The Machine Fired Me


At work, when I scanned my key card at the turnstile, it flashed red, made a grumpy beep, and refused to disengage. I tried it a few more times, it kept flashing red and grumping. I threw a glance at Jose, he laughed and then pressed a button under his desk. The turnstile turned open. Jose was one of the security guards in the LA-1 skyscraper I worked in. Jose has seen me come to work everyday through those doors for more than half a year. Nothing interesting happened on that day. 
The next day I drove my car to the parking structure and heard the same grumpy beep when I scanned my card. There was a long line of cars forming behind me, the drivers were getting impatient and some had started to honk at me already. A security guard appeared, gave me a look, shook his head disappointed, then used his own card to let me in. Inside the building, my card failed again, and the loud grumpy beep made sure everyone was aware of it. Jose let me in once more.

It wasn’t the first time my key card failed, I assumed it was time to replace it. As soon as I got to my floor, I went to see my manager to let her know. She promised to order me a new one right away. 

In the meanwhile, every morning the security guard would have to print a temporary badge for me that would expire by 7pm. I went to my desk and worked for a few hours on hardware. When I was done, I logged into my Windows machine to mark my Jira ticket as completed, that’s when I noticed that I had been logged out of Jira. I tried my Jira credentials multiple times and they did not work. So I asked my coworker in the next cubicle if Jira was working for him. He answered Yes. Then I asked him to look for my ticket number. He opened it. Right next to my name on this ticket, it had the word (Inactive) and my name was grayed out. 
The next day, I took Uber to work, I didn’t want to deal with the parking again. Jose couldn’t print a temporary badge for me because my name appeared in red and was flagged in the system. My manager had to come down to escort me into the building. The recruiter sent me a message telling me not to go to work. She had just received a message that my badge had been used while I had been terminated. I was already in the building. We got the Director involved. The director laughed. She stretched her arm, unhooked the phone and dialed the number for support with the one same hand. With her might and title, she ordered them to immediately restore everything back to normal and hung up. She assured me that everything will be alright, to get back to work and this would be solved by the end of the day. 
The next day, I had been locked out off every single system. After lunch, two people appeared at my desk. One was a familiar long face that seemed to avoid making direct eye contact. It was Jose and his fellow security guard. He cordially informed me that he was to escort me out of the building.

The director was furious. They had received a very threatening email to escort me out of the building and were just doing their job. I was fired. There was nothing my manager could do about it. There was nothing the director could do about it. They stood powerless as I packed my stuff and left the building. 

Over the next 3 weeks, I received several emails about my case. I watched it be escalated to bigger and more powerful titles over and over, yet no one could do anything about it. From time to time, they would attach a system email. It was soulless and written in red as it gave orders that dictated my fate. Disable this, disable that, revoke access here, revoke access there, escort out of premises, etc. Eventually the problem was solved. My recruiter called me one morning and told me that I can come back to work. I had missed 3 weeks of work by that time, and pay. Once on site, I got an explanation. 
Once the order for employee termination is put in, the system takes over. All the necessary orders are sent automatically and each order completion triggers another order. For example, when the order for disabling my key card is sent, there is no way of it to be re-enabled. Once it is disabled, an email is sent to security about recently dismissed employees. The order to disable my Windows account is also sent. There is also one for my JIRA account. And on and on. There is no way to stop the multi-day long process. I had to be rehired as a new employee. Meaning I had to fill up paperwork, set up direct deposit, wait for Fedex to ship a new key card. 
But at the end of the day the question is still, why was I terminated in the first place?

I was on a 3 years contract and had only worked for 8 months. Just before I was hired, this company was acquired by a much larger company and I joined during the transition. My manager at the time was from the previous administration. One morning I came to work to see that his desk had been wiped clean, as if he was disappeared. As a full time employee, he had been laid off. He was to work from home as a contractor for the duration of a transition. I imagine due to the shock and frustration, he decided not to do much work after that. Some of that work included renewing my contract in the new system. When my contract expired, the machine took over and fired me.

A simple automation feature caused everything to collapse. I was escorted out of the building like a thief, I had to explain to people why I am not at work, my coworkers became distant. 

What I called job security was only an illusion. Automation can be an asset to a company, but there needs to be a way for humans to take over if the machine makes a mistake. I missed 3 weeks of pay because no one could stop the machine.