update: what’s the definition of “professional hours”?

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! All this week and next, I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer asking about the definition of “professional hours” because they were getting comments about “leaving early” despite working 9-10 hours a day? Here’s the update.

I’m the person who wrote to ask about professional hours. The comments were a reality check for me- I knew where I was working was seriously screwed up, but the comments made it clear I had become a bit numb to it.

Eventually I was written up for not working “professional hours.” The weekend in question happened to be the weekend of my father-in-law’s memorial service.

I ramped up my job search and ended up being contacted via LinkedIn by a company I had interviewed with a few years earlier. I didn’t have enough experience at that time, but now I do. I was offered the job for $30k more, over a month of PTO, an insane 401(k) contribution, and so many other perks. Needless to say, I accepted. The offer was better than I could have imagined!

Here comes the fun part: I was waiting until I came back from vacation to give my notice so I would not lose my earned PTO. The fools I was working for sent me an email on my first day of vacation saying I was fired. Part of me feels shame for being fired, but another part of me laughs at how they have to pay unemployment for a couple weeks, and will be looking at a labor complaint if they don’t pay out my earned PTO.

Wish me luck. My confidence has taken a hit and I feel very embarrassed about getting fired. I hope my new job is as good as the interviews led me to believe. Any potential red flags were addressed without me even asking about them! Honesty! What a concept!

I will remain a very devoted reader of your column!

{ 116 comments… read them below }

    1. Elizabeth Bennett*

      Absolutely. Consider yourself lucky they have to pay out your accrued PTO and bonus: you may never have to explain that you were fired from this job.

      1. Antilles*

        And even if someone does ask why you left this job, the very simple answer is simply saying something like “The company expected unreasonable hours, to the point that they wrote me up for going to a family funeral on a Saturday. So I started looking because I did not want to be in an environment like that.” And any reasonable person is going to blink hard at the first sentence, then nod right along at the second sentence.

        1. Can Can Cannot*

          I disagree. No need to badmouth a former employer when you don’t need to. I can make you look petty. Better to just say “I was recruited by a great company for an opportunity that gave me a chance to grow in my career.”

          1. old curmudgeon*

            I respectfully disagree with you. Calling out abusive employment practices is hardly “badmouthing.” And keeping quiet about abusive employment practices is one of the biggest reasons that they keep happening.

            1. Magenta Sky*

              The counterpoint to that is that people get fired for good reason, and make up excuses. And future employers will have to wonder which a person is.

              There’s no one right answer, but the practical approach is the same as for employers: Don’t give up more than confirmation that someone worked there between certain dates.

              1. Smithy*

                I agree with this – and very often there is more of a middle ground that makes you look sensible for leaving without saying “this bad thing happened”.

                In this case, saying that normal business hours meant leaving the office at 8pm as well as regular weekends and when you were approached with an exciting new opportunity the fit and the work culture felt like a better fit. For many “9-5” positions, even salaried ones where there are often busy periods – that will give the yikes echoes without being very salacious. It’s also helpful in teasing out if the people interviewing you find that normal…..

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Yes I agree. The time for calling out bad practices is once you’re firmly ensconced in your new job, having forged a great reputation for yourself as a worker, not when you’re an unknown entity. If you hear that a colleague is thinking of applying to a job at your previous toxic workplace, you can warn her of your experience. If you’re only just being hired, they have no idea whether they can trust your word.

            2. metadata minion*

              I absolutely agree with your general point, but calling out abusive employment practices *to other employers* isn’t the way to do it unless you know that particular employer has some sort of sway over the abusive one. There’s a risk of you seeming bitter (even if you have every reason to be, you probably shouldn’t let that show) and no real benefit.

            1. Vio*

              because unfortunately they do not know the facts. if they believe you, the previous employer looks bad. but if they don’t believe you (and telling the truth is sadly never a guarantee of being believed) then you look bad, as unfair as that is

              1. Koalafied*

                That applies more to highly subjective or over-the-top statements that sound like the person is still nursing a grudge.

