More on Unfair Dismissal

My views as expressed in yesterday’s post appear to put me, unusually, at considerable odds with most of my readers. Perhaps I should start banning people? Or maybe change my views? Instead, I’ll do what I do best: waffle some more.

Firstly, I get that an employer needs to ensure the private actions of an employee don’t damage the company’s reputation or its bottom line. That is sensible enough: if an employee is actively speaking out against their company or protesting a company’s actions then this ought to be grounds for disciplinary action. But I suspect this clause was inserted into contracts in the days when people had some common sense, and that ship sailed so long ago its prow is now prodding us in the back. Being a reasonable chap, I would expect the onus is on the employer to demonstrate exactly how the company’s reputation is being damaged, citing specifics. By that, I mean if the words “could” and “if” appear two or three times in the same sentence, then they’re probably engaged in woolly speculation. If a genuine customer or client has complained, then they are on firm ground; if they’re a Danish company making farm machinery and they’ve received a thousand angry emails from hippy academics in Brooklyn and Berkeley, they’re not.

Anyway, let’s suppose companies should be permitted to fire people for expressing political views outside of working hours. Where do you think this will end up? Well, we already know. The most unusual thing about this latest story was that it was a demented lefty being fired over an anti-Trump gesture, but this goes against the grain. A few years back a rodeo clown was fired for wearing an Obama mask, and since then “doxing” – the practice of identifying people online and publishing their real name, address, and employer’s details – has become popular. In the past year there have been several instances of Twitter mobs forming, encouraging people to bombard the employer of some hapless individual who upset progressives. If companies are going to cave in at the first sign an employee might upset someone over a political view, it’s the centre-right who are going to be in for a rough ride. I’ve written before about service providers such as web and email hosts being pressured by mobs into ditching paying customers who don’t toe the progressive line, and this is simply a variation on a theme. So this latest case sets a dangerous precedent, and the ones who will take full advantage are the headcases in Antifa and BLM, not sensible people. If a person can be fired for flipping off Trump, can someone be fired for showing up at Charlottesville? What about a pro-Trump rally? Or wearing a MAGA hat? It will be rather easy for HR to cite a couple of hundred angry tweets and emails from unemployed headcases in response to a carefully edited video clip, and fire the person concerned. HR departments take the easy route every single time – unless the law prevents them.

Now perhaps there’s an argument that because this woman worked for a government contractor, she might cost them business. Well, who doesn’t work indirectly for the government these days? With the size and scope of the state growing steadily each year, and accounting for an ever-larger slice of economic activity, an awful lot of people fall under its umbrella. Taking things over to my side of the Atlantic, should someone working for an IT firm which is occasionally contracted by an arm of the NHS refrain from making any political gestures towards the British government? Bear in mind that in today’s climate, voting Tory means you are hell-bent on destroying the NHS in the eyes of many. And do we really think UKIP – or even Brexit – voters should be hounded from their jobs, because this will surely happen once the Twitter mobs get wind that companies consider it their business what employees say and do in their spare time.

I get where my readers are coming from. Employers and employees are free-agents contracting with one another and are at liberty to impose any conditions they like. But in practice, it doesn’t work quite like that. As I said earlier, in a time when proper, professional managers ran things rather than power-skirts in HR, and managers didn’t think they owned their employees’ souls 24/7, this wouldn’t be a problem. Then again, employees cowering in silence through sheer terror of what their manager might say or do appears to be the norm these days: that’s exactly what I wrote about here. I can’t help wondering if employees stood up for themselves a bit more and grew some balls, HR wouldn’t feel so empowered they can fire someone over a rude gesture on Facebook. But here we are.

The issue of anonymity always comes up in these discussions. In hindsight it may have been more sensible to write this blog anonymously, but the stubborn side of me never saw why I should. I always thought I ought to be able to defend anything I say on here, and if I need to hide behind a pseudonym perhaps I shouldn’t be saying those things in the first place. Secondly, anonymity doesn’t always work. There have been enough instances of bloggers being outed as it’s extremely difficult to cover your tracks all the time, and if you got tangled up in a major controversy someone would likely find out who you really were in short order. Even though writing under my real name might be more risky, I at least don’t have to worry about suddenly being outed, and I know I can stand by anything I’ve said on here (more or less).

