StFX student fired for writing about bar job

Not all employers have senses of humour

Students chatting at StFX (Andrew Tolson)

Students may think nothing they do on campus has meaning outside the university bubble but their actions, especially online, are visible to a sometimes unforgiving world. In a few decades, when their generation is making hiring and firing decisions, profane Tweets and Instagram photos may be taken for what they are: mostly meaningless. Until then, they ought to be careful.

Maria Rizzetto, a student at St. Francis Xavier University and columnist for the Xaverian Weekly, learned this lesson. A longtime bar and restaurant worker, she wrote what she considered a funny, lighthearted look at what bartenders think of their customers’ sometimes inappropriate behaviour.

How to survive Piper’s Pub: 10 rules from a bartender was clearly tongue-in-cheek. Rizzetto had been working at the same bar for two years and seems universally known and loved at her Nova Scotia school. The rules she offered were tips on proper bar etiquette with a heavy dose of snark.

Rizzetto’s boss apparently didn’t find humour in the piece and fired her, saying it reflected poorly on the bar, and even took to a popular StFX-related Facebook page to apologize for it.

At first glance, some parts might warrant employer concern. Rule #1. is that if a patron yells at her, she will definitely ignore them. She writes: “I can hear you, and I can also see you. There IS a system. You very well may be the next person on the bar in my path but you also just weaseled your way in there when the last person I served left. Of course I saw you. I’m sober. You’re not ‘next.’”

But according to online comments and Rizzetto herself, most people either found the article funny or illuminating or cared more about her proven abilities as a server than what she wrote.

She says rule #8., where she admonished men trying to secretly feed women alcohol, was especially well-received: “If a girl is telling you she wants water that does not mean she wants a double vodka lime and it definitely does not mean to trick her and order her a vodka-water. It means there is still a small flicker of her responsible persona remaining and you’re trying to dispose of it.”

That said, there are some steps Rizzetto could have taken to preempt concerns from her boss, the most important of which would have been not naming the establishment. While readers may have known what bar she was writing about, she said she didn’t remove references to Piper’s because the article was so clearly intended as a satirical look at the bartender-customer relationship.

Referring to customers as potential “pompous assholes” should they treat the 25 cents change from a $4.75 beer like a generous tip may have been another point of contention for her manager. Again, leaving off the bar’s name would have given Piper’s some distance from the piece.

The main lesson is clear. What may seem utterly unimportant to students can strike older people in charge of paychecks and employment as far more serious. In time, attitudes will adjust, but until then it’s best to be cautious about what employers might find funny beyond the campus bubble.

Tannara Yelland is a recent history graduate of the University of Saskatchewan.

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