Bizarre HR of 2011
Fired for $1.39 bag of chipsUrine troubleHero gets the shaftNo planking on the jobNo soup for you! (Or benefits, either)Going gray? Go homeFlu shot dramaWhat a witch
Most human resources departments consider very carefully when it’s appropriate to let an employee go. But then there’s the few that, well, end up in hot water. Whether it's punishing an innocent joke or over-enforcing policies, here's a look at some of the more shameless HR moments from this year.
Would you fire someone for taking a $1.39 bag of potato chips to prevent a serious health emergency? That's what happened to a young, diabetic Josefina Hernandez in September. While she was working the registers at a San Francisco Walgreens, she claims she grabbed a bag of chips when her blood sugar dropped to dangerously low levels. According to reports, Hernandez actually paid for the chips later in her shift. She was let go anyway. In response, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission filed disability suit against the chain.
Alfred Zoppelt, a Veteran employee at the famed Austrian museum the Belvedere, was fired in August after showing a co-worker a video about urine therapy—a practice that includes washing one's face and hands with urine. Having reportedly practiced the therapy himself for many years, Zoppelt (and other practitioners) believe it prevents wrinkles, allergies and even cancer. The 57-year-old claimed that the museum let him go because urine therapy "soiled his place of work" and may have "threatened the health of your co-workers."
When pharmacist Jeremy Hoven was held at gunpoint by two intruders at a Michigan Walgreens, he fired his own gun in self defense. The robbers ran away and the store was saved. While co-workers and his community celebrated Hoven as a hero, Walgreens fired him for allegedly breaking their "non escalation policy." He is currently suing the chain, claiming he had the right to defend himself.
John Mazzochi decided to join in the nationwide photo prank phenom called planking—an act defined by lying horizontally in odd places. His odd place? On top of a video game displays at his workplace, a Texas GameStop. After GameStop found his Tweet pic boasting his unique planking skills, the chain fired him for misconduct.
An Iowa woman was denied unemployment in August after being fired for taking soup out of the dumpster of her workplace, Casey's General Store. Pamela Tompkins-Kutcher took the abandoned, two-day old soup home (valued at $10) to feed her dog. The store fired her because of a rule that employees aren't allowed to take company property from the store without paying for it—including waste. After a lengthy court battled, the Appeals Court upheld the decision to withhold benefits.
Sandra Rawline, 52, claims she was fired from her job at Capital Title of Texas in July because she refused to dye her gray hair. She says she was told there was a corporate effort to project a younger image. To add insult to injury, the company soon replaced her with a woman 10 years her junior. Rawline is suing the company, which claims it fired her based on loss of customers, not hair color.
Think getting a flu shot is a personal choice? It's not for some workers. When Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System mandated flu shots, Karen Bashita claims she was fired because she refused to get one for religious reasons. Now, Bashita is taking her former employer to court over the mandated shot, claiming that when it comes to health issues, that's something for an individual to decide, not an employer.
If your car’s heater broke, would you blame your Wiccan co-worker for putting a spell on you? Would you then tell your boss and get her fired? That’s just what one woman allegedly did in Albany, New York, when she complained about her co-worker Carol Smith to their employer, the TSA. Smith is going to court to fight the decision, which she feels violated her freedom of religion. “We don't cast spells. That's not witchcraft,” Smith told MSNBC in March. “To put a spell on a heater of a car, if I had that kind of power, I wouldn't be working for TSA. I would go buy lottery tickets and put a spell on the balls.”