248-409-1900 dburke@mi-worklaw.com

By:  Bill Pilchak – 6/17/14

   Work ethic is one of the main traits by which I measure others. It’s the primary reason why I have devoted my talents to the defense of employment law cases. Our attorneys could easily go over to “the dark side” and advance the body of law we have learned over the past decades on behalf of terminated employees. The best plaintiff-side attorneys sometimes earn six-figure attorney fee awards for far less work.

          But, it would be difficult to commit oneself to the cause of a slacker, and too often employment law cases are filed by individuals who simply didn’t have the work ethic needed for the position they filled. I would have a visceral reaction to working hard for someone who didn’t work hard.

          Most of the successful people we represent, owners, supervisors, heads of HR departments, draw a significant part of their identity from their career. But in modern society, many have lost that sense of pride derived from their work. For virtually hundreds of years, whatever work one did literally defined one’s identity in the community. One’s surname was the person’s occupation and that work-related identity has been proclaimed from one generation to the next.

          We might be better off as a society and global competitor if our individual reputations in the community depended on our work ethic.

          Consider the following list. As it was being compiled, it became apparent that many non-English surnames describe occupations as well. Some are noted here. Feel free to send us your own contributions to the list.

Archer- Defended the realm

Abbott- Clergyman

Baker- Prepared the bread

Baxter- A female baker

Barber- Cut hair

Bailey- An official or a steward

Barker- Tanned leather

Bauer (farmer, in German)

Bishop- Spread God’s word.

Bowman- Like Archer, defended the realm

Brewer- Made beer.

Butcher- Cut meat

Butler- Served the lords and ladies

Carpenter-Built the shelters

Cartwright- Built carriages

Chancellor- Secretary to a Nobleman

Chandler- Made candles

Clark- Derived from clerk

Cohen- Doctor in Jewish community

Coleman- Gathered coal

Cooper- Made Barrels

Dean- Headed the school

Draper- Hung fabric

Eisenhauer, Eisenhower- Ironworker (German)

Farmer- Grew Food

Faukner- Hunted with falcons

Fisher- Netted seafood

Fleischer – Butcher in German

Forester- Produced the wood

Fowler- Trapped birds

Fuller- Treats wool

Gardener- Tended the soil and plants

Glazier- Glassblower

Goldsmith- Fashioned jewelry

Harper- Played music

Hayward- Managed vegetation that fenced in livestock

Hayman- Grew and gathered straw

Hellier- Constructed tiled or thatched roofs

Hooper- Made items for the Cooper’s trade

Horner- Made items out of animal antlers

Keeler- Boatman

Kellogg- Pork butcher

Kemp- One who engages in combat to defend the throne

Knight- Defended the realm

Kolar- Cartwright in Slovenian

Kovacs- Blacksmith in Hungarian

Kowal(ski)- Blacksmith in Polish (“ski” = land owner)

Kravitz- Tailor in Jewish community

Kumar- Potter in Indian

Marshall- Tended horses

Mercer- Dry goods merchant

Miller- Ground the grain

Monk- Prayed

Muller- Miller in German

Painter- Spread pigment

Palmer- Wove palms into products, (as proof of pilgrimages to the Holy Land)

Piper- Played the bagpipes

Plumber- Installed pipe

Potter- Made clay containers

Porter- Gatekeeper, later carrier of items

Priest- Another clergy

Reeve- Bailiff

Roper- Maker and seller of rope.

Sawyer- Cut the wood

Schneider- Tailor in German

Scrivner- Scribe

Shoemaker- The cobbler

Smith- Hammered Iron

Shepard- Raised the flock

Stewart- Administrative official of an estate

Tanner- Made leather

Tailor, Taylor- Sewed clothes

Tucker- treats wool

Turner- Operated the lathe

Tyler- Laid tile

Usher- Doorkeeper for the king

Waggoner- Drove the team pulling the cart

Wainwright-Wagon maker

Walker- Treats wool

Weaver- Made cloth

Weber- Weaver in German

Woodman- cut down trees