Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Apparently, Someone Isn't a Packers Fan

Packers Just in time for the Super Bowl, this story is just in and provides another example of how the at-will rule really means that employees can be fired for any reason.  In this situation, a Chicago car salesman was fired for wearing a Green Bay Packers tie to work (shortly after the Packers beat the Bears).  It appears that he'll land on his feet, as he's already been offered a job by a different dealership.  Here are some of the facts, courtesy of WGN:

Stone said he wore the tie at Webb Chevrolet on Monday – one day after the Packers beat the Chicago Bears in the NFC championship game at Soldier Field – because he’s been a Packers fan since Ahman Green became a star running back for the Packers in 2000. He also said he wore the tie in honor of his 91-year-old grandmother, a Packers fan who died this month.

Stone said that when he showed up at work, general manager Jerry Roberts called him over to his office and told him he would be fired if he didn’t take off his tie. Stone said he thought Roberts was joking and went back to work.

An hour later, Stone said, Roberts came to the showroom floor and again demanded he take off the tie. When he didn’t, he was fired, Stone said.

“I didn’t know you could get fired for wearing a tie,” Stone said. “I’m supposed to dress up. I’m a car salesman.”

Asked by a WGN-Ch. 9 reporter if he’d fired Stone for wearing a Packer’s tie, Webb Chevrolet general manager Jerry Roberts said, “Correct.”

Roberts said the dealership had previously done promotions involving the Chicago Bears. “I don’t feel that it was appropriate for him to go directly in contrast with an advertising campaign that we spent a lot of money on,” Roberts told WGN reporter Judie Garcia.

But Stone said Roberts’ reasons for firing him were never made clear to him, nor did he get a chance to explain the tie’s emotional significance. Roberts told WGN-Ch. 9 that he didn’t know that Stone’s grandmother was a Packers fan.

I'm guessing that the next person who might need to look for a new job is the general manager, thanks to all the bad publicity this is causing.

Hat Tip:  David Schwartz




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As a Packers fan, I sympathize with the guy. Nevertheless, this isn't just a case of someone being fired "for any reason" or "for wearing a tie."

First, he refused direct orders, which is insubordination. Even if the employee disliked the order, he has no right to ignore it.

Second, he contradicted the dealership's marketing strategy of appealing to Bears fans. The whole point of working for a business enterprise is to be work as a team to achieve common objectives. No sensible employee could think that he has a right to march to his own drummer once the employer has set the objectives and adopted a marketing strategy.

Third, the dealership was in the Chicago area, so wearing Packers paraphernalia might well offend some potential customers. Prohibiting a Packers tie is no different from banning T-shirts, buttons or other things with messages that an employer reasonably judges to be offensive to its market. Private sector workplaces are not public spaces for the exercise of free speech. Stone was free to wear his tie anywhere before or after work.

I'll take your bet, Jeff. The GM isn't going to lose his job, and this wasn't even bad publicity. Even people in Knoxville now know about the dealership, so virtually everyone in Chicagoland must. Millions of locals now know of the GM's, and the dealerships', loyalty to the Bears, whereas a few days ago they didn't. You can't buy that much good publicity.

You may not be a sports fan, Jeff, in which case the significance of the Packers-Bears rivalry might escape you. Maybe a local example would help. Suppose a Knoxville dealership spent a bundle on UT-connected advertising before the Alabama game. One of its sales employees shows up wearing Alabama gear and refuses several orders to take it off. Do you really think that firing the employee would be unreasonable?

Posted by: Dennis Nolan | Jan 26, 2011 6:51:54 AM

Sports fans are a serious bunch. Some folks will tell you that Martha Coakley's faux pas regarding Kurt Schilling killed her.

Posted by: Per Son | Jan 26, 2011 10:29:06 AM

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