At the beginning of the year, we had a real donnybrook on Ethics Alarms over my contention that Applebee’s correctly fired a waitress for web- shaming a customer who refused to tip another server on the grounds, as the customer wrote on her credit card receipt, that the automatic tip of 18% was excessive since she (a pastor as well as a jerk) gave God only 10%. The indignant waitress posted the receipt on Reddit, which led to locals recognizing the pastor’s handwriting and appropriate antipathy being directed her way. Since the waitress’s conduct was a clear violation of Applebee’s employment terms and because publicly shaming customers who exercise their right not to leave tips is a poor customer relations strategy, she was sacked. Subsequently the unapologetic waitress received a lot of sympathy, while equally misguided observers vowed to punish Applebee’s for not wanting to be known for having waitresses on the payroll who are prone to misappropriate customer receipts and post them online to bring opprobrium down on the niggardly diners’ heads.
I think Applebee’s is looking prescient and wise right now. Ask Red Lobster, which did not fire Christina Jenkins, a 19-year-old African-American server at the Red Lobster restaurant in Franklin, Tennessee. Jenkins served a $44.53 order to Devin Barnes and his wife. Barnes wrote the word “none” by “tip, ” and, Jenkins claimed, wrote “Nigger” on the receipt as well. Jenkins then posted a photo of the racist receipt on her Facebook page, writing, “This is what I got as a tip last night…so happy to live in the proud southern states. God Bless America, land of the free and home of the low class racists of Tennessee.” Going the Applebee’s vigilante one better, Jenkins allowed Barnes’ signature to be visible on the receipt.
The photo, and story, went viral on the web and the news media gobbled it up. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes denied that they would write such a thing (they didn’t tip because the order was a carry out), but nobody believed them. After all, everyone knows that white customers in southern states are likely to write “nigger” on receipts, just as everyone knows that sort-of white neighborhood watch members racially profile black kids in hoodies for carrying bags of Skittles. Jenkins, in contrast, was besieged with sympathy and cash contributions: the latest tally was $10,749. A handwriting expert hired by Barnes, however, proved that “nigger” was not written by the customers, but by the waitress herself. Now Jenkins and Red Lobster are being sued by the Barneses, who have been subjected to harassment and threats.
And that’s not all… Continue reading
A few quick points, before I present Chris Marschner’s excellent Comment of the Day:
- You know you’re posting too much when a you’ve completely forgotten an essay less than a month old, like this one.
- Why didn’t someone tell me that I left the “l” out of “Columbia”?
- I’m going to have to start working on my proof-reading again, clearly. There were a couple more typos in this post.
- Chris just started commenting, and this is the third carefully written, well-reasoned substantive piece he has produced. I am grateful; such debuts raise everyone’s game.
- I liked this post, and not many people read it or commented on it. I am increasingly worried about the trend in law enforcement and in government generally, especially the schools, to brush off free speech as an inconvenience. I’m grateful to Chris for raising the issue again.
Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Dunce: Columbia, South Carolina Police Chief Ruben Santiago”: Continue reading
With this post, I am introducing the Kaboom!, a special category reserved for cases that should require no ethics commentary from me, since the ethical breach is beyond obvious, but where the individual’s ethics alarms have proven so spectacularly useless that attention must be paid.
The name of the award derives from the sound my head made as I read the story, because I don’t know how to spell the sound my brains made when they hit hit the ceiling and then slowly fell to the floor.
The first Kaboom! goes to the most deserving Judy Viger, 33, of Gansevoort, New York. Viger is taking a plea deal after being charged with five counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Just for fun, let me tell this story in stages, and let me know when you hear the Kaboom!
1.Police arrested Viger for after she arranged to have two strippers perform at her son’s 16th birthday party in November.
2. Some of the party-goers were 14.
3. The two women performed lap dances for the male teenaged guests, and the birthday boy, of course.
4. Viger did nothing to stop it.
5. One teenaged boy sustained a bitten nipple.
6. Viger then posted pictures of the proceedings on Facebook.
How did you do?
My head went off at #1.
Pointer: ABA Journal
Facts: Post Star
The face of police power abuse in Columbia, S.C.
If our culture did a minimally competent job communicating the essential right of free speech in the United States, people like Ruben Santiago wouldn’t think as the do—as they do being best described as ignorantly, censoriously, arrogantly and stupidly. Both the Left and the Right are to blame for the message not getting out to the public, and, consequently, members of the public who acquire governmental authority: the government can’t threaten you or harm you for mere speech…the Left through its attempts at political correctness, mind control and indoctrination in the schools, the Right in its efforts to use laws to curb expression involving sex and violence in the arts and entertainment.