                “Manager was toxic, demands were unreasonable, they’d write you up if you looked at them the wrong way,” I’m going to have all kinds of doubts about how well the candidate’s perception maps to reality – what do they consider toxic or unreasonable? do you really mean they wrote people up for their facial expressions, or is that just hyperbolic for dramatic effect?

                “Well, the hours were tough – a 9-10 hour day was standard, and it was the proverbial last straw when I was formally disciplined for not skipping a family funeral to come in on short notice one weekend.” Nothing about that statement gives me reason to think the applicant is lying, even though it paints the company in a poor light. It’s specific, objective, delivered without malice/anger, and not hard to believe.

                In general I don’t go into interviews expecting or assuming that candidates are going to lie. Until/unless they say something that either makes no sense in context, sounds overtly biased, or strains credulity, I have no more reason to suspect they’re lying about why they left their last job than about any other question I ask.

                1. Lex*

                  > do you really mean they wrote people up for their facial expressions, or is that just hyperbolic for dramatic effect?

                  Oh it’s so funny you use this as an example because this did, in fact, happen to me – manager with a hyperbolic nature said she was “very concerned” because “people were talking” about me. Terrified witless, I had to coax her three issues out, as she wasn’t sure if I was willing to accept feedback. Two were valid but addressed months prior and just build up to her #1 grievance which was….I looked sad when I was told I would soon share an office.

                  “I…I looked sad?” I repeated several variations of this to confirm people were talking because I “looked sad.” Yes. You looked sad about sharing an office.

                  I wrote her statement verbatim on paper. Typed it out and emailed it. Called friends and family for thoughts. If I’d known about it, I probably would have emailed Ask a Manager for an objective opinion. Had nightmares about it. The gravity with which she said that made me think I had torpedoed my career by face alone.

                  Of course months later during the hostile work environment investigation she insisted she never said that. Because that’s insane. Reprimanding you for your *facial expressions*? That’s so stupid, isn’t it obvious Lex is lying?

                  Anyway, all that to say I agree 100%. Some workplace challenges can’t be mentioned in an interview, ever.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              Seriously – they fired the OP for taking vacation, after giving them a write-up for attending a funeral on a Saturday and expecting that they work 8 am to 8 pm every day! If I heard that, I’d be thinking “No wonder you’re looking, I would be too!”

          2. LilPinkSock*

            Badmouthing would be saying something like “Those effing morons never knew what they were doing and treated us all like trash and made everyone’s work life a special kind of hell.” Antilles’ phrasing is polite, factual, and fairly subdued. I don’t know that I would go into all of that in, say, an interview, but I did have a candidate share with me that they’d a previous job for similar reasons, framing it as a good work-life balance was one of their top-three priorities. I appreciated that information.

            1. Banana*

              I agree. It’s okay to say negative things about your current employer if you can be matter of fact and brief about it, particularly if the bad thing was something any reasonable person would quit over.
              “I left because my paychecks kept bouncing.”
              “I left because I was disciplined for seeking shelter during a tornado warning and I felt like my safety was not a priority.”
              “I left because I was disciplined for being unavailable during my bereavement leave, on a weekend.”

              If spinning it as “looking for new opportunities” works too, that’s fine, but when candidates tell me reasons that are kinda vague or boilerplate, I often feel the urge to probe deeper and understand more about what’s going on there, and if what they’re talking about isn’t really the reason, it doesn’t help anyone to spend time on it. One huge employer red flag that clearly explains it can get me off the topic faster and leave them with more time to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.

          3. sofar*

            But if another potential employer down the road does a check at Bad Company, their HR will tell them the employee was fired. Saying “another great company hired me” doesn’t explain why fired. LW will sadly have to have a statement prepared. I don’t think it’s badmouthing to say, “My former employer had the expectation of non-traditional work hours. I did my best to adhere to those, but ultimately had to attend a weekend funeral.”

