There was a recent thread on Reddit titled, “Hey Reddit, what’s your best ‘I got fired on the spot’ story?” Included are plenty of the types of stories you would expect, like employees playing pranks on one another and employees who got so fed up with their jobs they stopped doing them and were fired in response.
But a disturbing trend emerged: many were fired illegally. Consider these examples, which I’ve edited down for space:
The next day I [a waitress] went into work and my boss FIRED me for stealing money from those [rude customers]. They told her that I’d left with money and didn’t come back with the change (like 15$). She wouldn’t give me my last paycheck until I gave her the ‘stolen’ money.
Worked for a video game store in 2004. I made a whopping $6 an hour. Someone stole a $50 game during my shift. The next day the manager tried to make me and another coworker reimburse him for the full $50, even though the manager paid way less to stock it. I told my boss, “Just because someone stole from you doesn’t give you the right to steal from me.” A few minutes later my job was stolen from me.
We were closing down the bar after a big Saturday night and my boss asked me and someone else to stay (unpaid) for another hour to mop the floor because the cleaners wouldn’t be in the next day. After my boss had exited the room I turn to my colleague and say “I’m gonna throw a bucket of soap water over it, make a sandwich and then have a nap on the sofa. The stupid smackhead wouldn’t know a clean floor if he was snorting H off it.” I turn around laughing, and see my boss stood behind me, about to hand me the keys to lock up for the night. Oops!
I was a cook at a local momnpop burger joint. When I came in for my shift the supervisor told me that the reach-in died in the night and all the patties were warm. I asked how long they had been warm and he said he didn’t know so I said “I’ll cook the frozen ones from the walk-in and it will only take 1 minute longer with the presses.” He said “Cook the warm patties.” I argued why this was a bad idea and he said “Do it or your fired.” I said “No.”
Every one of those — from withholding payroll by alleging employee theft, to not paying overtime, to firing an employee for refusing to serve spoiled food — involves a violation of the employee protection laws of every state I know. Many employees believe they have more rights than they really do (for example, most employers don’t need to accommodate employees for temporary injuries that didn’t occur on-the-job), but most states have good Wage & Hour laws that ensure employees get paid for every hour they work.