10 Famous People Who Were Fired (and the 1 Vital, Free Lesson You Need to Grasp)

famous people who got fired

Are you in danger of getting fired?

Perhaps you have been fired already?

Being fired does not define you as a person, you know. Not by a long shot.

But it can be traumatic.

There is one lesson, however, that you need to learn and apply to ensure you handle a sacking in the right way.

First, though, let’s take a look at some people who were fired from their jobs, and didn’t fare too badly afterwards, shall we?

Then, we’ll take  a look at the lesson.

  1. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was fired from Apple in his thirties-yes, the company he had created had shown him the gate.

He returned, though, and propelled Apple to become one of the biggest companies on the planet.

  1. Walt Disney

Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919. The problem?

His editor told him, “you lack imagination and have no good ideas”

  1. J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter creator, Rowling, was fired from the London office of Amnesty International where she worked as a secretary. Her passion was writing stories and her bosses eventually lost patience and gave her the UK equivalent of her P 45.

  1. Mark Cuban

You may not have heard of Mark Cuban if you are not interested in business. He’s an American business man with a company called MicroSolutions inc which is worth in excess of $2.4 billion.

Cuban was fired from his retail job in a shoe store because he was late one day to open the shop. (He was busy meeting a potential client for his fledgling business).

  1. Anna Wintour

Wintour became editor of Vogue magazine but her advice for fashion students: “I recommend that you all get fired”. She goes on to say that it was a wonderful learning experience.

She was fired from Harper’s Bazaar magazine as a junior fashion editor.

  1. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah was fired from Baltimore TV company WJZ-TV for being too emotionally involved in the stories.

  1. Truman Capote

Capote, writer of the wonderful “In Cold Blood” and “breakfast at Tiffany’s” was fired from his job at The New Yorker magazine.

Why? He left a reading of his poetry by Robert Frost because he had the flu. Frost knew where he worked and demanded he be fired.

  1. Thomas Edison

Edison invented the light bulb, and this work involve many experiments and trials. He was fired from his job at Western Union when an experiment involved some spilled acid eating through an entire floor of his workplace office.

  1. Mozart

Mozart had a position as a musician at the court of the prince-archbishop of Salzburg, but was shown the door, too.

  1. Carly Fiorina

Fiorina was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and was the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 country. She lasted 6 years before her decision to buy Compaq saw her being shown the door.


Closer to home there are many examples from the political and sporting spheres of successful people who were sacked, for example Claudio Ranieri, manager of the Premier title Leicester city was fired the following season.

One Vital Lesson

Being fired, as you will see from the above, is not fatal to your career, or your life.

How you react to it, and what you do next, is the critical thing.

Do you see the dismissal as a reflection of you as a person, or do you recognise that there are many factors as to why you may have been dismissed? For example, your performance, poor judgment by your boss, lack of objectivity by a decision maker, or perhaps a combination of these factors.

None of these things can be let define you, or dictate that “this is what I am”.

Also, you have a choice if/when it happens.

This choice is yours, and nobody can take it away from you.

The choice is how you react to the dismissal, if it happens.

Do you dust yourself down, pick yourself up, learn from it, and move on?

Do you separate the activity from you as an individual?

Dr. Viktor Frankel was a Jewish, Austrian psychiatrist who saw his wife, children, and unborn child murdered in the concentration camps during the second world war.

Frankel himself spent years in 2 or 3 of the worst camps, but while he was there he noticed something remarkable: the prisoners who fared best were those who comforted others, who gave their last piece of bread to other, more needy prisoners.

These prisoners recognised something vitally important: everything can be taken away from us, except the ability to choose how we will react in any given set of circumstances.

Money, prestige, books, property, clothes, food, water, your car, your job can all be removed from you.

But you can decide how you react. Nobody can take this from you.

This applies to a sacking too. You can let it destroy you, or you can choose to learn, move on, and grow.

What will you choose if it happens you?

The Essential Procedures for Pursuing Your Claim at the WRC (Workplace Relations Commission)

Since the introduction of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 a new system of adjudicating employment complaints and disputes was introduced. The new system is a simpler one and did away with the Rights Commissioner and Employment Appeals Tribunal service and was replaced by a WRC Adjudication in the Workplace Relations Commission.

