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After 28 very successful days outperforming others in the office, I was fired. From my first day the manager and 5-6 others would have lunch. Manager bought drinks. I thought this was unusual, but most of the job is computer/phone contacts so I didn't think much of it.

On Monday I am pulled into a conference room and a supervisor in another state says it has come to their attention that I have been drinking during work. I was fired immediately, noone else was. The manager gets my commissions which puts him eligible for an incentive trip to the tropics! I was outraged, blind-sided, hurt, depressed and broke; a hard lesson learned.

Is being singled out for termination, and losing commissions to the manager for drinking at lunch with the manager and co-workers ethical?

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    Well...if drinking during work hours is prohibited...and you did it, and got caught...well, there isn't much to do..or even question what is 'ethical' or not..My question would be, how did you get caught? The way you write it, it sounds like it was a mutual conspiracy against you from your co-workers and managers. You could consider going to a lawyer, but I after only 28 days...You're still in probation likely, so even in that case you don't have much of a chance to do anything. – morbo Oct 27 at 21:25
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    Is it ethical? If I say yes or no, how does that help you? A much better question would be: What can I do to get my job back, to get my commissions paid, or to get the manager paying for the drinks fired (if you're out for revenge, which would be understandable). – gnasher729 Oct 27 at 21:35
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    @Lisa - Did you mention any of this to the supervisor who called you? It sounds like upper management are unaware of the others drinking at lunch. It also might not have been your manager who reported you - perhaps a non-involved coworker (i.e. not part of the 5-6 or so people involved in lunches) could smell the alcohol on you and raised the flag. – Robotnik Oct 27 at 21:51
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    @JoeStrazzere, "It seems unlikely that someone with 28 days of outperforming everyone else would be fired for no good reason." I suppose you were never told by your colleagues to stop working too hard because upper management will just increase the quotas if you do too well. Believe me. It happens. – Stephan Branczyk Oct 28 at 9:11
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    Are you 100% sure this isn't a prank (like those radio show prank jokes where they call someone pretending to be someone else)? Did you already know of the "supervisor in another state" who apparently is in charge of you (although you have a manager on site). Was there any involvement from HR? ... if you're sure it's genuine, I would suspect a corrupt manager. – seventyeightist Oct 28 at 20:49
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Whenever you are denied compensation which you believe that you have earned, you need to consult a lawyer in your jurisdiction. Even though you did break a rule, and were terminated, that might not preclude you from your commissions.

The story, as you said it, is very sketchy. The fact that your manager bought you the drinks, which got you fired benefited financially from the act might also be illegal. Did he disclose the fact he bought it for you and that he drank as well?

I would definitely recommend talking to an attorney.

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    +1 Whatever your rights to the compensation are, something needs to happen about that boss. – user180146 Oct 28 at 14:00
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Is being singled out for termination, and losing commissions to the manager for drinking at lunch with the manager and co-workers ethical?

It's probably not very nice and not very ethical, assuming you were intentionally singled out as you wrote.

But if you are prohibited from drinking during work and you did it anyway, it's probably within their rights to do so.

You should check your company's compensation rules, and perhaps have a discussion with HR, regarding the commissions. It seems unusual that you could be denied commissions that you already earned.

  • Not sure that drinking during lunch would be considered valid grounds for dismissal or even if lunch time is considered "work" – Neuromancer Oct 30 at 20:21
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I'm not a lawyer, but one question that does come to mind is: are you really forbidden from drinking during lunch?

I mean, was it conveyed to you in some unequivocal, official company manner, for example, a guidebook, a new workers orientation day or, worse for your case, in the contract?

Again, no lawyer, but if the answer is no and is genuine, or it's yes, but..., where the "but" is something that can't be proven (e.g. on one of our team lunches out, someone told me alcohol isn't allowed on lunch, even when eating out)... I would get a lawyer and go after that company guns blazing!

I know, for example, where I work, the country, not the specific company, it is very customary for folks eating out (as opposed to within office walls) to drink, as long as it's responsibly and such that it doesn't impair their abilities (we're trusted to know our limits, and peer pressure also keeps you to one pint per lunch anyways).
Unless explicitly told otherwise by an employer, even if I were to switch jobs, I would assume the same and would be very surprised to learn otherwise, especially if learning would be by termination.

Lastly, the fact you out-performed your peers and that by terminating you, your commission goes to the same boss that bought the drinks in the first place is super-fishy. To say the least.

Get a lawyer! This whole story smells wrong.

  • Thanks for all input. This was my first post -collegiate job, feel very foolish, undeniably dumb to drink during a probationary period. My state is an ‘at will’ state. Firing can be for no reason. I checked with the labor board, waiting to hear if payment of my commissions is enforcable. I emailed the supervisor, asked why I was singled out as my manager +4 indulged. No response. I mentioned it seemed there is a ‘culture’ of drinking at that office. The hard lesson is DO NOT drink or engage in any unprofessional behavior with co-workers. I do learn quickly. – Lisa K Oct 29 at 17:59
  • Want another lesson, free of charge? If a situation like this comes up again, i.e. peers drinking on the job, better yet if one of them is a manager... find a good excuse to not drink yourself and pull out your phone and take ample pictures, saying you "wanna show everyone I know how we're having good times at X". At best, all drinks are off the table, no harm, no foul. At worst, you now have cold, hard evidence that others have done the same without being punished which, in many places, translates to unfair termination and all the "benefits' it includes. Always cover your bases! – O.F. Oct 30 at 9:25
  • Also, now you're no longer with the company, I'd go on my social media and let everyone know what the ethical standards in this company are, in case someone you know is also looking to join them. Also, site like GlassDoor where you can leave review of the workplace... shitty managers need to be held up to their crappy behavior, one way or another! – O.F. Oct 30 at 9:27
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Could it be a prank or other manipulation rather than a genuine firing?

It's a "out of left field" answer, but I would suggest you consider whether this could be a prank, or a sort of 'hazing ritual', or a set-up by a rival, rather than a genuine firing process. Maybe something that happens to all new people (or maybe it's just you!).

On the surface of it, there is no real reason for you to be fired. You have been meeting and exceeding sales targets, there are no complaints about your performance (I assume since you didn't mention any). A manager's success is mostly the success of their team, so if you are successful in hitting your sales numbers then that reflects well on your manager!

And if you are in an "at will" employment area (which I assume you are in the USA since you referred to 'another state') they actually don't need a reason to fire you at all, just "it isn't working out" or whatever would be enough.

My reasoning

So... Out of the blue you hear from a supervisor in another state, over a conference call, about your "drinking at work". Did you already have involvement or knowledge of this boss? You already have a manager on-site where you work, who would presumably be the one to fire you if that was needed. And this is the specific incident that allows your commissions to be attributed to your manager instead, and this incident just happens to put the manager over the threshold to win an incentive vacation in the tropics! (This seems especially suspicious if your manager is primarily involved with management tasks rather than sales/commission-generating work directly.)

Is it possible that one of your (peer) 'rivals' set you up as they see you outperforming them?

Possible Consequences if I'm right

If you think it's at all possible that this could be a prank and that you aren't really fired... I would look into this urgently. Did you get any paperwork from HR or anything like that, or was it just "don't show up tomorrow" etc?

If it is actually a prank or set-up, it may be that your actual management are thinking (something like) "wtf? OP hasn't showed up for work for 3 days now... we will consider they have abandoned their job?"

  • The fact that her manager even benefited from her firing is the icing on the cake/on the prank. My guess is that Lisa is back at work now and just hasn't had time to update us on the latest development. – Stephan Branczyk Oct 30 at 6:49

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