Suppose your company receives a complaint from an employee that one of his co-workers is voicing support for Vladimir Putin. The company investigates and validates the complaint. Can you fire the co-worker? Sure. We covered that yesterday. But that wasn’t the tricky question.
Should the company fire the Putin supporter?
For those of you who voted on the blog, I offered two choices:
The results were split right down the middle. Half of you said yes; the other half said no.
Now, over on LinkedIn, I asked the same question but also offered an “it depends” option. And the results were significantly different. Just 5% of respondents said yes. 62% would not fire the employee, while the rest said it depends. For example, many said the outcome hinged on whether the Putin supporter potentially created a legally cognizable hostile work environment (e.g., if the victim was Ukrainian).
I get how Title VII considerations matter. I’d be more concerned with this employee’s outrageous conduct tarnishing the organization’s reputation, undermining its values, and harming the business. We can question whether certain domestic organizations should continue doing business in Russia. But employ someone who vocally supports Putin at work? Please put me down for termination of employment (assuming the employee is at-will).
The other question I asked only on the blog was whether a U.S. company should fire an employee for expressing support for Vladimir Putin outside of work (e.g., on social media or at a rally)? 80% said no, and 20% said yes.
For me, the location of the support is immaterial. I wouldn’t want someone working for me whom I know supports Vladimir Putin. I’m firing the employee if s/he is at-will and my business operates in a state without off-duty conduct laws.
I’m not trying to deprive anyone of their free speech. This is America, after all. But free speech can have consequences — including for one’s employment. And I’d prefer to employ folks who don’t support someone who others have described as a “mass-murdering dictator.”