Recession firings continue: Michigan man "eats" himself out of a job

According to 61-year old Patrick Ronayne, he ate himself out of a job. The salesman, who used to make $75,000 a year representing Winston Golf and Winston Manufacturing, claims that he was fired because of his gut. Citing a statement that "he was not a flat belly," Ronayne noted that his successor was thinner.

Ronayne is 5 feet 11inches and weighs 225 pounds. The Body Mass Index lists him as 31.4, while the cutoff for obesity is 30.
Ronayne's former employers have labeled his claim "absurd" and state that he was let go because of performance. However, given that Winston Manufacturing makes high-end leather office supplies, and Winston Golf markets those supplies as branded corporate gifts, it seems possible that Ronayne's poor performance was at least partially attributable to the economy. After all, with companies scrambling to meet payroll and avoid bankruptcy, embroidered leather checkbook covers are probably low on the list of priorities.

Ronayne is only the latest in a long line of people who have recently been let go for highly questionable causes. As attorney Elizabeth A. Schollenberger told the New York Times, "A lot more people are getting fired for very minor reasons [...] What we are seeing is that they are firing people for 'misconduct' [as] an attempt to not pay benefits." Schollenberger was speaking about Ralph Reese, who was fired from a Whole Foods supermarket for setting aside a tuna fish sandwich that he was told to throw away. Reese eventually took his case to court, where a judge ruled in his favor, reinstating his unemployment benefits.

In Ohio, an employee at a Totes/Isotoner warehouse was fired when she asked for extra bathroom breaks so she could pump breast milk. LaNisa Allen, who is currently pleading her case before the Ohio Supreme Court, claims that her firing was a case of gender discrimination, while Totes claims that it was a matter of unscheduled bathroom breaks.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, even the unions are getting into the swing of things. Agnes Sobczyk, an employee of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, claims that she was fired for endorsing a different political candidate than her employer. Apparently, Sobczyk passed a coworker a letter in which she outlined her reasons for supporting Dr. Victor Forys, a physician running for the Congressional seat that Rahm Emmanuel vacated this year. The following morning, her boss confronted her with the letter and demanded that she explain herself. Sobczyk, who claims that "I got nothing but good reviews there," was immediately let go.

Of course, when it comes to getting the boot, nothing beats the internet. A Philadelphia Eagles employee who posted "Dam Eagles R Retarted!!" was recently shown the door, as was a 16-year old English girl, Kimberley Swann, who commented that her job was "boring." In Columbus, Ohio, a Sheriff's deputy was sacked when he criticized his boss online, and a New York-based video producer lost an account with FedEx simply by criticizing Memphis on Twitter. Perhaps most amazingly, a California girl managed the impressive feat of getting fired for Twittering before she even started her job. On the way home from a job interview, the young lady noted that Cisco had offered her "a fatty paycheck," which she had to weigh against "hating the work." She was quickly twittered back by her would-be employer with the message that she need not return.

Even executives aren't immune. According to an SEC filing submitted by Motorola, former CFO Paul Liska was "involuntarily terminated for cause." However, the company had previously told Liska, that he was being "terminated without cause" because it was postponing the spin-off of its handset unit. On February 20, Liska filed a wrongful termination suit against his former employer.

In The Desiderata, Max Ehrmann wrote that one should "Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time." These days, his words are truer than ever; unfortunately, as jobs become more precious, they also become much easier to lose. For the next few months, it might be a good idea to keep your head down, your antennae up, and the number of a good lawyer handy!
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