How Politics Can Disrupt the Workplace and What You Can Do About It

These are interesting times.

Politics in society has been polarizing communities, cities, and the world. It is little surprise that it also affects the office. There have been multiple reports of employees using their influence to steer their employers towards some political agenda and I suspect that the trend will intensify as we approach the 2020 presidential election. Here are just a few of the major stories I have noticed recently.

Facebook employees walk out in protest of Donald Trump’s posts

Dozens of Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout on Monday in protest of the company’s decision not to take action against incendiary posts by President Donald Trump last week, according to The New York Times. The virtual walkout comes on the heels of a decision from Facebook not to take any action against a series of controversial posts from Trump last week, including one that seemed to threaten violence against protestors by saying, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter determined that the same message violated its rules against the glorification of violence last week, limiting the ability to view, like, reply, and retweet the post on its platform.

In an article from Motherboard, Timothy J. Aveni explicitly linked his resignation to Facebook’s refusal to act on posts from Trump.

A Facebook software engineer publicly resigned in a LinkedIn note Monday over the company’s handling of President Trump’s calls for violence on Facebook. The resignation letter has since gone viral on LinkedIn, with more than 39,000 reactions. The news is part of a shift at Facebook. Traditionally, employees have voiced their concerns about Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership internally, but they have rarely broadcast those views publicly. That has changed this week, with the public resignation, a “virtual walkout,” and outspoken social media posts from current and recently-departed Facebook employees.

Over at Oracle, employees stop work in protest of their CEO’s politics. To quote Bloomberg…

People left their desks Thursday at Oracle offices around the world to protest Chairman Larry Ellison’s fundraiser a day earlier for President Donald Trump, according to people familiar with the matter. The protest, called No Ethics/No Work, involved about 300 employees walking out of their offices or stopping work at remote locations at noon local time and devoting the rest of the day to volunteering or civic engagement, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.

Ellison drew employee ire that most didn’t know existed at Oracle. News of the fundraiser for Trump’s re-election campaign at Ellison’s home in Rancho Mirage, California, spurred a petition at Change.org from some of the company’s 136,000 employees. The workers argued the chairman’s public support for Trump violated Oracle’s diversity, inclusion and ethics policies, and harmed the image of the world’s second-largest software maker.

The New York Times reporters staged a walkout in protest over how their paper covered an opinion piece.

New York Times staffers protested a Tom Cotton op-ed they said puts Black Americans in danger. Philadelphia journalists walked off the job after the Inquirer ran the headline “Buildings Matter, Too” in response to protests. Newsrooms appear ready to boil over with continued internal protests.

And while walkouts are trending among tech companies, racial politics are not always the catalyst. Amazon employees have been threatened with termination if they share a contrary opinion on Amazon’s environmental policies. GeekWire reports…

More than 350 workers criticized Amazon’s contribution to climate change Sunday in a Medium post, violating corporate PR rules that prevent employees from discussing company business without approval. It’s the latest example of tech workers leveraging their position as valued assets in a tight labor market to pressure their employers on political issues. Employee activism in the tech industry is creating new challenges for corporations trying to balance business interests with the demands of the employees they’ve invested heavily in recruiting and retaining.

The advocacy group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice published the statements to show solidarity with two employees who say they were threatened with termination. Amazon’s human resources department told the employees their jobs could be in jeopardy if they continued to violate the communications policy by speaking publicly about Amazon’s carbon footprint.

And while these stories have garnered some national attention, they are only the tip of a very large iceberg. A cursory search on DuckDuckGo reveals a plethora of search results pointing to a definite trend. People on both sides of the proverbial aisle are passionate about the politics of the day and are willing to risk their livelihoods to express themselves.

In consideration of all the apparent volatility, one would think that frank discussions in a safe place would do much to quell potential dramas in the workplace. If that is your thinking, consider recent developments at LinkedIn. They held a virtual global town hall meeting to address the protests and civil unrest related to the George Floyd murder. The open discussion did not go as management had hoped.

The Daily Beast reported, “Throughout the meeting, which was conducted by video chat and featured a sidebar where employees could leave comments, several anonymous staffers shared opinions echoing the detractors and skeptics of the Black Lives Matter movement. These commenters criticized LinkedIn’s position on diversity hiring, equating such practices with racism against white people.”

Some of the thoughts expressed included the following:

  •  “As a non-minority, all this talk makes me feel like I am supposed to feel guilty of my skin color. I feel like I should let someone less qualified fill my position. Is that ok? It appears that I am a prisoner of my birth,” one commenter wrote. “This is not what Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted for anyone.”
  •  “George’s killers need to be tried according to law. But how can hiring more minorities into manager roles and C-suite positions address cop racism? I thought hiring at LinkedIn is based on merit alone.”
  •  “Blacks kill blacks at 50 times the rate that whites kill blacks. Usually, it is the result of gang violence in the inner city. Where is the outcry?” one commenter said, echoing a common anti-BLM talking point deflecting from concerns about state violence against the black community.

