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Last week, my boss was visibily intoxicated and told me I was fired. I asked if he was serious, and he said yes. He gave some nonsensical reason about eating too much KFC. He then rambled about how KFC was evil for the next 10 minutes.

The next day, I decided to show up to work anyways just in case he was too drunk to remember the conversation or if he would be thinking differently now that he was sober. My badge worked fine, I was able to get into my computer, and there was no indication I had been fired.

An e-mail then went out saying that my boss was on indefinite medical leave and we would be temporarily be reporting to a different manager. My new temporary manager set up a meeting with me to discuss any instructions that my real manager had for me before he left.

Do I tell him that I was "fired"? Or do I bank on my real manager being too drunk to remember (especially since he didn't follow through with removing me from the system)? I could call HR and ask them what to do, but I'm afraid they'll terminate my employment if I verbally admit that my manager fired me.

What do I do? Could I get in any sort of legal trouble staying?

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • 79
    Is there any written proof that you were fired? Depending on your country and contract, a written notice could be required to terminate your employment. – BgrWorker Jan 17 '17 at 14:47
  • 9
    Were you committing a firing offense when he happened to be drunk? If so, you might buy yourself some extra time (to find a new job) by not mentioning the exchange. However, it's hard to imagine a workplace in which "eating too much KFC" would be a firing offense, so if it eases your conscience to ask for clarification, do so. – Brandin Jan 17 '17 at 14:55
  • 101
    @Hans - It's likely that you weren't the only one "fired". It's highly probably that his behaviour has forced this bout of medical leave. – Snow Jan 17 '17 at 14:58
  • 16
    “Quod non est in actis non est in mundo”, – user1220 Jan 17 '17 at 15:25
  • 44
    @Brandin it's hard to imagine a workplace in which "eating too much KFC" would be a firing offense. Burger King? :-) – Grimm The Opiner Jan 19 '17 at 10:32

11 Answers 11

247

Why hide it? Yes, your boss was intoxicated, but you don't want to have issues because you didn't mention something you full well knew and they then find out later. Just make sure to explain exactly what happened to the new manager.

If I was informed the previous boss, who was sent on sick leave, had told someone, while in an intoxicated state, that they were fired but then did nothing about it, I wouldn't follow through on it. Instead the new manager can use that as a reason to fire the previous manager for his behaviour. I would instead evaluate the employee and make sure that it was just a side effect of the intoxication.

In the end, lying could end you in a bad place, if found out. Telling the truth will instead put you in a better light and won't cause you to have any skeletons in the closet.

  • 28
    First, I upvoted your answer. I did feel it necessary to comment on your answer. The reason I would not bring this up is that the OP would be putting himself at risk. Even if there was no paper trail as to why his MGR wanted to fire him, his NEW MGR may look into why the OP may need to be fired. Why open up that can of worms? Having said that I did like your answer too. – Mister Positive Jan 17 '17 at 15:02
  • 11
    Repercussions are not the only reason not to say something. "Coming clean" on what happened will put you at ease at work. – Brandin Jan 17 '17 at 15:04
  • 275
    No reason to lie, no reason to embellish it. You: I hope X (old manager) is alright. He was really acting strangely last time I saw him... New manager: Oh ? What happened ? You: He seemed to have trouble talking, slurred speech and then he said I was fired for eating too much KFC. Then he went of in some diatribe about KFC. I was rather bewildered by the whole thing so I just ignored the entire conversation. -- I wouldn't mention you thought he was drunk. You just don't know that for sure and somethings else (medication in wrong dose or side-effect of medication) could have similar effects. – Tonny Jan 17 '17 at 16:19
  • 19
    @Tonny Very good point about the medications. It's entirely possible that your boss wasn't drunk, but rather under the effect of perfectly valid prescription medications. That would line up well with him then choosing to put himself on medical leave after the encounter (or upper management putting him on medical leave) – Cort Ammon Jan 17 '17 at 17:31
  • 13
    Upvoted this, because for all you know he may actually have done something about it (eg: sent an email or filled out a form or something). It would be wisest to get your story out before the corporate bureaucracy starts chewing on whatever it is that he did while impaired. – T.E.D. Jan 18 '17 at 15:21
70

Proceed as though the conversation with your impaired boss never happened. Also, I don't see how you're at risk legally in this situation. (Although I am not an attorney.)

If he went out on medical leave, what appeared to be drunken behavior may have been some other medical condition.

I would put that conversation out of your mind and focus on your tasks.

