Yikes! I've been sacked!
This all relates back to my contaminated armpit hair. I’ve been working for the company for nearly two years, and I went through seven interviews and a background check and was given an offer letter… which was then rescinded when my armpit hair tested positive for marijuana metabolites, just as I told them it might, since I volunteer with medical marijuana patients… like, 200 of them, all smoking and vaporizing in an enclosed room for three hours straight.
I should never have taken the test or gone for the job in the first place. Drug testing is reprehensible. I should have just read my own words from a year ago. But I snookered myself into denying my morals and surrendering my privacy because of the lure of a salary finally commensurate with my skill and dedication, awesome benefits, and the assurances of human resources that they’d “greased the skids” for me and would do everything to get me hired. Ben Franklin was right: those who sacrifice essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither. That lesson is now well learned.
Anyway, how I got sacked: It was Thursday, and I realized that Friday was a company holiday (Good Friday… nice to see that we get paid days off for Christianity). This was my last chance to tell my friends at the company to watch my cable access show on Sunday.
I made up little handouts that said the following:
To my co-workers and friends at [We Hate Medical Marijuana, Inc.]… IT’S BEEN A PLEASURE TO WORK WITH YOU!
As you know, [Chew’em-up ‘n’ Spit’em-out IT Services]’s contract with [We Hate Medical Marijuana, Inc.] ends May 1. I’ve told many of you that I was looking forward to working full-time with all of you, since [We Hate Medical Marijuana, Inc.] had offered me a Field Service Engineer position.
Unfortunately, [We Hate Medical Marijuana, Inc.] decided to rescind that offer, because I volunteer to help people suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, anorexia, hepatitis-C, and chronic pain. Also, I drink far too much water during the day.
If you think that sounds unbelievable and you’d like the true story you can’t get on the grapevine, tune into my cable access TV show this Easter Sunday at 2:00 pm, on Comcast Cable Channel 11.
— “Radical” Russ Belville
I roamed the halls and handed these out to all my friends I could find. Unfortunately, some of my friends weren’t at their desks, so I left the flyer on their keyboards (mistake borne of ignorance, more on that later). Later, I found one of the HR people walking around with a handful of my flyers — they were gathering up my personal invitations to my friends! That motivated me to crank out the following e-mail to everyone in the company (mistake borne of emotional irrationality):
Subject: Apparently, [We Hate Medical Marijuana, Inc.] frowns on free speech, too.
This afternoon, I made some small green handouts, inviting my friends here at [We Hate Medical Marijuana, Inc.] to watch my political affairs cable access TV show, this Easter Sunday, LIVE at 2PM with viewer call-in, on Comcast Channel 11 (re-broadcast Saturdays at 6PM on Ch. 21). I was able to deliver a few personally, but some of you were away from your desks, so I left the handout on your keyboard.
The handout read: [same as test above]
Since [We Hate Medical Marijuana, Inc.] rescinded their offer, I complained that it would be very embarrassing to have to tell all of you that I’m not going to be here after April 30, especially when I’ve been going around for a month telling everyone I would be here with [We Hate Medical Marijuana, Inc.]. That would get me the inevitable and embarrassing “why?” questions. H.R. told me that I don’t have to answer “why?” and that H.R. wouldn’t be telling anyone “why?”, but c’mon, if a company gives you an offer letter, then takes it back, how many possible “whys” are there (“did Russ commit a felony?” “Is he a registered sex offender?” “Is Russ a heroin junkie?” “Did he fail a security background check?”)
Rather than let all the possible rumors float around, I’ve told a few people what’s going on. Still, I wanted to clear up the reasons and shine the light of truth on this episode, and I felt the best way to handle that would be through the exercise of free speech on my television show. After all, H.R. told me that I could (and I quote) “tell everyone whatever you want to tell them.”
So, not more than an hour after I distributed 60 of these handbills, I discover one of the women from H.R. with at least 20 of them in her hand.
She was told to go throughout the building and collect them. MY PERSONAL INVITATIONS TO MY FRIENDS! I doubt invitations to personal baby showers or dragonboating or full-color copies of Dilbert cartoons get the same treatment.
Anyway, my story must be pretty compelling if [We Hate Medical Marijuana, Inc.] feels the need to censor it. You can find out what all the hullabaloo is about by tuning in this Sunday:
SUNDAY, APRIL 16 (EASTER SUNDAY)
COMCAST CABLE CHANNEL 11 at 2PM
If you’re not a Comcast Cable subscriber, you can read the whole story on my
And once again, it was nice working with you all. Too bad [We Hate Medical Marijuana, Inc.] prefers to discriminate against talented employees with a two year record of commendable performance.
OK, so, yeah, that’s gonna get a guy fired. I got the call last night with the first hint. I went to the office to try to drop off my equipment, but my badge was locked out. That’s a pretty good sign. Then this morning, the triumvirate of boss, grandboss, and great-grandboss all conferenced in (after boss took ten minutes trying to figure out the “conference” button on the phone) to let me know to bring in my equipment and badge on Monday morning.