Those comments and others similar to them sparked outrage within the company who saw the expression of those feelings as racist and disturbing. Some of the reactions were as follows…

  •  “I do not feel safe working at this company in a place where I was already uncomfortable with the treatment I’ve received on my OWN team since I started,” wrote one employee. “This is so sad.”
  •  “There are some extremely offensive comments here that go completely against the spirit of what this is intended for,” another added. “I am COMPLETELY shocked by some of these racist comments from my fellow employees. I am thoroughly disgusted!”
  •  One employee described the Q&A as a “dumpster fire,” while another called it an “epic fail.” A staffer who identified as black said the comments had “absolutely destroyed me.”

This phenomenon strikes me as especially curious for two reasons. Pre-COVID-19, we had historically low unemployment in the United States. Taking such a stance, especially in the tech industry, was not as risky as it is now when we have unprecedented unemployment. And while recent job numbers suggest a rebounding economy, as a country, we are not out of the woods yet. There is still a fervor for some to put their employment potential at risk. What’s even more disturbing is the likelihood of it impacting hiring practices.

The 2017 Recruiter Nation Report produced by Jobvite, a recruiting software company, breaks down recruiters’ attitudes, behaviors, fears, strategies, and predictions for how to build the best companies possible. Among the survey findings was something I found a bit… startling.

When recruiters are researching candidates for opportunities, 51% of the 831 US recruiters surveyed saw political rants on a candidate’s social media as a red flag. Should someone’s political affiliation be a matter of concern when recruiting talent? Apparently, many US recruiters thought so then, and I think it’s a reasonable assumption that they think so today.  As we draw ever closer to a Presidential campaign, I see the issue being even more pronounced.  

When I initially read that report from Jobvite, I was inspired to conduct my own unscientific poll on Twitter. The question I posed was this, “RECRUITERS, have you ever turned down a candidate based on political beliefs you found on social media?” 21 recruiters responded, and 29% of them said yes, which I thought was pretty high for such a low number of respondents. I also solicited comments from my network of recruiters, and many responded openly, others privately. This is what some had to say:

  • “I interpret political interests much differently than political rants. I think oftentimes people who cross boundaries of what is considered “socially acceptable” social media behavior can be viewed as a liability to corporations. Rants are usually emotionally triggered too”
  • “This is a great illustration of why “cultural fit” should never be in a job description or ad. With all this trying to be politically correct, all the time, otherwise great candidates go unhired. On the other end of that spectrum, the calls for NOT being politically correct yields the same results. Whatever happened to just focusing on human decency and skills? Social media has messed up the hiring process. It’s being abused by everyone. I believe everyone has a right to their own opinions. As long as a person isn’t putting someone else in jeopardy or harm’s way, let them have their views. As long as the work can get done in a manner of excellence, I don’t care what their views are. Work is for work anyway, not a place to argue politics, religion, etc.”
  • “I guess the question Jim Stroud is would you hire someone you knew was a white supremacist [but] otherwise well qualified? I’m struggling with recruiters who regularly post something homophobic or anti-Muslim. Would I hire them? Probably not”

Political sentiment can have a profound effect on hiring practices and the health of an enterprise. Pre-Coronavirus, I would discuss all sorts of matters with business executives I encountered at meetings and conferences. Once they realized that I could be discreet, they would vent about things considered taboo. Case in point, during such a discussion, a televised report of a political protest on a college campus caught our eye. The volume was down, but the headline made it clear that simply wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat was enough for one student to attack another physically.

What happens if I hire one of those students?” the person asked me. “And what if one of my customers is a Trump supporter who likes to wear a MAGA hat or button? Do I have to worry about someone suing my business because one of my workers cannot control themselves? What if they are not violent but decide to engage in political debate and offend my customer, and as a result, I lose business, and now I have to lay people off?”

Although I did my best to comfort him and dissuade his fears, I had to admit that his concerns were totally valid. I remember back in 2016 how Bloomberg reported a significant drop in restaurant receipts, the most since 2016. Some analysts put the blame on hurricanes that happened near that time whereas others pointed the finger at politics. If you do a search on “refused service due to MAGA hat,” you will find a LOT (and I do mean a lot) of search results. 

Here are just a few of the headlines…

  • Three Black GOP Interns: Uber Denied Us a Ride Because of Our Trump Support
  •  Watch: Unhinged Leftist Has Mental Breakdown, Refuses Service To Trump Supporter in Vape Shop
  •  Woman Says Restaurant Threw Her Out Over Trump Hat
  • A Canadian Restaurant Refused to Serve a Man Wearing a MAGA Hat and Now Its Yelp Score is Ruined
  • Restaurant Manager Fired for Refusing Service to Man in MAGA Hat
  •  Man Sues Bar for Refusing Service Over Trump Hat
  •  ‘Latina For Trump’ Kicked Out of Arizona Bar For Wearing Red “MAGA” Hat (VIDEO)
  •  Brandon Straka of WalkAway Says He was Denied Service  

The fact that recruiters deny opportunities to potential candidates, and some customer service personnel (pre-Coronavirus) have refused service to Trump supporters, how long before the violence targeting Trump supporters in the outside world enter the workplace? And although so many of American workers are operating from home, studies have shown that workplace bullying has been on the rise. So, all of this has me wondering, and I hope you as well, is my workplace a “safe space,” free from bullying of all sorts?

