I work in the SoCal area (Baldwin Park) and have worked at my company for the past 11 years. For a great majority of this time I have been feral cats in the area which I also trap to get spayed/neutered and micros-chipped.

Recently, HR sent me the following

It has come to our attention that you are feeding the stray cats that roam our facility. Please refrain from doing so immediately. This is health and safety risk for our employees.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

I went to talk with the HR manager along with my manager. The driving force, based upon what I read between the lines and talk with HR, is that they fear I would get hurt or injured then sue the company. The HR manager threatened to terminate my position if I didn't stop immediately. Fine, California is an at will state, so they can basically fire me for any reason so long as it isn't discriminatory (e.g., age, race, religion, etc).

During the conversation, I mentioned, in hind sight I should had not said this, but I would go to the other side of the fence and feed them there. The HR manager said if I did that they would still terminate me.

So, my questions are:

  1. Can the HR manager still threaten my position if I get the permission from owners of the property next to my company's and feed the feral cats on my own time?
  2. Is there any recourse (i.e., legal or otherwise) if they terminate my position even though I feed the feral cats on my own time and not on the companies property?

Any thoughts, insights, or comments is greatly appreciated.

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    As far as I know, feeders of feral cats are not one of the classes of people who are protected from employment discrimination in California, so presumably they could fire you just for being one, regardless of where you engage in feral cat feeding. – Patricia Shanahan Mar 31 '16 at 23:53
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    I like cats but think you might get tubed. Do you really want to work for a place like this? The HR staff dont have much else to do .If you work for a place without HR you will probably get payed more because HR is not core productivity.If an employer can fire at will surely there would be some severence to compensate otherwise CA would have no competent workers. – Autistic Apr 1 '16 at 11:01
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    "During the conversation, I mentioned, in hind sight I should had not said this, but I would go to the other side of the fence and feed them there" You must have amazing job security to be able to say that. In most American companies, even in California, giving a smart ass comment like that in reply to a legitimate concern that's raised in a meeting with both HR and your own manger would be a great way to get fired. You need to be doing damage control instead of trying to find ways to further antagonise your employer. – Lilienthal Apr 1 '16 at 15:01
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    With all due respect, feeding the egos of these HR guys is a bigger health concern than feeding the cats. I am rather amused that these HR guys have nothing better to do than watching who is feeding cats. I would quit this job at the earliest convenient opportunity, and perhaps take the "unwanted" cats along to a more cat-friendly workplace. – Masked Man Apr 2 '16 at 18:34
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    When you do decide to quit, bring all the cats with you to the HR office when you hand in your resignation. That will freak them out especially if you refer to yourself as "we". – user8365 Apr 4 '16 at 21:22

As an animal lover here, I think what your company or HR is doing, is a shame, but none the less, your employment is in between that HR person's lips. If you want to bet your job on that, go right head and keep doing what you're doing. But if I were you, I am pretty sure you have some like minded people as friends, ask one of those friends to come and do your duties for a while. If possible and if you are willing, donate to their causes as a token of your appreciation. I am sure it will go a long way for other animal lovers. If I weren't working in the Mid-Wilshire area and passing thru Baldwin Park at an ungodly hour in the morning, I'd volunteer but it is not feasible unfortunately. I did the same entrapment and fixation deal aroundmy home, back when I lived in Fontana. As a matter of fact one of those cats is living in my house right now. Still a little skittish but adapted rather well. Kudos to you from another animal lover.

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  • I don't advise bringing any friends to your office if you want to keep your job. The reason is if HR finds more cages or someone capturing cats, they're going to automatically assume it is her doing. I would be doing damage control rather than figuring out a way to trick HR's demand. The question comes down to whether she should continue with her beliefs or just give into the demands of her employer. If she truly believes this she should quit now and voice her opinion rather than hide it and potentially get fired and a bad reference. – Dan Apr 1 '16 at 17:07
  • Knowing Baldwin Park area that OP has mentioned, there so many houses, apartments and workplaces around, I am pretty sure the OP is not the only humanitarian feeding the homeless cats. This happened to be in the next door location. If she talks to the HR and says she will stop feeding these animal as they have requested and some other person comes and takes it over, let's say on their own, what is it to the company ? worse comes to the worst they can call LA county animal services and have the brood caught and taken to the pound but good luck with that. – MelBurslan Apr 1 '16 at 17:39
  • Thank you, MelBurslan. Generally speaking, the local municipalities generally don't go out to trap feral cats from what I have learned over the years and knowing a few people worked for them. They will venture out to retrieve the remnants of an animal for safety concerns. – lordhog Apr 1 '16 at 22:27

For whatever reason, their message seems clear and firm. Trying to play a "technicality" by moving a few feet over or a few minutes later doesn't sound like it will go over well. It's a shame.

Have you considered asking someone else, who looks friendly to the cause, if they will take over? The original complaint may have come from the neighbor, but if there's someone you can reasonably trust is willing, that person can take over until the whole thing blows over.

My guess is that someone new to that area thinks feeding feral cats attracts them, which I don't believe is true. That's maybe the source of your complaint, but that's just a guess.

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  • Yes, already looking into asking someone else to provide assistance which is still in progress. A working theory is a new person is in charge of security and perhaps they are cat hater. – lordhog Apr 1 '16 at 22:23

The question is, is this an issue you want to bet your job on? If not, I recommend adopting another clowder; management has said they don't want you encouraging cats that might come onto the company's property, for whatever reason.

And it may be a good reason. For example, feeding them may be interfering with an existing trap/neuter/release program.

Or it may not. But effectively this is "rather than piss off the neighbors, relocate." Whether they are being reasonable or not, ignoring their request is unnecessarily discourteous. You don't want them to have more reason to grumble about the cats.

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  • I do work with a local rescue group to adopt feral cats that have the ability to be adopted and release the others that can't. When there are local event (ProPetFix or Fix Nation) to low cost spay/neuter we will gather as many kitty cats as possible and other time I pay for them. The cats on the property in question have already been TNR. – lordhog Apr 1 '16 at 0:18
  • OK. In that case it comes down to whether feeding this particular population is important enough to be short playing "you bet your job". You have little or no protection here it they decide to let u you go. – keshlam Apr 1 '16 at 0:53

Your employer has specifically asked you not to undertake an activity, they have stated the reasons why they do not want you doing it and continuing to do so they will terminate your employ, you have stated to your employer that you disagree with their request and will endeavour to find ways and means to do so and still be visible to them doing it.

At some point a decision will be made, either by you to leave because this is disagreeable to you or by your employer as you are will-fully disobeying an explicit instruction.

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