            1. Antilles*

              Yeah, this is my thing. If you go with the vague ‘recruited for an opportunity’, then they learn that you’re flagged as “fired, do not rehire”, it’s going to look like you were dodging the question.
              Whereas if you just simply and factually include the reason in your description, that clearly indicates why you left but also removes any potential stigma.
              I don’t think you should dwell on it or make it a huge thing, but including a sentence of context really helps frame things appropriately here IMO.

        2. PollyQ*

          Sad to say, OP’s going to need to say they were fired, since that’s what the company will report when they’re called for a reference check. Given that, I see nothing wrong with describing what went down in a basic, factual way.

          1. Sloanicota*

            I agree. I know it’s hard not to come across as a little … bitter … when describing unhappy situations and I think it’s usually better to err on the side of *not* criticizing past employers, even when it’s merited (if you want to compare an interview with a first date, it’s like a guy going on about his crazy ex – you have no way of knowing who was really more in the wrong and it just gives you a bad impression).

        3. Caroline Bowman*

          I was looking for a better work-life balance and to grow my skills in X area. If they ask what work-life balance means to you (and they might), you could say that you reached a point where the company culture meant you got reprimanded for not working a Saturday due to a bereavement and it made you realise you needed to make some changes in your life around values and goals. This way you say it without badmouthing. It’s you and your situation that wasn’t a great fit for that environment!

    2. Magenta Sky*

      The phrase you’re lookin for is “The best revenge is living well.”

      Or maybe “Revenge is a dish best served with red wine.”

        1. amoeba*

          I have definitely spent too much time in academia. Took me way too long to figure out it’s not about publications. (Fits very well in that context, though…)

    3. TG*

      Totally don’t be ashamed – they sounded ridiculous and you have a great job lined up! Enjoy yourself and just make sure the new place you have clear expectations on “butts in chairs” but it sounds like your new place probably cares about work being done and isn’t micro managey about it!

    4. Harvey 6 3.5*

      Or even better, this is the red badge of courage. They &$^& and you shouldn’t feel any shame.

  1. Bookworm*

    Agree with the other comments: If anything, this seems like a crystal clear sign that this was a bad place for you and a bad place period. So glad you’re out of there! Thanks for the updates!!

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, I suspect this was a phenomenon we often see on this blog; the workplace wanted to fire OP for whatever reason (and some of the reasons are super crappy, like “we think she’s going to want maternity leave” or “she’s too expensive” or “she seems like a troublemaker”) and then they make up a reason that has little to do with the actual reason they want to fire OP. Pointing to professional hours when OP is working over 40 hours is the red herring. Employees can drive themselves nuts with this stuff trying to figure out the definition of professional hours or whatever but that’s not really what it was ever about.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        In which case, the company clearly screwed up. They let go an employee who was working more than full time, rather than address whatever issue they had. But, since they didn’t bring up this issue, I’m going to guess that their real concern was either illegal or ridiculous (eg. race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or someone wanted to hire their best friend into the role).

  2. Annie Nonimus*

    Just another voice here to be louder than the one in your head: You have nothing to be ashamed of! Laugh your way to the bank.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      If this comes up when/if you leave this company, any future employers can look at employment dates on your resume…particularly the part where you start at the job you will have stayed and exceled with.
      A good hiring manager will look at the dates and see you started your new job, what?
      Two weeks/a month after they let you go?
      Yeah, pretty obvious that they pushed you out because you put in your notice.
      Neither confirm nor deny.

  3. Rainy*

    To borrow a phrase from The Lion In Winter’s Henry II, to these agéd eyes, that’s what winning looks like.

    Don’t be ashamed–you’re walking away with all the marbles.

  4. Caramel & Cheddar*

    “The fools I was working for sent me an email on my first day of vacation saying I was fired. ”

    Emailing someone to fire them is obviously super unprofessional, but now I’m curious if they emailed LW’s personal email address because if this had been me and they emailed my work address, I wouldn’t have checked the email until I got back into the office, which probably would confuse a number of people who thought I’d already been fired for a week.

    1. JelloStapler*

      Or they did it to her professional email on purpose to try to be sneaky since they knew she wouldn’t check it (and therefore they could yell at her again?).

