Question: I have a grievance hearing in a few days because I was terminated for insubordination.
The claim that I was insubordinate came about because I made a statement that I would not stay in a building if it was on fire.
Do you think that is grounds for termination?
Hartsville, South Carolina
Answer: Carmen, unless you are by profession a firefighter or other “first responder,” such as a police officer, you never “signed on” to risk your life for your job, and you should not lose it for trying to keep yourself alive.
While I do understand that employers may want to institute “fire emergency plans,” and want employees to follow them, I don’t believe that you should be fired for saying that you view staying in a building on fire to be unacceptably life-threatening. In fact, I believe you have an obligation to be honest with your employer about your intentions to leave a burning building, and your employer then has an obligation back to you to plan around your intentions, and the likely intentions of other employees to get as far away from the flames as possible, as quickly as possible.
Carmen, I live in New York. As you know, many people perished in the World Trade Center precisely because they heeded suggestions, and obeyed orders, to “Remain in the building.” I can tell you that most people I know – including me – will not stay in any building on fire, no matter what. I love my kids too much to make them fatherless. I will not lie to anyone about my intentions, either.
In fact, any CEO, President, Board Member or other senior executive who assures anyone that they, themselves, would risk their lives for their job is, in my humble opinion, foolish and full of baloney. You might consider asking some of them if they are willing to testify under oath that they will stay in a burning building.
I say stand up, speak up, and insist on your job back.
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