The 11 Strangest Reasons People Were Fired
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
From pocket-dialing your boss to simply wearing an orange T-shirt, people get fired for ridiculous reasons.
Just take a look at Vicki Walker of New Zealand, who was fired after she sent a company-wide email using capital letters, she says, to help give colleagues instructions for filling out paperwork. Walker sued and received upwards of $17,000 for lost wages. The same goes for the New Jersey-based factory worker who got fired for needing to go home and get his inhaler. In the end, he wound up with $45,000 from the company.
Of course, it’s never fun to get that pink slip. It’s even worse when it happens for unjust and strange reasons. Here are 11 of the strangest reasons people were fired.
1. For needing an inhaler
After feeling short of breath due to asthma, former New Jersey-based factory assembly line worker “J.D.” asked his supervisor at Trane Plant in Hamilton, N.J., if he could go home, which was only three miles from the plant, and get his inhaler. Criticizing him for working slowly, instead, his boss told him to pick up his belongings and leave. J.D. sued the company and was awarded $45,000 for damages and wages.
2. For talking badly about his boss after a pocket-dial
One of many people’s biggest fears is undoubtedly the pocket dial. Whether it’s to an ex-partner or your boss, it’s scary imagining certain people listening in on your conversations. That’s exactly what happened to James Stephens of Atlanta. Stephens accidentally pocket-dialed his former boss Mike Coan of Georgia Subsequent Injury Trust Fund, while venting about him to his wife. Instead of hanging up, Coan continued listening in on the conversation for upwards of 12 minutes and as a result, told Stephens he could resign or be fired the following day. Stephens sued Coan for violating his privacy.
3. For wearing orange
At a law firm in Florida, 14 workers were fired for the color of their … shirts. After creating an “innocent happy hour” tradition of wearing orange shirts on payday Fridays, a group of workers got the pink slip because new management thought it was a “form of protest” against them. It turns out, the group had been doing this Friday ritual for months -- before new management came into place. As a result, eight of the 14 employees filed a federal complaint against the law firm.
4. For typing in all caps
Whether at the start of a new sentence or to emphasize something important, capital letters are necessary in the English language. However, Vicki Walker of New Zealand faced consequences after typing in all caps. In an email that she sent out to colleagues explaining how to fill out certain forms, Walker used a variety of capital letters, and bold and red fonts. While it was her way of helping to explain instructions to colleagues, management saw it as confrontational and fired her. Later, Walker was awarded $17,000 for lost wages and wrongful termination.
5. For posting provocative pictures to her blog
In 2004, former Delta flight attendant Ellen Simonetti was fired for reasons related to her blog, “Diary of a Flight Attendant.” After months spent writing about life up in the sky, it wasn’t until Simonetti posted provocative pictures on her blog while dressed in a Delta uniform that issues arose. Shortly after posting these images, Simonetti was let go for "inappropriate photos in a Delta uniform” and changed her blog to, “Diary of a Fired Flight Attendant.” In an interview with The New York Times, she defended herself by explaining, “Gosh, it's a little tiny sliver of my bra, it's not like a bright red push-up bra. … It's not like I worked the flight like that."
6. For creating a cartoon that bashed corporations
After two decades of working as a cartoonist for Farm News, Rick Friday was laid off due to one of his cartoons. The cartoon, which was published in a weekly “It’s Friday” column, featured two farmers chatting, with one saying, “I wish there was more profit in farming,” and the other replying, “There is. In year 2015 the CEOs of Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer and John Deere combined made more money than 2,129 Iowa farmers.” After backlash from the corporations mentions, Friday was fired. However, two months later he was rehired after agreeing to apologize to the offended companies.
7. For not charging for cheese
At a McDonald’s store in the Netherlands, an employee sold her co-worker a hamburger. Later, the friend asked the employee to add a slice of cheese to the burger. McDonald’s fired the employee, saying she should have charged for a cheeseburger instead of a hamburger. Taking the case to a district court, the layoff was ruled too severe of a measure and the fast food chain was ordered to pay the employee more than 4,000 euros in damages.
8. For President Barack Obama's reelection
In 2012, the day after President Barack Obama was re-elected, a Las Vegas-based CEO by the name “David” fired 22 employees from his then 114-employee company. Claiming that he was preparing for any upcoming taxes and regulations, “David” told a local radio station at the time, “Elections have consequences” and he will need to “to survive.”
9. For leaving his assigned area to save a life
Upon spotting an older man drowning in unguarded waters, then 21-year-old lifeguard Tomas Lopez left his post to save him. However, after successfully rescuing him, Lopez was fired for leaving his assigned area. Shortly after, his supervisors offered him his job back saying they acted “hastily.” After declining the offer, and much to his surprise, Lopez was awarded a key to his city, Hallandale Beach, Fla., for his courageous act.
10. For “The Harlem Shake”
In 2013, a group of 15 miners were fired for their participation in performing the dance craze “The Harlem Shake” while underground in the Agnew Gold Mine in Australia. While only eight were filmed dancing in the video, the company fired people who were simply watching, calling the entire act a “safety issue.”
11. For being “too hot”
In 2010, Debrahlee Lorenzana made headlines after she went to reporters to reveal that her former employer Citibank had fired her for being “too hot.” According to Lorenzana, she was told that “as a result of the shape of her figure, such clothes were purportedly 'too distracting' for her male colleagues and supervisors to bear.” Apparently, her male managers gave her a list of unacceptable clothes, and on it were turtlenecks, pencil skirts, fitted suits and three-inch heels. Because she did not agree to these rules, she was fired. Lorenzana could not sue the bank because she had signed a mandatory arbitration clause when she was originally hired.