        1. Sleeve McQueen*

          Just to recalibrate your expectations now that you’ve left that job: firing someone by email is crappy. Firing them on the first day of their holidays is vomiting on that crap and serving it to you for dessert

          1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

            and YOU, Your Majesty, get to enjoy a better happier work life without them. Woooo!

  5. Purple Cat*

    Oh I understand the sting – but focus on these key facts.
    – You have a new job already!
    – Another company has already realized how much of an asset you are and scooped you up.
    – You were going to quit anyway, and this move is only costing them.

    Good luck OP and hopefully a new healthy work environment will allow you to be kind to yourself and allow you to recover from this toxic place.

    1. PB Bunny Watson*

      Plus, OP gets a nice break between jobs. I’m one of the fools who chooses Thursday as the last day at job A just to start job B on Monday… so a couple of weeks off with unemployment sounds lovely.

    2. irene adler*

      And no chance you’ll be asked to train your replacement or write up any sort of “how to do my job” instruction.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        If they do ask, I would just ignore it. Don’t even offer to do it for a considerably higher fee. Let them flail!

        1. irene adler*

          “Why are you even asking me this? YOU fired ME, remember? So you no longer want me to work for you.”

  6. Generic Name*

    Don’t be embarrassed about being fired! If anyone asks, you can say you were working 10 hour days but was written up for not working “professional hours” and were fired via email while on vacation. Only toxic and awful employers would think that’s a normal scenario.

    1. kiki*

      Agreed, definitely don’t be embarrassed by this. The company’s expectations were unreasonable and they were using a vague term to try and convince you their requested hours were normal. You declined to comply with unreasonable requests; your employer had the right to let you go for it, I suppose, but you didn’t do anything wrong or fail in anyway. You new company hired you because you are great and it sounds like they are much more reasonable.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, 8 am to 8 pm is not “professional hours”. It’s abusive, toxic hours.

  7. That One Person*

    One of my friends once was more upset at not breaking off a relationship first rather than the fact they’d broken up – like the act of being broken up with hurt purely because they weren’t delivering the blow, but received it instead. Some of what you’re feeling could very well be that seeing as you were planning to leave and they just cut it off quicker. As you pointed out though they have to pay unemployment so take that for the blessing that it is and make sure they pay out that PTO!

    Also hope the new place works out spectacularly and promotes a healthier sense of work life vs personal time!

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Yes! I was also once fired from a job I hated and planned to leave, and it totally is the sting of having them make the call before I could do it.

      Anyway, congrats to you, LW, and screw those guys. What jerks.

      1. quill*

        Same, but it was more “got yelled at more while being fired than I probably would have if I quit.”

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        Same. I was once fired from a job where I was already looking and planning to leave as soon as I could. I liked my new job so much that I wondered why I was upset about the old one. However you can get out is a win.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I put off a breakup longer than I should have because I didn’t really want to deal with the fall-out, so I was SUPER pleased when they broke up with me instead. (Then I just had to talk them out of taking it back and un-breaking-up with me…)

  8. Screen Porch Office*

    Just be aware that in most states – or at least in my state – you’re not eligible for unemployment if you are fired for cause. So it’s not clear to me whether your former employer will get hit for that expense or not, if they’re going to claim you were fired (as opposed to a layoff/reduction in force).

    Regardless, congratulations and good luck on the new and better job!!

    1. Jen MaHRtini*

      In most states “cause” has a higher bar than one write up for not working “enough hours”. Especially if it isn’t explicitly defined somewhere.

      1. Academic Fibro Warrioe*

        My dad got fired for something he was never written up for and denied the stocks he had been given in lieu of a raise (dow company, very old, long before the 2008 crash. It was crazy). He applied for unemployment. The company said he was fired for cause and the state denied it. He appealed it and won (and got his stocks back) because they had never instituted a formal plan to address it or actually written him up, which the state required for unemployment to be denied. Boy was his boss mad and kept calling him about it and threatening dad’s career was over.