  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Jan 18 '17 at 16:34
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    I think most companies who force one of their managers to commit to an alcohol rehabilitation program would say that that manager is out on "medical leave". "Medical leave" sounds better than "he kept showing up to work wasted, so we threw him into rehab". – Brian Jan 18 '17 at 18:26
57

I would go in a completely different route than most people are saying here: I would set up a separate meeting with HR ASAP. There are two issues here:

  1. The way you were treated by your intoxicated manager and the effect that has on the company.
  2. The work that you do and that your team does.

The issue with being fired (and the reason given!!) is related to issue #1, which is an HR problem. The issue with "instructions from your previous manager" is related to issue #2, and as such is a different meeting.


I wouldn't worry about HR possibly firing you if you tell them what happened. The company wants to:

  1. Distance themselves from the intoxicated manager as much as possible
  2. Damage control the effect of his poor behavior
  3. Avoid the expense of having to find and train an additional person to replace you, who won't have your tribal knowledge about your team.

If a company is not having financial problems, they don't want to fire good employees. The training burden is not worth it. The reason that layoffs are such a big deal in the news etc. is that it means that a company is really pretty seriously in dire straits.

Note: My experience is solely related to US companies. I have no idea how it might work if you don't happen to be in the US.

  • 21
    About your note: in Europe (generally speaking), this verbal information does not hold any water. There is a strict legal procedure to fire someone, which involves paper. – WoJ Jan 18 '17 at 12:13
  • 1
    Thanks for this answer. I believe that you are right that HR is actually on you're side here. This scenario is why they are there. – dalearn Jan 18 '17 at 16:10
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    I would add that the company is liable for wrongful termination suits if the termination was done due to his state of mind and not due to any work related reasoning. Thus even if you were meant to be fired, bringing this up to HR might actually give you additional time to prove your value to the new manager since they don't want to open themselves up to lawsuits. So telling HR, and not the manager, is probably the best response. – Adam Davis Jan 18 '17 at 21:34
  • @AdamDavis : even in the case of at will employment ? – user2284570 Jan 19 '17 at 1:27
  • @user2284570 it would be a civil suit and the plaintiff would have to show the company knew about the boss's condition, and prove they were abused, traumatized, or otherwise harmed due to the company's action or inaction that allowed the situation to happen. – Adam Davis Jan 19 '17 at 1:33
20

Offering a slightly more nuanced view: the answer is "depends".

Most likely your boss did a major transgression by getting drunk and misbehaving in various ways and the company took him out of circulation to deal with the problem offline. They brought in a new guy to fill in. So far, that's all reasonable behavior by the company.

Your next step would depend on company culture and the attitude of the new manager. If the new manager genuinely wants to make this work then it would be really helpful for him to know what damage the previous boss has done. Chances are, more things have happened than just you getting fired. Bringing the new boss up to speed would be a significant step in improving the work situation.

However, if the culture is "suck it up" and the new boss just wants to ride it out until some other fix is in place, I'd lay low.

5

Let it simmer for a week or two, or even a month - as long as your badge works fine. Every week that passes by with no incident makes it less and less likely that you were actually fired.

Then and only then share with your new manager as an FYI that your former manager said to you that he was firing you while he was obviously intoxicated and the reason he gave is that either you or he - its' no clear from your narrative - ate too much KFC chicken. Make it clear that you took his speech in stride and with the seriousness that slurred speech deserves, which is none.

You are fired only if the appropriate, official steps to fire you were taken including official notification in writing that you are fired. If the procedure was not followed, then you didn't get fired and you can classify your boss's talk of firing you as trash talk.

Don't get agitated and just carry on. If they really want to fire you, they have to do better than this pathetic performance. The moral of the story is: don't shit your pants simply because someone says "boo!"

  • 4
    I like the answer except for paragraph 3. He's fired if they say he is. They can do the paperwork afterward. I agree that saying nothing is best. Without it in writing, it's drunkie's word against his. "I didn't understand half of what he said he was so hammered. He might have said whoever runs KFC should be fired" – Chris E Jan 17 '17 at 18:49
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    @ChristopherEstep - If the boss weren't intoxicated, I might agree with you. But the fact that the boss was apparently intoxicated and his judgement possibly impaired changes the equation. I have been fired several times. First, I was told I was fired. Then the firing process was activated: I was told to clean out my desk, turn in my employee badge, told when my last day of pay would be, etc. In this case, the OP was told something and there was zero follow up. This pretty much indicates that the firing procedure was never applied (cont). – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 17 '17 at 19:08
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    @ChristopherEstep - And until the firing procedure is applied, the OP is still expected to report to work and perform their job as directed by their management. That's all there is to it. And by the way, it is the company's responsibility to apply the firing procedure. No paperwork, no firing. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 17 '17 at 19:14
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    @ChristopherEstep - It is in any company's interest to have a clearly delineated termination process. I wouldn't like it if I were to get another position only to be told "You're still our employee and you're still subject to our employment contract! You never left because you never resigned and the termination procedure was never applied to you!" That would be douchy. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 17 '17 at 19:21
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    I can't see how this answer actually helps. The boss may have followed through and started the termination procedure. If OP "lets it simmer" and does nothing, he may well find that his entry-card stops working and he gets his P45 or equivalent, and it's a bit late then to start doing anything. – Andrew Leach Jan 19 '17 at 12:39
3

