woman clocking into her work shift on a computer screen (l) screen turns red, says she's not employed (m) woman looks up, terrified (r)

@paulaannphelps/Tiktok Remix by Max Fleishman

‘Came in, couldn’t clock in’: Joke TikTok inspires real conversation about inhumane ways people have been fired

'This happened to me.'


Rachel Kiley


Posted on Dec 28, 2021   Updated on Dec 28, 2021, 12:08 pm CST

A TikTok that started off as a joke has launched a conversation about the ways some companies treat employees that they are letting go.

Paula Ann Phelps (@paulaannphelps) took a few seconds out of her workday to record a skit from the perspective of a service industry employee finding out they’ve been fired.

“Ready for my shift,” she announces, heading to the register to log in. After putting in her code, the screen reads, “Access not allowed. You are no longer employed.”

While Phelps herself might have been joking, viewers soon started sharing stories in the comments of similar ways they found out they had been terminated from their jobs.

“I know this is a joke but it happened to me I went to clock in on the app in the parking lot,” @itzteatime wrote. 

“This happened to me,” @sarahbeth929 chimed in, “they removed my computer documentation access prior to calling me then said it was an ‘accident.’ Nope. BYE.”

@mariepurple09 claimed that AT&T removed her husband’s system access when he worked there, then “lied to him and said all the systems were down” before ultimately firing him.

“Manager wanted to fire me, all other managers talked her out of it cuz I was a great worker,” said @cybiin. “Came in, couldn’t clock in, left.”

Companies demanding loyalty from their workers without offering much in return has been an ongoing, escalating criticism of recent decades, and dissatisfaction with that unjust trade-off has itself escalated in recent years. Stories of workers finally standing up to the unreasonable demands of their bosses for low pay, long hours, and consistent threats that they are easily replaceable have repeatedly gone viral during the pandemic.

And the fact that a TikTok with less than 200,000 views has already pulled in so many stories of workers actually being cast aside so carelessly seems to back up the idea that this is demonstrative of a larger societal problem. If companies have no problem treating employees poorly when they’re being terminated, it’s not unreasonable to guess they probably don’t treat them that well when they’re properly employed. And then they wonder why they can’t retain skilled workers.

Phelps’ TikTok may have started out as a joke, but it’s part of a long-overdue conversation that seems to finally be kicking off thanks to places like TikTok and Reddit.

The Daily Dot has reached out via TikTok comments to @paulaannphelps.

Today’s top stories

‘Fill her up’: Bartender gives woman a glass of water when the man she’s with orders tequila shot
‘I don’t think my store has even sold one’: Whataburger employees take picture with first customer who bought a burger box
‘It was a template used by anyone in the company’: Travel agent’s ‘condescending’ out-of-office email reply sparks debate
Sign up to receive the Daily Dot’s Internet Insider newsletter for urgent news from the frontline of online.
Share this article
*First Published: Dec 28, 2021, 10:50 am CST