My Boss Wants Me To Kill

Dear Evil Skippy:

I am working as a seasonal employee at a major home improvement store. The gardening department area is filled with birds and some nest there. As a bird lover, I enjoy their songs in the mornings.  However, they can make a poo mess which makes the shopping area dirty. I gladly power wash the mess away but have been told to remove the nests when I find them, eggs, chicks and all and throw them away. Another worker has no problem with this but I do . . . what can I do?

—  Soft Hearted

Dear Soft Hearted:

I agree with you.  Throwing the nests away is wasteful.  Save them for craft projects.

—  Evil Skippy

P.S.  .   If you’re afraid that your employer will accuse you of theft, just be sure never to “find” a nest.

I’m not sure what is amazing me the most — using the word “poo” in my blog, or hearing about an employer who wants its workers to kill baby birds.  The latter hardly sounds like a home “improvement” plan to me.

At the same time, I understand your employer’s reasoning.  As a shopper, I do not want to step in “poo” or have “poo” dropped on me from above.  I probably would also not relish reaching for a box of plant food and grasping “poo” that already landed on it.

Cleaning up “poo” or barf (what is a good poo-like synonym for vomit?) comes with the territory at some jobs where members of the public are expected to roam around.  When I worked for a famous amusement park in California, I hated those hot days when little kids ate tons of  ice cream, popcorn and cotton candy right before enjoying the many roller coasters.  Ewwww.

Unless the birds you are talking about are endangered or otherwise protected by environmental laws, your employer has the right to remove the nests and to make removal a job duty.  As I see it, you have three options.  First, you could listen to ES and just fail to notice the nests.  The problem with that approach is you either have to lie or be inept.  Second, you could quit.  A better choice is to talk to your supervisor.  Perhaps you can be excused from Nest Duty if you have enough co-workers who are willing or even eager to kill defenseless baby birds.  Of course, that means you are working with Baby Bird Killers, but life is full of compromises.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I advise folks that they need to comply with legal and reasonable job expectations.  While removing and possibly terminating unwanted pests (mice, rats, birds, vendors) is a legal job expectation for some positions, I hope that most employers understand that employees may have strong objections to being instruments of something’s premature demise.  (In some cases, employees might have a valid religious objection to killing other creatures.  In those cases, employers would have a duty to accommodate the employees if possible and not require them to snuff Tweety.)

Talk to your boss.  Perhaps you can be excused from the task if eggs or baby birds are in the nest.  If it is not possible to excuse you (possibly because many of your co-workers would also want to be excused), then you either have to perform the job or look for another one.  Perhaps you could transfer to another department.

Or, if you don’t want to be nice and wimpy like Jim – be creative.  Call your local Audubon Society or bird watching club.  Anonymously report what is happening.  The protestors should show up in no time.  You might become the first Retail Bird Sanctuary!

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  1. Heather C. says

    Please do check out the U.S. Migratory Bird Protection Act. It is illegal to kill migratory birds and even birds such as robins, swallows, and swifts fall into the 800 bird species list this covers! The Act was enacted in an era when many bird species were threatened by the commercial trade in birds and bird feathers. Here is a link to the list that has all the protected bird species:

  2. Heather C. says

    And yes, that does include removing nests/eggs and killing baby birds of said protected birds!

  3. firebelly says

    You might be able to convince your employer to wait until the latest round of babies have left the nest and then just remove the nest. Then put a screen up or some other physical barrier in the spot that the nest is usually built to dissuade further nest-building.

  4. Lisa says

    Getting rid of poor defenseless birds is not a funny subject, but your way of writing about it in a blog sure is! Thanks for the laugh out loud moments! You’re a funny guy(s).

  5. Claudia says

    You know that joke about Microsoft products – “It’s not a glitch, it’s a feature”?? Do the same for your bird nests. Show that your company is so green, so eco-conscious that you don’t destroy bird nests. Posting signs that say “We’re family friendly. Even for birds. Watch where you step.” could earn you all kinds of points and customer loyalty.

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