They also let me know that I would be getting no severance pay, because I was fired for violating company policy forbidding “solicitations for non-work related activities”. I asked, “solicitations… is that like asking people to buy something?” No, it refers to any non-work related activities. “So, you mean like the birthday party invitations, Dilbert cartoons, intramural sports solicitations, and other non-work-related stuff I see people posting around here all the time?” No, see, those don’t count because the company didn’t complain about those. “Ah, I see, so it is the content of the speech that is a problem, not its non-work-related nature, huh?”
I was also busted for “using your knowledge of the company network and computer system to distribute non-work-related communications to [the company’s] employees, even though you used your own personal e-mail account.” Uh-huh. Basically, it was me sitting there, trying to recall as many names of people I could from that company, by memory, and creating the standard email@example.com e-mail address. So, apparently, now I can’t send e-mails to my friends at work, either.
After that, the conversation with my consulting company overlords went to the whole “we wish you good luck / we’re really sorry / we really appreciate you / we were really trying to help you out” reach-around th
ey give you as they pound you up the ass. It’s okay, though; I was already lubed and limber from the pounding the client company gave me two weeks ago — and they didn’t even give me a reach around; they gave me a lie and an insult.
The lie was this:
As a federal government contractor, we are obliged to comply with the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988…
…which any reasonably smart fellow with Google can refute by visiting the US Department of Labor Website:
(1) All organizations covered by the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 are required to provide a drug-free workplace by taking the following steps:
(a) Publish and give a policy statement to all covered employees informing them that the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, possession or use of a controlled substance is prohibited in the covered workplace and specifying the actions that will be taken against employees who violate the policy.
(b) Establish a drug-free awareness program to make employees aware of a) the dangers of drug abuse in the workplace; b) the policy of maintaining a drug-free workplace; c) any available drug counseling, rehabilitation, and employee assistance programs; and d) the penalties that may be imposed upon employees for drug abuse violations.
(c) Notify employees that as a condition of employment on a Federal contract or grant, the employee must a) abide by the terms of the policy statement; and b) notify the employer, within five calendar days, if he or she is convicted of a criminal drug violation in the workplace.
(d) Notify the contracting agency within 10 days after receiving notice that a covered employee has been convicted of a criminal drug violation in the workplace.
(e) Impose a penalty on–or require satisfactory participation in a drug abuse assistance or rehabilitation program by–any employee who is convicted of a reportable workplace drug conviction.
(f) Make an ongoing, good faith effort to maintain a drug-free workplace by meeting the requirements of the Act.
What’s the obvious missing portion? Any requirement whatsoever to drug test employees!
And the insult was this:
In addition, [the company] manufactures products that, in the event of failure, could result in the loss of life. Because of the criticality of our products and the Company’s obligations under federal regulations, [the company] has decided to withdraw its conditional offer of employment.
Funny, I worked there for two years and nobody died. You know what else is funny? Portland cops don’t have to drug test. You’d think some cop on drugs might get somebody killed, wouldn’t you? Even funnier: presidents of the United States don’t have to drug test. You’d think some president on drugs (or at least one with DUIs and cocaine allegations in his past) with a finger on the “nucular” button, threatening to use nukes on Iran, might get somebody killed.
So… I’m out with two weeks to go, when one of those weeks was already booked for my vacation time. I’ll be getting my vacation payout (I’d better be getting my vacation payout!) and I’ve already got full-time work booked for the last two weeks of the month; actually, more than full time – I’m splitting my time working at Oregon’s largest medical marijuana clinic and teaching computer software by day, and I’m collecting signatures for an initiative that would make marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority in Portland by night and weekend.
I’ve got to believe this is all for the best. I am not some cog-in-the-wheel corporate worker drone. I was not born to give up my privacy and risk my health to devote my talents to enriching the profits of an already-wealthy family. I have a higher purpose. I am fighting for the day when Americans have their privacy rights back and no one must suffer the indignity of a “guilty until proven innocent” unnecessary intrusive seizure of their bodily fluids or hair just to put food on the table and a roof over their head. I am fighting for the day marijuana will be regulated and taxed like alcohol and nobody will be imprisoned for their choice of socially-harmless intoxicant. I am fighting for the rights of seriously ill people to use the natural herbal medicines that work so much better and cause so much less harm than expensive toxic pharmaceuticals. I am fighting for the return of America to her roots in hemp to provide environmentally-friendly fuels and textiles and nutritionally rich foods.
Most of all, I’m fighting for the day when all my volunteering and activism will be rendered moot, because America has matured enough to abolish prohibition of nature’s most perfect plant.
[Crossposted at Radical Writ, just as soon as I come down off the cross…]