Fired After I Complained About a Coworker

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being fired after a complaint: Firing totally surprises me, since in my 7 years of employment with company, no one disliked my job performance.

While I was doing business at a store I work for on April 13, 2011(I was off the clock), an employee was rude to me, and I complained to the store manager about it. He said she was leaving the company soon and that hopefully her attitude will change by then. I asked him to talk to her about it and he wouldn’t. I e-mailed corporate with my complaint and how the manager handled it. They apologized for his behavior and said that they would contact him to correct this and that in the future if I experience such rude behavior that I should contact him directly.

Two days later the manager fired me for poor performance. The company has a progressive discipline policy (one verbal reprimand and three written reprimands and you are fired.) I sent a certified letter to the human resources department at the corporate office detailing the incident with the rude employee, the manager’s response, my firing two days later and the fact that I was aware of their progressive discipline policy and their failure to carry it out in my dismissal. I did not hear from them. So, I requested copies of every document in my personnel file(which I’ve received) and nowhere in that file is there a reprimand for anything, including poor job performance which I was fired for. In fact, there are documents praising my performance with the store manager’s signature. This firing totally surprises me, since in my 7 years of employment with company, no one disliked my job performance.

Signed, Shocked

Dear Shocked:

I’m afraid you’ve found out the tough way that hiring and firing can be done without following a stated protocol. In unionized companies or government workplaces, as well as in larger companies, a seemingly improper dismissal can usually be “grieved” or appealed, but there is no legal requirement for an employer to maintain an employee. In fact, in most states you can be fired simply because the employer decides he or she no longer wants or needs your services.The logic of that is that they are paying your salary, so they should be able to stop paying your salary if they decide it’s in their best interests. However, even in unionized or government workplaces with strong progressive discipline policies, an employee’s actions can be considered serious enough to allow management to jump over the steps if dismissal is deemed appropriate.

That is probably what happened in this situation. It is likely that your manager felt you were creating unnecessary conflict and contention by going to corporate offices with a complaint about an employee and about the manager as well. You don’t say what the nature of the complaint about your coworker was, other than that she was rude. If it was very serious rudeness (obscenities, making inappropriate personal remarks, etc.) it would seem they should have wanted to at least counsel her about that. But, if it was minor (a tone of voice, rolled eyes, sarcastic comment, etc.) they may have felt that you went too far by not allowing the manager to handle it as he thought best.

So, when the manager became angry at having you go over his head he decided you created more problems than was offset by your good work and he asked for your dismissal. He probably had already talked to company HR people about it and had their agreement to support his actions.I’m sorry your seven years ended up this way. I wish your supervisor and the company would have handled things differently, so you could have had some warnings and an opportunity to make changes if those were needed. I can imagine how shocked and upset you still are! I certainly hope you can quickly find another place where you can be happy and feel positive about both coworkers and managers. Best wishes to you.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.