Most folks who get fired do so for mundane reasons—theft, tardiness, or just plain not doing their jobs well. The employees in the list below do not fall into that category. Rather, their hilariously ill-advised or awful actions on the job left no doubt that these employees had been fired for reasons well outside of the norm.
10. Cheering Under the Influence
While Stanford University has had no official mascot since dropping the Indian in 1972, “The Tree,” which represents El Palo Alto, the Redwood tree that serves as Palo Alto’s logo, has been personified by a member of Stanford’ marching band as an unofficial school mascot. The Tree appears at Stanford sporting events and schoolwide gatherings, engaging and entertaining the crowd. The selection process for “The Tree” is a surprisingly extensive annual event known as Tree Week, during which student members of the marching band seeking to become The Tree (known as “Saplings”) vie to outdo each other in various competitions and stunts.
However, 2006’s Tree, Erin Lashnits, was axed from her job after being caught drinking from an apparently poorly-concealed flask nestled inside her costume during a Stanford-Cal basketball game. The band, whose spokesman noted that, “the tree’s movement is usually consistent with that of someone who’s had something to drink,” nonetheless relieved Lashnits of duty in light of her blood alcohol level of .15, which violated a three year alcohol ban school administrators had imposed on band activities after a 2003 incident.
9. Biting a Dunkin’ Donuts worker
While use of force by the police is a topic fraught with controversy, with complaints from suspects and the public reporting excessive force generally requiring a lengthy evaluation process, one officer’s excessive brutality in dealing with a member of the public quickly earned him a pink slip.
Renzo, a 4-year old Belgian Malinois and police K9 officer with the Coconut Creek, Florida police department, was removed from the force after biting a Dunkin’ Donuts employee in the calf in February, 2015. During the incident, Renzo escaped his handler’s grasp and jumped out of a police car. The doughnut shop worker heard the handler’s shouts and was able to get most of the way into his own vehicle, but Renzo was able to bite him four times on the leg before being pried off by his handler.
This wasn’t Renzo’s first biting-related offense; he had also bitten a human police officer while tracking a home invasion suspect in November of 2014. Apparently for the police department, though, the attack on the Dunkin’ Donuts worker was the last straw. Make your own jokes about police and donuts. Renzo was stripped of his badge, retired from the force and now lives a civilian life with his handler.
8. Singing a Bob Marley Song, Fighting Demons
52-year old Brooklyn resident Nicole Phillips found out the hard way that her rendition of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff,” was not appreciated by her supervisor at a call center for New York City’s Financial Information Services Agency. The agency noted Phillips’ “threatening manner” toward the deputy director and cited her “loudly singing lyrics to herself about ‘shooting the deputy,’” as part of the reason they believed that she posed a threat to coworkers, leading to her dismissal. The agency also noted that Phillips had scattered salt around her desk to “keep the demons” down.
Phillips, who sued for back pay and the reinstatement of her $73,248-per-year, maintains that she did nothing to warrant firing, saying the salting of her desk area was misunderstood and that she’s a Bob Marley fan, not a danger to her colleagues. She also pointed out that the song’s lyrics are, “I did not shoot the deputy.”
7. Using the Office Copier…to Make Counterfeit Currency
There were a lot of problems with middle school janitor Terry Chapman’s failed currency fraud scheme. For starters, the amateurish counterfeit currency he produced was made by gluing together color copies of each side of a bill. Chapman then allowed his car to be repossessed, with several fake bills inside, which were promptly turned over to local authorities. Sealing his fate, Chapman then accused a local business owner of paying him with his own phony currency. The concerned business owner contacted the police, who were able to match the serial numbers on the phony bill to the ones found in Chapman’s repossessed car.
Chapman, who was arrested on charges of criminal simulation and confessed to his actions, also made one more mistake: he used his employer’s copier to make his funny money. Chapman, who had worked at Lafollette Middle School as a janitor for four years prior to his arrest, reported that he used the school copier to make his extra cash. Chapman was promptly fired by the Campbell County school district after his admission, suggesting that neither “school janitor” nor “criminal mastermind” are careers that are in his future.
6. Getting That Twix at Any Cost
It’s easy to understand warehouse worker Robert McKevitt’s frustration. During a break halfway through his shift, McKevitt decided he wanted some candy and put a dollar in the vending machine to get a Twix. Unfortunately for McKevitt, the Twix got caught on the machine’s spirals and refused to descend, even after McKevitt put in a second dollar. McKevitt banged the side of the machine and tried to rock it to get the candy he had paid for (twice), but to no avail. It’s what McKevitt did next that separates him from a lot of other frustrated would-be snackers and got him fired.
In a move that feels like it came straight out of the George Costanza playbook, rather than kicking the vending machine and walking away, McKevitt allegedly got an 8,000 pound forklift and drove up to the vending machine, lifting it off the floor and dropping it at least six times, eventually freeing three candy bars from the machine. McKevitt’s supervisor refused to accept his explanation that he was just trying to get the candy he had paid for (McKevitt claims that he didn’t drop the vending machine but was merely moving it back against the wall since he had jostled it while freeing his candy), and McKevitt was fired days after the Twix incident and denied unemployment benefits. McKevitt apparently takes some comfort that his Twix-induced rage has had some lasting impact, noting, “They fired me, and now I hear they have all new vending machines there.”
