reduce that to 2%.)

    Lawyers and HR professionals, like most people, like to tell their war stories. That’s the intent of the series. But perhaps I should balance it with stories of high-performing employees who go out of the way to do a good job. Unfortunately, these unsung heroes don’t get nearly the ink that the 3% get.

    Readers, what do you think?

    Thanks for keeping me honest.

    Sara

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