How Ranma ½ Cost Me My Job

Oct 30th 1998
(A true story) BY LEE ZION

I used to work for a small newspaper in the Sacramento, Calif., area. Things were fine there, until Ranma ½ cost me my job.

I kid you not.

Truth is, I wasn't the best reporter I could have been, and made a few mistakes here and there. But part of my job involved meeting with community leaders, business leaders and other civic-minded people, and I was doing that part pretty well.

Not well enough to suit my editor, though. He wasn't happy with me, and I guess he was looking to replace me. The final straw, however, was over something stupid -- Ranma ½.

It was July 4, and I was supposed to write a story about the town's picnic and fireworks celebration for the newspaper. Now, the company's dress code stated that employees are to wear shirts with collars, except in situations where the reporter is covering a story that requires him to dress informally.

Since this was a July 4 picnic, and it was a hot day, I interpreted that to mean that it was perfectly OK to wear a T-shirt. I proudly wore my Ranma ½ T-shirt -- the Boy/Girl/Panda one that says "Viz Video" and "Ranma ½" on it.

The editor did not like it. I didn't know how much he didn't like it until Wednesday, though. July 4 was on Saturday. I had Sunday through Tuesday off, and when I came into work, I was told I was being let go. And the man actually came out and said the T-shirt had been the deciding factor.

Well, I went on unemployment, and eventually found a new job for an even smaller newspaper in the Bakersfield, Calif., area.

But the place I got let go from did not want to have to pay unemployment benefits. They took me to court, on the grounds that I had been fired for insubordination.

Sure enough, during the hearing, my employers tried to focus as much as possible on my other failings as a journalist -- of which I admit there were several. (I have since learned my lesson.)

However, I did my best to focus the hearing as much as possible on the circumstances of my last day at work -- namely the Fourth of July picnic where I was wearing a Ranma ½ T-shirt.

In order to get the judge to look at the shirt, though, I had to introduce it as evidence. That joined the pile along with written statements from various civic leaders and business people citing my professionalism.

My poor editor now had to justify his position, once it was established in court that I had not worn a "Big Johnson" T-shirt or anything that was offensive to the community. He stated that it was the large graphic display that was a problem. Had it been a plain T-shirt, or if the shirt had a small, inconspicuous logo, then the shirt would have been OK.

The judge was unimpressed. He noted that the distinction was not made in the company's dress code, which seemed to allow for such judgment calls. Furthermore, the only other time my editor had talked to me about how I dress is when he advised me not to wear a tie to a certain event -- in other words, to dress LESS formally than I usually do.

And so, I won. I got the unemployment money, and I am now happily working a similar job elsewhere. The only regret is that in order to keep the money, I had to give up the shirt. Since the shirt is now "evidence" in a civil case, an anime T-shirt is now Exhibit 37 in some bureaucrat's file!

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