“My employer was a prick, but I enjoyed the work so I stayed longer than I probably should have. Anyway, I was in a position where I could afford to quit and not lose everything.
When the day came that I actually quit, it was a rash decision no doubt, but in hindsight, it was the right decision, as well as the coolest thing I had ever done.
I had dreadlocks at the time. My boss hated them.
My boss: ‘Jerami, look, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to come to the conference. The owner will be there. He’s very conservative and I don’t want us all looking bad. He’ll judge you on your hair.’ (As if he wasn’t judging me himself). ‘You need to stay here and help Alonzo clean out the shop.’
I was the Branch Manager. This was MY branch. This was my supervisor, the Regional Director, and he was telling me not to attend the conference. This wasn’t just some business meeting. It was a celebratory weekend conference in Honolulu, HI. We were only going to the dang thing because of the fantastic job I did all year reaching goal after goal he set for me.
I was the reason my branch was performing well. I made changes, we made money. The company was treating us for the year we just had…but I was told to stay behind and clean out the shop.
ME. THE BRANCH MANAGER.
Not the other members of management beneath me.
Because of my hair.
I took this as an insult, especially considering my efforts all year long. I’m pretty sure it’s straight-up discrimination, but I didn’t know my rights or how to handle them at the time.
I just knew I was offended and this was seeming like the best time in the world to say ‘[email protected] it’ and quit without notice.
But I didn’t just quit. I kept my mouth shut and agreed with my supervisor. Then I made arrangements for all the crews to come into work over the next weekend, during the conference, and work OT cleaning up the shop.
‘Everybody that wants overtime hours, come in Saturday and Sunday to help.’
33 employees showed up to sweep out the shop for two 10-hour days of OT. I was going to quit, I had decided, so why not go out with a bang and force my employer to pay an outrageous amount of money on my guys, since they weren’t paying for me to go to the conference.
Guess who made it to the conference anyway? That’s right. ME. Dreadlocks and all.
My supervisor’s jaw dropped to the floor. Clearly, he never expected it, and why would he? I used a credit card for the plane ticket and I never even bothered renting a room. I stayed with my team. They totally supported the idea.
When I walked up to the owner and introduced myself, he looked at Nate (my supervisor) and said something like, ‘Who’s cleaning up the shop then? I’m joking, son, I’m glad you made it. Nate has told me so little about you, but you’ve made us a lot of money this year.’
I just stared at Nate.
Then I told them both that because I was not invited to the conference, which I felt I had earned, I paid my own way. The owner looked confused, obviously, I had been invited, but he didn’t know the whole truth about Nate. Turns out Nate told him I declined the conference and volunteered to clean up the shop with Alonzo.
I straightened that out right away, explaining the real reason Nate directed me to stay behind. I politely excused myself from the table just then to leave the two of them to talk about what just happened.
I enjoyed my stay and flew back home two days later. I did not attend the conference anymore. I emailed the owner directly to inform him of my decision to quit AND why.
I also emailed Nate that the entire rest of the team had been working OT to clean up the shop BOTH days that weekend.
And as for traveling to Hawaii and back, I had decided where I was going to move. Once back home, I began selling off everything I owned in preparation for the move…but that’s another story in itself.
The owner was a nice enough guy, the company reimbursed my plane ticket and expenses for the weekend. He even offered me a severance package in light of the discrimination.
I declined the money, instead of asking to be considered for the Hawaii branch next time a spot opened up.
I was given a job as Operations Manager about seven weeks later and continued to work for the company another two years.
Nate was let go about 6 months after the incident for something unrelated. The OT my crews had worked that weekend did cost an awful lot, and I’m sure it ticked off some people above me, but no one ever said a word about it.”