5 Rights That New Adults Think They Have On The Job
The very first job interview I ever went to was for a position at the Taco Bell down the street from my high school. When the manager asked me why I wanted the job, I answered as honestly as I could: I wanted access to both money and tacos, a goal that I still shoulder every second of every day.
I did not get the job.
The world of employment is not the world you live in. It's a sham world full of bizarre rules that you don't understand and runs counter to all the rules you think apply to everyday life. Sometimes, this doesn't matter. Other times, it can screw you royally. Once you're an adult with a decade of work experience under your belt, this all becomes background noise ... but to a fresh new "real world" worker, some of this stuff can really take you by surprise. For instance ...
You Can Get Canned "Just Because"
Back in college, I got a job in a shitty little diner making shitty little diner dinners. If my attitude today sounds bad, it stems from the shitty diner treatment I got at the time. I was hired in late October, worked until the week after Christmas, and then was promptly fired, along with three other guys hired around the same time. It was pretty obvious we were just hired to cover the holiday period when the other employees who had been there long term were taking holidays. It seemed like a shitty, raw deal. And the turd cherry on the cake was when the HR person I had never even met before called me into the office and told me I was fired because they didn't like me.
I never did anything about that firing because it was a shitty job, but I do remember thinking "You can't fire me for not liking me!" Yes, that can be the reason, but you can't say it. You need to do the employment version of "It's not you, it's me" and lie to my face. God, anything but the truth. The truth is surely not legal in this case.
Except it is.
Not unlike break times, rules governing reasons for dismissal are generally not covered on a federal level. You're very likely an at-will employee which means your employer can end your employment at any time, for any reason. The caveat to this is only federally protected anti-discrimination type reasons or retaliation or anything illegal. So you can't be fired due to age or ethnicity or any of the small number of protected classes, or because you refused to set your co-worker on fire. But, considering you could be fired for simply not being likable, most employers who are going to discriminate against you will probably not say so. And if your employer wants to fire you because they feel like three monkeys in an overcoat will do a better job, they probably can.
I've known tons of teenagers who lost their shit after being fired, claiming, "This is discrimination! I'm going to sue!" But the reality is, unless it's really, really transparent, they can fire your ass and put "just because" on the pink slip. And there's not a goddamn thing you can do about it.
You're Not Guaranteed Break Time
Say you work a 7.5-hour shift at Grundle's Chick N' Stix. It's going great, and you are truly the best at assembling the Grundle's Chick N' Stix Strips N' Ham Chips Combo Bits. How many breaks are you legally entitled to? If you gave any answer at all, you're probably wrong. Maybe not wrong for you specifically, but there's absolutely no 100-percent-right answer, and that's not just because Old Man Grundle runs his chicken shack fast and loose. Old Man Grundle is like Steven Seagal up in that shit. He's a good cop, and he gets results. But he doesn't play by the rules.
Federal law in the United States doesn't provide for break time at all. Any break. If you spent last night eating deviled eggs you found in the mail box, that's on you. Your employer doesn't have to provide you with the time to sit and reflect on your shame. At least not while at work. Now it's possible your state allows for a paid rest period, but there are actually only eight states that do; the rest have not mustered any shits to give about your time. Other states say that if you work longer than 7.5 hours, you're entitled to 15-30 minutes of unpaid break time. It varies.
Why does any of this matter? Well, at the risk of being an unscientific comedy writer, I don't think I've ever heard of anyone who didn't expect breaks at work. Most places can and do offer them, but most people are not aware that it's just them being super courteous by not kicking your ass for an entire shift.
So if you come to your boss and say, "I've been working for seven hours, and you forgot to give me my break," it's perfectly legal for them to respond with, "HAHAHAHAHA! Get the fuck out of my office, turd."
Your Private Life Isn't Private
I was once cursed by a fortune cookie that said "May you live in interesting times," which is about as vaguely menacing as a dessert can get. Interesting is the go-to polite euphemism for something fucked, and let me be the first to say modern privacy is interesting. Many people seem to both covet privacy and have no idea what it means in every context.
Let's go back in time for a second, to grade school. Did you ever get into a fight, or go too far with a prank, or burn down a Taco Bell for not hiring you? And then the next day, you got called into the principal's office so you immediately pulled the "But it didn't happen on school grounds" card? This is not unlike the good ol' Duke boys trying to jump county lines with their moonshine in an ill-advised attempt to escape prosecution. Only in this case, it doesn't actually work. Turns out you can get in shit for doing shit wherever the shit goes down. This also applies at work.
You can have privacy in the modern world, but you have to put some effort into it. The opposite of putting effort into it is doing something like, say, posting photos on Twitter of you shitting in your boss' coffee pot, or ranting on Facebook about how you feel like your HR person is less human than that shit you took in your boss' coffee pot. If you act like a ravenous turd on the internet, and this gets back to your employer, they can and will screw you for it.
