Is It OK To Fire Employee For An Opinion Stated on Personal Time?

Posted by $ rainman0720 3 years, 2 months ago to News
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I had an interesting discussion with Beth (my wife) about Hayley Geftman-Gold, the now-former CBS VP and Senior Counsel. Ms. Geftman-Gold posted a comment in a Facebook discussion thread that got her fired, essentially saying that she had no sympathy for the Las Vegas shooting victims because most Country and Western fans are probably gun-toting Republicans.

My wife’s position is that CBS was fully within its rights to can her based on her statement. If she was talking on the Facebook thread as “Hayley Geftman-Gold, CBS VP and Senior Counsel”, then I agree. They were well within their rights to dump her, since she brought her employer into the conversation without their knowledge or consent.

But if she was simply acting as an individual with an opinion (however ludicrous and stupid and insensitive that opinion might be), my position is that if she was acting purely as a Facebook participant and NOT as a CBS employee, she should not have been subject to any discipline by CBS.

If she was not acting as a CBS employee, what CBS did to here is—in my opinion—no different than what the leftist idiots at Berkeley did to Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos. The idiots at Berkeley didn’t like what Coulter and Yiannopoulos might say, so they did everything they could to prevent them from speaking.

If Geftman-Gold’s sentiments were her own as a person and not as a CBS employee, she should not have been terminated because of her ideas. To punish her for believing something—anything—seems like Orwell’s Thought Police live and in person and coming to a theater near you.

I’d like to get perspectives and opinions from others about this. And please disregard any “employment at will” concepts; I’m simply talking what’s right and wrong. I’m asking purely about whether you believe an employer has the right to punish an individual for having an opinion, when that individual was not on work time, and was not speaking as an employee of that company.

If Geftman-Gold was acting as an individual and not as a CBS employee, do you think CBS was right to fire her?

Or do you think what happened to her is as wrong as what happened to Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos?

Or do you see it some other way?



These comments added 05.October, 8:15am EST.

I’d like to thank everyone who responded to my question. Got a larger response than I thought I would. Rather than trying to respond to selected answers, I’m updating my original post.

I think my problem (if “problem” is the right word) is twofold, one based on my perspective, and one based on my ignorance.

First, I’m a grunt, someone who isn’t even on the corporate ladder (and who has absolutely no intention of trying to find and climb that corporate ladder). I’ve spent my entire 40 year career as a computer programmer, perfectly content to watch people move up the food chain—only to be eaten by someone else more ambitious moving up that same food chain.

So I have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be viewed by others outside my company as an executive of some kind, rather than someone who maintains the day-to-day functions of a Fortune 500 company.

If I was somewhere on that corporate ladder, I may well understand that the line between who I am when I’m “on the clock” and who I am after-hours isn’t nearly as clearly defined as it is in my current position.

Second, I am probably one of 17 people in the entire United States who has absolutely no presence in the social media world. I doubt anyone really gives much of a rat’s behind about my feelings as I watch a television program. I really don’t think anyone cares about something that happened to me at work, or on my vacation, or about what I ate for dinner. And yes, that pretty much means I don’t care about others’ feelings about that same television show, or what they did at work or on vacation, or what they had for dinner. It’s just not a world I’ve ever been interested in joining.

If I was active in social media, I may well understand again how that line between the on-duty me and the off-duty me isn’t as clear as I think it is.

For me, that line between the two parts of myself is very clear and distinct. Anything I’m doing that’s in any way related to my company, I have an absolute responsibility to do what’s in the company’s best interests. But when I go off the clock, that responsibility ends. I’m living for myself at that point, not for my employer.

Anyway, you’ve all given me some great situations, perspectives, situations, etc., and I really appreciate everyone’s comments.

And it seems like my naiveté is firmly on display for everyone to see.

I’ve got my reality, and in that reality, there are two different aspects of me: the employee, and the individual away from work. But it’s become obvious after reading these comments that how I see the world is different than most of you. And the reality is that you’re probably right, and I’m probably wrong.

Thanks again, everyone, for the replies.

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  • Posted by evlwhtguy 3 years, 2 months ago
    She is a person with a job in the public eye and she made a dumb ass statement on social media which is a worldwide megaphone. Since she could be readily identified her statements reflected on her employer which is a company involved in media....an organization which purports to be factual, even handed and free of bias. [By the way...complete bullshit] Her statements made obvious the fact that she was not factual, even handed and free of bias, which then undermines her employer. They quite rightly fired her.

    If she had been writing under a moniker like maybe"notEvilLiberalWackJob" sort of like my moniker....she would not have had a problem. But given the fact that she wrote under her name, she actually used the prominence of her employer to enhance her message,. Given that she was in fact using them in this way it is reasonable to see how they would not like it and that she in fact was in effect "Stealing from the company" by making public statements under her own name while being employed in a prominent position by a media company.

    The real funny aspect of this is that her opinions likely reflect the opinion of many...if not most...in leadership there. She just made the mistake of pointing out the emperor has no clothes.
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  • Posted by rbunce 3 years, 2 months ago
    Just as an employee (unless under specific contract for length of service) can leave at any time, so should an employer be free to part ways with employee at any time for any reason. Amendments and Court rulings say otherwise... I disagree with them.
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    • Posted by rbunce 3 years, 2 months ago
      First Amendment "Congress shall make not law..." is protection from government infringement, not your employer.
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      • Posted by TheOldMan 3 years, 2 months ago
        A point that is lost on many people. I recall way back when the Ding Dong Chicks cried "1st Amendment censorship" when TX radio stations quit playing their songs after their comments about GWB. I made the same point.
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