        Dad later got a job in a directly competing company and retired recently as a VP of environment and safety (different manufacturing industry, also one he was told when let go during layoff 50 years ago he’d never have a career in because manufacturing didn’t hire people with college degrees).

        The joke is always on them, as they are holding their noses they cut off. I’m so glad to hear this update!

        1. EPLawyer*

          Always appeal the denial — unless it is obvious you were fired for cause. Like if you embezzled from the company, don’t bother even filing. But anything else, appeal it.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      If the OP files for unemployment, the company will probably have to prove cause for firing. If they try to claim that the OP wasn’t working enough hours over 40, the unemployment office would laugh at them.

    3. Generic Name*

      Maybe so, but you can still file and the company would have to fight it. There’s a chance they won’t bother to fight, or if they do, the unemployment office may still side with you.

    4. Rose*

      Agree with what all the other replies in this thread say. I was once fired for an untrue cause. I worked in an at-will state, which means that they could have fired me for no reason without repercussion, but because they fired me for an untrue reason, they still had to pay out unemployment. At my appeal for my initial denial, I lawyered up; once my former employer heard that I had a lawyer on the call with me, they refused to even continue the process and just conceded.

    5. Lacey*

      Yeah, but the state defines what counts as “cause”. I was fired because they didn’t think I was doing a good enough job. That’s a “cause” but they paid unemployment, because this was just a value judgement on their part, not me refusing to do work assigned, not showing up, or otherwise sabotaging the work.

    6. Observer*

      you’re not eligible for unemployment if you are fired for cause.

      Well, if they don’t lie about it, they are not going to be able to make a case that the OP was fired for cause. Firing someone for taking a vacation after they “missed work” by skipping a weekend work day in favor of going to the funeral of a relative is NOT going to qualify as “for cause” even in employer friendly sates.

    7. Eligible After All*

      Once I had one of those horrible jobs, that people write to AAM about, where it was so terrible I quit without another job lined up. I applied for unemployment, was denied, appealed and lost. Very shortly after that I applied for clerical work at a temp agency and they sent me to an O.K. job that lasted a couple of weeks. Then I was unemployed again. The people at the temp agency told me to apply for unemployment again, based on their laying me off. I did, and this time I was deemed qualified for unemployment (on the basis of being laid-off at the temp agency). The state unemployment office based my unemployment compensation on the wages I earned at the bad company where I quit. Something like this might work out for someone fired for cause. It would be worth trying.

      1. AnonToday*

        Interesting–in my state, temps can’t get unemployment. (Not disputing your story, just that YMMV in other states.)

  9. LoV*

    “sent me an email on my first day of vacation saying I was fired. ”

    This is bonkers behavior. Congrats on getting out of there.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I know that’s sort of a minor point to the story, but this is really bad! Firing someone by email is bad enough, but they did it on their first day of a vacation! This is a candidate for worst boss of the year, especially since it sounds like they did it to get out of paying OP’s PTO, which is part of their compensation and equivalent to not paying a paycheck. Either they are in a state where it’s not legally required to pay out, or they’re betting on their employees to assume that’s true even if it isn’t.

  10. Jay*

    My husband was in a toxic job that was getting worse and worse – his boss was incompetent and was blaming him for her screw-ups. I had taken a step back from my career and was ready to go back full time; we had agreed that once I started and had benefits, he would resign. He basically told his boss that during one of his “counseling” sessions.

    The week after I signed my new contract, they fired him. They didn’t really have cause so they gave him a sizable severance package plus agreed to cover COBRA for three months. He’d been there 15 years. If they had waited six weeks, they would have saved themselves over 30K. We enjoyed the hell out of that money.

  11. Calyx*

    I’d consider talking to a lawyer specializing in employment law. They can help you figure out if the company’s treatment of you violated any guidelines and give you great advice—even ghost-write letters for you—to help ensure that in the future when people call them for references, they don’t trash you. Employment lawyers are not just for filing suits!

  12. JelloStapler*

    I think it’s natural to feel shame but in this case, they shot themselves in the foot and to go away scot-free.