It seems to me that management is well aware of your old boss' behavior and he was probably sent on medical leave to treat his alcoholism.

When you have your meeting with your new boss, he or she will probably address that in some fashion. At that point I'll bring up the improper "firing" and politely explain you understand he was impaired and thus in no position to make such a decision.

I think that will clear the air and will get you started on the right foot with your new boss. I think he'll appreciate how maturely you handled the situation.

There is little chance he'll follow through on an action taken by someone who was clearly impaired. That's just an invitation for a lawsuit.

2

My recommendation is to bring it up with the boss' replacement. It should be the first thing you talk about. Say something along the lines of "We should clear something up, as I'm not even sure I should be here. While (old boss) seemed intoxicated, he told me I was fired because I eat too much KFC. I'm assuming that I'm not really fired, but want to be sure." This seems overkill, but it gets the matter in the open and (hopefully) resolved quickly.

In all likelihood, the temporary manager will tell you that you should return to doing your job. However, as another answer said, this helps the organization learn what the old boss did and may help them decide how to proceed, including whether the boss should be your supervisor if/when he returns to work. On the other side of things, if there were concerns about your performance or behavior, this should bring them to the forefront.

One concern with not saying anything is that the old boss goes through his medical leave and returns to work in the same position, and that he might have actually wanted to get rid of you for some reason. He could then go to HR and say that he had fired you before he went on medical leave. While that probably would not hold up, it's possible that there was more going on, and that they will agree to terminate you. If this happens, I expect they would just let you go with payment through that date; however they might try to claim that you owe them your salary going back to the time you were originally fired.

1

In the meeting, you ask the new manager "What would happen if the boss told someone they were fired? ". The manager can say "That person would be fired", "we would completely ignore that", or "the company would rather not know if that had happened". In case 1 and 3 you say "just as well then that he didn't do anything like that when he talked to me".

  • 2
    Nah. Obviously it depends on the company culture what you'd do specifically, but lying outright isn't a good policy anytime. If something went wrong, you'd be in double deep water. For example, if one of the OP's coworkers happened to be walking by during this session, and volunteered the info himself. Now the OP is getting investigated for why the manager would want to fire him, and now has a bad reputation. Of lying. So further explanation will not be as effective. There are a lot of different approaches to the situation, but lying isn't a good one. – Cullub Jan 18 '17 at 15:49
  • In case 1, lying doesn't hurt you more than telling the truth. In case 3, the company expects you to lie, and saying the truth might hurt you. Especially since they just said they don't want to hear the truth. – gnasher729 Jan 24 '17 at 18:11
  • Unfortunately, you're right in a few respects, however, telling a direct lie shuts off all your backdoors. Situation 1 is the hardest thing here, as the OP's job relies on what happens. But especially in situation 3, if they told you that they don't want to know, then you don't tell them. If it's a big enough issue that it needs to be taken to the authorities, then that's another thing. However, if they told you that they don't want to know, you can simply keep silent. I know it's unfortunate, but silence is better than lying, and if it turns out that it actually is a problem, you can speak up – Cullub Jan 24 '17 at 18:21
  • (...) without worrying about contradicting what you already said – Cullub Jan 24 '17 at 18:22
0

Speak to your union representative.

Make sure the rep has a record of your version of events, and ask them to advise you how to proceed.

The rep should have knowledge of your workplace and industry, and of your broad employment rights under law - if your jurisdiction provides any. The rep may need to see your contract/etc in order to provide you with tailored advice. Such advice will likely be much more relevant to your personal situation than anything posted on workplace.SE by someone who doesn't even know which country you are in.