So, to summarise: this woman was an idiot, but if we’re heading into an era where employers can fire people for political gestures made in their spare time with such decisions made by HR and not operational management, sensible people on the centre-right are going to come off worst. And if an employee’s best defence is to shun social media and avoid any political subject at a time when everything is political, and cower in silence or anonymity in order to pay the bills, we might as well give up all delusions of individual liberty now.

Share

21 thoughts on “More on Unfair Dismissal

  1. It’s a function of the polarised political environment we find ourselves; if everyone is either a Libtard or a Nazi we are unlikely to see a return to civility any time soon.

    One of the first techniques taught in debating is to look at the issue from your opponent’s position so that you can work out which of their views are reasonable and where the real point of disagreement is. I suspect that’s a skill we’ll regret losing.

  2. I blog anonymously because I don’t want my fairly trenchant and reactionary views taken in to account by an employer or client. I am pseudonymous on ARRSE – but then we also meet up in person.

    I think the US company over-reacted – but then US companies often do. Several times I’ve been in a position of explaining to the HR team in the UK satellite office of a large US company that they can’t just sack people “because”. And, obviously, it is harder still in France and even more so in Germany.

    Political views and social media – unless you are actively rubbishing the company or its customers (Virgin Airlines crews, some time ago?) then, well, why are they even aware of it? You haven’t “friended” your boss have you? Use LinkedIn for work acquaintances – and don’t put anything (controversial) on that. It’s not as if you have to pay for having a different account.

  3. I think you are completely missing the point here. It was one of those At Will deals and that is all there is to it. They could sack her for anything or nothing just as long as they didn’t discriminate against her, so there is still a bit of residual Marixsm in it, if that floats your boat.

    In my books its a great thing and I would love to see more of it, it would be incredibly stimulatory for the economy and would encourage employers to increasing hiring rates. It would also encourage employees to maintain a good performance level. Business don’t work when any employee slackens off or performs to a lower standard than the next company.

    Nothing wrong with it all.

  4. Political views and social media – unless you are actively rubbishing the company or its customers (Virgin Airlines crews, some time ago?) then, well, why are they even aware of it?

    Two reasons:

    1. HR departments now consider it their business to find out, particularly when looking to hire someone.

    2. Twitter mobs inform them.

  5. @Bardon,

    I agree entirely on the “at will” employment terms; it’s why the US recovers more quickly from major recessions compared to countries where firing workers is a Byzantine process.

    If you can’t fire ‘em, you’re less inclined to hire ‘em.

  6. I think you are completely missing the point here. It was one of those At Will deals and that is all there is to it.

    I’m aware of that, and I don’t think it’s missing the point. If the company wanted to exercise its right to fire someone, fair enough. But the reason for their doing so is shite, and they’d have been a lot better off not giving one.

    Put it another way: we can end a relationship when we like, without any justification whatsoever. But we still give a reasonable explanation, otherwise we just look like absolute untrustworthy, self-serving cowardly c*nts. If you’re going to make a decision affecting someone’s life, at least have the balls to give them an explanation and make the explanation a good one. Otherwise you probably ought not to be in management.

  7. “If you can’t fire ‘em, you’re less inclined to hire ‘em.”

    Employers having to bear all of the employment risk is a major impediment to employment no doubt about it. We have a pretty sold EBA at my joint which is fine but it still overpays someone straight out of school, green as the grass for our sites which tend to me nowhere near where they live. We have created a role called a “Trainee XXX” which we think is kind of outside the scope of any award of our EBA which gives us the option of employing people like this, seeing how they go and then converting them to the EBA.

    We put three lads on this in remote regional site recently, they worked big hours, in the rain, long travel time, no scheduled breaks on a low flat base pay rate. One of them never worked out as construction just wasn’t for him, the other two worked out, they are now in the Mid-East on one of our sites and getting trained on a specialist machine and will return to a major project in Melbourne. When they get back they will be on the Full Monty EBA, have tickets, will be on a great career path and on a very high profile project. Win win and something that would be unlikely in the employer takes all of the risk model.

