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Can a company really do that to me?

The time-honored office tradition of whining at the water cooler just might get you fired, according to a newly compiled list of workplace horrors around the world.
Cropped Office Workers by Water Cooler
Water cooler whining is verboten at a German company that has a strict two-moans-and-out rule for its employees.PNC / NewsCom
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

The time-honored office tradition of whining at the water cooler just might get you fired, according to a newly compiled list of workplace horrors around the world.

Two workers who exceeded the official limit of two moans per employee at one unidentified German firm were fired this year. Several colleagues quit before their moans could be counted.

Their employer’s strict policy tops a list compiled by Challenger, Gray and Christmas. The Chicago-based outplacement firm gave nine notable examples from hundreds of cases.

Among them:

  • Workers at a DaimlerChrysler plant in Kokomo, Ind., better drive a Chrysler model or they may find their car in Indianapolis, 50 miles away. That’s because 80 percent of parking spaces are reserved for Chrysler cars. Violators will be towed.
  • A Michigan woman was fired from her part-time job as a receptionist after failing to show up for work one day after seeing her husband off to war as a member of the National Guard.
  • An executive for a foundation that funds heart disease research was accused of embezzling more than $237,000 and using some of the money to pay for the services of a dominatrix.
  • The National Labor Relations Board upheld a security company's rule that prohibits employees from fraternizing with each other — even when they are off duty.
  • A worker with a good record and was unexpectedly fired from his job with a beer distributor.  While no reason was given, the firing occurred on the same day a picture of the worker drinking a competitor’s beer appeared in a local newspaper.

“These are things that make you go hmmm,” Challenger spokesman James Pedderson said.

Such stories pour in throughout the year and Challenger plans to make the list an annual tradition, he said. The point is to encourage managers and their staff to communicate better.

Some of the worst stories involve discrimination against a worker’s religion, ethnicity, or, less seriously, squirrels. A librarian lost her job for devoting too much time to saving a squirrel stuck in a ceiling.

“I think reason has to prevail in some of these instances,” Pedderson said.