In September of 2001, I was working for AmSouth bank. I had been working there approximately a year and a half, and had good work reviews. I had been verbally warned about being late (never more than 15 minutes), although I had not had any problems with that directly preceeding the incident in question. I had received satisfactory to superior reviews of my work. I was given supervisory duties, and was given responsibilities befitting my caliber of work, including ATM teller, vault teller, and "TCD" (teller cash dispenser, used in the drive-through) teller. I was terminated on September 12, 2001.
One of my co-workers put in a notice of resignatiotn due to relocating. The assistant manager at the time, Mai, decided that we should have a pot-luck dinner to wish the exiting employee good luck with her new endeavors. All employees, including myself, were asked what we would do to conribute to this affairl. We were not asked if we were able to participate, it was assumed.
At the time, I was living paycheck-to-paycheck, and did not even have a stove/oven at my home. The expected contribution was to feed the entire office, consisting of approximately 12-15 employees. I would also like to point out the exiting employee and I were on good terms, and had attended private functions together outside of work.
I went to Mai privately, and told her in confidence that my finances did not allow for participation in this event. She was very dismissive, and tried to talk me into it. I told her my stove situation, and she insisted I could just buy trays of something at a local grocery store. I continued decilning, and she allowed that I could "think about it".
Throughout the rest of the week, I was asked several times every day about my participation in the planned pot-luck. On the final day, Sept. 12, a sheet was passed around with everyone's names listed, and a line to fill in for what they were bringing to the potluck- including mine. I felt this to be very embarrassing, as I had privately disclosed my financial problems to my assistant manager. I wrote "nothing", and passed the sheet on.
A little while later in the day, I was called into the branch manager's office. This began an extremely belittling conversation about my finances, the fact that I was not being a "team player", that I had a "bad attitude", and that my fellow co-workers would find me rude and distasteful to be around. I was extremley upset already (as most people at that point in history were, given the state of the country) and I had a very hard time with it.
At one point near the end, my manager told me that maybe AmSouth is not the job for me. I was taken aback, and asked her if she was firing me for not joining in the potluck? This made me very angry, and I got up and told her that I think that we should talk to HR about it, because I didn't think they'd agree with her- and walked out of her office.
Up until this point, with over a week of badgering about the party and the half-hour+ berating in my manager's office, I was composed pretty well. When I was going back to my station to get our employee packet with the phone number, my manager chased after me and told me that I did not need to make a big deal out of it. I felt this showed she knew she was wrong and didn't want me to call HR. At this point I said "I'll make a BIG f***ing deal out of it" and kept walking. It is the only time I swore in the whole affair.
When I got my paper, the manager requested that I return to her office, I assume she didn't want the other employees to hear the goings-on or the phone call to HR. I went into her office, and started dialing the number for HR. She yanked the phone out of my hand, and slammed in back into the cradle. I was kind of scared of her after that, as she looked extremely angry. I told her she better get HR on the phone right away. She called security, and I was escorted into a conference room, while she and the assistand manager called HR. I do not remember how long I was in the conference room being guarded by the armed security guard.
I was finally requested back into the manager's office, where someone from HR was supposedly on speaker phone. I was asked about my side of the story, and I told it. I also said I don't feel I should be penalized for not participating in a non-work function funded by my own money. Once my story was complete, I was told that I was no longer to work for AmSouth, because I was insubbordinate. I was escorted to my station, turned in my keys and codes, and left.
I knew what happened was not right. I just didn't know what to do about it. I work in a "right-to-work" state, and was not sure if I would have any recourse if I should try to take steps filing wrongful termination. I relocated due to the lost wages, sold my house, and was unable to get another job at any financial institutions. I had no other skills, many companies stopped hiring due to the national crisis, and ended up being forced to take a barely above minimum-wage part-time job almost a year later until one of the staffing companies I was signed up with found me a position elsewhere.
During my term of unemployment, I filed for unemployment. AmSouth filed a block, claiming I was fired for insubbordination- or employee misconduct. This made me inelligable for unemployment. This I *did* fight, and after several continuances filed by AmSouth, it was determined by unemployment that the incident did not count as insubbordination.
Even the swearing was a "one time lapse in judgement" and not a fireable offense because I had never been councelled on inappropriate language in the past. The only councelling I had on my work record was for tardiness, and since I hadn't had repeat offenses within a reasonable time-frame from the termination, it did not count.
I don't really expect to get anything out of reporting this, for the same reason I never contacted a lawyer in the past. I don't have the money for one, and I don't know what could be done about it. Getting my job back? No thanks. It did take me nearly 2 years to get back on track financially, but I look at it now as a learning experience. I just thought I'd put this out there as a warning to other employees who work in a heavy "non-work related functions funded by employees" type of office. You better eat ramen for a week and bring in a veggie tray- OR ELSE!