The Workplace Relations Commission Complaint Form

The starting point for your claim is the WRC complaint form. (You can access the form on this page.)

If you have a complaint about an employment or equality right, or have a grievance under industrial relations legislation you must use the Workplace Relations Commission Complaint Form. (I have previously written an article about how to bring a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission).

The complaint must be made within 6 months of the breach of your right, although the Workplace Relations Commission Adjudicator can extend this time to 12 months where there is reasonable cause shown for the delay. What is reasonable cause will be decided by the Adjudicator.

The WRC will copy all correspondence between the parties who are called the “complainant” and “respondent”. The WRC have a mediation service which will be offered to the parties in suitable cases.

This may simply involve a phone call from the WRC to the parties to see if they can broker a deal between the parties. If the mediator/WRC employee is unsuccessful the case will go ahead for adjudication.

Statements from the Complainant

In a claim for constructive dismissal, or an equality based claim, the complainant must submit a clear statement setting out the details of the complaint.

In all other unfair dismissal cases the respondent is obliged to provide a clear statement within 21 days of the request from WRC.

If this procedure is not complied with the hearing will still go ahead but the adjudication officer may draw an inference(s) from the failure.

In an employment equality case the complainant must set out in detail the facts from which discrimination can be shown or inferred.

In a constructive dismissal case the complainant should set out as much detail as possible on the WRC complaint form, including any grievances raised, investigations carried out etc.

In other unfair dismissal cases the respondent must set out in his statement the facts leading to the dismissal, including any disciplinary hearings, appeals, legal points etc.

Other Employment and Equality Cases

If a respondent intends relying on statutory records in his defence these should be sent to the WRC prior to the hearing. Any other points the respondent wishes to make-for example in relation to a legal point or the wrong employer being named-should be raised within 21 days of receipt of the complaint from the WRC.

WRC Hearing

Both parties will then be contacted with a date for the hearing, and asked to advise of any special requirements they have, for example, an interpreter. A postponement will only be given in exceptional circumstances, and the request must be made in writing to the WRC with an explanation. Consent of the other party would be useful, too.

It is up to the parties to ensure that the WRC has all relevant documentation prior to the hearing and that witnesses, if any, are available for the day.

Conduct of the Hearing

My experience of the way the hearing is held is that it can vary, depending on the particular WRC adjudicator.

Nevertheless, the adjudicator will indicate how he/she wants to conduct it and he/she will

  • Ask questions of any party or witness
  • Allow each party to question the other party and any witness
  • Ensure fair procedures and natural justice

The WRC hearing is in private, so is not open to the public or media.

The written decision is supposed to issue within 28 days of the hearing with the parties and witnesses anonymised.

Appeal and Enforcement

The decision can be appealed within 42 days to the Labour Court and the decision can be enforced through the District Court after 42 days if no appeal is lodged.


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My Single Best Tip for Employers

small employer ireland

The first time I met Séamus he was a worried man. Séamus is a small employer, with just a handful of employees.

But he had to let one of them go recently because he just wasn’t working out. His attitude was disastrous and Séamus could not see how their relationship could be a happy one.

In fact, he could only see it ending badly.

And that’s exactly what happened on a wet Monday morning a few weeks before Séamus came to see me.


Are you an employer?

Are you concerned about the possibility of facing an costly claim for unfair dismissal?

Recently, I wrote an article, “My Single Best Tip for Employees”.

In this piece, I want to give you, as an employer, my best tip to protect yourself in relation to unfair dismissal claims, and how to ensure you are not stuck with an employee who is just not right for your organisation.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

My tip for employers is almost the exact opposite of my tip for employees.

Let me explain.

My tip for employees was to try to ensure that he got 12 months’ continuous employment under his belt, if at all possible. This was to ensure the employee could avail of the remedies provided by unfair dismissal legislation in Ireland, particularly the Unfair Dismissals act, 1977.

My tip for you as employer is to ensure this does not happen, unless you are absolutely satisfied that you are happy with the employee and they are right for your business.

