When Business Rejects Ethics: the Sorabella Story

"So sorry about your wife's cancer, Carl. Let me know if there's anything we can do. Oh, by the way...you're fired."

I usually feel that organized labor rhetoric about cruel and heartless employers is archaic and exaggerated for political effect. This story, however, is almost enough to make me pick up a sign and start picketing.

Carl Sorabella, 43, got a merit raise in November for Haynes Management,  a real estate company in Wellesley, Mass., where he has worked as an accountant for almost 14 years. Then he learned that his wife, Kathy, had been diagnosed with advanced cancer. Told that the likelihood was that she had only months to live, Carl approached his boss. Sorabella explained that his wife’s illness would require him to have flexible hours as he supported her during her tests and treatment. He assured her that he would do whatever was necessary to keep his work up-to-date and complete his duties.

She fired him anyway.

To compound the offense, she fired him in a despicable way, telling him that it would all be worked out on a Friday, and giving him a termination letter Monday morning. The letter claimed that he was being let go because of staff cutbacks, and Carl saw his position advertised on the company website the next day. Pure class. The V.P. who handled the firing, for those of you who are skilled in Voodoo, is Mary Butler.

Because the company employs fewer than 50 people, neither state nor federal employment laws apply. Nothing prevents the heartless and outrageous firing, except decency, compassion, and loyalty. Clearly, Carl’s ex-employer has none of that.

“She said, ‘It’s business. I’m running a company here, and I need to make sure the department runs.’ And I argued that I would make sure the company runs,” Carl Sorabella told reporters.He promised to work nights and weekends. It didn’t matter. Now he is out of work, and his wife is on disability, facing cancer treatment. His thirteen years of service counted for nothing when he needed some help.

Business is business, but it is also part of human society, and as part of society those engaged in business are obligated to demonstrate ethical conduct. Those who deride excessive regulation of business by state and national governments need look no further than cases like Carl’s for the reason such regulation exists, cases in which  an employer had an opportunity to act with fairness and compassion at little risk to the bottom line, and chose to be mean and callous instead. People like Carl’s boss, ethically incompetent, incapable of ethical problem-solving, distrustful and untrustworthy, are the reason why good and fair employers are burdened with regulations and paperwork. They are the reason why promoting bigotry against entrepreneurs and capitalists is still a popular and viable political strategy, and why class warfare still rages on, in America, where there should be none.

“Now he’s on unemployment, and I’m on disability, and we don’t know how our bills are going to be paid,” Kathy Sorabella told the media. “But we keep telling each other as long as we love each other — it doesn’t matter.”

Unfortunately, it does matter. In an ethical society, love, or at least respect and fairness, flows to and from all participants, not only those who have been married for two decades, like the Sorabellas. If something like this can happen to Carl Sorabella, those of us dedicated to building a more ethical society had better redouble our efforts, because that goal seems far, far away.

9 thoughts on “When Business Rejects Ethics: the Sorabella Story

  1. People like Mr. Sorabella’s (ex-)boss do not deserve anonymity. The VP who sent him the letter is Mary Butler.

    We need to make her address and phone number available as well, and encourage concerned citizens to take whatever action they see fit.

    While we are at it, why not blast doctors and hospitals for price gouging?

    • I’m not sure if your tongue is cheeked or not. I don’t approve of giving out phone numbers and addresses for harassment purposes. Just because she’s a creep doesn’t mean that she forfeits her right to privacy. And I’m not sure what this has to do with health services price gouging, which is a systemic, not an individual, problem.

  2. Now, what if she’d given him every chance to do his work and he didn’t complete it, or did only 80%? Would firing have been OK then, or would it still be borderline?

      • Really sad story, Jack. Company loyalty is a two way street. These days, there are too many employees who try to milk the system and too many employers who try to milk the employees. The result has been state of cynicism that transcends prior concepts of human consideration. In other words, professional ethics go out the window. When an employee is judged only by what he can contribute RIGHT THEN- and all previous service and personal character becomes a non-issue- then this is what transpires. It also promotes an attitude of negativism that infects the entire workforce. BTW: God bless that couple. I hope that others, upon learning of their plight, will come to the Sorabellas’ assistance.

    • If she sets out valid performance goals and he doesn’t meet them, then okay. If she just says “we’ll see how it works out” and then decides 80% doesn’t work out, then no.

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