As a manager or HR professional, you likely want to ban all political discussion in the workplace to limit a lot of potential headaches; unfortunately, you cannot. My understanding is that employees have the right to engage in political conversations because the National Labor Relations Board classifies such discussion as a “protected concerted activity.” However, you can intervene when discussions become disrespectful or distracting to avoid being construed as a hostile work environment. And nobody wants that. Managers can also step in if political discussions are impeding productivity; so, there’s that. Discussing politics during lunch breaks, sorry managers, your hands are tied; grin and bear it. All that being said, I am not an expert on employment law in your state (or any other state for that matter). So, my suggestions should not be regarded as legal advice.

Now concerning workers, I would offer up three considerations:

  • Don’t discuss politics in the office. Why? Think of your political views the same way you regard your sex life—it’s a personal matter, not a professional one. In a perfect world, your co-workers may know that you vote, but they don’t know how you vote.
  • Don’t discuss politics in the office. Why? It creates bias. You might start to make assumptions and harbor resentment towards your co-workers once you learn their political leanings, and this could lead to a less-than-harmonious working relationship that stifles productivity because you don’t want to be around them anymore.
  •  Don’t discuss politics in the office. Why? It makes workers feel isolated, or it could make them feel bullied. Being the only Republican, the only Democrat, the only Libertarian or Green Party supporter (or fill in the blank) need not be awkward; as long as you veer away from political discussions. In some cases, political discussions intersect with social issues. For example, voicing a strong opinion on such things as same-sex marriage which could lead to some employees feeling discriminated against. Make sense?

In conclusion, I would like to address all political parties consuming this content now and offer this very solid advice. Buckle up, the 2020 Presidential election is coming soon. It will be a bumpy ride.

Jim Stroud

SOURCES AND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • All the office talk about politics since Trump’s election is stressing workers out http://j.mp/2WnEK9K – A new survey by the American Psychological Association found that a significantly higher percentage of workers are feeling burdened or strained because of political discussions in the workplace than during the political campaign. More than a quarter, or 26 percent, said political debates at work had left them feeling tense or stressed, a significant increase from the 17 percent who said the same when the APA last ran the survey, back in August before President Trump’s election in November. 
  •  6 Things You Should Know About Discussing Politics at Work http://j.mp/2Mzlhyp – Your company can’t stop you or your co-workers from discussing politics. Employees have the right to engage in political discussions because the National Labor Relations Board classifies them as a “protected concerted activity,” says Amy Maingault, director of the HR Knowledge Center at the Society for Human Resource Management. “An employer can’t have a policy, and a manager can’t say that employees are not permitted to have that type of discussion.”
  • Should You Talk About Politics at Work? http://j.mp/2RgIiH7 – Recognize the risks. If you decide to speak your mind on a particular hot-button issue, do so knowing that the chances of influencing your colleagues are slim and that you may offend someone.
  •  Politics in the Workplace: What Must Employers Allow? – Employers who institute carefully crafted and uniformly enforced policies that limit political activities can lower the risk of employee claims while increasing worker productivity.
  •  Microsoft employees slam $480M HoloLens military contract, refuse to create tech for ‘warfare and oppression’ – More than 150 Microsoft employees signed a letter demanding the tech giant cancel a $480 million contract to build a HoloLens for the Pentagon, saying they “refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression.” “We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” the letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith, which was posted to Twitter, states.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS FROM MY SURVEY

  • How long before a family history of illness is used as a factor? 
  • Illegal in Canada and other jurisdictions btw. We did a protected class legislation analysis globally a while ago for several trainings, and political affiliation is one that I wasn’t aware of being protected legally.
  • Jim Stroud this is happening everywhere. There is a great divide. With the call for the end of being PC, what people say is causing even bigger divides around race and homophobia.
  • This is a great illustration of why “cultural fit” should never be in a job description or ad. With all this trying to be politically correct all the time, otherwise great candidates go unhired. On the other end of that spectrum, the calls for NOT being politically correct yields the same results. Whatever happened to just focusing on human decency and skills? Social media has messed up the hiring process. It’s being abused by everyone. I believe everyone has a right to their own opinions. As long as a person isn’t putting someone else in jeopardy or harm’s way, let them have their views. As long as the work can get done in a manner of excellence, I don’t care what their views are. Work is for work anyway, not a place to argue politics, religion, etc.
  • I guess the question Jim Stroud is would you hire someone you knew was a white supremacist otherwise well qualified? I’m struggling with recruiters who regularly post something homophobic or anti-Muslim. Would I hire them? Probably not.

NOTE: This post was originally published on the Proactive Talent blog.

The Cancel Culture Movement Will Destroy the Workplace (…unless we stop it now!)

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Dave Chappelle is one of the last few great comedians in my opinion because he is anti-PC and willing to offend everyone in order to spark conversation on meaningful topics. At least, some of the time. Case in point, here is a quote from his Netflix special – “Sticks and Stones.” (NSFW) I have censored some of the language, but I think you still get the gist of what he’s saying.

Chappelle: Tonight I’m going to try some impressions out. (crowd cheers) …I want to see if you can guess who it is I’m doing an impression of. All right? Let me get into character. You gotta guess who it is though. (crowd chuckles) Okay, here it goes.

Chappelle: Uh, duh. Hey, durr! If you do anything wrong in your life, duh, and I find out about it, I’m gonna try to take everything away from you and I don’t care when I find out. Could be today, tomorrow, 15, 20 years from now. If I find out, you’re {expletive} —duh-finished.

