I got fired from JCPenney for this minor incident and can’t be rehired

JCPenney won’t hire me back after I couldn’t work the day after Christmas. (Photo by Sam Howzit|Flickr|Creative Commons)

It was chilly day for December. But, it felt icier indoors than it did outside.

I felt pretty good about returning back to work after my Christmas break. I felt refreshed and revived. Days off are important.

Then, I had trouble clocking in. I got an error every time I inserted my badge.

I asked one of the available managers on shift about it. He pulled me aside and gave me the bad news.

I was fired.

Fired.

I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t comprehend it at the time.

I was never fired before. I didn’t understand why I was fired. I was great at my job.

  • I got the customer service award for going above and beyond in my job.
  • I went from on-call customer service associate to bra fit specialist in less than a year.
  • I assisted the store managers with merchandise setup and displays.
  • I kept my composure in front of rude customers.
  • I helped target a ring of people who used fake gift certificates — when gift certificates were still a thing.

I didn’t understand why I got canned. Then, I remembered that I couldn’t work the day after Christmas.

JCPenney used to give employees the option not to work the day after Christmas. Some people do need a break after working the hectic holiday season.

Companies tend to forget that. These are also the same types of companies that don’t value mental health days.

That all changed in December 2007. They enforced a rule that all their associates have to work the day after Christmas.

Everyone knows the day after Christmas is second other busiest sales day. It’s also the day when everyone returns their gifts.

I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have any transportation at the time. There was no Uber or Lyft available at my fingertips. (It’s funny how times have changed since then.)

I gave them a head’s up. I let the managers know about my situation.

I even left a note on one of the manager’s desks informing them I couldn’t make it in that day.

Unfortunately, the note that got lost cost me my job.

Fast track 10 years later …

Two months ago, I received an email from Indeed.com that JCPenney was hiring. They raised their hourly wage. Of course, I was interested.

I thoroughly enjoyed my job at time. I loved helping people. I find retail fascinating and challenging.

I was studying fashion design and merchandising then. I really thought I was going to have a career in this industry.

So, I applied. Five minutes later, I received an email from one of the store managers asking me to fill out an application. She said that she would then set up an interview.

I completed the application. And then, I sat back and waited. And waited.

I waited for days. I had no clue what happened. I thought they were interested in me and wanted me to work for them again.

I hunted them down myself. I called JCPenney to get the status on my application.

Instead, I got the runaround. I was directed to various managers in the store.

I left a voicemail with two of them and waited for a callback. I received an email instead.

She said she tried to call me but couldn’t reach my voicemail (my phone was next to me the whole time). She said they couldn’t rehire me because I was fired for job abandonment.

How dramatic.

I was told that I could dispute this case by calling their employee hotline. That would take several weeks, possibly months, to resolve.

I did not abandon my job. I simply couldn’t work the day after Christmas.

I was never late. I always showed up on time for my shift. I never talked back to a customer or stole from the company.

This minor incident was grounds for termination of my employment. I couldn’t believe it. Ten years later and this company still couldn’t let it go.

JCPenney actually has a low firing rate in its stores across the country. It’s very rare that they fire their associates except for when they’re stealing from the company.

I got fired for this minor thing that could’ve been handled better.

Could I have resolved it better? Yes, of course.

I could’ve made sure that note never got lost. I could’ve made sure that I could got to work that day.

Or, I could’ve been more assertive about my situation. I hate confrontation. That’s why I also included a note.

People are going to ask why I’m holding a grudge. I’m not holding a grudge.

It’s the other way around. I’m being judged for a mistake I made ten years ago.

Have I learned my lesson? I’m 31 years old. I better have learned my lesson by now.

I was 22 then. 22 years old do stupid things.

I wouldn’t do what I did then. I know better.

I’m much more communicative and responsive these days. I have to be as a freelance writer.

I believe in second chances. It’s a shame that JCPenney doesn’t feel the same way.

They lost on a great employee that could’ve helped them succeed — and vice versa.