Fired For Being An A$$hole Outside Of Work
Posted on January 11, 2016
I think we can all agree the world is full of colorful people, and I’m not referring to race when I say this. I’m referring to personalities. Some are bright, some are a bit dull, some are dark as feces and act like it, and then everything in between. We feel unhindered in sharing a joke, expressing an opinion, desiring our privacy, or—for those who enjoy behaving like one—being an asshole. Some believe it is our God-given right to be an asshole. The reason doesn’t have to make sense to the rest of the world as long as it makes sense to us. I’m really not in a position to argue that point at this time, but I am curious about something I’ll call a controversial consequence of being an asshole, the losing of one’s job for it when the person has acted like a bottom feeding bag of shit outside of work.
What first got me started thinking about this was the story about Kathryn Knott, who was recently found guilty of several charges stemming from her involvement in the beating of two gay men in Philadelphia. Her lawyer would have the world think she’s a peach. The jury disagreed. That’s neither here nor there, though. I remember reading how she was suspended, then lost her job at the hospital where she worked after all of this came out. And I thought “Okay, it doesn’t look good for her, and she certainly doesn’t sound like someone I’d want to be friends with, but should she lose her job before she even has a trial?” It was only after I read how she’d tweeted things about patients that violated hospital privacy policies that I understood why she was let go.
Now, that brings me to a story I read last week about a woman who was driving, apparently set another driver off, and then recorded the other driver with his window down swearing at her and going off on a racist rant. Not the most charming individual I’d ever want to come across, I think. The video went viral, the man’s employer saw it, and he, the employee, was fired. He was not on company time during the incident, on company property, or driving a company vehicle.
I will admit my first reaction to reading he lost his job was “Good. Serves him right.” But then I thought “Wait a second. Since when does an employer have that much control over our private lives? And is it a good thing that they do?” This isn’t to say we should all go out and act like assholes, but there must be another remedy for actions like this that don’t include being fired. Do you see the distinction I’m making? I’m not condoning his behavior at all. I’m just not convinced it’s right for his employer, a plumbing company, to fire him for it.
A man, Brad Schultz, in Minnesota last December sent private racist messages to a Black Lives Matter Facebook page. Screenshots of the messages were taken, shared, and circulated all over social media. Good. If you’re going to be an asshole, why be private about it? I think the people behind the page were perfectly right to share what the man said. But, someone went a step further and posted the man’s employer’s phone number.
I’m going to take an educated guess here and say Brad was on his own time and not on company property when he acted like a horse’s petute. He was also on his own private account and not a company account. So then was it right that this employer, a food giant, terminated him?
An argument could be made an employer firing an employee for such behavior could serve as a deterrent. If that’s the case, it’s not working since people continue to act like assholes. Yes, I made a generality. Still. I don’t have a problem with someone’s assholery being plastered all over the internet and people reacting to it. That, to me, is a deterrent, though some could say it’s not working any better than being fired. Someone’s family, friends, and even co-workers seeing actions like the ones from the people above may be enough to make a dent. But losing your job when these incidents like the second and third examples happened outside of work? I’m torn.
Yes, these people acted like assholes. There’s no questioning that. I’m questioning if an employer should be firing them for it.
So I bring the subject to you. What are your thoughts? What’s your logic one way or the other?
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.
5 Responses to “Fired For Being An A$$hole Outside Of Work”
Eddie Lam says:
January 11, 2016 at 8:44 am
Should an employer be firing employee while they misbehave outside their working duty? It is all depends. Like husband who works at department of ed. If he post something stupid on Facebook, he may get fired. Social media is powerful. But consequence? Yes! Being an asshole, I can’t tolerate.
Should Brad Schultz being punish? Absolutely! He was crossing the line and being an asshole.
Victoria Esser says:
January 11, 2016 at 10:07 am
I actually think about this subject a lot. Who gets to decide on the behavior that is unacceptable? Paula Deen, a 69 year old woman raised in the segregated south, lost her job at FOOD NETWORK because she regularly called African Americans “colored”. An advertising executive protests Chic-Fil-A ‘s CEO (not even the company’s) stand on gay marriage, by verbally assaulting one of their employees. Was it right for either one of these people to become unemployed over their behaviors? Aren’t we America, where we defend free speech, even (and especially) unpopular speech. If none of these behaviors occur in an evironment that directly reflects negatively on the employer, is there just cause to terminate? Perhaps we need to look at free speech, the definition and the need to defend it.
January 11, 2016 at 1:41 pm
Well, free is speech extends only into saying what you want about our government. That’s the right granted by the US Constitution, where free speech is also free from legal consequences.
But free speech doesn’t extend that way into our personal lives. Sure, say what you wish, but don’t expect there not to be consequences when you scream hate at the top of your lungs. I’m talking about a generic ‘you’ here, not you personally, obviously.
And when ‘you’ spout hate nonsense and it goes viral, and people are offended, then an employer gets to be offended too. No matter who you work for, you do in a way represent that company. And a company has the right to distance itself from someone whose views the employer doesn’t agree with. Including firing that individual. In effect, they are protecting their other employees from such a person. What if Brad Schultz’ direct supervisor was a POC? Should he/she be forced to work with such a person? Should he/she not be made aware of who is working for them? It goes far beyond a company’s reputation – this sort of thing, once viral, creates a hostile work environment one way or another, don’t you think?
JP Barnaby (@JPBarnaby) says:
January 11, 2016 at 1:06 pm
There isn’t a post that I make on JP’s Facebook that I don’t think about this question – that’s why it’s locked down to friends only, and none of those friends are co-workers. I’m in 3 protected classes in the state where I’m employed – that wouldn’t stop them from figuring out a way to fire me if JP became an embarrassment to them.
Patricia Logan says:
January 11, 2016 at 6:13 pm
Opening your mouth when you shouldn’t and saying stupid things should carry consequences. You shouldn’t say things that will get you fired or for that matter, spew them on FB for all the world to see either. I have a friend who is a MM author who works at a prestigious children’s hospital in Los Angeles and she doesn’t dare post what she does in her time away from the hospital because she could be fired just by the nature of the books she writes. That said, if, as an author, I decided to be a douche on social media and comment on something I have a strong opinion about, regardless of how right I was when giving my opinion, I’d expect to be fired by my readers. How many times have we seen an author say something that made our skin crawl with its nastiness only to then see the same author’s popularity deflate? She/he’s just been fired by their current/past/present readers who swear never to buy her again. Just two weeks ago a very popular author tweeted to a reader who criticized something she’d written… something along the lines of “Go straight to hell” (I’m paraphrasing). You should have seen readers react. It was really ugly. Yes, as a society, we should behave at all times and when we don’t, we should be prepared to face the consequences. If a person’s job requires them to carry on inside of work in a respectful manner, then their employer should expect that their employee isn’t acting like a dirt bag outside of work either. That is a reasonable expectation from the employer.