  13. Invisible fish*

    Something very similar happened to me, only I had gone to work with my letter of resignation!!!! I’m smiling now at the memory! When you’re “fired” from a dysfunctional workplace, you know you’ve done something RIGHT: you stood up against the dysfunction. Throw yourself a “I survived company x” party, since you deserve it.

    1. PeanutButter*

      I remember getting laid off from a toxic company that was swirling the drain. It was my first “professional” job and it being 2008 I was of course terrified of “being fired” but I had already started going back to school for a career change because I could read the writing on the economic wall. I felt like I was going to throw up for all of 30 seconds then suddenly got the biggest grin on my face and popped in my bootleg Eagles CD on the way home and sang along with it with the windows down all the way home.

      I’m allllllllllready gone! And I’m feeeeeeeeling strong! And I’ll siiiiiiiiiing this victory song!

      1. JustaTech*

        I had a coworker who knew her department was going to get cut, so she’d been job hunting for a while. The day she got a great job offer she was called up to the head office to get laid off.
        She got a huge severance and I can still hear her giggling coming down the stairs from her layoff meeting. She didn’t have to quit, she got severance, she got time off before her next job *and* she had her next job lined up. It couldn’t have been better timed.

        We were all so happy for her.

        1. BeenThere*

          I had the exact same thing happen to me! I was working in a country with generous federally required layoff payments and the global financial crisis meant a lot of our projects were getting canned. I was given notice the day before my last day, the day was basically to make sure I had time to bring back things from home as we worked on customer sites frequently. At my exit interview after all the paperwork was signed giving me enough money as a new grad to pay off my new car entirely, my boss asked what my plans were. I told him that I’d be starting at new job and probably be bringing my start date back to be earlier seeing as they had released me. The thing is with that short notice period of one day meant they had to payout my entire federal notice period, plus four weeks for every year I’d worked for them and all the leave I’d accrued. It worked out to be about four months pay plus all the “you need to search for a new job benefits” which I used in full. I had a financial consultation and ended up having a great chat with the person as they checked everything for me and said you are doing all the right things so here’s some future tax minimization strategies to make the most of our session.

          The look on my bosses face was the best revenge, absolute shock that I had a better position lined up, at a desirable company, much higher salary and shorter commute that I could take mass transit for. After them attempting to bully and harass me out of the position so they didn’t have to do the pay out. He was let go around the same time and had to work his notice period. Last I heard he became a used car sales man.

        2. DrivingDitalini*

          Happened to my spouse. He was MAD. I said “hon, you were going to give notice on Monday. Now you have two months severance. You won the lottery!”

          Bonus: I had been laid off a few months prior with a very generous severance, temped for a few months, then got asked to return to Job #1. I was a month away from my re-start date, and so was he. So there were were, two crazy kids with a month of basically paid vacation, at the same time! We were on a flight to Costa Rica a week later. Sometimes the universe is alright…

    2. Generic Name*

      Yeah, I once submitted a letter of resignation (got a job at a competitor) and 3 days later my boss said they were accepting my resignation “effective immediately”. I got a call from HR explaining my COBRA benefits (I guess they didn’t notice I did not get health insurance through them??) and they generally acted like they were firing me. I was somewhat upset at the time, but ultimately glad I got a week off between jobs because I needed to recuperate from working for that asshole boss. I’ve kept a copy of my dated resignation letter and all the exit paperwork they gave me (I left the exit interview form blank and I refused to sign the nondisclosure agreement they sent after the fact). It’s been 11 years, and literally no one has asked about it.

      1. Observer*

        I refused to sign the nondisclosure agreement they sent after the fact

        They really thought you would just sign it. Just like that. After the fired you. SMH.

    3. New Jack Karyn*

      “Throw yourself a “I survived company x” party, since you deserve it.”

      This is the way. I got myself fired from a coffee shop job many moons ago, and some friends came over with a bottle and we had a small “F^*k St@rbuck$” party.

  14. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Congrats! I hope you do a little soul searching in the time off so you can really reflect on what did not work at your old job and what not to bring to your new one.