Chappelle: Who… Who’s that?

Crowd: (yells out) Trump!

Chappelle: That’s you! (crowd laughs) That’s what the audience sounds like to me. (more laughter) That’s why I don’t come out doing comedy all the time ‘cause y’all {expletive} is the worst {expletive} I’ve ever tried to entertain in my {expletive} life!

Chappelle was deftly calling out the cancel culture and how it seeks to erase people from the public square when certain views are expressed. Some see cancel culture as a mob mentality whereas others see it as a long overdue way of speaking truth to power. Politically speaking, both conservatives and liberals have complained that cancel culture has gone too far. And yet, it persists. I am going to explain why I think that is.

Dictionary.com defines cancel culture as the “popular practice of withdrawing support for public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.”

In other words, someone says or does something that is offensive to someone and this turns into a widespread boycott of that person’s work. Here are 2 recent examples…

Robert Unanue, the CEO of Goya Foods, announced a massive donation of their products to food banks across the country, he also praised President Trump. During his remarks, he noted that “Trump was ‘a builder,’ like his own illustrious grandfather, and called for Americans to pray for their president.” This triggered a boycott initiative by some in the Hispanic community. To quote CNN

In an interview with Fox News Friday, Unanue said he was “not apologizing,” and called the boycott movement “suppression of speech.”

Unanue claimed a double standard in the reaction to his laudatory remarks about Trump, noting he accepted an invitation from Michelle Obama in 2012 to an event in Tampa, Florida, to promote the former first lady’s healthy-eating initiative.

“You’re allowed to talk good or talk praise to one president but you’re not — when I was called to be part of this commission to aid in economic and educational prosperity and you make a positive comment, all the sudden that’s not acceptable,” Unanue told Fox News. “If you’re called by the president of the United States, you’re going to say, ‘No I’m sorry, I’m busy, no thank you?’ I didn’t say that to the Obamas and I didn’t say that to President Trump.”

Saying something offensive to someone can get you canceled just as not saying something can get you canceled. It is the imagined slights that are the most insidious. Consider the controversy over the Young Adult book – “Blood Heir” that attracted a lot of drama because the fantasy novel did not include any racism in it. The website – Reason discussed the issue

Amélie Wen Zhao, a woman of Chinese descent who was born in Paris and raised in Beijing, had won herself an enviable three-book deal for an Anastasia-tinged adventure: “In the Cyrilian Empire,” went the publication materials, “Affinites are reviled and enslaved. Their varied abilities to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, might be the most monstrous of them all. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.” The adventure kicks off when Ana’s father is murdered and she is framed, forcing her to flee. The first book was due out in June.

At some point in January, though, there emerged a vague Twitter-centered whisper campaign against Zhao….

It was open season from there: People picked over the limited information about the book to find something, anything, to justify being angry. L.L. McKinney, a Y.A. author who recently published her own debut novel and who tends to be an active participant in these pile-ons, noted that some of the publicity material described Blood Heir’s world as one in which “oppression is blind to skin color.” “….someone explain this to me. EXPLAIN IT RIGHT THE FUQ NOW,” she tweeted, accusing the author of “internalized racism and anti-blackness.” (The logic appears to be that because our world has racism, it’s unacceptable to imagine a world that does not.)

Zhao decided not to publish Blood Heir, then announced it would be published after all—pending a thorough review by sensitivity readers.

In true Carson King/Aaron Calvin style, one of Zhao’s main critics, a writer named Kosoko Jackson, himself became a target of the cancelers after his novel foolishly included a Muslim villain. How dare he.

The same cancel culture spirit is also in the workplace. The first time I witnessed it, I was not aware of what I was seeing or if I remembered the incident correctly. Golden Girl Finance helped my memory.

In 2012, Adam Mark Smith, CFO of a medical device manufacturer in Arizona, was fired after this video of him haranguing with a drive thru worker at fast food chain Chick Fil A about the company’s anti-gay bias, went viral. By the following day, his company had received hundreds of messages, including bomb and death threats, from the public demanding his termination. Smith was fired and spent the following two years struggling to find work and living on food stamps and eventually leaving the industry.

Since then, there have been several examples of people losing employment because certain people did not agree with their viewpoints. The website Reason reported on how a museum curator was force to resign over racist remarks that were arguably, nothing of the kind.

Until last week, Gary Garrels was senior curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). He resigned his position after museum employees circulated a petition that accused him of racism and demanded his immediate ouster.

“Gary’s removal from SFMOMA is non-negotiable,” read the petition. “Considering his lengthy tenure at this institution, we ask just how long have his toxic white supremacist beliefs regarding race and equity directed his position curating the content of the museum?”

This accusation—that Garrels’ choices as an art curator are guided by white supremacist beliefs—is a very serious one. Unsurprisingly, it does not stand up to even minimal scrutiny.

The petitioners cite few examples of anything even approaching bad behavior from Garrels. Their sole complaint is that he allegedly concluded a presentation on how to diversify the museum’s holdings by saying, “don’t worry, we will definitely still continue to collect white artists.”

Garrels has apparently articulated this sentiment on more than one occasion. According to artnet.com, he said that it would be impossible to completely shun white artists, because this would constitute “reverse discrimination.” That’s the sum total of his alleged crimes. He made a perfectly benign, wholly inoffensive, obviously true statement that at least some of the museum’s featured artists would continue to be white. The petition lists no other specific grievances.

