Saturday, November 07, 2009

Where do you cross the line in the workplace?

It's been a busy week and I haven't been able to blog. But I saw this news article today and had to comment. The headline says "Massachusetts Man Says He Was Fired for Telling Colleague Her Gay Marriage Is Wrong".

The story is that Peter Vidala worked at Brookstone and a manager from another store visited. While she was there she commented on her impending homosexual marriage (which is legal in Massachusetts - where both Peter and she live). Peter returned with his views opposing the relationship. As a result of his negative comments, Peter was fired. He was told that he was "entitled to (his) own beliefs," but that "imposing them upon others in the workplace is not acceptable."

In part, I agree with Brookstone. However, they didn't do adequate research into why Peter expressed his beliefs. Apparently, the manager explained about her upcoming marriage and "mentioned four times that she had married her partner." Now it's highly possible that she was excited about her marriage (I was excited when I got married and probably told people a lot), but mentioning this four times is a little excessive.

In fact, Peter said he felt "intentionally goaded" and that "she knew how I felt about homosexuality." If that's the case, the manager was wrong to bring up the issue and Peter was being harassed for his beliefs.

In today's world, it's very likely that we will all have to work with someone who believes differently. We should be able to express those beliefs WITHIN LIMITS without fear of recrimination. Likewise, if we are offended by someone's beliefs, we should simply express that we don't want to discuss the matter and that should be the end of the discussion.

The manager in this case violated this principal. When she realized (or if she knew ahead of time) that she was discussing something that offended Peter, she should have changed the subject. Brookstone should not employ managers who intentionally cause divisiveness.

12 comments:

Payne Broome said...

You cross the line when you tell your co-worker that she is deviant and immoral...

Kai said...

Here is an actual quote from this man:
"In this situation, I took issue with the behavior. I think it’s lunacy to call that type of behavior marriage in any kind of form. I had to express that I’m intolerant of that behavior."

How many times have you dealt with an annoying coworker by personally attacking them or their beliefs? That is what this man did. Did the offended manager respond, "Well you're just a silly man believing in a bunch of myths?" Or something else offensive to Christians?

No, she did not.

Which is why even if you believe it improper to talk about a major upcoming life change, such as marriage, in this workplace it is not against company policy. I just find it appalling that this man feels he was wronged when he says horrible things about another person's marriage.

4simpsons said...

Good points, Randy. The lesbian was obviously baiting the guy. She brought it up. She was the divisive one. If you want to flaunt your rebellion against God in the workplace then ask people what they think, they should be allowed to respond.

I never shop at places like Brookstone but now I have another reason not to!

dwstick said...

He never said that this person was deviant and immoral; he was referring to the homosexual lifestyle choice.
I agree about not shopping at Brookstone. If fact, I hope that EVERYONE who supports Peter in this immediately begin boycotting Brookstone stores EVERYWHERE. And their internet shopping site. Make sure you let store management know about your outrage over this.
Political Correctness is running amok in this country. Personal freedom everywhere is taking a back seat in favor of 'group rights' and must be stopped.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the same corporate policy that was used in his termination apply to her. She was the harassing Peter. After her repeated and unsolicited comments, he responded in a way that was not condemning but simply sharing his moral conviction on the matter. I have to believe his response was not a complete surprise to her which makes me wonder if her motives in sharing her comments were not intended to solicit a response from him so that she could report him. I believe she should be fired first and then consider if what he said, in response to her harassment, should be punished or fired.

Kai said...

Well of course more facts are coming out:
"According to Brookstone, Vadala used the word "deviant" with both the manager in question and the Brookstone HR executive. He also referred to "the homosexual lifestyle" and told a co-worker "I hate people like that."

Also,

"Vadala concedes that, while in training, he viewed a video about sexual orientation diversity — which he also disagreed with."

So again, the issue should be reduced to what actually happened. A man doesn't agree with homosexuality, fine, but does he keep that opinion to himself? Even after knowing that saying those things will violate the video the training videos he just watched?

No, he breaks company policy and is fired for harassment. End of story.

Chuck said...

I agree that the manager was bordering on harrassment with the constant mentioning.

As far as the training videos, etc - does Massachussetts have as part of their civil rights coverage freedom from harrassment for expressing religious beliefs?

The point is, why is it always the gay lifestyle that has to be tolerated? If she has the right to express her psoition that gay marriage is legitimate, why doesn't he have the right to express his oposition? Bottom line, liberals are only tolerant of their viewpoint.

Randy said...

Payne, first, welcome to my blog. I appreciate your finding this and taking the time to comment. There's some discrepancy in the article about whether he said she was a deviant or practiced deviant behavior or exactly what. The article contradicts itself.

