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You Snooze, You Lose — Literally

, , , , , | Working | January 17, 2023

Years ago, I worked for a major security company that supplied security staff for an upscale district in a major city. The district had a mix of homes and businesses, and we had a crew of commissioned patrol officers and a crew of dispatch, monitoring alarms, making calls, and coordinating with patrol.

I worked the overnight shift, usually with the same partner and the same supervisor. While we worked inside a building that had its own hours, since I worked overnight, the other business in the building was never open when I arrived or left, and except for my training — which was during the morning shift — I never saw any of them. So I’d usually have a pillow on the desk next to me while I worked. If I was tired that night, I would lean down and rest my head and close my eyes. My computer dinged for everything that happened, and I never missed a single alert. My supervisor watched me do it for MONTHS and never told me to stop.

This is the only job I’ve ever been fired from.

The story of my firing takes place over several months but has only a few major events. First, you need to know that the company that handled my contract was undergoing a merger, so the management was a total mess when I was hired. But my training went well [Trainer] even told [Boss #1] that I had basically finished a week early. I was doing all the work, and she was just reading books and answering the odd question.

I’d been working there for six months when my regular partner had to take a day off, so [Trainer] took over the night shift. She’s usually on the morning shift, and she had a hard time staying awake. We had pillows and blankets in the room, specifically for comfort and because it got cold in there, so around 5:00 am, she was sitting in her chair, wrapped in a blanket, head on a pillow, and snoring. Out loud.

[Supervisor] asked me to come to the printer with him as soon as I got into my shift the next night. He did this because the security office had cameras and mics, but the printer in the main office did not.

Supervisor: “I just want to give you a heads-up. [Boss #1] is coming in. They told me I had to tell you not to put your head down anymore because it’s unprofessional.”

Me: “But no one’s here in the middle of the night.”

Supervisor: “I know. I don’t have a problem with it, but I guess someone complained. Anyway, just don’t do it anymore, and it should be good.”

Sure enough, as soon as I got back to the security desk, [Boss #1] asked me into the breakroom to write me up for being unprofessional. I explained the entire situation to him, including the fact that I had never missed any work, that no one outside my partner or supervisor saw me, AND that I’d never been asked to stop before. I still got written up.

Fast forward a few months. Management has swapped around. My partner and I are both late due to unrelated reasons, so [Boss #2] pulls us aside one at a time.

Boss #2: “I don’t usually bother with write-ups for being under thirty minutes late, but since it was both of you, it put the evening shift in a real bind.”

Me: “I understand.”

Boss #2: “I just want you to know that I saw the final warning on your record from [Boss #1], and that attendance is actually a separate file, so this won’t count against your final warning.”

Me: “Back up. I have a what?

Boss #2: “A behavioral final warning? I’m showing it happened on [date] and was for unprofessional behavior. You signed the write-up.”

Me: “I was given a warning and a write-up, yes, but I’d gotten no prior warnings before that, and no one ever said it was a ‘final’ anything!”

Boss #2: “Well, we can’t confirm what was said to you in a private meeting, so I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do about it. Here, sign your tardy write-up.”

I’m also volunteering for a renaissance festival in the months leading up to my firing. It’s obviously during the day, so even with having my shifts scheduled so I can physically make it, it’s very demanding and exhausting. I make it through the season, where we have a three-day weekend to wrap up. I ask for an extra night off to make the final day, but then I have to be in to work.

I’m a complete zombie all night. We have one alarm come in where a home’s front door is open. The patrol officers park outside while I try to call the owners to see if everything’s okay. They don’t pick up. At this point, my patrol officers are not trained to handle a situation like this, so I have to notify the police. The patrol officers wait for them, the police check the house for signs of intruders or damage, and then secure the house, i.e., shut the door. After all this is done, I close out the alarm as resolved.

I go home after my shift and pass out. At 2:00 pm, I’m woken up by a phone call from the security company. I need to come into the office at 4:00 pm.

Me: “I have to work tonight. Can it wait?”

Caller: “No, you absolutely must come to this meeting.”

So, I drag myself out there and spend nearly thirty minutes sitting around waiting to get a meeting that I’ve been forced into, while trying desperately to stay awake. I’m finally escorted into a small room with one table and two people sitting on the other side of it from me.

Company Goon #1: “[My Full Name], you’ve been brought in here because you failed to notify the owner of [address] when his door was left open and the police searched his residence.” 

Me: “Did I?” *Trying to think* “I remember that call, but I thought I handled it okay.”

Company Goon #1: “You closed the alarm without making contact.”

This is the very first actual mistake I’ve made in nine months of work here; you CAN’T close an alarm until you’ve notified the responsible party listed on the account — in this case, the homeowners, or it could be a technician at a big company, etc. I was supposed to try to call the owners again and then suspend the alarm for four hours so that the morning shift could try to contact them at a reasonable hour. Only after multiple attempts and several days spent trying to contact someone can we close the alarm, all while noting every attempt, who made it, and when it happened. So, yes, I did make a mistake. One.

Me: “Okay.”

Company Goon #2: “You already have a final warning on your record—”

Me: “Wait. Am I getting fired?”

Company Goon #2: “—and because this home belonged to [Local Sports Team Player] and he complained, we have to put another mark against your record.”

Me: “This is the first mistake I’ve ever made.”

Company Goon #1: “Regardless, you had a final warning made against you already.”

Me: “That I wasn’t informed was a final warning at the time!”

Company Goon #2: “Your employment is terminated effective immediately, and since you received your security license through [Company], you won’t be able to use it to get a job at a different company. You’ll need to acquire a new license. Do you understand?”

Me: “That I’m being fired for making one mistake in nine months because you guys never got your s*** together? Yeah, I understand.”

I lost that job back in 2017, and I only just now, five years later, got out from under the debt that I accrued while trying to get another job that paid as well. All because my trainer decided that falling asleep and SNORING during work hours wasn’t unprofessional, but putting my head down and still getting all my work done was.

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