  8. It’s the world the snowflakes & SJWs demanded we live in. So I can’t really summon up too much sympathy when it starts to bite them.

  9. “If you’re going to make a decision affecting someone’s life, at least have the balls to give them an explanation and make the explanation a good one.”

    Your services are no longer required, cuts it for me. Its far safer than exposing yourself to litigation, plus they know full well why they and not the next guy is getting the arse and it’s not as if I am stopping them plying their trade with another taker and continuing with their life their way. I have done this many, many times, last Friday was the last one and I have never had to do this to a good performer.

  10. Partly on topic. I haven’t got round to listening to this as it only came up on Bleeding Heart Libertarians but Michael Munger is always worth listening to:

    lizabeth Anderson discusses her new book Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk about It) with reviewer Michael Munger.

    Elizabeth Anderson, PhD
    University of Michigan
    Elizabeth Anderson, PhD, is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on democratic theory, equality in political philosophy and American law, racial integration, the ethical limits of markets, theories of value and rational choice, the philosophies of John Stuart Mill and John Dewey, social epistemology, and feminist epistemology and philosophy of science.

    Michael Munger, PhD
    Duke University
    Michael Munger, PhD, is director of the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics program at Duke University. He worked as a staff economist at the Federal Trade Commission and has held teaching jobs at Dartmouth College, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of North Carolina. His recent books include Choosing in Groups and The Thing Itself. His research interests include the study of the morality of exchange and the working of the new “Middleman Economy.”

    http://www.publicsquare.net/2017/11/private-government-how-employers-rule-our-lives-and-why-we-dont-talk-about-it/

    As to the case under discussion. its just going to add to the self righteous belief that the twitter mob already has and encourage others. Given the febrile nature of US politics its also likely to fuel an alt-right backlash and god knows where, or if, it will end. There’ll certainly be no winners.

    Just because the company could doesn’t mean they should. And if they are going to, what I consider, abuse “at will” employment this way they will be asking for legislation. Anyone who read Coyote Blog will know how bad it gets for employers in places like California and they don’t want to end up at that end of the spectrum.

    As it happens I’ve worked under effectively at will conditions when contracting for the Government. I quite liked the idea but did insist that it was a two way street and that I wasn’t prepared to sign up to me giving them 30 days notice.

  11. I think the basic contention is that we do not much like the idea of further government restrictions governing what situations an employer(/trader/employee/anyone) can terminate a deal/agreement/contract. This says nothing about how right or wrong an employer is to fire an employee for personal, private opinions expressed outside of work.

    So: company was stupid to fire an employee for this reason and that is worrying, but it should not be countered by further regulations. I believe this is what you are also pointing to when you say “I can’t help wondering if employees stood up for themselves a bit more and grew some balls, HR wouldn’t feel so empowered they can fire someone over a rude gesture on Facebook”


  12. The issue of anonymity always comes up in these discussions. In hindsight it may have been more sensible to write this blog anonymously, but the stubborn side of me never saw why I should. I always thought I ought to be able to defend anything I say on here, and if I need to hide behind a pseudonym perhaps I shouldn’t be saying those things in the first place. Secondly, anonymity doesn’t always work. There have been enough instances of bloggers being outed as it’s extremely difficult to cover your tracks all the time, and if you got tangled up in a major controversy someone would likely find out who you really were in short order. Even though writing under my real name might be more risky, I at least don’t have to worry about suddenly being outed, and I know I can stand by anything I’ve said on here (more or less).”

    The thing with this, and the “if employees grew some balls” is about things like useful skills and experience vs corporate status. There are people in this world who earn what they earn because of useful skills and experience, and people who earn what they earn because they’ve achieved status in an organisation.

    MPs are a good example of this. They are there because they achieved status, proved their loyalty. Most of them are earning far more than they’re worth to the market. But as a result, they can’t be difficult. When you find awkward buggers like Bob Marshall-Andrews, it’s generally because they’ve got another good way to earn money.

    It’s why I work freelance. OK, there’s the extra money. But I put in a lot of extra hours on things like training to remain valuable. But that value is mine. It’s not tied to one organisation. I can tell someone to sod off, because someone else will hire me in a reasonably short period of time.