Kai, also welcome to my blog. The man was offended when she talked about homosexual marriage. Maybe he shouldn't have been offended, but then maybe she shouldn't have been offended by his comments either.

Neil (4simpsons), thanks for the comments. I shop at Brookstone because they have cool toys. Rarely buy anything because they are overpriced. I typically don't change my shopping habits based on corporate behavior, but the local store may affect my shopping habits. At the local store, they've always treated me nicely.

dwstick, welcome to my blog. I resepect your opinion, but (unfortunately) don't believe boycotts have the desired affect. I'm not sure the right way to influence a company's behavior. I typically just avoid a store when I feel they are doing something wrong. But I do this at the local level.

Kai, two comments. I feel important. Not sure where you saw the additional information, but I have no reason to doubt it. Still doesn't change my opinion. As a manager, the lady should have tried a different tact to solving the problem.

Chuck, I think you hit the nail on the head. Tolerance goes both ways.

All, thanks for the comments. I especially appreciate that the comments were (largely) positive and informative. I make my points known but like to hear other view points. Too often people resort to name calling and no one benefits.

A special thanks to the first time commenters. I hope you return here often.

"The Edge" said...

Was out of town or I would have commented sooner.....

Didn't read the article, so maybe I'm missing something here (but everyone else's responses seemed to fill in the gaps)....so take the following with a grain of salt. Only my opinion:

1. If the guy had prefaced his remarks with "It's only my opinion, but..." would this be considered imposing??? In my thinking, no, because he states it's an opinion prior to the comment and is clearly not suggesting she change her personal beliefs.

2. If this gal already knew the guy was anti-anything from a prior conversation, then ANY attempt to garner an opposing view is entrapment, which is technically inadmissable as grounds for firing because he was responding to a question from a manager at the workplace, even if it was a question asked in confidence.

3. If the question was asked by an off-hours person (fellow employee at his store or not), why was he fired? Is he not responding to a question believing it is a non-work related question? She is clearly there telling him about her marriage, not buying products.

4. Why is common sense always the first casualty of the truth? If this store had any sense of integrity, they owe it to both employees to get all the facts out in the open, and then counsel both of them that their comments could be deemed inappropriate. At that point, it should be able to be determined if this is a repeat offense. If so, then I understand the grounds for firing. if not, then the company went too far. Insensitivity to any cause is NOT a crime - it's called a life choice.

5. Suppose the woman had said she was a vegetarian. Would the guy be fired for saying he eats meat? Is this imposing his beliefs on her? Obviously not.

6. Suppose the woman said she was a supporter of the death penalty in a conversation over current events. If the guy says he opposes it on the basis the man could be rehabilitated, is this intolerant? Is he imposing his belief on her?

The point is, you can have many parallel arguments which in the same context are not seen as imposing any kind of belief on the other person. It sounds to me like the company was looking for any excuse to fire the man, grounds or not. This lady's bogus argument only serves to demonstrate how ridiculous some lines of reasoning truly are.....

How was she injured? Was she forced to end her marriage? Is she unable to work because the man expressed his opinion? Is she unable to shop at that store for fear that her ego is scarred permanently? On the surface, it seems the lady was not truly injured by the act of the man, insensitive or not. And in this case, the man's comments may be stupid, but it doesn't make them harassment if he is responding to a direct question or conversation he is in with a fellow employee. If he brought up his views on the matter unsolicited, that may be different.

And here's one last thought to ponder: if she is that upset over the issue, does it not suggest the man has a valid point of view? If the man's view was just plain wrong, wouldn't she have ignored it? Of course she would. Again, common sense should prevail.

As for the boycott, I don't shop at Brookstone, so they have no business to lose from me in the first place. But in a different realm, I'm not boycotting a store based on their views on the gay/lesbian (or any other) issue. Saves me the trouble of second-guessing myself. If I'm going to boycott a store, it's gonna be for poor service, or possibly to force them to change a policy....

Randy said...

Edge,
My impression is that neither worker was off-hours. The manager was from another store, but my impression is she was working at this store.

I like your analogy about the vegetarian. That's a life choice. I've had lunch with vegetarians and I wouldn't be offended (too much) if they said anything about my burger and I hope they wouldn't be offended by my comments about their salad.

Marshall Art said...

It probably would be a waste of time in Massachusettes, but I think the dude should sue. He's entitled to his opinion, even if that opinion is that the lesbian is a deviant. There is no Constitutional protection against being offended.

Randy said...

Marshall, first my apologies in the delay approving your comment. I'm still learning this moderation thing.

While I dislike lawsuits, I agree with you. Theere are lots of questions about what was said and when it was said, but I do think his rights were violated. Now whether the law will see it that way is another thing...