Sometimes, it is not what you say that offends the cancel culture movement but how you say it; even if you are in agreement with them. Case in point, Reason also reported on the fate of David Shor.

A week ago, as protests over the unjust police killing of George Floyd took place in major cities across the country, Shor—a 28-year-old political scientist at the Democratic consulting firm Civic Analytics—tweeted some observations about the successes and failures of various movements. He shared research by Princeton University’s Omar Wasow, who has found that violent protests often backfire whereas nonviolent protests are far more likely to succeed. The impulse behind Shor’s tweet was a perfectly liberal one: He feels progressive reforms are more palatable to the public when protesters eschew violence.

But many progressive activists on social media didn’t care whether the impulse was liberal, or even whether it reflected reality. They denounced Shor as a racist for daring to scrutinize the protesters, even if his aim was to make them more effective. One activist accused Shor of using his “anxiety and ‘intellect’ as a vehicle for anti-blackness.” Then she tagged Civis Analytics, and invited the company to “come get your boy.”

Get him, they did. Civis Analytics promptly fired Shor.

And one more example, everything old is new again when it comes to being offended. Take for example Niel Golightly he lost his job over sentiments he expressed over 3 decades ago.

Boeing Co’s (BA.N) communications chief Niel Golightly abruptly resigned on Thursday, following an employee’s complaint over an article the former U.S. military pilot wrote 33 years ago arguing women should not serve in combat.

According to an excerpt on the U.S. Naval Institute website, the December 1987 article titled “No Right to Fight” said: “At issue is not whether women can fire M-60s, dogfight MiGs, or drive tanks. Introducing women into combat would destroy the exclusively male intangibles of war fighting and the feminine images of what men fight for – peace, home, family.”

Golightly told staff in an email seen by Reuters on Thursday that the exclusion of women at the time was “government policy and broadly supported in society. It was also wrong.”

To some, these actions are borderline insane in a country where free speech is sacred. I think there are various reasons why this phenomenon is happening and that they can all be boiled down to political and psychological advantages. From a political standpoint, the partisans of cancel culture are using the threat of job loss and other sanctions to bully people into social and political conformity. Why? By blocking the free exchange of ideas, they are able to win ideological arguments by preventing them in the first place. Yet, I see this wave of thought policing as being even more insidious than that. It is also a means of self-gratification at the expense of others. Narcissism at its finest.

Rob Hendeson, a Ph.D student at the University of Cambridge, alludes to this in his Psychology Today article – “5 Reasons Why People Love Cancel Culture.” Here are a couple of points from his piece.

Cancel culture increases social status. The most powerful motive underpinning cancel culture is social status. Research reveals that sociometric status (respect and admiration from our peers) is more important to our sense of well-being than socioeconomic status. Furthermore, a recent study found that a high social class predicts a greater desire for wealth and status than a low social class. Put differently, it is those who already have status and money who have a stronger craving for status and money relative to other people. For many affluent people, that drive is how they got to their lofty positions in the first place. Aggravating this drive is that they are typically surrounded by people just like them—their peers and competitors are also affluent status-maximizers. They are constantly seeking new ways to either move upward or avoid slipping downward. For social strivers, cancel culture has created new opportunities to move up by taking others down.

Cancel culture reduces the social status of enemies. Plainly, if there is an activity that will elevate the status of oneself or one’s group, people will do it. One approach to elevation is to do something good. But doing something good requires effort and the possibility of failure. Fortunately, another option exists: Broadcasting the bad behavior of others. This method works because social status is relative. One person losing social rank is the same as another gaining it. If you’re a 6 on the social-status ladder, working up to a 9 is hard. But scheming to bring a 9 down to a 3 is easier and more thrilling. It is much easier to unite people around bringing a 9 down to a 3 than to lift themselves up from a 6 to a 9. Additionally, people are slow to give moral praise for a good act and quick to assign moral blame for a bad one. The relative difficulty of doing something good and the prolonged waiting period to receive credit for it is why cancel culture has flourished. It offers quicker social rewards. Indeed, research shows that people engage in moral grandstanding to enhance their social rank.

Like so many others, I think the cancel culture movement has gone too far. I look forward to a day where civil debate, a free exchange of ideas and a collective acceptance of diverse thought is the norm. Alas, the cynical side of me agrees with the following quotes from the Daily Wire and Time, respectively.

“Sadly, it’s reasonable to assume that cancel culture and its wild arsenal of accusations of racism, sexism, and privilege will infest the average American workplace wholesale soon. Worse, the massive corporate virtue signaling amid the protests will only enable such accusations. As companies like Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks insist on pursuing their cynical brand of “woke capitalism,” views and opinions that exist outside the tidal progressive narrative will be summarily dismissed. Companies simply don’t want to risk their bottom line over bad PR.”

“In an age when companies have detailed information on customers’ ages, incomes and political persuasions, they’re calculating that these socially aware consumers are more lucrative than those who might be put off by social-justice campaigns.”

In other words, like so many ills of this world, it comes down to money. As soon as supporting Cancel Culture becomes too much of a financial liability to corporate giants then, change will come. Why does it take that to remove this scourge? What happened to principled beliefs? Hmm… I guess they were left at the bank. 

