“You’re fired!” “I quit!”

When Maintenance Supervisor Sam Sharpin instructed Utility Worker Joe Belson to scrape the rust, apply red lead, and paint the railing in front of the plant, the worker balked.
By Raymond Dreyfack April 1, 1999

When Maintenance Supervisor Sam Sharpin instructed Utility Worker Joe Belson to scrape the rust, apply red lead, and paint the railing in front of the plant, the worker balked.

“Hey, Sharpin, how come I always get the dirtiest jobs around here?”

Sharpin was over his head in work and in a nasty frame of mind. He was not about to get into a discussion with Belson, a chronic griper.

“Because you’re not trained to program the computer,” he said brusquely. “Get to work.”

“If you keep needling me I’m gonna complain to the union.” Belson replied darkly.

“Be my guest. In the meantime get your butt on that job or you’ll be out on the street.”

One word led to another and before long the two men were yelling at each other. When Belson used a profane epithet, it was the final straw for the supervisor.

“That does it! You’re fired!”

“No way! I quit!”

Belson stormed out of the plant.

The following morning, Belson found his time card missing when he showed up for work.

“Where’s my card?” he demanded.

“You’ve got a short memory,” Sharpin replied. “You quit yesterday.”

“You can’t take that seriously. I said that in the heat of anger which you provoked. I need this job. I have no intention to quit.”

“That’s not the way I see it,” Sharpin said.

Question: Can Sharpin make his firing — or Belson’s resignation — stick?

Plant engineer’s verdict: “Reinstate Belson with a warning in his file,” Plant Engineer Arnold Colin instructed Sharpin when he was filled in on the incident. “Termination is the ultimate act of discipline. Neither an abrupt dismissal, nor resignation, in the heat of anger, can be regarded as adequate cause for so serious a penalty.”