Everybody knows it's a tough job market out there, and people are being let go in corporate austerity moves in every industry. But, as a recently canned Power & Light District valet claims, good old-fashioned "I don't like what you did" firings might still alive and well in the workplace.
The valet, Patrick Lee, thinks he was axed after an argument with Power & Light brass -- during which he yelled at his boss -- about Lee's untucked uniform shirt. He's not sure, but he's ready to sue.
Lee, a contract pilot and flight instructor, keeps a one-day-a-week side gig for tax purposes. (All of his airborne income goes into what describes as a "shell company.") This is how he landed at Power & Light, parking cars for a little extra cash and staying in the IRS' good graces. But, he says, his employment seems to have ended last Tuesday night, when a manager kicked him off the property. Although, he acknowledges that he hasn't been officially told that he has been terminated in the week since.
According to Lee's account, he was called in to help when the valet crew became overwhelmed. When he arrived at work, Lee says he hustled to throw his uniform shirt on before hopping into a waiting car. When a member of Power & Light's management team spied his shirt untucked, things began to unravel.
Lee recalls that the executive asked him why his shirt wasn't tucked in. Soon, Lee says, the management member began to dress down him and another employee in front of customers.
"He was having a ridiculous hissy fit over this thing," he says. "I don't care who you are, you are not going to talk to me like I'm a busboy in Georgia."
Next, Lee says the brass called Lanier Parking Solutions, the company that subcontracts the valets for Power & Light. Somebody at Lanier, Lee theorizes, then called Power & Light and told Lee's direct manager to get him off the property. The manager told Lee, "You're going to get a suspension. It could be for a week or it could be forever."
Now Lee -- who still hasn't been notified if he is fired or just suspended -- claims he's going to sue. "I have my attorney seeing if he can make it into a civil thing." The attorney, Leawood-based David Mandelbaum did not return a call for comment; neither did the Power & Light executive Lee allegedly argued with.
Rick Graham, chief operating officer of Lanier Parking Solutions, said through a spokesman that the company won't comment on personnel decisions. He did point out that the employee handbook has specific grooming guidelines for employees. One of those guidelines: a tucked-in shirt.
"I don't really care about losing my $100-a-week job," Lee says. "I just have a problem with the politics of it. I'm upset as a matter of principle. I'm going to be as big a thorn in their side as I can be, because I can be."