Off Duty Behavior Can Impact Your Employment

I was really irritated by this article because there should be some limits on your employer’s reach into your personal affairs.

“Employees are being disciplined or fired for such behaviors as drinking on their own time, using competitors’ products and displaying political bumper stickers. No one tracks the number of such cases, but some workers rights’ groups are concerned that the practice is on the upswing.

“The shock is that there’s no legal protection,” says Lewis Maltby, of The National Workrights Institute, a non-profit based in Princeton, N.J., that focuses on employee rights. “You can get fired just for having a bumper sticker the boss doesn’t like.”

There are certain professions in which I can understand why what you do on the outside can impact your employment, but on the whole I find this to be incredibly distasteful and somewhat 1984ish.

At the Atlantic City, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, bartenders and waitresses can be fired if they gain more than 7% of their body weight. They are first given a 90-day unpaid suspension to lose the weight. Officials say it is a recent clarification to the company’s appearance policy.

About 200 cocktail servers and bartenders, known as “Borgata Babes,” are covered by the policy, and have to submit to weigh-ins. Weight gain for valid medical reasons, such as pregnancy, are exempt, but the waitresses have 90 days to comply with the target weight upon return.

“We believe the policy in place is not only legal and non-discriminatory, it is also fair,” spokesman Michael Facenda said in a statement.

• Lynne Gobbell was fired from her job packing insulation by her Moulton, Ala.-based employer for displaying a John Kerry bumper sticker on her car, according to the Associated Press and numerous media reports. Gobbell could not be reached for comment.

• Ross Hopkins, who worked for a Budweiser distributor, sued after he says he was fired for drinking a Coors at a Greeley, Colo., bar after work.

But Jeff Bedingfield, attorney for American Eagle Distributing, says Hopkins was fired in 2003 for making disparaging comments about the company while at the bar wearing a company uniform. The case is expected to go to trial.

While about half the states have laws preventing employers from firing workers who smoke off duty, questions remain about other legal, off-duty activities. Some states have passed broader protections, says Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU in Michigan.

“It’s a growing trend,” Moss says. “But whether or not they will go further to protect workers is an open question.”

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5 Comments

  1. Zeruel June 15, 2005 at 11:20 am

    These corporate policies are excesses in a capitalist economic system. In an economy, on whichever conviction it is based, needs regulations to protect society and remain a healthy relationship between workers and superiors.

    These intrusions in private life must be illegal by law. If left untreated, the system will spiral towards absolutism where corporation have the positions that the politbureau in former communist states use to have.

    Before you know it yo will have contests with ‘worker of the year’. Stalin would be proud. He would see his ideals realized in a system he used to antagonize.

  2. Jack's Shack June 14, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    Misanthrope,

    I had that happen to me a number of years ago. At an employer who shall remain nameless I was stuck working for a person who had gone through 4 people in two years (in my position) and sure enough I became number 5.

    They claimed that my position was eliminated but that was just an excuse.

    Alice,

    You are right.

  3. Alice June 14, 2005 at 1:59 pm

    I hate to sound bombastic, but all this stuff stinks of a modern day slave master mentality.

  4. Alice June 14, 2005 at 1:56 pm

    I agree. It’s frightening. And I live in one of those “Right to Work” states. It sucks. My previous employer got away with murder in terms of not paying employees properly, giving them extra duties, general neglect of responsibilities, etc.

  5. The Misanthrope June 13, 2005 at 6:53 pm

    The problem is that supervisors and can cook up any excuse to fire an employee by stating the position has been eliminated, then they can call it something else and ever so slightly change the job description. It is all too easy especially for states that are “Work at Will” states, if I remember that correctly. It is all odious.

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