Should An Employer Be Able To Discipline You Based Upon Your Non-Criminal Past?

Grand Potentate

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This article popped up today and inspired some interesting commentary, so I figured I'd throw it out here and see what you guys thought of it. The story is based upon an Eater.com editor who was suspended from his job when it was found out that he took part in the racist punk culture during his youth.

Even If You Were a Skinhead, Your Employer Is Not the Judge of Your Personal Beliefs

Late last week, Nick Solares, the Restaurant Editor of the food site Eater.com, was placed on leave after apologizing for being involved in the racist punk scene of the 1980s. This is a horrible precedent, for all of us.

Let us establish a few things right up front:

  1. After people began circulating photos of Nick Solares on the skinhead scene, Solares publicly apologized for participating in that scene when he was a teenager, and wrote that he “fully disavow the bigoted and dehumanizing ideologies they represent.”

    [*]Nick Solares’ job is writing about food and restaurants.

    [*]We all disagree with the ideology of Nazis and skinheads.

With those facts in mind, I would like to put forward a very simple standard for employers: Workplace personnel decisions should be made based on behavior that directly affects the workplace. Workplace personnel decisions—hiring, firing, promotions, demotions, suspensions, discipline, being placed on leave—should not be made based upon things people do or believe in their personal time. This is a crucial standard that prevents your employer from unilaterally running your life.


Nick Solares’ job is covering restaurants. Were he an active neo-Nazi who only covered white restaurants, that would be a relevant workplace issue. Were he an active neo-Nazi who spouted white supremacy at work and advocated the murder of his non-white coworkers, that would be a relevant workplace issue. But neither of these are the issue at hand. The issue at hand is that Nick Solares used to be, many years ago, a skinhead punk, and now he is not, and he has specifically disavowed those beliefs. It is natural to have a visceral reaction to any mention of Nazi ideology, and to want to destroy it, push it away, wipe it out. Any honest reading of the current situation, though, tells us that Nick Solares’ teenage beliefs are not a workplace issue at Eater.com. (Eddie Huang’sthoughtful essay on Solares’ case is a critique of the New York food media as a whole rather than a call for Solares to be punished.) There is no reason for him to be placed on leave, paid or otherwise.

Because most people find racist ideology so vile, Solares has not garnered much public sympathy. He should. He could be you. And if he were you, you would be outraged at your employer’s behavior. Perhaps you are a Green Party member in Kansas who works for a Trump-supporting boss. Perhaps you were a rapper when you were younger and recorded songs with violent, sexist lyrics. Perhaps you are a woman who’s spoken openly about having an abortion. Perhaps you are a Communist on the weekends. Perhaps you did stupid things in college, and there are pictures. As long as these things do not directly hurt your workplace performance, they are none of your employer’s business. Likewise, the fact that your coworker dislikes your political beliefs or something you did or thought in your past is not a reason to discipline you at work, unless you are actively doing something to hurt that coworker. The very existence of someone you disagree with does not constitute assault. You are free to dislike your coworker; you may even feel unsafe due to your coworker’s personal beliefs; but you are not entitled to demand that they be removed from their job for something they did unrelated to work. The relevant issue here is not how you feel about an ideology that Nick Solares used to subscribe to; the issue is that if Nick Solares is doing his job, he should not be placed on leave because his employer dislikes an ideology that he used to subscribe to. This is a line that must be defended. If it is not, your employer will gain an omniscient ability to dictate every facet of your life in exchange for your measly paycheck.

Maybe you would never be a skinhead punk. Maybe you cannot imagine your kindly boss ever ousting you from your job for your thoroughly reasonable political opinions. But we create principles to deal with all cases: the unfair bosses, the unpopular people, the supporters of causes that others find repugnant. (A former neo-Nazi in the New York media scene has something in common with, say, a Black Lives Matter protester who works as a schoolteacher in Alabama: they have both demonstrated political views that may prove unpopular to their employers, and they are both entitled to do so without receiving workplace repercussions.) There are plenty of legitimate ways to debate the merits of racist ideologies, and how and whether a past adherence to such ideologies reflects on a person in later life. Being placed on leave by your employer after a public backlash to something that does not directly affect your work is not one of those ways. Your employer is not the judge and jury of your personal political beliefs. Your employer is someone who pays you money to do a job. Allowing employers greater power than that—power to enforce standards of their own choosing about our behavior outside of work—is far scarier than any 1980s skinhead punk show.



read the comments for some interesting discussion on the topic and let us know what you think.
 
This article popped up today and inspired some interesting commentary, so I figured I'd throw it out here and see what you guys thought of it. The story is based upon an Eater.com editor who was suspended from his job when it was found out that he took part in the racist punk culture during his youth.

Even If You Were a Skinhead, Your Employer Is Not the Judge of Your Personal Beliefs

Late last week, Nick Solares, the Restaurant Editor of the food site Eater.com, was placed on leave after apologizing for being involved in the racist punk scene of the 1980s. This is a horrible precedent, for all of us.