If you have doubts about your union rep's advice, seek a second opinion, again from someone who knows: your rights in the jurisdiction, what your contract says, and what happened. For example, an employment lawyer or paralegal at a law collective or at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

If you aren't in a union yet, join one. If unions are somehow illegal in your jurisdiction, then your boss is the least of your worries: emigrate.

Note to readers: if you wish to down-vote this answer, please provide a comment to explain why. That's only helpful and polite. Thanks.

  • 8
    Suggesting emigration based on local legality of union activity for this question is seriously out of left field. – Myles Jan 18 '17 at 18:24
  • 1
    @Myles Can you name one jurisdiction where (1) unions are illegal and (2) elections are free and fair? – emory Jan 19 '17 at 0:29
  • 1
    @Myles, if the OP is in a jurisdiction that does not allow freedom of association, then the OP has 3 options: (1) leave; (2) stay; (3) change the law. Option (3) is likely impossible for an individual, & alas, in some jurisdictions even merely campaigning for a change in the law can be grounds for arrest/torture/death. Option (2) is almost bound to lead to other similarly Kafkaesque employment experiences as the one the OP posted about, if not worse. So, yes, option (1) seems worth proposing. – sampablokuper Jan 19 '17 at 2:53
  • 1
    @Myles North Korea bans unions. Can you name one non-horrible place where unions are banned. – emory Jan 21 '17 at 13:31
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    @emory, I appreciate where you are coming from, but I suspect North Korea also bans Workplace.SE, so it is unlikely the OP is in North Korea. – sampablokuper Jan 22 '17 at 21:03
0

There was someone else who witnessed the act?

Because I have used my time machine to review the scene, and to me it is very clear that what happened was that:

  • your boss said something to you.

  • the way your boss said it to you, you honestly understood that he meant that you had to leave your post for the day. It was difficult to be sure what he meant, it sounded as if he wanted you to have a lunch at KFC.

    It was certainly an odd request but you decided to comply to avoid a (rather probable) confrontation if you did not obey him, given his state.

    Of course, all of the above is water under the bridge and there is no sense in discussing it again with the new manager; your new manager will be way more interested in the last instructions your boss gave to you before being intoxicated.

    If the new manager insists in questioning what happened that day, you explain him it as you remember it (which is how I stated in the above points). If your new manager thinks that missunderstood something and that any correction has to be made, your new manager may explain it to you in a clearer way.

  • If your boss meant something else, when he gets back to work he can discuss what he did and said while intoxicated with management (if he ever returns, and if he is willing to have yet another talk with management about what happened that day).

    Meanwhile, nobody has said anything about firing you1, and nobody has told you to stop coming to work, so everything continues as usual. Should that change, then management would notify you in an appropiate, clear way.


If someone else saw it, it is better to be the one to volunteer the information.

Don't forget the references to KFC, because that may make the boss (and the company) liable for harrasment. State it in a way that makes clear that, if the company backs your boss firing you, it is also backing his behavior (but avoid to look like as if you were making any threat).

Something to the effect that you believe that both (business and you) should just forget and ignore what happened that day, like "it was obvious from his remarks that he was out of his mind/not acting in behalf of the company/etc. and we should ignore all that happened that day, and wish that he gets better." If the official reason for his absence is medical leave, do not mention drunkenness.


1As far as you know, not even your boss -he just asked you to have lunch, do you remember?-

  • I think this would be a better answer if you couched it as you would handle it this way than as you had a timemachine and ,.... – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jan 19 '17 at 22:19
-2

In your case I would show up. Arrive earlier as he will, it is important.

Most probably he wanted to fire you anyways, but there is a significant chance that now he won't do it.

As he arrives, ask him on the spot. Say him, that you are sorry for the situation last day, if he still thinks it is okay, you are ready to pack and go. Don't mention that he was drunk.

If he says yes, than you should pack and go. But I see around 80% that he will say, forget it.

Anyways, there are multiple red flags about your work:

  • Your boss is drunk
  • He doesn't know what he does
  • He probably wants to fire you anyways, it is only matter of time

So, it doesn't matter what happens, here is the time to start investigating your next job on the spot.

  • 4
    You might want to re-read that question, An e-mail then went out saying that my boss was on indefinite medical leave and we would be temporarily be reporting to a different manager. My new temporary manager set up a meeting with me to discuss any instructions that my real manager had for me before he left. – Draken Jan 17 '17 at 15:00
  • @Draken Oops. Sorry. I delete this answer. – Gray Sheep Jan 17 '17 at 15:01
  • Maybe here is the time to undelete it. – Gray Sheep Jan 20 '17 at 18:37

protected by enderland Jan 17 '17 at 19:07

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