1. Leadership
  2. Women in Business
  3. Managing
  4. Strategy
  5. Personal Growth
Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.
Lead Your Team Managing

Fired for What? 10 Infamous Firings

fired, firing, losing job
10 infamous reasons people have been fired. / Credit: You’re fired image via Shutterstock

You've probably already heard about the Kentucky man who lost his job at Wamart last month after allegedly trying to bring a little Thanksgiving cheer to an elderly customer. A petition on Change.org has garnered more than 350,000 online signatures, but so far, Walmart hasn't given him his job back, citing a number of other problems with the employee.

It's not the first time we've heard about unusual reasons for firing an employee. Here are 10 recent firings that caught our attention.

The Jaglal firing isn't the only time Walmart has received attention for letting an employee go. In October, the retail giant fired a 30-year-old Michigan man after he tried to help a woman who was being attacked by a former boyfriend in the store's parking lot.

The company fired Kristopher Oswald, who had been sitting in his car on break at the time of the incident. According to Walmart, Oswald broke the company's workplace violence rules by fighting with the attacker after he witnessed the incident. At the time of the firing, Walmart spokeswoman Ashley Hardie told the Associated Press that while the company understood Oswald's intentions, his actions of jumping into the situation violated company policy.

"We had to make a tough decision — one that we don't take lightly — and he's no longer with the company," Hardie said.

Eventually, after a mountain of bad publicity, Walmart relented and offered the man his job back. Oswald, however, declined the offer to work at the Hartland, Mich., store. "The entire situation has left me with incredible anxiety," Oswald told USA Today. "Walmart feels it's absolutely not their responsibility to help an associate harmed while on the clock. I have refused their offer to take my job back for fear of retaliation.

Just last month, Pizza Hut came under scrutiny for firing a store manager in Elkhart, Ind., who refused to open the restaurant on Thanksgiving. When Tony Rohr, a 10-year veteran of that Pizza Hut location, rejected the franchise owner's demands to open on the holiday, he was told to write a letter of resignation. According to CNN, the man instead wrote a letter detailing his frustration with the decision to open up on Thanksgiving.

"I accept that the refusal to comply with this greedy, immoral request means the end of my tenure with this company," Rohr told CNN affiliate WSBT of what he wrote in his letter to the store's franchise owner. "I hope you realize that it is the people at the bottom of the totem pole that make your life possible."

Rohr said he was fired shortly thereafter. After getting word of the incident, Pizza Hut's corporate office stepped in to try to rectify the situation.

"We fully respect an employee's right to not work on a holiday, which is why the vast majority of Pizza Huts in America are closed on Thanksgiving," the corporate office said in a statement to CNN. "As a result, we strongly recommended that the local franchisee reinstate the store manager, and they have agreed. We look forward to them welcoming Tony back to the team."

Rohr, however, said he wouldn't accept the offer right away and would need some time to decide whether to return to his job. 

[10 (Smart) Ways to Quit Your Job]

Last summer, a Florida teacher lost her job after trying to extinguish a fire in an adjacent classroom. According to ActionNewsJax.com, Michelle Hammack was fired from her teaching job at the Little Temples Childcare facility in Arlington, Fla., after she noticed chicken nuggets on fire inside an oven in a nearby classroom.

Upon seeing the blaze, Hammack hurried back to her classroom and took her students, who were napping when she noticed the fire, outside. She then returned inside the school to ensure all the students had made it out safely, and to try to put out the fire. Instead of being hailed as a hero, the facility's owner, Olga Rozhaov, fired the teacher for her actions.

"I fired her only because she left her room," Rozhaov told ActionNewsJax.com.

Rozhaov said Hammack broke strict protocol when she left her class unattended, and even though her children were sleeping, she never should have left her classroom to check on the fire.

"It's not acceptable, and if anybody else does the same thing, I will fire again. I will fire them, no question," Rozhaov said.

