Would You Fire Your Employee for Saying This?

In the last week the media world tied itself into a knot after a writer at The New Yorker wrote a scathing critique of Chick-Fil-A’s continued success in New York. The issue, in part, was that the critique wasn’t totally focused at Chick-Fil-A itself but had its sights set on Christian values. A few quotes from the piece:

  • The brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration… because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism.
  • Its headquarters, in Atlanta, are adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple’s feet.
  • The restaurant’s corporate purpose still begins with the words ‘to glorify God.’

My question for you today: would you have fired your employee for saying or writing this kind of thing, knowing that his or her actions reflect on you as an employer?  

Bloomberg’s rebuttal was one of the most insightful responses to the article because it not only highlighted much of the anti-Christian sentiment, but also demonstrated that the hatred for Christianity is in part a hatred of immigrants, minorities, and women, as they hold disproportionately large segments of the Christian faith. Full disclosure: it’s my Christian faith, as well. A snippet from the Bloomberg piece:

In other words, American Christianity is growing heavily through immigrants who are people of color. If Christians are really so scary, maybe it’s time to build that wall.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the article shouldn’t have been published. I don’t think the New Yorker owes anybody an apology. I’m a free-speech guy, and I don’t believe any group should be placed beyond criticism or mockery. But if you plan to mock, it’s useful to know whom you’re actually mocking.

Narrow-mindedness of this sort is alarmingly common on the left. A few years ago, a well-known progressive commentator mused to his large Twitter following that sometimes he wishes all the Christians would just disappear. I would like to believe he was simply too uninformed to realize that he was wishing for a whiter world.

Now, the question I’m posing today is whether you’d terminate someone for this kind of language at work. In this case the author of the piece has some leeway to stir the pot as a member of the press, and if the goal was to get interest and readership then they have definitely made that happen with this particular article. How would you respond if an employee posted something like this on their social media channels?

If you look close you can see me in the middle, ready to start the 2017 Chick-Fil-A 5k race

If you look close you can see me in the middle, ready to start the 2017 Chick-Fil-A 5k race

My response for the author (not that he needs another one) would be to eat where he wants to eat and leave the rest of us alone. Nobody forces him to eat at Chick-Fil-A. The same freedoms that allow him to write silly clickbait articles like this one are the same freedoms that let him choose where and when he eats his food. And I can’t speak for New York locations, but the ones here in Alabama offer the most pleasant ordering and dining service experience of any fast food restaurant I’ve ever visited in my thirty plus years. The food is good (breakfast is my favorite), but it isn’t something miraculously out of this world. Bottom line: whether they’re serving me and my family well to help the bottom line or to “glorify God,” as is their mission, the end result is still the same for my side of the equation.

Back to the story at hand… Employers, especially for the rest of us in outside the news and publishing industry, how would you respond to an employee writing something like this on their Facebook page, a personal blog, or posting a video with these kinds of comments on Instagram/Snapchat?

 

3 thoughts on “Would You Fire Your Employee for Saying This?

  1. Ernie Tamayo

    Hey Ben,

    This is a tricky question given the context surrounding the article. I think it’s important to realize that this seems to be an editorial piece. Editorial articles in a newspaper or magazine are inherently meant to give an opinion on a topical issue. Should this employee receive some form of disciplinary action because of the bias associated with his article – absolutely not. I think that a newspaper/magazine has the responsibility to publish material that is of interest to all sects of its reader base. Readers have the liberty to take the information and apply the information provided in accordance with their values, beliefs, etc.

    On the other hand, when the context of free speech by employees (not associated with a journalistic organization) comes up. I think that its important to take into consideration the speech being expressed by the employee. What impact such speech has on the organization if the individual is identified as an employee of the organization. Other factors are also important…the position of the employee, their past performance, any prior disciplinary history, etc. In this case, I agree with you that the article seems somewhat bias, but reading through the author’s words, I can’t point to any specific discriminatory language. Moreover, there is factual material about Chick-fil-A, both positive and negative which allows readers to make a fair assessment of the subject of the article. Therefore, even outside of the confines of a journalistic organization, I don’t think the publishing of an article of this type in venues such as a blog or social media warrants such severe disciplinary action as termination. I think that if such speech is concerning, then management should sit with the employee and voice their concerns about publishing such material while the individual is employed with the organization. Failure by employees to adhere to expressed guidance, or existing policy would then warrant further disciplinary action up to and including termination.

    Looking forward to your thoughts.

    R/Ernie

    Reply
  2. Kristina

    The bloomberg response is interesting to me because it highlights racial and ethnic composition of Christians, but I dont agree that the author was outright mocking women or POC. I’d be willing to bet that more Non-Christians in the U.S. today think of people like Trump (and his racist remarks) and the very white Westboro Baptist Church when they hear “Christian.” Chick Fil A also probably has some work to do in NYC because their HQ in the South probably helps non-Christians associate some hateful things with the franchise. We are coming from a different perspective here because we live in Alabama and you love Chick-Fil-A (I love their service, but I don’t love their food. Every now and then waffle fries sound good and if they’d bring back the banana pudding shake I’d go at least once a week). Click bait is click bait, and you took the time to read and respond so it worked. Now on to your question. I wouldn’t fire an employee for what they put on their social media unless it was the Director of Marketing or something high level/highly visible and they were one of the online faces associated with our brand and they said something super heinous. Social Media policies and practices have come a long way through the years, but my opinion is it has to really hurt the brand for me to want to fire them, not just a disagreement with my own religious views.

    Reply
  3. stella mutanu

    it is constitutional that we have freedom of expression though this freedom should not interfere with other people’s freedom

    Reply

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