5. Stomping on the American flag
Illinois high school English teacher Jordan Parmenter inadvertently taught himself a lesson while trying to make a point to his students about free speech. The then-26-year old teacher initially used the small American flag in the classroom as pointer while trying to draw students’ attention to a chart. After a student called him out for being disrespectful, Parmenter then dropped the flag on the ground and stepped on it, apparently to demonstrate free speech to his 11th grade students.
Parmenter seemed to realize his lesson had offended more than educated and apologized to the class and, subsequently, to the school board in a letter. Parmenter’s written apology read, in part, “I made a spur of the moment decision which I know was a terrible error in judgment. I believe that ideas such as the nature of symbolism and freedom of expression are valuable topics to discuss in the classroom and that surprise can be a useful tool to use when engaging students, however in this instance I chose a very poor way of addressing this subject.” Unfortunately for Mr. Parmenter, he learned that stepping on the flag as a means of instruction was a bad idea too late to save his job. After being placed on leave, he was fired by the Martinsville school board in a 6-0 decision.
4. Stuffing Students in the Trunk for a Snack Run
Heather Cagle, a 10-year veteran teacher in Oklahoma’s Catoosa County public school district wanted to do “something sweet” for her middle school yearbook students. Unfortunately for Cagle, she expressed this nice impulse by piling 11 students into her Honda Accord for a snack run. During the clown car-style journey to Walmart, which was approximately a mile from the school, two students split the front seat, seven formed a human pyramid in the back, and two more students were stuffed in the trunk. Parking lot footage shows that accomplishing this human Jenga only took the students about 5 minutes. An additional two students, who were out of the classroom at the time the group of 12 departed, were left at the school. The trip came to light after one of the students recounted the trip to her grandmother, who filed a police report.
While fitting 12 people into a Honda is fairly impressive, the Catoosa County school board was more concerned with the poor judgment Cagle showed in deciding to cram her students in the car. It voted 4-1 to terminate Cagle, citing student safety and the fact that she had not obtained parent permission for an off-campus excursion.
3. Peeing in an elevator
After repeated complaints about a urine stench in the elevator, parking garage managers in downtown Orlando installed video cameras to catch the culprit. When they reviewed the tapes, however, they didn’t see the homeless people they suspected were using the elevator as a bathroom. Instead, they witnessed Orange County sheriff’s deputy Carl Brown, easily identifiable in his official uniform, urinating in the corner of the elevator as soon as the doors closed. Shortly after, Deputy Brown realized he may have been captured on tape and tried to move the camera.
After the sheriff’s office investigated, Brown admitted to urinating in the elevator an estimated five times, claiming a medical condition made it impossible to wait to relieve himself. Regardless of the explanation, sheriff’s office internal investigators found this “unbecoming conduct” sufficient reason to fire Deputy Brown.
2. Photographing an X-Ray of Failed Sexcapades
Working in the ER gives employees some stories that are too ridiculous not to share. Two nurses at Mercy Walworth Medical Center in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, encountered just such a tale when a patient was admitted to the emergency room with an object, which would turn out to be a sex toy, lodged in his rectum.
Unfortunately, for the nurses, they didn’t stop at merely repeating the story for the amusement of family and friends. Instead, they allegedly photographed the patient’s x-rays (or should we say “SEX-rays?), which clearly showed the embedded sex toy, using their cell phones, with one nurse accused of posting the photo to her Facebook page. The nurse later noted that she was careful to ensure that the patient’s name was not included in the photo. Nonetheless, an anonymous concerned hospital employee reported the women’s conduct to the police department, which determined that no state laws had been violated and referred the case to the FBI for additional investigation. The nurses’ employer was not amused, firing the two women for violating policy by “inappropriately disclosing protected patient information and other confidential records.”
1. Letting a Playboy Model “Earn Her Wings”
Pilots of large passenger planes are generally extremely seasoned, having built their skills through extensive flight school training, hundreds of hours of practice flights, and often, military flight experience. However, Victoria Xipolitakis, a minor celebrity known for her appearances in the Greek version of Playboy and the Argentine version of Big Brother, didn’t need any of those qualifications when invited into the cockpit of a small jetliner and given control of the plane’s throttle on takeoff. “You sure?”, Xipolitakis asks the pilots before they turn over the controls of the plane, which had 36 passengers on board at the time. This scary sequence of events was captured in a series of selfies and videos that were recorded during the course of the flight.
Not surprisingly, when the men’s employer, Austral Líneas Aéreas (parent company Aerolineas Argentinas), found out about their employees’ new Playmate “co-pilot,” the two pilots, Patricio Zocchi Molina and Federico Matias Soaje, were immediately dismissed and Xipolitakis was banned from the airline for five years. In a statement, the airline also indicated a desire to bring criminal charges against the trio for “putting the flight’s safety at risk.”