*This article was originally posted on the Proactive Talent blog.

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Should All Trump Supporters Be Fired?

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So, I read this very disturbing article today. At least, bothersome to me. It was from the website REASON. The headline was this, “Is Giving to Biden or Trump Grounds for Getting Fired? New Poll Finds a Disturbing Number of People Who Think It Should Be.”

Poll finds self-censorship on the rise across political groups. A disturbingly high percentage of people polled earlier this month think private political donations should be grounds for getting fired. The number was especially high among respondents under age 30, with 44 percent of the youngest group saying business leaders who donate to Donald Trump should be fired…

The article goes on to discuss how this train of thought extends to Democratic supporters (22%) of Joe Biden as well. Further on in the article, which was discussing survey data from the CATO Institute, went on to say this.

Examining all Americans under 65, 37% of those under 30 are worried their political opinions could harm their career trajectories, compared to 30% of 30–54 year-​olds and 24% of 55–64 year-olds. But the age gap is more striking taking into account political views.

A slim majority (51%) of Republicans under 30 fear their views could harm their career prospects compared to 39% of 30–44 year-olds, 34% of 45–54 year-olds, and 28% of 55–64 year-old Republicans.

Democrats reflect a similar but less pronounced pattern. A third (33%) of Democrats under 30 worry they have views that could harm their current and future jobs, compared to 27% of 30–54 year-​olds, and 19% of 55–64 year-​old Democrats.

These survey findings intrigued me and sparked my curiosity. If I spent a couple of hours researching the matter, how many people could I find who were fired for supporting the President verses those who were fired for disavowing him? Overall, I found a LOT of backlash against Trump supporters and only a few examples of people terminated for not supporting him. This seems to be in line with the survey results cited above.

These findings are not exhaustive as I spent a limited time (2 hours) searching this out. Still, I think the comparison speaks for itself. It was very challenging to find examples of people being fired for supporting Joe Biden unless they worked in the political arena. As such, asking is it okay to fire Trump supporters is more relevant than asking if Biden supporters should be fired. But, I digress, here is a list of what I found.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, in Lakeland, Fla. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

PEOPLE WHO WERE FIRED FOR SUPPORTING PRESIDENT TRUMP

2016

04.09.16Ephrata Man Fired For Supporting Donald Trump – Eddie Slayton, an Ephrata resident and former employee of MiniTech Enterprises explained to us what happened. “I went to work like I always do and they told me I had to go see the boss of MiniTech, Tariq Akbari. He told me I was fired for supporting Donald Trump. I like Trump because he tells it like it is.” We spoke to MiniTech CEO Tariq Akbari about Slayton’s termination and he told us, “I am a Muslim and Islam is a religion of peace. We want MiniTech employees to work in a peaceful and non-threatening environment. Mr. Slayton’s support for Donald Trump created an air of hostility.”

11.18.16Reporter Fired After Expressing Support for Donald Trump on Facebook – A Houston Fox affiliate reporter has been fired after expressing her support for Donald Trump and saying America is “violent and racist under the Obama administration” on Facebook. Now-former KRIV reporter Scarlett Fakhar wrote on her professional Facebook page that, “Fox 26 Houston fired me today for expressing my conservative views on my private Facebook page. That is all I will say for now.”

12.12.16‘Million Dollar Extreme’ creators say Adult Swim canceled their show for supporting Donald Trump – The controversial comedy led to comedian Brett Gelman to sever ties with the network. According to a Buzzfeed report, a number of Adult Swim actors, executives and directors were pressuring network exec Mike Lazzo to cancel the show. However, one of the show’s writers wrote in the Daily Caller that it was ultimately their support of Trump that ultimately led to their cancellation. “The guys in [‘Million Dollar Extreme’] voted for Trump. We’re not allowed to be stupid, just ‘uneducated,'” Hyde and fellow comedian Don Jolly wrote.

2017

03.15.17 – University disputes employee was fired for supporting Trump –  A University of Wisconsin-La Crosse police dispatcher says she was fired for supporting President Donald Trump’s travel ban. University human resources director Madeline Holzem sent a letter sent to Kimberly Dearman on Monday asking her to resign or be terminated, the La Crosse Tribune reported. The letter says Dearman was investigated after a complaint from a colleague and was found to have violated university employee policies against unbecoming conduct and abusive or threatening language.

2018

01.20.18Nurse claims she was fired for supporting Trump – The lawsuit demands that Mathews be rehired and receive back pay and punitive damages for emotional trauma after being fired over a political conversation with a patient, according to Fox News. Mathews, 65, was attending to the patient on Sept. 10, 2016, shortly before the general election, when the patient asked her who she thought would win. The nurse said she was hoping for Trump to win and that she was “praying for him.” Mathews claims she received a call from the nursing manager three days after the conversation saying the patient, who was previously a high-ranking hospital employee, had complained. She was informed she was fired and ineligible for rehire at the hospital, according to the lawsuit.

