He was in his 60s. He was short, fat, and arrogant. He was the plant manager, the supervisor, the boss! His name was Tom. He relished every minute of his power. He yelled at the employees. He called them names. He smoked daily, even though it was against the law to smoke in the workplace. He didn't care. As the license plate on his car said, he was The Boss.
California is an "at will" state. That means that your employer can let you go for no reason ("You're fired!") or almost any reason ("You're fired because you're too tall!"). You can take your firing to court if it involves discrimination—sexism, racism, or ageism. However, even if you were discriminated against, proving it in court is difficult.
Tom considered himself a macho man. He did not know that his employees considered him a jerk. They made fun of him behind his back. They called him Tommy Troll because he was short and mean and had no manners. Never once had anyone heard Tom use the words Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, or I'm Sorry.
Everyone wanted to attend his funeral. But that wasn't going to happen soon. After his last physical, he presented his blood test report at a weekly staff meeting. Every item on that report was within the acceptable range. "The doctor said I'll live to be 100," he said proudly, immediately depressing most of the employees.
Tom played golf every Sunday with some other supervisors. He was a bad golfer, but he thought he was good. He liked to joke around and make fun of other golfers. On the first tee last Sunday, Tom joked about a golfer who had just teed off: "Look at that guy. He swings like a girl." Tom laughed heartily at his own joke. His buddies were silent.
"What did you say?" asked the golfer angrily. He had overheard Tom's remark. He was a mean-looking man.
"Uh, nothing," Tom said.
"Yes, you did. You said I swing like a girl. Now I've got something to say. You apologize like a good little girl, or I'll give you a fresh knuckle sandwich."
In front of his golf buddies, Tom meekly apologized. After only nine holes, during which Tom was unusually quiet, he excused himself and went home. He said he had a headache. But his friends thought it was shame that was eating at him. The next day, Tom was still upset. He told Bill to report to his office. He had never liked Bill. He always wondered why he had hired him in the first place.
"I'm letting you go. I don't need you here. Your last day is Friday."
Bill wasn't surprised. Saying nothing, he spat on Tom's desk and walked out.
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