Shaving her head for charity cost a Canadian woman her job at a local restaurant in 2008. As a way to raise money for the charity Cops for Cancer, the then-36-year-old Stacey Fearnall shaved off all of her hair. When she returned to work later in the week at Nathaniel's restaurant in Ontario, her boss sent her home for refusing to put on a wig.

The restaurant's owner and chef, Dan Hilliard, defended his decision to the Canadian Press, saying the restaurant has certain standards that include requiring employees to keep their hair at a certain length. He said he told Fearnall well in advance that he wouldn't be pleased if she went through with shaving her head, but added that she would be welcomed back to the restaurant when her hair grew back.

Jen Wright, of the Bluewater Cancer Society, said this was the first time she had ever heard of something like this happening to someone who participated in the charitable event.

"It apparently has not happened anywhere across Canada, according to the Canadian Cancer Society,'' Wright told the Canadian Press. "We support her and thank her and all the participants for all the money that they have raised over the years.''

In 2012, an Iowa man was fired from his job at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage for a minor crime he committed nearly 50 years prior. According to ABC News, Richard Eggers, a customer-service representative, was fired after a background review mandated by new federal rules for banks uncovered a 1963 conviction for putting a cardboard cutout of a dime in a Laundromat's washing machine. Eggers, who was 19 at the time, served two days in jail and paid a $50 fine.

His lawyer, Leonard Bates, told ABC News that his client shouldn't be held to the new FDIC regulations that were put in place in 2011.

"In 1963, Mr. Eggers was young; he did something stupid: He put a wood dime in a laundry machine," Bates told ABC News. "The spirit of the law was to prevent widespread mortgage fraud but does not apply to my client, who is a customer-service representative."

Three months later, Wells Fargo offered Eggers his job back after learning he had received a waiver from the FDIC, but he declined to take it. He told USA Today he turned down the chance to return to work after Wells Fargo denied his requests, which included providing waiver application information to workers fired under the employment rule, automatically approving unemployment applications filed by workers fired under the rule, and reclassifying workers fired under the rule to "temporary layoff" or "administrative leave" to allow them to escape the stigma of being fired when seeking new employment.

"If Wells Fargo had agreed to our requests, I would have returned to work," the 68-year-old said in an interview with USA Today. "But this isn't just about me — I'm eligible for Social Security — this is also about the thousands of working families with children which have been hurt by the same rules."

An Iowa dental hygienist lost her job in 2010 after her boss, dentist James Knight, said he found her too irresistible to work with. Melissa Nelson had worked for Knight for 10 years before she was fired for being too attractive and a threat to the dentist's marriage.

According to ABC News, Nelson, a married mother of two, was summoned to a meeting with Knight in 2010 while a pastor was present. Knight then read from a prepared statement telling Nelson she was fired.

Six months prior to that, Nelson said she and Knight began exchanging text messages about work and personal matters, such as their children. Eventually, Knight's wife, who also worked in the dental office, found out about the texting and ordered her husband to fire the woman.

Knight's attorney, Stu Cochrane, told ABC News that the couple then consulted with a senior pastor at their church, who agreed that Nelson should be terminated in order to protect their marriage. Nelson eventually sued Knight, saying she was a victim of sexual discrimination, but she lost her case. In July of this year, the Iowa State Supreme Court upheld its previous ruling that Knight acted legally when he fired her.

The Associated Press reported that the all-male court found that bosses can fire employees they see as threats to their marriages, even if the subordinates have not engaged in flirtatious or other inappropriate behavior. The court said such firings do not count as illegal sex discrimination because they are motivated by feelings, not gender.

A New Zealand accountant was fired from her job in 2007 after sending out emails that were considered confrontational because they were written in all capital letters and in both bold and red fonts.

Vicki Walker was let go from her job with ProCare Health after the company said she caused disharmony in the workplace after she sent out numerous emails in the "confrontational" fonts, though in court proceedings, the company referred to only one.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the email, which advises her team on how to fill out staff claim forms, specifies a time and date highlighted in bold red, and a sentence written in capitals and highlighted in bold blue. It read, "To ensure your staff claim is processed and paid, please do follow the below checklist."

