Wednesday, July 29, 2009

You Are Fired - Freedom of Speech at Work - 7/29/09

Since I retired from the Air Force seventeen years ago, (is that possible?) I have had several jobs. I am not sure if that is because I am so diversified or because I have no real skills or direction. Regardless of the reason, though I have done lots of different things, I have never been fired from a job. On the contrary, I am often promoted against my will. I have quit several jobs for various reasons. The biggest of which is that I am in a place in my life that I will not work anywhere that causes me to dread going to work. That was my main reason for recent egresses.

I said that I have never been fired from a job. That is no longer true. I was recently terminated from employment as a shuttle bus driver for the American Hospitality Academy. My dismissal had nothing to do with my job performance. Actually, according to my charges, I was the most popular driver. I was sacked because I write this blog. It seems the content of my posts was unacceptable. My violation was considered “Gross Misconduct” and was described:

“On July 9, 2009, AHA Management was notified by concerned students about a blog that was written by Richard Wainright. Due to the nature of the comments made in the blog and for the safety and well being of our students, Richard is (to) be terminated from the American Hospitality Academy.”

I was totally shocked at this as I really enjoyed the job, though it paid absolute crap. There was no reference to job performance at all. I had never missed a pick-up, had an accident, or treated any student with anything but respect. I enjoyed daily contact with intelligent young people from all over the world. Though I was grossly overqualified for this position, I had intended on doing it every summer until my driving skills diminished with age.

Those of you who have read my blog through its life would agree that the contents of my writing, though not profane, are not always for all audiences. But let’s keep in mind that these are college students, often in their final year of school. Most are in their early to mid 20s. In many ways they are more sophisticated than I. One of their recent parties was called an “ABC” party. “ABC” meaning “anything but clothes.” I don’t think that anything I wrote corrupted these young people.

The drivers that they have kept employed include a man that is in the early stages of dementia, often forgets to pick up interns, and is frequently mean and unreasonable to them. Students have confided in me that sometimes they fear for their lives as he drives wildly and carelessly. Another driver tried unsuccessfully to extort money from a student. This was reported to me and I immediately informed AHA management and student leadership. Another driver is a member of some religious cult and uses her position to try to push her unwelcome moral views on students. This was also reported to me. It seems though my writings have made me a bad influence, interns often took me into their confidence. It is also curious that the aforementioned actions by other employees are acceptable behavior and they continue to be employed, but my writing is gross misconduct and cause for termination. Well, there is certainly no danger of any of them writing a blog. That would require coherent thought and stringing sentences together. In retrospect, a company that has that warped of a concept of what is acceptable conduct does not deserve me for an employee. But I will miss the interns. They enriched my life.


Orionsbow said...

Some of these young people live in countries where absolute freedom of speech, such as we assume we have here in America, is not allowed, whether that country's stated policy says so or not. Subtly suppressed speech is suppressed speech nonetheless. Perhaps the government officals that supervise these young people's passage and involvement in this exchange program are concerned that they might be allowed to experience a "little too much" of America's very open policy with regard to free speech and have put pressure upon the AHA to sharply regulate exactly what is acceptable in their employees with regard to the things they say to or about the students or the AHA. Whatever the reason, this seems like a very harsh and politically motivated action for a company which is supposed to promote harmony and goodwill between peoples of many nations as it relates to the operation of hotels, motels and restaurants worldwide. In my opinion, the AHA is not setting a very good example if its real purpose is to promote better service through better understanding of the industry as it is conducted in other nations if it doesn't allow even the most casual of conversations between its employees and the students it brings here to train. A sad commentary to be sure. I should think that more communication, not less, would be the order of the day and the more "real" that communication is, the better. Perhaps I have just lived in this great nation, full of diverse people all thinking independently (well, except for the Obamazombies)for so long I have come to take for granted that people in other nations frequently do not enjoy the incredible breadth and scope of personal freedoms that we do. Shame, really.

myrtle beached whale said...

well said. you would be fired too. lol.

raymond pert said...

You dedicated about twenty years of your adult life to military service to protect the freedoms enjoyed by USA citizens and you get fired for what's in your blog.

The piece you wrote on what you learned from shuttling students from the Middle East ought to be enshrined in the Blogger Hall of Fame.

You did more good in that one post, to express the value of the AHA than anything they ever have or will print to extol the virtues of their academy.

Did you know there is a word in blog speech for getting fired because of blog/website content? The word is "dooce". If you look up Heather Armstrong at Wikipedia you can read how this dangerous, subversive Mormon woman was fired for writing about her workplace. A search of the word "dooce" will tell you more, too.

You wrote that this was the best job you've ever had. You wrote how happy you were to go to work.

I'm sorry and pissed you won't be shooting the shit with these students anymore.

You were doing each other a hell of a lot of good.

myrtle beached whale said...

I was truly dooced. Thanks for your comments. They warmed my cold heart.

forgetfulone said...

That is so ridiculous! I'm so glad the people I work with and for are not aware of my blog. I try very hard never to mention my blog name, or anything about blogging, around my co-workers. I can see this happening to me.

Shyam said...

More fool they. Nothing wrong with your blog or what you write. Clearly they lack a sense of humour!

Rena said...

So sorry you lost your job because of your blog. I think you're a talented writer. Don't quit writing!

Regina said...

Wow. Was this policy stated in the official company policies? Can't believe this happened to you in the United States. Sorry you lost a job you liked, and where you were well liked in return.

Go Figure said...

Whale: Hmm. I am not quite buying into your complaints. "Most popular" driver. Ha! Just who did you have take that photo of the nice young lady in the Hooter attire? She couldn't have been smiling at you. "Most popular" driver alerted me that I was being driven down a wrong road. Nice try, though. Oh, "Free Speech", yep that is the legalize for what you get paid for exercising that "right." I could go on and on, but, I have to watch my back so that I don't get contacted by the internet police. Hang in there Dude.

myrtle beached whale said...


No, I was not aware of any such company policy. There was no handbook. I didn't sign anything when I went to work. They say they are concerned with their students but did not even do a background check on me. I could have been an escaped convict for all they knew. As for the rules; they made them up as they went along.

Go Figure: If you stick money to your forehead, Hooters girls will smile like a Cheshire cat.

Go Figure said...

Whale: Go Figure. That explains it all now so clearly. No money. Hmmm, that is the problem. I am glad, I thought it was my after shave or deodorant. Next trip to the store...not buying any and I am going to tape that "saved" money to my forehead and head to Hooters. Thanks for the "heads up."

Bill Trembley said...

I was recently fired because the supervisor overheard me relating the climatic scene from a bad slasher movie to a friend of mine-the scene had the words, "take that you M-----F-----!!!!" after the heroine kills the slasher; words spoken at the end of the work day-not directed at anyone but my friend-all over 18 in the warehouse- Talk about being in a real horror movie now--at will laws, challenge to my unemployment claim-what a great country we live in where a movie can get you fired!!! Thanks.