    To be extra clear: I’m not saying you did anything wrong, not that kind of reflection. But it’s REALLY easy to bring toxic jobs along with you as you move on, in ways you don’t even realize. What you expect of yourself, your relationship with your boss, how you handle pressure or minor screwups – that kind of thing. I hope you can just detox a little bit and move forward with that place behind you.

  15. Mystery Lady*

    Is it possible your old company found out about your new job? They might have fired you to get the last word.

    1. Moose*

      My thoughts exactly.

      “The reasons behind my firing were not made clear to me. However, because I had already accepted another offer and was preparing to submit my resignation upon return from a pre-arranged vacation, I have reason to believe I was fired in retaliation for accepting a new position.”

      1. QueenRuby*

        Oops my previous reply was posted by accident.
        One person knew I was leaving I do think they said anything. Technically though, its possible. But I doubt it.

  16. GO BIG BLUE*

    I got fired via text message the day before I put my notice in because a work jerk that I confided in decided for whatever reason to rat me out. To be clear, I didn’t give them 2 weeks because I knew they wouldn’t let me work it out. Joke’s on them, I had prepared everything the day before. I had been preparing for weeks! It was a Thursday & I was starting my new job on Monday. I still got weepy-not because they fired me (that place was a dumpster fire!!) but because working 70h a week for a year meant NOTHING to them. And yes, I told my new work peeps. They were horrified by the treatment I endured (and laughed at how unprofessional it is to fire someone via TEXT). Almost 3 years later, I’m running my own department at a huge university-based healthcare system. A lot of workplaces are retaliating against external job seekers, it seems. I don’t think it’s that uncommon anymore to explain why you’re not eligible for rehire with all the antics these crappy employers are pulling. But I heard from a friend that the horrible bosses were not amused by my last screensaver…”Peace Out” spelled in birthday candles. It was petty, I admit it. But it was the only jab I took, aside from telling them that if anyone logged into my accounts using my logins, I’d report them to CMS. NO REGRETS!!

    1. Generic Name*

      Love the screensaver! I described above how a company I worked for did not let me work out my 2 week notice. They did the same to my coworker who also quit the same day I quit. They told us to write our laptop passwords on a post-it when we left. Her password was something along the lines of “Almost Free!”, meaning she was almost free from that terrible job. Ha.

      1. Anonymouse*

        “..write our laptop passwords on a posit-it when we left.”
        The potential for mischief on your way out the door is limitless.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, I would have either refused, or changed my password to a few choice swears (like “F***UI’mG0ne”)

  17. Jackie*

    Some jobs ask “have you ever been fired”. Does OP have to respond truthfully to this? To me it sounds like the toxic company behaved very unfairly but could this still hurt OP in the future (even if they have a job now, how about the next job down?)

    1. kiki*

      I think it’s always better to be truthful. When I’ve seen this question, there’s usually a field to explain the circumstances and the LW’s explanation is solid. “My company expected employees to work 11+ hour days nearly every day. I was written up and fired for not working those hours the weekend of my FIL’s memorial service.”

      Any company that’s good at hiring realizes there are bad companies out there who fire good people for terrible reasons. This also probably won’t be too much of a concern if all goes well in LW’s new job.

      1. boopnash*

        or saying “I was fired after I had accepted a job offer from the company I left them for” would probably likely suffice, given it is completely true

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, because if they were fired in retaliation for accepting a new job, it’s A) very believable, and B) good for a laugh.

  18. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    I wonder if they caught wind that you’d been interviewing or even accepted a new job. All it would take is one indiscreet reference check and they bounce you out the door.

    1. Kit*

      That’s what I was thinking! It’s entirely possible they knew OP was about to quit and thought they were getting back at them by firing them.

  19. Choggy*

    I concur that there is no shame on you only the company. You are well away from them. Keep looking forward to your brighter, better future!

  20. Person*

    Please make sure you leave a really detailed GlassDoor.com review. Warn others about your toxic old company

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*


        And I’m really happy for you, OP, that A. you got out of there and B. got a fab new job!