"I didn't do it at work" is no excuse for a viral video of you running naked down the aisle of an airplane screaming about how the end is nigh. The moment you get tied to your place of work, you're a liability for them. And if what you didn't do at work affects your work, you get shitcanned. This happens constantly and actually becomes news, but for some reason, not everyone takes it to heart. "Wait, I have a job!" rarely ever comes up on the pros and cons list for "Should I send this racist tweet?" They just send that dumb shit out. If you work for the Wholesome Cookie and Saintly Thoughts Company Ltd and they see on your Instagram that you routinely drink tequila out of the ass cracks of Mardi Gras tourists, you're probably getting fired even if you did it in a police-sanctioned, tequila-ass-funneling zone.
A good rule of thumb for navigating the modern world is don't do things you don't want people to see in places they can see them. This was also a good rule of thumb in the 80s, the 30s, and in 2000 BC. It's just easier for people to catch you now, so you should probably drop the bizarre belief that Facebook is a fortress of solitude no one but you and your friends can see. You don't actually have a right to privacy on Twitter or Facebook or any of your social media favorites since you don't own those sites. It's literally like posting your pictures on a bulletin board at the corner store and getting mad if you catch someone else looking at them. So, you know, cut it out.
The bottom line is this: If your company thinks your public persona even slightly stains their reputation, no matter how innocent you think your actions are ... your ass is shitcanned, and your employer is totally within their rights to do it.
You're Not Entitled To Toilet Time
There is no greater joy at work than pooping. Being able to sit by yourself for a few minutes while on the clock and avoid everyone is liberating. Plus, if you legit have to poop that's a good time to do it. And you're not wrong if you believe you have every right to poop. Shakespeare once wrote an incredible book about how everyone does it, and it's as joyous to do now as it was in his time, and possibly even earlier. But your boss still controls that sphincter of yours.
In a reasonable world, you and I only poop when we need to. You may, in fact, get through an entire shift at work without dropping the deuce. Maybe a whole week's worth of shifts. Maybe the idea of sitting on a toilet that has cradled so many ass cheeks before yours, and has been bathed in a urine, blood, semen, spit, teardrop, pus, and errant poop deluge nearly nonstop since its creation is so off-putting to you that you never poop anywhere except at home. And that's fine. But for those in a pinch to pinch a loaf, life may not be so cut and wiped and dry.
The Watersaver Faucet Company infamously introduced a rule back in 2014 that forced employees to clock in and out of the shitter, with the expectation that one should never use the can for more than a half hour a week, or six minutes per shift. They even had gift card rewards for employees who could get through the month without using any time.
This basically harkens back to the days of raising your hand at school to ask to pee, and having to rely on the good and arbitrary nature of someone else to allow you to engage in a biological function. This is only slightly less demeaning than that person following you into the bathroom and criticizing your technique.
WaterSaver's justification was that employees had just been wasting too much damn time in the bathroom farting around like a bunch of dinks instead of getting their work done. And they were completely within their rights to do so. They were providing normal break periods that included unrestricted bathroom access. The monitored access was for outside scheduled break-time pooping, during which the company thought employees were probably all on their phones taking workplace bathroom dick pics.
Federal rules absolutely grant you the right to access bathroom facilities and that's pretty much as specific as those rules get. From there the entire process is really open to interpretation. If going to the bathroom can be considered a problem to your workflow, employers can limit it at that time and each case, if a complaint arises, is judged case by case. There is no "yes, you can pee" rule on the books.
Holidays Aren't A Right
The United States has the distinct honor of being the only country in the developed world that shits on holidays as a rule. Seventy-seven percent of businesses in the U.S. offer employees some kind of vacation time, but only because they want people to actually work for them instead of just being in the building silently plotting a flaming Armageddon. It behooves an employer to give you job perks that are slightly more remarkable than "You get to not be up to your knees in raw sewage every day." That said, 77 percent means 23 percent of employers head to work at Snake Mountain thinking "Fuck you and your cat, shitheel!" as they watch you work five days a week for eternity with no downtime, cackling from within their fashionable, blue cowls.
If you have a hankering to ever take a vacation, you're going to want to hash that out before agreeing to any work terms, because if one in four jobs isn't offering any holiday time, that's a crap shoot you're probably going to lose at some point in your employment career.
If you're not sure how bad it sucks to have no vacation at all on a worldwide scale, you should know Kuwait offers 30 days of paid vacation a year. You can take an entire goddamn month off if you work in Kuwait. Actually, that statement doesn't do it justice. It's not "you can," it's "you're legally entitled to and you will." And that doesn't include the 13 paid holidays you also get, meaning for 43 days a year in Kuwait, you get paid for staying home and eating fudge. One-thousand-thirty-two hours of fudge. I just got chills.
Nearly 60 countries in the world guarantee employees at least 30 paid days off per year. Now sure, if you stack a lot of working conditions in Syria against working conditions in Idaho, a month off maybe doesn't sweeten the pot too much, but it's the principle of the thing. Even among the companies that do offer paid leave, the average amount of time you need to work at a place to get 20 days off a year is 20 years. I checked with Stephen Hawking and 20 years at any job is actually, mathematically, forever.
Ian has yet to be fired from Twitter, but he does take frequent bathroom breaks.
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