Walker sued ProCare Health, and in 2009, a court ruled in her favor and awarded her $17,000 for being unfairly terminated.

"I am a single woman with a mortgage, and I had to remortgage my home and borrow money from my sister to make it through," Walker said in an interview with the New Zealand Herald. "They nearly ruined my life."

New Zealand Employment Relations Authority member Alastair Dumbleton, who presided over the case, said Walker received no warnings, and while she had contributed to disharmony in the workplace, it was not to the extent that dismissal was fair or reasonable. He added that ProCare Health did not have a style or etiquette guide for employees using email, so it was not clear what was regarded as unacceptable communication.

While many people find Jerry Seinfeld funny, one Wisconsin employer did not. Jerold Mackenzie was fired from the Miller Brewing Co. for alleged sexual harassment after telling his secretary about a previous episode of the popular television show "Seinfeld."

According to The New York Times, Mackenzie had watched a 1993 episode of "Seinfeld" in which Jerry Seinfeld was unable to remember the name of his girlfriend. Although Seinfeld couldn't recall her name, he did know that it rhymed with a female body part. The next morning, Mackenzie tried to tell his secretary about the show without uttering the word, which rhymed with Dolores. The New York Times said the secretary didn't get the joke, or didn't want to, so Mackenzie took the trouble to make a photocopy of the dictionary page that defined the unspeakable and attempted to show it to her.

The woman told her bosses about the incident, and Mackenzie was quickly fired. He eventually sued Miller Brewing and his former secretary for wrongful termination and won the case when a jury decided the woman never really felt sexually harassed. While he was initially awarded nearly $27 million in damages, a a different court later threw out the judgment.

Mackenzie later sued his lawyer for malpractice and came to an out-of-court settlement for $625,000 in 2003.

A Florida law firm fired eight of its employees last year for their choice of bright attire. According to the Sun Sentinel, 14 employees at the Deerfield Beach law firm of Elizabeth R. Wellborn P.A. were fired after they all showed up to work one Friday wearing orange.

While the employees insist they wore the color so they would look like a group when going for Happy Hour that night, the employer felt it was a sign of protest against their working conditions.

The Sentinel reported that the 14 workers wearing orange shirts were called into a conference room, where an executive said he understood there was a protest involving orange; the employees were wearing orange, and they all were fired.

"There is no office policy against wearing orange shirts. We had no warning. We got no severance, no package, no nothing," litigation paralegal Lou Erik Ambert told the Sentinel.

Wellborn said the employees were not fired for what they were wearing, but rather for trying to bully their office manager, who had imposed new rules in the workplace. In a statement to ABC News, Wellborn said "supervisors were among those talking about the office manager using obscene and vulgar language, as well as encouraging others to disregard her instructions," which she called "particularly upsetting." She added, "Our office manager felt threatened and subsequently left the state."

A number of the employees hired an attorney to contest the firing, and the National Labor Relations Board is now reviewing the case.

A Chicago-area car salesman was fired from his job after wearing a Green Bay Packers tie to work a day after the Wisconsin team beat the hometown Chicago Bears.

According to the Chicago Tribune, 34-year-old John C. Stonewas fired from Webb Chevrolet after he refused to remove his Packers tie the day after the Packers beat the Bears in the NFC championship game.

Webb Chevrolet’s general manager, Jerry Roberts, told the Chicago Tribune that he fired Stone after telling him five times in at least 30 minutes to remove the tie. Webb Chevrolet and the Bears' radio network had been promotional partners for years, and Roberts said he felt Stone was trying to antagonize his co-workers and customers by wearing the Packers tie.

After a rash of media attention, Roberts quickly offered Stone his job back, but others were already lining up to hire the man. Instead of going to back to work at Webb Chevrolet, Stone accepted an offer for employment from the general manager of another nearby Chevrolet dealership.

"It's overwhelming right now," Stone told the Tribune after taking the new job. "I still haven't settled down from being hurt like that, but I'm getting over it because all I wanted was my job.”

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.