Not sure when the last time someone other than Donald Trump actually said the words, “You’re fired.” Just know he’s hell- bent on making sure that if there’s money to be made with the phrase, he’s going to be the one making it.
Trump is not the first person to try to trademark a phrase. It actually has quite a history. In an article last March, The SeattleTimes explained how Trump could get away with trademarking the phrase.
It's common to seek trademark protection for popular sayings, to limit who will profit from the myriad T-shirts, caps and games that inevitably follow cultural phenomena. Walt Disney Co. has applied for a trademark on the phrase, "Is that Your Final Answer?," the query from host Regis Philbin in the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
"Whenever there's a new popular phrase, someone tries to get a trademark through clothing first to capitalize on the popularity," said trademark lawyer Jim McCarthy of McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff in Chicago. "Phrases are only trademarks when they're used in connection with something. It doesn't mean people can't say 'you're fired.' "
Basketball coach Pat Riley owns trademarks to put the phrase "three peat" on clothing. The phrase was coined by Riley in the 1980s when he coached the Los Angeles Lakers, and he profited when fans of the Chicago Bulls bought clothing with the phrase in the 1990s after the Michael Jordan-led team won three NBA championships.
In today’s corporate world, HR personnel would never say, “You’re fired.” Instead, they’d say something like, “Due to the downturn in business, or, “As of today, you are no longer employed by this company.”
Now, HR folks may feel that by not saying the words ,“You’re Fired” .they are being kinder and gentler than HR folks in the past. Ask anyone who is on the receiving end andthey will tell you that kind and gentle are not the emotions they remember from the brief conversation.
Despite attempts to find out when corporations decided that “you’re fired” is not a politically correct phrase, Google could not lead me to a reliable source. However, Google was able to tell me how the phrase got started. Actually, there are two accounts. You choose.
According to some sources, the term “you’re fired” dates back to feudal England. When lords wanted to get rid of a serf, they simply burned their homes down. The serfs got the message.
The other explanation dates back to the turn of the century and the founder of NCR, John H. Patterson who invented of the cash register. According to urban legend, Patterson used to have the desks and other belongings of about-to-be-terminated employees hauled out of the building during the night, placed on the front lawn, and set afire in the morning before the employee arrived for work.
Which brings me to the story of the Florida woman who was fired for eating a BLT.
Turns out the woman was working for a company with strong Muslim ties ( Muslims believe pork is unclean) and so they had an office policy that employees could not bring pork into the work place.
The womanw as given a warning after brining in pizza and then she brought in the BLT.
Depending who you talk to, the girl was either extremely insensitive, completely within her rights, or determined to get fired.
I had spent so much time concentrating on the tension between religious rights vs. employee’s rights that
It never occurred to meThat maybe the employeeBrought in the BLTTo deliberately become job-free.
She now joins about three million other Americans who are fired each year (this is different than the millions who are laid off due to downsizings, re-orgs and businesses closings).
Getting fired can be one of the most traumatic and humiliating events that a person ever experiences. Particularly if the company has a policy of making the employee take the corporate perp walk—giving them 15 minutes to clear out their office, take a box of their personal belongings, and then require them to walk with the box, out the front door, escorted by security.
Ask anyone who has taken that long walk and they will tell you, by far, that was the worst part.
Jeremy still sounds emotional talking about the day he was fired from his job and while security didn’t escort him out, his boss did.
“I was blind-sided. The week before I had received some unexpected new stock options. The next thing I know the HR director is pushing a legal document in front of my face saying that if I wanted to get my bonus I had to sign the document which said I was leaving the company voluntarily.”
Jeremy said he wanted to have an attorney review the documents.
HR said “No can do. The offer is off the table if you leave the room without signing the document”
Not knowing his rights and wanting the lovely bonus, Jeremy signed. According toDavid Weinstein, an attorney with the Lapp, Libra, Thomson, Stoebner & Puschlaw firm in Minneapolis, who focuses on employment law, Jeremy probably made the right decision.
“Corporations can do this. However, there is an exception,” explained Weinstein.” If the document has any language that says by agreeing to these terms, the company is released of claims of discrimination (age, race, gender, etc.) then the employee has 21 days to make a decision about what they want to do.”
Weinstein says in most cases, corporations do include this release agreement in the separation document and a person being asked to sign a document needs to check to see if that language is included.
According to Weinstein, if that language is in the document, it doesn’t matter if the employee does sign it. Legally, they get the 21 days.
As far as our BLT eating employee, she’s filed a lawsuit claiming religious discrimination.
NOTE: The name Jeremy is an alias used to protect the identity of the person who was actually fired.
If you have a corporate story that you would like to share, please contact me! Remember I will protect your identity to make sure you won't get fired for talking to me!