The best way to do this is by a robust, comprehensive probation period clause in the contract of employment.

This clause should make a number of provisions, and I would recommend the following:

  1. The probation period would be for an initial 6 months, but you would have the right to extend it to 11 months, if needed. This gives you a full 11 months to ascertain whether the employee is right for you or not.
  2. The full rigours of the disciplinary procedure will not apply during the probation period; I would still recommend fair procedures and natural justice if you are going to terminate, but you would provide that the full disciplinary procedure need not be afforded during probation.
  3. The notice period during the probation period would be one week; if you do not spell this out you run the risk that whatever notice period stipulated in the contract will apply-this could be one month or three months and it would be strongly arguable, in the absence of the one week provision, that the employee is entitled to one or three months’ notice. Even if you did not require the employee to work the notice period, you would still be on the hook for payment of wages in lieu of notice.

It is widely accepted that an employee can be dismissed during the probation period. In fact, the purpose of the probation period is to allow the employer see if the employee is “the right fit” for the organisation.

It is critical, therefore, that you have as much time as possible to make that decision, but thtat you make it before the employee has 12 months’ continuous service and the protection of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977.

Bonus Tip #1 for Employers

If you are going to terminate an unsuitable employee don’t leave it too late-remember that the termination date is the date when notice expires, not when it is given.

If, for example, you have an employee working for 50 weeks and you give her a months’ notice of termination she will have the necessary period of continuous employment to bring an unfair dismissal claim.

Bonus Tip #2 for Employers

I would recommend that you always go through some form of fair procedure before terminating, even if the employee is on probation.

If the employee has over 12 months’ service you need to afford the full rigours of your disciplinary procedure before terminating the employment.

My Single Best Tip for Employees


stressed employee

Are you an employee?

Are you experiencing difficulties in work?

Employees contact me every day with a wide range of problems.

These can include issues to do with bullying, rest breaks, disputes about statutory leave entitlements, harassment, working extra hours and not getting paid, unfair reprimands, threats-implied or express-of dismissal, not being given a written contract of employment, and so on.

One question I always ask, though, is “when did you commence employment?”

Because the protection that you get from the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977 requires you to have 12 months’ continuous service:


2.—(1) This Act shall not apply in relation to any of the following persons:
(a)    an employee (other than a person referred to in section 4 of this Act) who is dismissed, who, at the date of his dismissal, had less than one year’s continuous service with the employer who dismissed him

There are exceptions to this one year’s continuous service requirement, for example a pregnancy related dismissal, a protected disclosure related dismissal, or a dismissal connected with trade union membership.

Without the required 12 months’ continuous employment you are vulnerable to being dismissed with little or no recourse to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. And quitting and bringing a claim for constructive dismissal is not open to you either.

I have heard some appalling stories from employees, stories of extremely poor or unfair treatment they have suffered.

Stories of people leaving a job to take up employment with another employer on the strength of attractive, but illusory, promises made by a new employer.

But if it does not work out, and the employee does not have 12 months’ continuous service, the options to right the wrong or pursue a claim are exceptionally limited.

My best tip for employees, then?

My single best tip for employees is to do your very best to get 12 months’ service under your belt in the job.

You may have complaints, problems, grievances in the first 10/11 months but you have a choice to make in relation to raising those grievances-do you do it in the first 12 months and raise your head above the parapet?

Or do you bite your tongue and wait until a year has elapsed?

Sometimes, you can win a battle and lose the war.

If you are suffering badly from bullying or harassment in the workplace it will be very difficult to endure that simply to get 12 months’ employment, and I am not recommending you do.

You must look after your health and wellbeing as your first priority. Your health truly is your wealth.

But if you have a minor grievance, or grievances, with aspects of your job, consider whether you can endure until you have 12 months’ employment behind you, and then ventilate your issues through the appropriate channels internally. These policies and procedures should be set out in the staff handbook.

Because if you raise a lot of grievances before the one year mark, you run the risk of the employer deciding you are not “the right fit” for the company, and having your employment terminated without being able to use the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977, and related legislation to vindicate your rights.

You may also be on probation, which allows the employer to terminate you for good, bad, or no reason.