In Columbia,Police Chief Ruben Santiago took to the Columbia Police Department Facebook page to announce that his officers had seized $40,000 in marijuana from an apartment after a successful drug investigation. Citizen Brandon Whitmer, on his own page, took note of the arrest and opined, “maybe (police) should arrest the people shooting people in 5 points instead of worrying about a stoner that’s not bothering anyone. It’ll be legal here one day anyway.” Santiago replied ominously to Whitmer, saying, “(W)e have arrested all of the violent offenders in Five points. Thank you for sharing your views and giving us reasonable suspicion to believe you might be a criminal, we will work on finding you.”
Somebody in the department with a working knowledge of the Constitution quickly got that post deleted, but Santiago defended it in a double-down post, writing, Continue reading
Young Brian Zulberti may be nice guy. He may even be a competent lawyer, though the chances of his being able to demonstrate that are diminishing daily. Nevertheless, his quixotic and misguided, and dare I say it, really stupid, quest to show that professionalism, judgment and character are not properly relevant to the practice of law is an exercise in hubris that must fail, deserves to fail, and of course, will fail, leaving him to pick up the pieces of fifteen minutes of media fame purchased at the price of a reputation. It looks like he’s having fun, and that’s something, I guess. Ten years from now, I doubt that he’ll think it was worth it.
Shortly after passing the Delaware Bar, Zulberti, a 2009 law school grad, emailed the entire Bar membership asking for a job. In lieu of his résumé; he attached a photo of himself in a Villanova Law muscle shirt that would be more at home on a dating site for the shallow. The web also contained his half-naked selfies, and various websites with varying motives picked up the story. Interviewed on YouTube, Zulberti proclaimed that being true to himself was more important to him than getting hired, and that he wasn’t about to change his Facebook privacy settings to portray himself as a traditional, dignified, applicant for legal work.
Let me pause here to say that in many ways I sympathize with Zulberti. Continue reading
All of a sudden, for some unknown reason (maybe THIS story!) there is an avalanche of Facebook users posting this language, or the equivalent:
PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning – any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other “picture” art posted on my profile. You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee, agent, student or any personnel under your direction or control.
The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law.
UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
But oh so wrong in every way. Continue reading
Two recent court rulings demonstrate how the law often cannot punish purely unethical conduct if it falls in the cracks of legal language and definitions. When that happens, however, it is incumbent upon the rest of the culture not to allow an Ethics Dunce, or worse,to escape without proper identification and condemnation.
Case A: Curtis Cearley
Director of technology services for the Fayette County (GA) school district.
Fayette County high school student Chelsea Chaney used her Facebook page to post a photo of herself wearing a bikini and standing next to a life-size cardboard cut-out of rapper Snoop Dogg holding a can of Blast, the caffeinated alcoholic beverage he promotes. Although it was posted for the student’s friends, Cearley saw it, and used the comely photo in a presentation at a public forum on the risks of sharing potentially embarrassing personal information on social media. He also used her name, identifying Chaney at the forum which was attended by parents, faculty and students who attended school with her. He never alerted her, or asked her permission to use her photo as a “Don’t be like Chelsea!” example. The forum was titled “Once It’s There, It’s There to Stay.”
Horrible. This is a pure Golden Rule violation by Cearley, unfair, cruel, thoughtless, mean and intentionally harmful to a minor, no less: Continue reading
Stipulated: I am not in generally favor of government shutdowns, just as I do not favor strikes, boycotts, Massada-style mass suicides, wars, or any other destructive tactics, strategies and actions in response to impasses over important matters. Sometimes, however, they are necessary and responsible. Sometimes, they are not.
1. It is fascinating reading the comments on the shutdown from my friends on Facebook. It is startling how many of them simply parrot back partisan talking points they have heard on CNN and MSNBC, but especially striking are the angry rants of the government employees who appear to take the shutdown as a personal affront. How dare the evil Republicans disrupt their lives, their paychecks, their work schedule, their vacations! I wonder if my friends have the same reactions to labor strikes, wars and national disasters. Do they really believe that those elected officials struggling to decide on crucial matters of policy, firmly believing in a course that is right for the nation and reaching an impasse, should just shrug off the serious implications of the issue at hand and say, “But, hey, Joe Finsterwald will have a tough time if his agency has to shut down, and the Bradys’ DC vacation will be ruined, so the heck with it: go ahead with that law we think will be a disaster for the country. We’ll back off.” Do those Facebook complainers really think that would be responsible governance? You know, guys, this isn’t personal: it’s called politics and two party government. It’s part of the deal. Disagree with the policy arguments if you have the knowledge and perspective to do so, but taking the position that the entire business of running the country revolves around your convenience over the next few days or weeks is as juvenile as it is irresponsible. If you work for a private company, you risk disruptions because of business failures, competition and re-organizations. If you work for the government, you risk things like this. It’s not only about you.
2. What various polls show about what the American public believes or doesn’t believe is irrelevant, and anyone on either side of the dispute who cites them as support for the Affordable Care Act or gutting the Affordable Care Act is either naive or trying to deceive. Continue reading