Let’s talk about justifications.
So, we all make decisions that we know aren’t great decisions.
Tacos after midnight or dating a drummer (I’m kidding…) or any of a thousand other bad choices that we convince ourselves to make.
So, what happens when you’ve thoroughly convinced yourself that your course of action is right and good, but then the people affected by your choice disagree?
This was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) Happy-Mind-2618 when they came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for judgment.
“AITA for firing an employee returning from maternity leave?”
OP got right to the situation at hand.
I feel like the devil right now, so I’ll accept whatever judgement you all have.
I run a team of about 6 people. Our company offers a large amount of maternity leave, 10 months. One of my employees got pregnant recently, i’ll call her Jess.
Our team does project based work and in the period between her leaving for ML we finished up the project we were working on when she left, and started working on a project without her.
During this period, our team had to adapt to working without her expertise in certain matters. We adapted and eventually some of us developed the skills needed to do some of her workload.
The situation we have now is me, and 2 others split half the work that Jess used to do, and we hired someone new to come in to the team to handle the other part of Jess’s workload and then some.
This new employee came at significantly reduced cost, as he was straight out of Uni and we pay him a fraction of what Jess costs currently.
Everything was fine, until…
Now Jess has come back to the team, but there is another issue.
Our firm has informed us that for some fucking reason we no longer have the budget for a 7 person team, and will have to let someone go. This news came about when I submitted the paperwork for Jess’s return.
We are 5 months into a project that should take an estimated 10 months, and my decision came down to Jess and the man we hired to replace her. The reason we hired a replacement, which is not normally what we do, is because we anticipated that for this project the workload would be far greater than our current capacity, which it is not.
OP did outline their logic for making this decision.
As you can tell by the title, I chose the replacement. I did so for the following reasons:
Far cheaper, thus freeing up a lot more money than keeping Jess on
He was up to date with the project and we would be able to move forward seamlessly, whereas with Jess we would have to take time catching her up to speed on half the project
The clients already knew and liked working with him, whereas they didn’t know Jess at all
She has been out of the field for a prolonged period, whilst he has been here for the past 9 months, so she may, or may not, find it hard to adapt back to work life, whilst with him it isn’t a question
He performed his work better than she did hers and interacted better with the team.
Obviously, the ideal situation which I wanted was to keep both and not put a new single mother with no other job lined up out in the cold, but I had to do right by the team and firm. I told her I’d write her a brilliant Letter of Recommendation, and that in a few months she could try and apply for a job at our firm, hopefully we’ll have the budget, but she snapped at me and told me not to bother, and called me a cunt and left.
I know I sound cold and heartless but I had to be fair to both employees, not just Jess, right?
OP was left to wonder,
Having explained the issue, op turned to Reddit for judgment.
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided: YTA
Some pointed out that the question was very tone-deaf.
“Increase everyone’s workload without increased pay”
“Punish a woman for spending time with her baby”
“And you’re seriously questioning if you’re an ah? Then again most in management are.” ~ HPNerd44
“I really love how they said the new hire outperforms Jess but yet her duties had to be split multiple ways” ~ AdhesivenessNo2077
Others were concerned that there deeper issues.
“Just a misogynistic cog in the misogynistic wheel.”
“He’s trying to impress his boss with the money he saved and the efficiency he gained by ‘doing right by the company'”
“Wake up my dude” ~ pogoyoyo1
Some were confused at the existence of a maternity leave policy that doesn’t do anything.
“What’s the point of having a maternity leave policy if you just replace and fire the person taking maternity leave?”
“YTA” ~ Suitable-Cod-1381
“That policy sounds really generous when they are trying to hire new employees. They just don’t mention it’s actually a permanent leave” ~ PrincessLiarLiar
“What is the point of the company maternity leave policy if the person offered the leave and guaranteed a job to return to is fired before her return?”
“That isn’t a maternity leave policy if you can just fire someone for using said leave. Which in the end, is what you did.”
