“At Will Employment” Definitely Has Its Drawbacks.
I’m not quite sure if this is a national law or a local one, but around here there’s a practice called “At Will Employment.” It’s used rather commonly, especially in the smaller “mom and pop” stores and restaurants. At first glance it has its advantages, your employer can’t force you to continue working there if you want to quit. A drawback, however, is that it works both ways. At any time, if an employer for ANY REASON wants to fire you, they can. I found this out the hard way about a week ago.
Now, I happen to still respect my old boss and don’t want anything to happen to the business, so I won’t disclose WHERE I worked or for WHOM. But I digress. The situation, as it happened to me, was this. I worked as a Dishwasher, and then a Line Cook for a local Restaurant over a period of about a month. In the past I’ve worked as a Delivery Driver/Dishwasher, Fast Food worker (all the way up to crew trainer) and a Prep Cook. This was my first time being on the fry line so, of course, I made a few mistakes. Nothing too major, the type of thing everyone does when they’re first learning.
My boss, on the other hand, thought otherwise. It seemed to me that s/he (even disclosing gender gives too much away, sorry) wanted me to be as experienced as one of the line cooks who had recently quit, with over 10 years of experience. I was reprimanded every day, each time for a different thing. I would make an effort not to mess up the next time only to mess something else up the next day. I tried asking for help and was met with scorn and derision from all but the two other cooks I shared my shifts with.
On what would be my last day, I worked an afternoon shift by myself. My boss was helpful enough to leave a list of things for me to do, but many of them were things I’d never dealt with before. Usually one of the more experienced cooks would go in back and do those tasks, leaving me to the fry line. Fortunately for me, my boss left instructions for me to call if there was anything I didn’t know. I was determined not to bother the boss unless I absolutely had to. Nevertheless I ended up calling 4 times in the 4 hours I was there. Each time, the boss sounded a little more irate. When the boss came in to relieve me for the night, I had only missed two things on the list. Simply put, I didn’t have the time to do them between the orders, my regular shift duties, and the other things on the list. I was proud of myself, until I heard the words, “THAT’S IT?!? THAT’S ALL YOU GOT DONE!?!?!” Which, of course preceded a tirade of reprimands until I was told I could go.
I had a day off after that. However, when I came in for my shift the day after, my boss met me at the door with my paycheck (which I wasn’t supposed to get until Monday. It was Thursday.) and an apologetic look. I was expecting some sort of apology for yelling at me the other day, and I got it. In a way. The boss said, “Mike, I’m going to just let you go. It’s not fair to you to have to deal with my anger and frustration problems, and you’re just not catching on as quick as I’d like.” After which, I was told I could use him/her as a reference, given my paycheck and left.
That’s right. I was fired as a favor. In this economy.
Now, I apologize for the length of that story, but it illustrates the flaw with the “At Will Employment” system. That flaw is that I actually got a GOOD deal out of that situation compared to what could have happened. You see, with At Will Employment, you can be fired because the boss decides one day that they don’t like the color of your hair, or the scent of your deodorant, or how tall you are, or the color of your eyes. You get the picture. And that’s fired, terminated, axed. No wrongful termination suit, no nothing. I’m still waiting to see if I get unemployment out of the deal. (fingers crossed)
In what crazy world does this make sense? Maybe I’m bitter. Maybe I’m just ranting for no reason. But I don’t think so. I think there is something seriously wrong with the system, when a man working to support himself and to maybe TRY to start a family can be tossed out of employment; just because he was new at the job. The system is also broken when someone is held in a job by a contract. Or by fear that if they quit, they’ll never be able to find another job no matter how badly their current one treats them.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have something in my eyes.