10.26.18Trump Supporter Says He Was Fired After Wearing MAGA Hat, Files Discrimination Lawsuit
Dale started at the Department of Public Works in 1979 and worked his way up to become the superintendent of Public Works for District 2 in 2014. The lawsuit claimed that he “met or exceeded” all legitimate employment expectations and consistently performed above expectations, save one written warning in 2016. In 2016, Dale wore Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hat to work as a symbol of his support for the then-presidential candidate. He also talked about his support for the future president during conversations with his co-workers. The lawsuit claimed that after Dale wore the hat, AFSCME Local 725 President Steven Quick pointed out that Dale was a Trump supporter during a meeting with Public Works employees. Quick also allegedly passed around a photo of Trump with a person he told meeting attendees was Dale.

11.10.18Black model dubbed as racist then fired by agency for supporting President Trump – On October 26, Zoe Sozo Bethel joined a large group of young black women for the Young Black Leadership Summit. The event spanned the weekend and was held at the White House. She posted a few images from the event. One of them showed her standing with a group of people wearing hats with the words “Make America Great Again” written across the cap. Little did she know her employer would not take kindly to the pics. On her return home, she was sent a strongly worded email that released her from her contract.

11.12.18Facebook fired top exec Palmer Luckey for supporting Donald Trump for President – “Mr. Luckey, it turns out, was put on leave, then fired, according to people familiar with the matter. More recently, he has told people the reason was his support for Donald Trump and the furor that his political beliefs sparked within Facebook and Silicon Valley, some of those people say,” Grind and Hagey report. “Internal Facebook emails suggest the matter was discussed at the highest levels of the company. In the fall of 2016, as unhappiness over the donation simmered, Facebook executives including Mr. Zuckerberg pressured Mr. Luckey to publicly voice support for libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, despite Mr. Luckey’s yearslong support of Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the conversations and internal emails viewed by The Wall Street Journal.”

2019

06.19.19Trump-Supporting Teacher Fired After Posing Semi-Nude: Lawsuit – Chelsy Zelasko is a registered Democrat, but in 2016 she became a vocal supporter of then-candidate Donald Trump. She posed semi-nude with her private areas covered by American flags or guns and was interviewed by betterthantheweekend.com weeks before the election. It was posted under the title “Female Trump Supporter Gets Naked to Make America Great Again.” Zelasko is suing the school in state Superior Court. The lawsuit was filed Monday.

09.17.19Roseanne Barr Reemerges To Claim She Was Fired For Supporting Trump – One year after being fired by ABC, Roseanne Barr has reemerged in a new interview to claim that it was her outspoken support of President Donald Trump that did her in at the network. “When it happened it was like I thought I was gonna lose my life. It was devastating and horrible and is unprecedented too that they would do that to me,” Barr said of the cancellation of her eponymous sitcom in 2018. “It was a perfect storm. That’s what I think, just the perfect storm at the perfect time. Kind of a little bit too perfect. Sometimes I think, ‘Was this orchestrated? The whole thing?’”

12.13.19Ho, Ho…Whoa! Mall Santa FIRED for Supporting President Trump – A Georgia man who has played a mall Santa Claus for the last 50 years was fired earlier this week for posting a photograph in a Trump hat on his personal Facebook account. Frank Skinner’s decades long career playing Father Christmas includes 14 years at the Mall of Waycross, the mall that just fired him after receiving a complaint about his post. The photo in question was taken as the mall was closing, when no children were around, and just meant for his friends and family.

2020

01.16.20Wisconsin woman claims she was fired for supporting President Trump on social media – A Wisconsin woman says she was fired this week over a post she made on social media issuing support for President Trump. According to WISN, Robyn Polak posted to social media on Monday night, the day before the president held a rally in Milwaukee, which she says she attended. “I said a few times, ‘Make America great again,’ and then I said, ‘MAGA 2020,’” Polak told the news outlet. Polak says she believes she was fired from her job as a dental assistant because of these comments.  She claims another social media user wrote a negative review for the office alleging that their employees were racists.

07.19.20Jeremy Roenick Sues NBC Sports, Claims He Was Fired For Being Straight, Supporting Donald Trump – In a lawsuit, filed against NBC last week, however, Roenick alleges that his comments were used as cover and that NBC News really fired him for being a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, according to Fox News. The lawsuit suggests that other NBC commentators have made similar, lewd jokes about coworkers and received a pass from network management.

07.22.20Michigan teacher says he was fired after tweeting in support of Trump – A Michigan high school teacher says he was fired this month after tweeting in support of President Trump, though the school district denies the allegations.

09.02.20Man fired for refusing to remove ‘Trump 2020’ hat at Newport News Shipbuilding – Dave Sunderland said he had been wearing Donald Trump hats to work at Newport News Shipbuilding every day for nearly four years. He wore the caps — most recently one that said “Trump 2020″ — as he walked from his car to his work site inside the gates, and sometimes for a short safety meeting at the start of his shift. Sunderland, 55, of York County, was fired last week after refusing to remove his hat before the safety meeting. He said the human resources department told him he violated a company policy barring yard workers from “campaigning” while on the job. “I wasn’t campaigning,” Sunderland said. “I wore a ball cap. I wasn’t passing out bumper stickers. I wasn’t asking people to vote. I wasn’t doing anything, except for wearing a ball cap going to work.”