Let us establish a few things right up front:

  1. After people began circulating photos of Nick Solares on the skinhead scene, Solares publicly apologized for participating in that scene when he was a teenager, and wrote that he “fully disavow the bigoted and dehumanizing ideologies they represent.”

    [*]Nick Solares’ job is writing about food and restaurants.

    [*]We all disagree with the ideology of Nazis and skinheads.

With those facts in mind, I would like to put forward a very simple standard for employers: Workplace personnel decisions should be made based on behavior that directly affects the workplace. Workplace personnel decisions—hiring, firing, promotions, demotions, suspensions, discipline, being placed on leave—should not be made based upon things people do or believe in their personal time. This is a crucial standard that prevents your employer from unilaterally running your life.


Nick Solares’ job is covering restaurants. Were he an active neo-Nazi who only covered white restaurants, that would be a relevant workplace issue. Were he an active neo-Nazi who spouted white supremacy at work and advocated the murder of his non-white coworkers, that would be a relevant workplace issue. But neither of these are the issue at hand. The issue at hand is that Nick Solares used to be, many years ago, a skinhead punk, and now he is not, and he has specifically disavowed those beliefs. It is natural to have a visceral reaction to any mention of Nazi ideology, and to want to destroy it, push it away, wipe it out. Any honest reading of the current situation, though, tells us that Nick Solares’ teenage beliefs are not a workplace issue at Eater.com. (Eddie Huang’sthoughtful essay on Solares’ case is a critique of the New York food media as a whole rather than a call for Solares to be punished.) There is no reason for him to be placed on leave, paid or otherwise.

Because most people find racist ideology so vile, Solares has not garnered much public sympathy. He should. He could be you. And if he were you, you would be outraged at your employer’s behavior. Perhaps you are a Green Party member in Kansas who works for a Trump-supporting boss. Perhaps you were a rapper when you were younger and recorded songs with violent, sexist lyrics. Perhaps you are a woman who’s spoken openly about having an abortion. Perhaps you are a Communist on the weekends. Perhaps you did stupid things in college, and there are pictures. As long as these things do not directly hurt your workplace performance, they are none of your employer’s business. Likewise, the fact that your coworker dislikes your political beliefs or something you did or thought in your past is not a reason to discipline you at work, unless you are actively doing something to hurt that coworker. The very existence of someone you disagree with does not constitute assault. You are free to dislike your coworker; you may even feel unsafe due to your coworker’s personal beliefs; but you are not entitled to demand that they be removed from their job for something they did unrelated to work. The relevant issue here is not how you feel about an ideology that Nick Solares used to subscribe to; the issue is that if Nick Solares is doing his job, he should not be placed on leave because his employer dislikes an ideology that he used to subscribe to. This is a line that must be defended. If it is not, your employer will gain an omniscient ability to dictate every facet of your life in exchange for your measly paycheck.

Maybe you would never be a skinhead punk. Maybe you cannot imagine your kindly boss ever ousting you from your job for your thoroughly reasonable political opinions. But we create principles to deal with all cases: the unfair bosses, the unpopular people, the supporters of causes that others find repugnant. (A former neo-Nazi in the New York media scene has something in common with, say, a Black Lives Matter protester who works as a schoolteacher in Alabama: they have both demonstrated political views that may prove unpopular to their employers, and they are both entitled to do so without receiving workplace repercussions.) There are plenty of legitimate ways to debate the merits of racist ideologies, and how and whether a past adherence to such ideologies reflects on a person in later life. Being placed on leave by your employer after a public backlash to something that does not directly affect your work is not one of those ways. Your employer is not the judge and jury of your personal political beliefs. Your employer is someone who pays you money to do a job. Allowing employers greater power than that—power to enforce standards of their own choosing about our behavior outside of work—is far scarier than any 1980s skinhead punk show.



read the comments for some interesting discussion on the topic and let us know what you think.

A qualified yes. More and more morals, ethical behaviour, professionalism, deportment is becoming an issue. Especially if these potentially damnable offences are aired in public and/or in the court of public opinion.

Clear cut: if it were to be found out that the Pope was a skinhead racist prior to entering the church, would it impact his being Pope for very much longer? Yes.

A president? A candidate for elected office? A potential appointee to the bench? Yes.

Someone who is seen on camera yelling "fuck her right in the pussy" yup. It's happened.

Morals clauses implied or defined are becoming common place. Is it right? In some cases yes, when the individual subscribes to a higher moral/professional code.

Or if what they did in the past is deemed "bad" by public opinion.

Is it right? Unimportant because right is trumped by perception and opinion. The only balancing force is human rights tribunals which are are far fucked up in the opposite direction.

Let's see: guy hung with skinheads as a teen. Well, who didn't? Oh he sang in a skinhead band? A misadventure of youth. Photos of him hanging out with Swervedriver in 2012? Ok, bad judgement for being photographed with them. But just because they espouse Nazi, White Supremecy hate doesn't mean they are not good shits, right?

