Maybe you heard about the controversy last week? It’s the one about the
He is now planning to sue, claiming the company engaged in religious discrimination. The company, on the other hand, says the former cashier was fired for violating the company’s dress code. Home Depot says it has a long standing policy that is well communicated to its employees requiring only company-approved pins and badges to be displayed on their orange aprons. The ex-employee was offered a company-approved pin that said “United We Stand” but he declined to wear it.
The standoff illustrates how different methods of framing an issue can influence the issue’s emotional appeal.
The ex-employee says he feels like he’s been punished for loving his country. He says he also wore the pin in support of his brother who is serving in the National Guard and scheduled to report for a second tour of duty in
While the emotional appeal of the case has provided fodder for Internet commentary, such it is not necessarily enough to win a case in court of law.
On the one hand, the former cashier certainly has a right to love his country and support his brother’s valiant service to our country. The heart of the matter isn’t what he’s doing, but rather how he is going about it – in this case, demonstrating his conviction in contravention of an allegedly well established and well known company dress code.
Businesses have legal rights too. Employees are agents of their employer when acting in their employment capacity (aka on the job). As a result, employees are the face of the employer to the public and employers have a right to determine what kind of public image they want to project. They have a right to establish and enforce dress codes.
Granted, it’s illegal for employers to discriminate among employees on the basis of religion; but, part of the determination that would be made in this case if it is ever filed and goes to trial is whether the “One nation under God” pin is a religious display (like a cross, a Hajib, or a yarmulke) or whether it is a political statement.
Once again, how you frame the issue can make a huge difference.
Michael Masinter, a civil rights and employment law professor at
Whenever we’re faced with what we feel is an injustice, it pays to step back and look at the controversy from all sides. There are always as many perspectives to an issue as there are parties to it and their view of things might surprise you.
Only by stepping back can we evaluate the merits of our “claim” and whether it’s worth the time and effort to pursue.