In fact, there are circumstances where I would advise the employer not to give any reason for a termination.

Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of employment related acts on the statute books which do not require you to have a minimum period of employment.

For example, the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, the Terms of Employment (Information) Act,1994, the Protected Disclosures Act, 2014 etc.

But not being able to use the protection of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977 is a huge setback if you have lost your job. Not only does it provide for up to two years’ salary as compensation, it also provides for reinstatement or reengagement in the employment as potential outcomes in a successful claim.

Bonus Tip for Employees

My bonus tip for you is not to resign from your job hastily or without taking legal advice.

If you resign you may be able to bring a claim for constructive dismissal.

But this is a much harder case to win than one for unfair dismissal because the burden of proof to win your case shifts from the employer to you as employee.

If you resign too quickly you are also ruling out the possibility of a negotiated exit and getting a suitable reference. The employer, once he takes advice, may be happy to give you a reference and some form of settlement payment in return for your undertaking, by way of a signed agreement, not to pursue any claims arising from the employment.


Take advice from someone who has a good understanding and knowledge of employment law before you make rash decisions.

Because you do not want to find out after the fact that your legal options are extremely limited.

How Safe is Your Workplace Investigation From a Costly Outcome?

fair procedures

It happens the best of us, you know.

The botched workplace investigation

Do you worry about the disciplinary procedures in your workplace?

Have you been told about the eye watering, stomach churning awards when the inevitable unfair dismissal claim comes on for adjudication?

Let’s be honest.

A badly executed workplace investigation can prove to be a costly affair. It’s vital that it is carried out properly to prevent claims for unfair dismissal, and other causes of action.

Statutory Instrument 146/2000 gives us a statutory Code of Practice for Grievances and Disciplinary Procedures.

However, it sets out the broad principles which should be applied in a disciplinarily procedure.

But the mechanics of carrying out the investigation fairly have led to frequent challenges from the employee, claiming that they have not been afforded fair procedures or natural justice.

Basic fair play.

Such challenges have been the subject of consideration by the employment related fora, such as the Employment Appeals Tribunal, Labour Court and Workplace Relations Commission, and the Courts.

The High Court has adjudicated in many disputes surrounding employment related matters such as breach of contract, applications for injunctions, and the procedure which was used to dismiss an employee.

Let’s take a look at some of those High Court decisions and see what we can learn from them, shall we?
Let’s face it: if you are carrying out your investigation and/or disciplinary procedure in accordance with the findings of learned Judges of the High Court you are going to be on pretty solid ground.

Patrick J. Kelly v Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister for Finance, The Government of Ireland, Ireland and Attorney General

This is a December, 2012 decision involving a harbour master in Killybegs who was dismissed from his position by his employer. Read the full decision here: [2012] IEHC 558 .

One of the interesting findings in this case by J Hedigan was that the the full range of fair procedures do not apply at the investigative stage.

There is no fixed model for fair procedures that is applicable to all circumstances. What is required in one instance may differ from another. In National Irish Bank and the Companies Act 1993, l.R. p. 145, Shanley J., subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court, dealt with an investigation by inspectors which was a two stage one. The first was an investigative stage, the second a hearing stage. In distinguishing in Re Haughey [1971] I.R. 217, Shanley J. at p. 168 held that at first stage, the inspectors could not be compelled to produce documents to the respondent nor was he entitled to any documents or to the facility of cross-examining any person at the initial stage.

“I am satisfied that there is no entitlement to invoke the panoply of rights identified by the Supreme Court at the information gathering stage of the inspector’s work. The procedures identified by the inspectors following the outcome of the first stage accord in my view with the requirements of fairness and justice and guarantee, where appropriate, the exercise of the rights identified in Re Haughey.”

I gratefully adopt this dictum of the late Shanley J. It is fairness and justice which is to be sought in any investigative process and it is to the process as a whole that the Court must look to determine if those basic requirements were met. The requirement of fairness and justice will vary from case to case.He further found that there cannot be bias, either subjective or objective, where there is no adjudication.

He also found that the requirement of fairness will vary from case to case.