There is no right answer. Anyone can be fired for anything that the employer things reflects negatively on the organization unless it is proven after the fact that they have broken a law for firing them.

Anything you do that can be tied to nazism, game over. Nazis are extra bad, right?
 
If we're talking about the Hydro misogynist at the footy game, they rehired him.

Ultimately a corporation will do whatever it takes to preserve itself, and if salacious details of anyone - receptionist up to the chairman - on past sex orgies gets in the way of the company making money, it can impose whatever construct to protect itself within the law. I think the trouble is employees overestimate their rights in a workplace. When you signed up for a pay cheque you surrendered certain things - such as doing what's comfortable versus doing what's effective for the firm.
 
Pro-tip: never apologize.
I would fire anyone that apologized for their past.
It is a real sign of SJW faggotry to penalize someone for attitudes that they held in the distant past.

Trump's gonna be president soon. The SJW days are over soon. They will not be forgiven. There will be no mercy.
 
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On the one hand, I understand that an employer (particularly a private company) can fire a person for a wide range of reasons, including not liking some of their past activities because the company is concerned that the activities may bring the company's reputation into disrepute.

On the other hand, this is concerning because it smacks of "reverse McCarthyism". Instead of being fired for being a member of the Communist party in the past, or associating the possible Reds, this person was "let go" because he associated with skinhead neo-Nazi punks in the past. Yes, it's a stupid thing to do, but it's not criminal and I can't help but feel that if he'd associated with radical left-wing environmentalists instead, there'd be a huge public outcry against his unemployment. Ultimately, I think that this should concern everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, because it means that something that you did a few decades ago, that was not illegal, can come back to haunt you.
 
On the one hand, I understand that an employer (particularly a private company) can fire a person for a wide range of reasons, including not liking some of their past activities because the company is concerned that the activities may bring the company's reputation into disrepute.

On the other hand, this is concerning because it smacks of "reverse McCarthyism". Instead of being fired for being a member of the Communist party in the past, or associating the possible Reds, this person was "let go" because he associated with skinhead neo-Nazi punks in the past. Yes, it's a stupid thing to do, but it's not criminal and I can't help but feel that if he'd associated with radical left-wing environmentalists instead, there'd be a huge public outcry against his unemployment. Ultimately, I think that this should concern everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, because it means that something that you did a few decades ago, that was not illegal, can come back to haunt you.

the past comes back to haunt people all of the time. no, it does not make it right. but this is the internet bringing down an internet "public" persona. Former associates brought him down, why? Why now? Who did he piss off? His being put on leave is a knee jerk response to a manufactured crisis

What should his employer have done? Is he on leave with pay or without pay until the employer investigates?
 
Good Lord, if we could all be fired for our youthful follies decades in the past, few of us could hold jobs, I suspect.

Even if he did adhere to National Socialist ideology to this day, if he were not making himself obnoxious to his co-workers nor bringing opprobrium on his employers for his public utterances, his political views would seem to have scant bearing on his abilities to review restaurants.
 
Good Lord, if we could all be fired for our youthful follies decades in the past, few of us could hold jobs, I suspect.

Even if he did adhere to National Socialist ideology to this day, if he were not making himself obnoxious to his co-workers nor bringing opprobrium on his employers for his public utterances, his political views would seem to have scant bearing on his abilities to review restaurants.
I knew I could count on you for some common sense.
 
Common sense has nothing to do with it. It is a manufactured crisis that can only happen on the Internet
I disagree. Shit like this happens all the time to young people. Even a cursory google search of social media history and job applications will show you this has been going on for years now. I find this even more egregious.
 
I disagree. Shit like this happens all the time to young people. Even a cursory google search of social media history and job applications will show you this has been going on for years now. I find this even more egregious.

people should not post their stupid shit in plain site
 
people should not post their stupid shit in plain site
agreed but this generation is even more public with every facet of their public life. is no one allowed a youthful indiscretion any longer? will everything you do come back to haunt you for the rest of your life, no matter when it took place, just because someone put it on the internet with no context or explanation?
 
agreed but this generation is even more public with every facet of their public life. is no one allowed a youthful indiscretion any longer? will everything you do come back to haunt you for the rest of your life, no matter when it took place, just because someone put it on the internet with no context or explanation?

Not everything but let's face it, anything remotely racist and tied to white supremacy hits the social panic button

Shoplifting ain't going to get you fired.
 
It is important for young people to know that if they protest with Black Lies Matter that they will never ever be employable again. Society has to have limits.
 
Clear cut: if it were to be found out that the Pope was a skinhead racist prior to entering the church, would it impact his being Pope for very much longer? Yes.
What if it were found out the Pope was a member of the Hitler Youth?
 
Trump's gonna be president soon. The SJW days are over soon. They will not be forgiven. There will be no mercy.

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