A single mom in Minnesota said she was fired from her school job after a 60-year-old coworker told their boss about a joke she made on TikTok.
Nicole Johnson, 29, had worked as a special education paraprofessional at a Minnesota school for eight years until she was let go in May for what the school administrators called an “unprofessional” video she created and posted to the social media app, the mom said in recent TikTok videos.
The trouble started when Johnson posted a video of herself on May 14 sipping a Starbucks iced coffee with the caption “Me telling my coworkers there is no way I can come in early cause I have kids but yet I arrive with a Starbucks daily.”
She was canned from her job five days later with less than two weeks left of the school year, Johnson said.
The paraprofessional — who is completing her degree to become a special education teacher — said she was called into a meeting with human resource administrators who had printed out a photograph of her TikTok on someone’s phone. Johnson said she could tell the phone belonged to her 60+ coworker.
She said that in retrospect she was being “stupid” for posting what she thought was a silly video.
“I put this TikTok out there didn’t like think anyone was gonna do anything with it,” Johnson said in an August 11 follow-up TikTok.
“I didn’t think I could get fired because I didn’t think it was unprofessional. It doesn’t swear, it’s not negative, it’s not harassing, it’s literally just me being like ‘I can’t come into work early, but I have a Starbucks.’”
She added that she was never late for work when she showed up with her coffee purchases but was instead unable to come in early because she has kids of her own.
The administrators said the Starbucks video was disrespectful to Johnson’s coworkers, claiming that Johnson’s use of the “FYP” hashtag meant “F you people” and was directed at her colleagues.
The acronym is widely used across TikTok to represent the app’s “for your page.”
The Starbucks video, which has been viewed thousands of times, seemed to be the final straw that led to Johnson’s firing as she was already on a “thin line,” she said.
Prior to posting the coffee clip, Johnson said she was placed on administrative leave for three weeks for previous TikToks she made in November.
Those videos demanded justice for her niece who suffered a traumatic brain injury about 10 years ago as an infant in the care of an unnamed man. The man had moved to the same town as Johnson and also began a job as a special education paraprofessional at a different building in the same school district.
School administrators deemed the videos to be harassment of the coworker and placed her on leave.
When she returned, she received emails from administrators about her attendance and was eventually let go in May after the Starbuck TikTok. HR claimed the video was a “slap in the face” to her coworkers.
Johnson said that one of the biggest struggles after being fired is missing her students.
“I’ll never get to say goodbye to the students, though, they’ll think I just left them,” Johnson said in another TikTok.
Johnson, who was a union member, didn’t name the school or school district she was let go from.