Confederate Flag Flap in Hamilton
A man who was flying a Confederate Flag from the back of his truck at a Hamilton, Ontario construction site has been terminated by his employer.
Anthony Quattrociocchi, CEO of project managements company Yoke Group, told CBC News that the employee had been fired after the company learned Monday that he was flying the controversial flag at the Treble Hall job site.
“I have absolutely zero tolerance for this behaviour,” Quattrociocchi wrote in an email to CBC News’ Adam Carter.
The company also posted a statement on its Facebook page, saying that there “is zero tolerance for racism and discrimination in our business and on our sites. We do not condone or support this individual’s actions. We encourage freedom of speech but not when it evokes any form of hatred or discrimination.”
When asked by CBC News why he chose to fly the Confederate Flag, the employee in question explained that he “just wanted to do it for sh-ts and giggles,” and indicated that reactions from the public ranged from positive to negative support.
While Lipiec did not give his name to a reporter when questioned at his job site, he did identify himself on Facebook.
Just Cause for Dismissal?
With the current tensions south of the border, the Confederate Flag is seen by many as a symbol of racism and hate.
Bringing a Confederate Flag to the workplace can be fairly viewed as a discriminatory act that would likely, in and of itself, justify cause for termination. An employer’s decision to terminate an employee for just cause in these circumstances is supported by the employer’s obligation to maintain a workplace free of harassment and discrimination.
In these circumstances, the employer’s decision to terminate for just cause is also strengthened by the fact that this has become a public issue and the employee seemed to work at a construction site, in the public and at a client’s premises. This is because an employer can terminate an employee’s employment for just cause if the employee’s actions negatively impact his employer in the public realm.
If the employee simply had a confederate flag on his truck and didn’t bring it to the workplace, the situation changes. In that case, the only way it is a for cause termination is if it damages the employer’s reputation in the public realm.
Lessons for Employers
Seek legal advice first. Prior to dismissing an employee in a case like this, an employer should first seek legal advice. It is important to understand your legal rights and obligations, and determine if the act of the employee amounts to cause for dismissal.
Confirm Your Company Policy. Advise employees to use caution and good judgment both at work and online, as their conduct may have implications for the company’s public reputation. Ensure that your social media policy is broad enough to capture sites such as Facebook and Twitter, personal blog sites, and other forms of online expression.
Lessons for Employees
Be Mindful of What You Say and Do. Before engaging in activities either on a job site, in the workplace, or online, consider the consequences – especially if the subject in question is controversial. Could your actions disrupt the workplace and do harm to your employer’s reputation?
Seek Legal Advice. If you have been terminated for cause over your actions either in the workplace or online, but strongly feel that your conduct did not have a negative impact on the workplace or your employer, you should contact an employment lawyer. You may be owed severance.