09.15.20NFL Team’s Spanish-Language Broadcaster Loses Job for Supporting Trump – Moreno tweeted a post in support of Trump from his private Twitter page in April. This prompted Eric Fiddleman, who manages radio and television for the Panthers, to contact him and request that he remove references to the Panthers from his account. At this time, Moreno was not under contract with the Panthers. As an independent contractor, he is not employed during part of the off-season. But he complied, scrubbed his Twitter bio of Panthers content, and updated it to reflect his support of Trump. “Listen … I’m not even under contract right now. I am not willing to participate in this project anymore if I’m going to be censored,” Moreno said, recounting the conversation with Fiddleman. “Because I am not OK with them censoring my freedom of speech in support of the president.”

10.12.20Police Chief Reportedly Fired By Democrat Mayor Over Wife’s Support Of Donald Trump In Facebook Post – A Pennsylvania police chief reportedly recently found himself in a position where he was “forced” to retire by the town’s Democrat mayor after his wife apparently posted a controversial, pro-Trump Facebook post that the mayor believed was inappropriate enough to strip a career law enforcement officer of his job.

HONORABLE MENTION

06.20.20Joe Nocera: Ronald Lauder shouldn’t be fired for backing Trump – And one other thing: Mr. Lauder is a Republican. More than that, he’s a Donald Trump Republican, having poured $1.6 million into “pro-Trump organizations” since 2016, according to Bloomberg News. Last week, something took place at Estee Lauder Cos. that was both astonishing and troubling: About 100 employees sent a letter to the chairman, William Lauder, who is also Ronald Lauder’s nephew. They demanded that his uncle be removed from the board.

PEOPLE WHO WERE FIRED FOR CRITICISIZING PRESIDENT TRUMP

06.12.2020Facebook fires employee who protested inaction on Trump posts – Facebook Inc fired an employee who had criticized Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s decision not to take action against inflammatory posts by U.S. President Donald Trump this month, citing his tweet challenging a colleague’s silence on the issue.

06.12.20St. Mary’s Tourism Director Allegedly Fired For Not Supporting Donald Trump – On June 10, the Visit St. Mary’s MD (VSMMD) board of directors put out a press release stating that they would part ways with their executive director, Jason Aul. However, Aul later put out his own release, alleging that the board terminated him based on his “personal political opinion,” specifically as it related to his disapproval of President Donald Trump and his supporters.

07.18.20Report: Trump-Supporting “Red Bull” CEO Just Fired Two of His “Social Justice Warrior” Top Executives – While Red Bull employees in the US have been pressing for the company to be more vocal about racism, Red Bull’s billionaire CEO Dietrich Mateschitz is a Donald Trump admirer who has spoken out against ‘political correctness’. The 76-year-old tycoon also owns a media firm which has been criticized for giving a platform to far-right activists in his native Austria. Sources told Business Insider that Red Bull’s top executives in Austria are thought to have fired Kozak and Taylor in ‘retaliation’ for the leak, although no official reason was given for their departure.

11.19.20 – Radio host says he was fired on-air after criticizing Trump. The station tells a different story. – A conservative radio station in Colorado is disputing claims by one of its hosts that the station fired him mid-show last weekend just as he was airing disapproval of President Trump. As host Craig Silverman and executives with the Denver-based 710 KNUS shared their view of events, the incident underscored the growing isolation of conservatives whose viewpoints reflect anything but unwavering support of Trump.

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CAN COMPANIES FIRE YOU OVER YOUR POLITICAL OPINIONS?

In America, we have free speech (allegedly) and being fired for your political affiliation seems illegal to me. I am NOT a legal expert so I cannot say what is legal and what is not. Regardless of what has been said, I recommend meeting with a lawyer before pursuing any legal action. That being said, below are a a few quotes I found online.

Can I fire the Trump supporter who reports to me?

In California, the answer is clear — the law expressly prohibits employers from forbidding an employee from participating in politics, or controlling or directing an employee’s political activities or affiliations. Employers are also barred from firing or threatening to fire an employee in order to coerce him or her into any particular course of political activity. (California Labor Code Sections 1101 & 1102.)

These provisions encompass and protect more than simply supporting a particular candidate or party. The California Supreme Court has decided the term “political activities” includes all activities that may indicate support for a particular candidate or a political cause. This broad definition of “political activities” protects California employees from discrimination based not only on which candidate the employee supports, but also on support for or involvement in the many social and political movements of today’s political landscape.

Employees may not be fired or otherwise disciplined for participating in a climate march or attending an Ann Coulter speech; nor for going to a “Black Lives Matter” protest or supporting a border wall between the United States and Mexico; nor for countless opinions and activities in between.

I got fired because I voted for Trump. Do I have any recourse?

All but 1 state in the US are At Will states. That means that absent a written employment contract to the contrary, the employment contract can be broken at any time, by either party, for any reason, including no reason at all. Unless you are a member of a protected class and can prove that your dismissal was illegal under anti-discrimination laws, you have no recourse. Political affiliation is not a protected class. That said, your employer has no way of knowing who you voted for unless you are stupid enough to reveal it. Many employers prohibit political activism on company property or on company time. I’ve seen people of all political persuasions terminated for violating that rule, especially when it creates a contentious work environment.

No because you will not be able to prove that that is why they fired you. This is why your political affiliations and who you vote for should NEVER be discussed with anyone or POSTED on any social media.

I’m curious. Do you personally discuss politics at work or post about it on social media? And if so, have you ever had a concern that doing so would affect your career? Let me know in the comments below. Please and thank you.

Jim