    There is another thing which is about people overstretching themselves. I don’t own a nice car, I don’t go on fancy foreign holidays. I don’t eat out a lot. I got rid of my mortgage as a result. I have a few luxuries that aren’t that expensive. And the more you can live simply, or with cash rather than credit, the less dependant you are on always having a wage. The easier it is to tell an employer to sod off.

  13. Freedom of political association used to be a thing. I completely agree with you on this, Tim. It’s a slippery slope and it is much more inclined to go in one direction.

  14. Freedom of political association used to be a thing.

    It still is. Along with the freedom not to employ someone you don’t like.

    Tim has covered the basics well enough, I think, but there’s an additional dimension that people who don’t follow US politics that closely might not be aware of: the Chick-Fil-A effect.

    The thing is, Twitter mobs and Facebook outrage storms are ephemeral and do not represent actual paying customers; smart companies understand this. On top of that, enough regular people are fed up with their values being savaged by the hectoring moral scolds that they’ll vote with their wallets. When Chick-Fil-A came under fire for supporting California’s Prop 8 (preserving traditional marriage), they were targeted with a boycott. Chick-Fil-A stood firm and refused to apologize, and they did more business on boycott day than ever from people buying a sandwich solely to say “**** you” to the SJWs.

    Similarly, not every company is in thrall to its HR department; a power-mad, feminized bureaucracy is a luxury only affordable in boom times. Increasingly, companies are outsourcing or automating their HR admin functions, cutting their HR staff, and just taking the risk of a costly lawsuit over paying all those drones to oppress the productive employees.

    TL;DR: if your company is so dysfunctional that it bows to Twitter mobs and its own HR staff, work somewhere else. It is more cost-effective in the long run for a company to stand firm against SJW mobs and carry on.

  15. TL;DR: if your company is so dysfunctional that it bows to Twitter mobs and its own HR staff, work somewhere else. It is more cost-effective in the long run for a company to stand firm against SJW mobs and carry on.

    Agreed (and I read the long version too).

  16. “Along with the freedom not to employ someone you don’t like.”

    And that is the point in a nutshell.

  17. Shortly after Obama’s first election, I had to sack a lawyer.

    Not any specific lawyer – I had to drop headcount in one small department because of business changes. The department contained five lawyers. Three of them were safe – they were too good to lose. Two of them were expendable to the company – fine lawyers, but they were the two real choices just due to performance and experience factors.

    They were equally rated by everyone. I could come up with no internal reasoning that favored firing one over the other.

    So I fired the Obama-lover – the one who had crowed over his election.

    I didn’t fire him because of this – I had to choose one – but it was the deciding factor.

    Decisions like this come up every day. I had to make a choice, and so I decided to part ways with the guy who was so moronic as to believe that Obama was something other than a grifter from Chicago. If I was going to continue allowing these people to make million-dollar decisions, but had to cull one, I would cull the one with the most suspect intellect.

    Nowadays, letting your political flag fly freely leaves you wide open when such choices need to be made. To this day, I do not know the politics of the person whom I did not choose to fire, but I sure as hell knew the politics of the guy I fired. Why even take that chance?

    And the woman in question in this post wasn’t a drone – she was a decision-maker. Would you worry about giving high-level control in your own company to someone who chooses to give a very public finger to the President of the USA as he is driven past? I would.

  18. They were equally rated by everyone. I could come up with no internal reasoning that favored firing one over the other.

    Decisions like this come up every day.

    In the general sense, i.e. not in your specific case, I beg to differ. In most organisations the ones who are kept on would be those who are most-on message, the most compliant, and those who suck-up to the higher management. Competence, skills, experience, etc. have nothing to do with it.

    And the woman in question in this post wasn’t a drone – she was a decision-maker.

    Then that changes things. I’m surprised they had a day-rate contractor making decisions, though.

  19. We are setting up in Singapore and I have just issued my first employment agreement to the new Ops Manager today. I was pleasantly surprised that the following clause meets the requirements of the Singapore Employment Act and yes it is in his signed agreement.

    12.3. The Employer is not obliged to give any reasons for termination.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *