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In the U.K. recently, an individual named Brian Leach posted on social media a viral video of comedian Billy Connolly (pictured) mocking religious people and religion. This caused him to be fired from his job at Asda, a supermarket chain. His sacking brought about a public outcry, however, and he just got his job back.
More details at: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/thefreethinker/2019/07/man-sacked-for-facebook-anti-religious-post-is-reinstated/
(which is where I found this out)
This is a minor news story, but it directly touches upon a huge issue that I personally don't have a clear opinion on. It's a controversial topic to say the least, though. In short:>Should there be a separation of commerce and free speech?>Is it right to fire somebody due to their expressed personal viewpoints, even if it didn't necessarily have anything to do with his or her work?
This can go one of many different ways. Suppose that Mr. Leach had posted some viral video from a British conservative pundit mocking LGBT people and calling for them to lose their civil rights, instead. Would that make a difference? What if he only posted something supporting the U.K. Labour Party and his boss, happening to be a supporter or some other political faction, sacked him for that reason? What if Leach was an outright Nazi who spent his free time outside of work marching around in a full uniform and trolling folks online with posts glorifying Hitler? Should this be a more nuanced thing, or does free speech essentially conquer all here?
Does the type of job make the difference? Could somebody who posts comments online supporting pedophilia work as a janitor at an insurance company, say, while being forbidden to apply at a school, daycare center, etc? And what if the employer has a cause outside of making money? What if an LGBT newspaper fires their electrician because they find out he donated to the campaign to ban gay marriage a few years ago?
I get the feeling (though I may be wrong) that most people here support anti-discrimination laws wholeheartedly when it comes to hiring and firing. We don't want somebody hurt just because he or she happens to be born black, gay, Jewish, etc. I'm genuinely unsure about viewpoints, though. Those aren't fixed and can be changed, but they're also important parts of people's identities. I really hate how current U.S. social conventions makes it easy to literally destroy people's lives-- kicking them out of their jobs, pushing them out of their apartments/homes, and so on-- only because they expressed some verboten opinion. At the same time, however, if I was a boss... I sure as hell wouldn't want to have to spend my time working with Nazis, even if they kept the uniforms off and their mouths shut while on the job. It's tough.
It's a hard issue. It would be better if people generally respected other people's right to have different opinions, so that employers wouldn't feel pressured to fire people on account of their speech. Prohibiting discrimination based on political opinion would in some sense be an infringement of the right to free association, but it also benefits employers because it gives them a shield against calls to fire an employee, because they can respond that their hands are tied by the law.>>891>Should this be a more nuanced thing, or does free speech essentially conquer all here?
I certainly think the government shouldn't be drawing any lines between acceptable political ideas and unacceptable political ideas. In the US, it is forbidden from doing so under the First Amendment.>>891>Could somebody who posts comments online supporting pedophilia work as a janitor at an insurance company, say, while being forbidden to apply at a school, daycare center, etc?
The complication here is that prospective clients might (reasonably or unreasonably) infer that he is a pedophile himself and poses a risk to their children. If he is believed (by either management or clients) to be untrustworthy in performing his job functions, I guess letting him go must be an option.
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>>894>Free speech is political concept, it pretty much only protects a person from government suppression
There is also a broader concept of free speech that extends to other entities that might attempt censorship, like ISPs.(E.g., net neutrality.) And society has an interest in citizens being able to freely discuss candidates for election without worrying that their employer will fire them for supporting a candidate that their employer is opposed to. Some US have enacted laws to this effect.
An powerful, unrestrained oligopoly of large corporations can suppress speech almost as well as the government. If your ISP cuts off your internet because it doesn't like your speech, or the electric company cuts off your electricity, you're going to have a hard time communicating. If your employer fires employees for talking to other employees (even outside of work) about maybe forming a union, free speech about forming a union at that company is suppressed.
I think an employer will probably always have the power to hire or fire people in a politically motivated way (because everything is political, you can't escape it).
In this case, people that occupy the job that Brian Leach did, are more or less a dime a dozen to mega-corporations, so it's not surprising they'd drop him, at even the hint that he might be a problem. The post he made was pretty insensitive, and you'd usually like the outward face of a company, to have some measure of tact.
I don't think this is necessearily a super ethical way of deciding who deserves a job, but then again, I don't think they have time for a super equitable vetting proces, so they probably have to rely on making decisions based on this kind of metric. Is it ethical? Maybe not, but a lot of stuff that corporations do is just really shitty in general, so if this really is bad, it's just another one for the pile, I suppose.
I fundamentally agree with the concept. I don't think businesses have any, well, business, mucking about in the personal lives of their employees. There really should be an implicit understanding at this point that what people say off the clock doesn't reflect on the company, and that people have the right to personal opinions and a public voice. It's hard to enforce, though, as people have pointed out in this thread.
In concept, the free market would discourage this, as not keeping a valuable employee because of their political opinion should, in theory, allow a competitor to poach them up for less and thereby be more profitable and successful. The theories of free market capitalism basically fall apart under the weight of multi-national, billion-dollar trusts, though. The companies that are successful are just so massive at this point that nothing can really be done to dislodge them, so we're stuck with catering to their political whims, which are usually just keeping up the appearance of being apolitical to appeal to the broadest possible market.
There are exceptions to this rule, though that's a more modern thing, such as google taking a hard-line liberal stance on some issues, or chick-fil-a taking a hard-line conservative stance on some issues. I do wonder if appealing to a political demographic would actually be a viable market strategy. Maybe it is sometimes and not others. Reminds me of wokenomics, though in that case they end up shooting themselves in the foot a lot, since for the woke crowd, short of staging a straight white cisgendered male holocaust, nothing will ever be enough for them, and just getting their attention is a liability. I'm fairly confident gillete is shooting themselves in the foot with that demo, although, the companies' ultimate goal might just be to stir up enough drama to for advertising/publicity sake. I don't really have the numbers to confirm whether these moves are making or loosing these companies money. If anyone has those, or knows where to find them, i'd be very curious as to how the chips are falling.
I guess here it would be the conflict between the employee's right to free speech, and the employers right to hiring practices.
That being said, i think it's fairly hard to enforce buisiness' hiring and firing practices. It's pretty easy to come up with some excuse for firing/laying off people, and when they have a multi-million-dollar team of lawyers and the person fired/layed off is unemployed, good luck with that lawsuit...
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I think the Supreme Court's approach (that punishing speech on account of its expressive content is forbidden, but punishing based on non-expressive elements (such as time, place, and manner) is allowed) is the only one that makes sense. Allowing people to burn flags inside buildings will result in deaths from inhalation of fumes. Do you think that business owners should be able to racially segregate their workplace if they want to do so in order to send the message that racial segregation is good? Should police do nothing if neo-Nazis blast electronically-amplified Nazi propaganda in a Jewish neighborhood every night when people are trying to sleep, leaving the residents with no choice but to use extrajudicial violence to secure peace and quiet for their neighborhood?
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>>895>broader concept of free speech
Yeah, you hit the heart of it there. People complain of free speech violation when their political social media posts are taken down. Of course, strictly speaking free speech only applies to the government. Facebook and Twitter are no so bound, but large corporations have virtual government-like power sometimes. They can't remove you from society physically like a state, but people refer to Facebook jail.
Personally, I don't think social media or employment is homogeneous enough to be politically oppressive in most places. The danger, I guess, is it if ever becomes so, we will have lost the capacity to fight without becoming unemployed and removed from social and mass media.
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I recently developed some computer services to use at work, and others have expressed interest in using them, but they were on my personal site, which, if you dig, has some of my political opinions. Not that you can't Google my name and find it if someone really cared, and my views, although nonstandard in the way I say it, evaluate to something largely respectful and obedient. But I made a new, very bland site for the services, just to be safe because I'm not getting fired for writing about literature.
