Nicole Johnson said she was fired after a coworker reported one of her TikTok posts to her boss.
She joked on TikTok her kids prevented her from going to work early but she still stopped for Starbucks.
Administrators also thought the common hashtag #FYP meant "F you people" instead of "for-you page."
A single mother said she was terminated from her job in May after her coworker reported one of her TikTok videos as inappropriate to the school's administration.
Nicole Johnson, 30, who was working as a special-education paraprofessional, said in a recent video that a coworker "turned in" one of her TikToks which had been posted to the social media platform on May 14, and showed Johnson drinking from a Starbucks cup. The video's caption read: "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."
The video had garnered over 165,000 views as of late August.
"I put this TikTok out there, didn't even, like, think anyone was going to do anything with it. 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 is literally just me being like, 'I can't come into work early, but I have a Starbucks,'" Johnson said in a follow-up video.
Johnson said the coworker who alerted the school's administration knew she was already on a "thin line." Johnson said in a video — since removed — that she was put on administrative leave for three weeks in November for uploading "unprofessional TikToks" and "harassment of a coworker."
"I had never made unprofessional posts previously or been in trouble for my social media over eight years working at the district. And it wasn't until I posted that one post or these posts about my niece for a week, that then were all privated and taken down," Johnson told Insider.
According to Johnson, the "unprofessional TikToks" she posted in November were intended to share the story of her niece, who suffered a traumatic brain injury.
"So basically, I went, and I made a few TikToks because I felt like my sister was trying to work through the situation on her own and it wasn't getting anywhere, so I thought maybe making some awareness about my niece might get us some donations or a lawyer or advice or something that could help us, because it was very hurtful that this was happening to my family," Johnson said.
She said her sister notified her that one of her co-workers was present at the time her niece received the brain injury. Johnson adds that people found out who the unidentified coworker was and contacted human resources, threatening him. Johnson was subsequently put on administrative leave.
"Nothing I shared was private information, so I shouldn't have gotten in trouble for sharing anything because I didn't. " Johnson said. "His place of employment was public information, his job title is public information, his name is public information, his email is public information, I didn't share any of that, though. I didn't even share his name. I just said where he worked or what his job title was, and people found him."
Johnson said administrators emailed her when she returned from administrative leave in December about her tardiness, which she attributed to her struggles with ADHD and being a single mother. Johnson said she then asked for accommodations.
However, in a following meeting, Johnson said the administrators gave her a list of expectations, which included clocking into the office instead of her phone and messaging the team and emailing administrators if she was going to be late.
"I started crying, I was very upset, and I told them about my personal life and stuff that I've been going on and why I was struggling so much and how these expectations, I felt like they were set up for me to fail, and how I didn't think I would meet them, and how I needed help," Johnson said.
Johnson did not disclose the name of her former employer, citing privacy concerns. However, Insider contacted the school district through a public records search, but a representative did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
According to Johnson, she was reprimanded in February for not improving her late attendance.
In May, after she posted the video about her Starbucks habits, Johnson said she was called into a meeting to discuss her attendance and social media posts. She said a human-resources employee printed out colored copies of her TikTok, the final straw that led to her termination.
"They whipped out this full-colored picture of someone taking a picture of someone's phone, 'cause we can't screenshot apparently," she said in her TikTok video.
Johnson continued by saying that the administration perceived the video as a "slap in the face" because it interpreted the hashtag #FYP as "F you people" instead of its correct acronym of "For You Page."
"I look at them, and I was like, 'That's for you page,'" she said. "And I tried to explain it to them, but they're all, like — they're not on TikTok, and so they tried to end it with, 'Well, it also means F you people.'"
Johnson said that while she set the TikTok video to private two days after posting it, the damage had been done.
Johnson had lost a job she said she was passionately working in for almost a decade, where she created fond memories with her students and co-workers. Before being terminated, she had hoped to work there as a teacher.
"I would definitely say that my favorite part of the job was helping students realize that they could do things that they thought they couldn't, or that they were told they couldn't," Johnson said.
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