In summary, the rules of natural justice do not apply where it is a pure investigation and there are no findings arising from it. Nevertheless, it is still advisable to afford natural justice and fair procedures.

And if the investigator is allowed to make findings then the rules of natural justice should be applied.

This decision, and J. Hedigan’s findings, is encouraging from the perspective of a small employer with limited resources. It recognises that the circumstances of each case should be looked at when assessing the granting of fair procedures and natural justice.


Read the full decision here: [2005] IEHC 3

J. Clarke found:

Even if there are infirmities in the methodology of the investigators (and I express no view on that issue) and even if those infirmities may have affected the contents of their report the fact remains that the recommendations of the report do not, in the words of Kearns J. in Morgan “amount to a sanction” and therefore Haughey rights do not arise.

Clarke’s reference in the extract above to the Morgan case is the case of Morgan v. Trinity College [2003] 3 IR 157, which is well worth a read in any consideration of the law as it applies to investigations and disciplinary procedures in the workplace.

Giblin v Irish Life & Permanent PLC [2010] IEHC 36

Read the full decision here: Giblin v Irish Life & Permanent PLC [2010] IEHC 36

J. Laffoy stated:

First, in conducting a process to determine whether the plaintiff should have a serious sanction, including the most serious sanction available, namely, dismissal, imposed on him, the defendant must act in accordance within the terms of the plaintiff’s contract of employment, including the implied term that the plaintiff, as employee, is entitled to the benefit of fair procedures (Glover v. B.L.N. [1973] I.R. 388). However, it is well recognised that what fair procedures demand depends on the terms of the plaintiff’s employment and the circumstances surrounding his proposed dismissal (Mooney v. An Post [1998] 4 I.R. 288).

It is not to be inferred from this decision that I consider that it is not appropriate for executives of the defendant who are involved in the human resources aspects of the defendant’s management to conduct the type of investigation which was conducted in relation to the plaintiff. Nor is it to be inferred that I am of the view that the person or persons who conduct the “thorough investigation” to be conducted under para. (iv) of the Disciplinary Procedures in all cases should not be the decision maker as to whether the conduct of the employee being investigated warrants a serious sanction such as dismissal. A one stage inquisitorial process may be appropriate in many cases.

It is worth noting that J. Laffoy considered that A one stage inquisitorial process may be appropriate in many cases.

Mooney v An Post [1998] 4 IR 288

In this case, J. Barrington held that the principle of “nemo iudex in causa sua” (nobody is a judge in his own cause) did not apply in all situations, especially employment situation where the employer judges the issue and is clearly an interested party.

“The terms natural and constitutional justice are broad terms and what the justice of a particular case will require will vary with the circumstances of the case. Indeed two of the best known precepts of natural and constitutional justice may not be applicable at all in certain circumstances. As the trial judge has pointed out the principle of nemo judex in sua cause seldom applies in relation to a contract of employment where the employer judges the issue and is an interested party. Likewise it is difficult to apply, to a contract of employment, the principle of audi alteram partem which implies the existence of an independent judge who listens first to one side then the other.”

Nevertheless, if you are an employer you should try to ensure that the investigator and decision maker are different people and have quite distinct roles.

Tom Kelleher V An Post [2013] IEHC 328

This case is well worth a read in an consideration of disciplinary procedures/employment law in teh workplace. Read it here.

J. Peart stated:

But in any event, as has been made clear by Barrington J. in Mooney, the nemo judex rule cannot apply in all its glory to all situations in the area of employment law. It is inevitable that often during an internal or in-house investigation leading to a dismissal the decision-maker and some or all of the investigators will have some form of contact, and that there may be communication of some kind about the issues involved.


It seems to me from the cases above that the courts recognise that what are fair procedures will vary from case to case, depending on the circumstances of each case, the contract of employment, the disciplinary procedure in the workplace, and the resources of the employer.

It also appears to be the case that there is a distinct divide between the investigative stage of any procedure and the disciplinary procedure.

Any “infirmities” in the investigative procedure can be remedied at the disciplinary stage, assuming the employee is given fair procedures in the disciplinary hearing/procedure.


How to carry out a disciplinary procedure in the Irish workplace-online course-learn more.