“Also, the new guy is only doing part of the job.”
“The other team members have taken on additional responsibilities that Jess would have taken back upon her return.”
“So they now have more work with the same pay.”
“And yes, your ‘fairness’ is towards the actual employee. Not the temp.”
“The temp is just that, a temp.”
“Someone to gain some experience in part of a job. That’s it.”
“Basically a substitute for the person who actually has the job.”
“Good luck when she sues!” ~ sheramom4
Many pointed out that this decision may have larger repercussions.
“He’s also just signaled to all the rest of his employees that he’s no good on his promises and is not family-friendly, and willing to cut a senior employee for a cheaper junior.”
“Be prepared for employees to start jumping ship.” ~ Inevitable_Access_15
“Assuming this takes place in the US, that’s not company policy, that’s federal law.”
“FMLA, to be specific.”
“OP’s company is f*cked.” ~ lollipop-guildmaster
“You’re punishing her for having a baby and taking the maternity leave that your business offers.”
“You knew she was coming back, why didn’t you hire a temp replacement until that time?”
“You’re not going save money after she takes legal action for being fired because she’s a mother. YTA” ~ MyFickleMind
“OP somehow firmly believes he is free and clear of all legal ramifications and while I haven’t seen what country they are in, I have a hard time believing after all his comments, he can prove he fired her above board.”
“Not to mention, he says more than once in comments how no one was even remotely qualified to fill Jess’s shoes and perform her role to the same extent she did.”
“Hell, even in the OP, he says it took THREE people to take on her job.”
“How can you justify firing her for anything but punishment for using a benefit her own company provided?! Bonkers.”
“I mean, his first attempt posting here said he ‘basically’ fired his employee for being pregnant. If that’s not admission of discrimination, I don’t know what is.”
“In the words of Andrew Garfield in The Social Network, ‘You better lawyer up, a—hole.”’
“Jess, if you ever see this and the OP is deleted, I took screenshots.”
Commenters insinuated that this might have been less about Jess and more about her male replacement.
“And coincidentally the cheap employee OP thinks is better and fits better with the team is also male”
“I can’t wait for OP’s firm to be sued into oblivion” ~ avelak
“Finally someone calling out the sexism. 🎉 OP is a raging sexist AH.” ~ sundresscomic
“A male specifically chosen because he’s young and doesn’t have a family to support.”
“Dude is literally a cartoon version of 1950’s casual sexism and thinks this is normal.” ~ Relax007
“Massive sexist behavior. I bet he also has kids too or wants some woman to pump them out for him one day.” ~ fleurdumal1111
There were even those who insinuated that this was always the plan.
“Instead of hiring a contract or temporary worker to take over for a staff member who was out on medical/maternity leave, you hired a full-time employee.”
“You found someone younger, with less experience, who would work for less money. So, you fired your long-term employee, in favor of the cheaper one.”
“Your budget was for a 6 person team before Jess went on maternity leave, was for 6 people while she was out, and, gee what a shock, ‘for some reason’ still only has a budget for 6 people when Jess is ready to come back.”
“You’re discriminating against a woman for getting pregnant. She should sue your rear end off.” ~ SirMittensOfTheHill
“You’ve gotten right to the heart of the matter!”
“OP never had the budget to hire an extra person permanently.”
“In my opinion, OP wanted rid of Jess for a while, otherwise they’d have hired someone for MAT leave.”
“Whatever money OP is trying to save, they’re going to lose in a lawsuit!” ~ Umm_what_I_think_is
“Every single reason you mentioned was only true because she had been gone on maternity leave which legally CANNOT be a reason to terminate someone.”
“Yet it is the cause behind everyone reason you gave. Be prepared for a lawsuit.” ~ E_Turnips_97
The temptation to give in to those justifications can be powerful.
We have to remember, though, that our poor decisions affect those around us.
Sometimes, those repercussions can be long-lasting.