        Sorry those @#$@#$ers were petty and fired you, but try to laugh all the way to the bank with your unemployment and PTO and great new salary.

  21. Debe*

    Wow, I’m so happy for you. Like the other posters have said, don’t worry about getting fired. You have a bright future ahead of you. File for unemployment and kick back a few weeks. Enjoy the future.

  22. Asenath*

    Congratulations on the new job! I can understand that you might feel embarrassed initially at being fired, but honestly, they’re the ones who should be embarrassed! They probably won’t be, but you will, in time, be able to look back with a bemused smile at just how weird humans can be. Like when I think of a particularly bad job, and now all it means to me was something I was fortune to be able to get out of and move on. And do pursue any of the legal avenues they have left open regarding unemployment pay, and your PTO.

  23. UpstateDownstate*

    Congrats on the new job and also on having some down time in between jobs – it’s SO important and I wish I’d done it every time I left an old job and took on a new one. You need that time to let go of the ‘old’ and embrace a whole new ‘new.’

    I also worked at a place who’s working hours were sold to me as 9-5:30pm however everyone stayed past 7pm on the regular and anyone that left even before 6:30pm was given a stink eye and out of the loop on projects. Wish I’d seen that for the red flag that it was!

  24. 2 Cents*

    OP, sounds like you came out on top!

    At my last job, I gave my two weeks, but my employers decided (after 6 years of dedicated service) to let me go after 2 days. Everyone I worked with was shocked! shocked! at how they were treating me. I looked at it as 10 days of paid vacation :) (They paid my notice period.) I wasn’t fired, but they didn’t think I had anything left to offer them, despite having 6 years of institutional knowledge and doing the work of 3 people.

  25. ecnaseener*

    Fantastic! Joining the general chorus: no need to feel embarrassed about being fired by a company with wacko priorities. You weren’t wacko enough for them, oh well!

  26. Butter Bonanza*

    Fools, indeed! Objectively, this is the best-case scenario. The LW got a new and better job along with unemployment benefits and cashed-out PTO, and never has to step foot in that crummy place again. With someone describing exciting new things on the horizon, it aches to know they’re feeling stung by how it the old job ended. If it helps, Green has some really good advice about how to explain/talk about being fired if it ever comes up in the future.

  27. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    There’s no shame in being fired by people who thought going to a memorial service was ‘unprofessional’. Hopefully you don’t need to even mention this job in the future, but if it comes up, simply say that the company’s expectations became unreasonable (give the memorial service as an example) and you decided to move on.

  28. Engineer*

    Definitely follow up with any labor board complaints. Your former company seems like to the type to jerk you around. Are you in an ‘at will’ state? Might be worth consulting an employment lawyer to see if you were fired without cause. Make em pay!!!

  29. rosyglasses*

    Don’t feel shamed! They were clearly not on their rockers. And don’t let anything slide around unpaid PTO or let that Glassdoor review fly!

  30. HMS Cupcake*

    OP, I was fired for similar reasons regarding “professional hours”. I didn’t have a job lined up so the first day I felt a bit numb and uncertain of how to feel, but in the end the overwhelming feeling was relief. Vindication then came when my client hear about my firing, got upset and decided to hire me instead, then fought for me despite the restrictions due to my severance agreement. Finally the old employer gave in and now I was on client-side. Enjoy the last laugh!

  31. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    I once got fired days before Christmas vacation after working my ass off in a totally effed up organization. I’d never been fired before, it was totally humiliating, and the way they handled it was straight up cruel. I changed industries and took a step down to land another job, and my new job/team/organization turned out to be HEAVEN. I’ve since been promoted into another department, to another team of wonderful people, where I’m making over 25% more than the job I got fired from, and where I am regularly told how valued I am. My new job is even more intense than my old job, but the way people relate to the work and to one another is a complete 180 from Old Job. That has really helped me understand how screwed up Old Job was, and alleviated much of my shame about being fired. New Job is a healthy, supportive environment, and they like me and my work just fine. :-)

    You CAN recover from getting fired and come out somewhere really great! Wishing you all the luck in your new job!

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