Employer Branding

You Got Fired For What?!

Working in management is no easy task. Being responsible for not only your own work, but that of multiple employees comes with its share of challenges. As any manager will tell you, firing employees is one of the downsides of management, but a necessary evil. While there’s certainly no shortage of employees who deserve to be fired, in their quest to protect the company’s name and image, occasionally managers do overstep their boundaries. Let’s take a look at a few examples of employee terminations that left us asking management…what were you thinking???

1) Wife-Swapping:

According to a recent lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, two deputy sheriffs in Bossier Parish, LA were recently terminated for wife-swapping. After falling in love and eventually moving in with each other’s wives, the deputies were told they were violating the parish’s Sheriff’s Code of Conduct. They were placed on unpaid administrative leave and told not to return to work until they changed their living arrangements. They were told that once they had, they would be demoted and transferred to the sheriff’s detention and correctional centers at a reduced salary. After refusing, both deputies were fired. Their subsequent lawsuit stated that not only were they not doing anything illegal, but management conveniently turned a blind eye to other questionable activities going on in the department, including one deputy who was in a romantic relationship with his daughter-in-law.

2) Wearing Orange:

Employees of a Florida law firm had a longstanding tradition of wearing orange every payday. Since orange is the color of the University of Florida Gators, as well as the fruit the state is known for, they felt it showed solidarity when they went out to happy hour after work. In 2012, the firm was taken over by new management, who saw the orange as some form of protest, despite the fact that the employees had been wearing the color before new management took over. In the end, 14 employees were fired without severance for their color choice of clothing.

3) Being Too Sexy:

In a previous blog post, I wrote about Melissa Nelson, an Iowa dental assistant who was fired because her employer considered her good looks too distracting. The happily married mother of two worked for her boss for over ten years before the two started casually exchanging texts about work and personal matters. When the employer’s wife eventually found the texts, she insisted he fire Nelson. Despite admitting that Nelson was a good employee, her boss felt that continuing to work with her may eventually lead to an affair. She was subsequently fired, and the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the termination on the grounds that the firing was not illegal sex discrimination as it was motivated by feelings, not gender.

4) Writing in All Caps:

In an effort to alert her coworkers to some important information, an employee at a New Zealand healthcare company typed part of her e-mail in all caps, then further emphasized it with red font and bold lettering. Management disapproved of her font choice, saying it caused “disharmony in the office.” Consequently, she was fired. She then filed a wrongful termination lawsuit, during which her employer was only able to produce one e-mail to support their case. The court found in her favor and she was awarded a monetary settlement.

5) Stopping a Carjacking:

When a waiter at a Thai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, FL noticed a commotion outside his establishment, he went out to investigate. Upon seeing a woman being carjacked by a man with a knife, he came to her aid, disabling the carjacker and holding him on the ground until police arrived. Despite his heroic actions, management was unhappy with the ensuing publicity resulting from the altercation and terminated his employment.

Employers who are quick to fire employees for any and all reasons should know that wrongful termination lawsuits have risen 260 percent in the last 20 years. When litigated, 67 percent of lawsuits result in the employee’s favor, and according to Boone Management Group, the average employer payout is $326,640. Not surprisingly, 97 percent of cases are settled out of court, which still result in an average payout of $40,000 by the employer. So the moral of the story is – be careful who you fire and make sure it’s for a good reason!

By John Feldmann

John Feldmann is a Senior Communications Specialist for Insperity in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity's brand to both business professionals and job seekers. Follow John on X @John_Feldmann.