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I don't go that far. I mean, ideally I don't want to work for someone intolerant of my views or interests. But I would find it inconvenient if they figured out they were intolerant of what I like and believe long after they hired me. I guess if work were scarce, I'd do what I have to to survive.
I don't think it's even a matter of being personally intolerant. I think it's a matter of companies being afraid of appearing to take any political stance at all, as that, presumably, shrinks their market.
I mean, we should have all seen this coming with the rise of the "everything is political" crowd on the left, who started using complaints to employers as a way of controlling conservative voices, and naturally conservatives eventually picked up the same habit. So now companies are either terrified of taking any political stance, or become radicalized. I think it's only going to get worse before it gets better.
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>>1018>afraid of appearing to take any political stance at all
Hmm...of course, not hiring someone because of politics is a political stance of sorts, but as long as candidates don't cooperate in some way to analyze who was hired and who not, it's not apparent, yes.>only going to get worse
Perhaps the state will have to step in, then. I'm currently reading Bowling Alone, and if I remember right a growing number of (especially younger) folks are apolitical, perhaps much like those companies, but if we are to live in a healthy democracy more political engagement may be necessary. And as much as it might be nice to inhabit some Jeffersonian world of self-sufficient farmer-citizens, most need to be hired by a big company to support a life of basic dignity.
>>1020>Hmm...of course, not hiring someone because of politics is a political stance of sorts, but as long as candidates don't cooperate in some way to analyze who was hired and who not, it's not apparent, yes.
Yep, it's opaque enough that companies don't have to worry about extremists jumping down their throats. I can't imagine a scenario where activists groups are calling for the firing of people for being apolitical. Just too many people who are, assumably, apolitical. Defense by raw assumed numbers. So even if they somehow do manage to track down all the numbers and make a claim, the actual groups who would be interested in calling them out for it are going to be severely limited.>Perhaps the state will have to step in, then. I'm currently reading Bowling Alone, and if I remember right a growing number of (especially younger) folks are apolitical, perhaps much like those companies, but if we are to live in a healthy democracy more political engagement may be necessary. And as much as it might be nice to inhabit some Jeffersonian world of self-sufficient farmer-citizens, most need to be hired by a big company to support a life of basic dignity.
I wonder if how much of young people being apolitical is BECAUSE companies are taking these apolitical hiring practices. Going into today's job market as a young person these day is pretty rough. Job experience is everything. So perhaps young people are largely forced to become apolitical as a way of appealing to companies who want to present an apolitical image simply as a means of survival.
I do think the state should step in at some point, but it would certainly be interesting to see how they'd go about doing it. Another problem is with the american political system the way it is, any individual's voice is going to be a drop in the ocean, so the practical personal benefits of being politically vocal are going to be completely negligible compared to the cost of making yourself a less appealing hire. Meaning if we don't stop it soon, our ability to do so declines as time goes on.
There's an excellent piece at Slate Star Codex that was written several years ago on this issue, and basically it kind of sums up what I think I personally believe on this.
In short:>"Bad argument gets counterargument. Does not get bullet. Does not get doxxing. Does not get harassment. Does not get fired from job. Gets counterargument. Should not be hard."
I should mention that the last sentence is pretty clearly untrue. This is an extremely hard topic. There are a lot of circumstances where I can certainly see a company being rather ethically justified in wanting to fire somebody, especially if we're literally talking about communists and Nazis. If I have to choose, though, I'd rather that government set up laws forbidding hiring and firing based on politics.
Oh! Nice article! It articulates concepts that have been swirling in my head to something concrete! That's always nice!
I personally think that the upside of avoiding this brute force politics is well worth the downside of not having a handful of extremists fired.
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Yeah, I think that gets at the problem. One is not very free to speak if they are threatened for speaking, and one can be threatened for speaking when an asymmetry of power exists: Big company vs. peon employee. Individual vs. mob. The threats are not arguments, but silencing.