Category Archives: Workplace

Ethics Dunces: The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

I don’t understand this ruling at all.

In 2011, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. had locked out union workers. After the company later settled a contract dispute, they all returned to work except for Anthony Runion, who had been fired. Runion had shouted at a van carrying replacement workers onto the company’s grounds: “Hey, did you bring enough KFC for everybody?” and “Hey, anybody smell that? I smell fried chicken and watermelon,” the opinion noted, adding that most of the replacement workers were black.

In the 2-1 ruling for the fired worker, Judge William Duane Benton cited the law protecting unions, strikers and pickets, 29 U.S.C. § 157. Section 7 of the Act guarantees employees the right to “assist labor organizations . . . and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Section 7
gives locked-out employees the right to picket. Section 8(a) prohibits an employer from interfering with, restraining, coercing, or discriminating against employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights.

How would firing  a worker for uttering undeniable racially hostile verbiage in the process of striking? Benton writes, citing various cases in the line of labor decisions:

“One of the necessary conditions of picketing is a confrontation in some form between union members and employees.” Chicago Typographical Union No. 16, 151 NLRB 1666, 1668 (1965), citing NLRB v. United Furniture Workers of Am., 337 F.2d 936, 940 (2d Cir. 1964). “Impulsive behavior on the picket line is to be expected especially when directed against nonstriking employees or strike breakers.” Allied Indus. Workers No. 289 v. NLRB, 476 F.2d 868, 879 (D.C. Cir. 1973) (internal citation omitted). This court analyzes picket-line conduct under the Clear Pine Mouldings test: a firing for picket-line misconduct is an unfair labor practice unless the alleged misconduct “may reasonably tend to coerce or intimidate employees in the exercise of rights protected under the Act.” NMC Finishing v. NLRB, 101 F.3d 528, 531 (8th Cir. 1996), citing Clear Pine Mouldings, Inc., 268 NLRB 1044, 1046 (1984), enf’d, 765 F.2d 148 (9th Cir. 1985). The test is objective.

Wait: racially prejudiced rhetoric is “impulsive behavior”? Not by non-racists, its isn’t. Non-racists don’t suddenly start talking like racists on impulse. Anthony Runion unmasked himself as a racist by his behavior on the picket line. It may not have been “picket line misconduct,” but it was certainly unacceptable workplace and employee conduct, with a strong indication of more to come. Benton wrote that there was no evidence the black “scabs” heard Runion’s racist words, though dozens of others nearby did, and that the comments were not directed at any individual. Wait again: is the judge arguing that using racial epithets in the workplace isn’t a firing offense as long as the offender can say, “I didn’t mean you” ?

The lone dissenting judge, Judge C. Arlen Beam  dissents by stating the obvious: Continue reading

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Yes, Virginia, There Is A White Supremicist Teacher Principle

“Oops! Sorry.”

 

A commenter yesterday inquired about the Ethics Alarms position regarding efforts to punish participants at white nationalist rallies by publishing their photos on Facebook and other social media, presumably to help get them fired.

I’ll begin the analysis with the Naked Teacher Principle, explored in its many variations on Ethics Alarms, which states,

“A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.”

The same general reasoning would apply to a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who placed videos or photos of himself or herself demonstrating in favor of racist causes, or giving the “Sieg Heil!” salute, on social media. Even a superb teacher, and one who never exhibited any racial bias at all, would be rendered untrustworthy by such photographs. A neo-Nazi has a right to his or her political views, but those views cannot interfere with the individual’s ability to do a job.

No, I wouldn’t trust a Klan member, a neo-Nazi or a white nationalist to teach my child.

The same would apply to social media posts, and the exact analogy are the college professors who have recently found themselves enmeshed in controversies by declaring on Twitter or Facebook that white people should be killed, that males are a social contagion, or similar bigoted sentiments. These teachers should be separated from their students, and many, though not all, have been. They are, however, publicizing themselves, as well as their bigoted views. Like the naked teachers who posed on-line, they are accountable for the images they project and publish, and how those images affect present and future employees.

However, this is different:

Thousands of strangers across the country had been working together to share photographs of the men bearing Tiki torches on the University of Virginia campus. They wanted to name and shame them to their employers, friends and neighbors. In a few cases, they succeeded.

The activity described is a direct effort to punish people for  their opinions expressed through legal means. It is in the same unethical category as sending private e-mails that reflect badly on former lovers through social media, or using a questionable tweet to destroy the life and career of the tweeter. This kind of  “amateur sleuthing”  as the Times whitewashes the practice, is vicious, destructive, reckless, unfair, and a Golden Rule breach.

I have already pointed out that I might be tempted  join a demonstration against the unethical airbrushing of history that taking down Robert E. Lee’s statue in his home state represents. If I were an idiot (but not a bigot), and didn’t recognize that the white nationalists were just exploiting the General’s memory for their own agenda, I might have been in that group of Tiki torch marchers. A photograph of me marching with a bunch of Klansman and neo-Nazis would hardly be good for my ethics business, though I would be completely innocent of racist views.

The “amateur sleuths” also are not always correct (being amateurs, after all) , as well as being self-righteous, vicious, and opponents of free speech. The Times describes that fate of a professor, Kyle Quinn, who runs a laboratory dedicated to wound-healing research, and who resembled another man caught in a photo marching with the racists. Quinn was attacked on Twitter and Instagram, and social media demanded that he be fired, accused him of racism, and posted his home address online.

Nice.

Be proud, you vicious social justice warriors! Continue reading

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An Ethics Hypothetical: If “The Nation” Is Right About The DNC Hacks, How Should Democrats And The Mainstream Media React?

And how will they react?

Yesterday, The Nation, the most Left of the Left’s major national publications, reported this:

  • There was no hack of the Democratic National Committee’s system on July 5 last year—not by the Russians, not by anyone else. Hard science now demonstrates it was a leak—a download executed locally with a memory key or a similarly portable data-storage device. In short, it was an inside job by someone with access to the DNC’s system. This casts serious doubt on the initial “hack,” as alleged, that led to the very consequential publication of a large store of documents on WikiLeaks last summer.
  • Forensic investigations of documents made public two weeks prior to the July 5 leak by the person or entity known as Guccifer 2.0 show that they were fraudulent: Before Guccifer posted them they were adulterated by cutting and pasting them into a blank template that had Russian as its default language. Guccifer took responsibility on June 15 for an intrusion the DNC reported on June 14 and professed to be a WikiLeaks source—claims essential to the official narrative implicating Russia in what was soon cast as an extensive hacking operation. To put the point simply, forensic science now devastates this narrative.

“This narrative” has been a cornerstone of the effort, undemocratic and indefensible, to undermine the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s Presidency from the beginning. It was launched as a primary rationalization for Hillary Clinton’s stunning loss, James Comey and a sexist, racist, stupid electorate being the others. As the Nation writes,

“The evolution of public discourse in the year since is worthy of scholarly study: Possibilities became allegations, and these became probabilities. Then the probabilities turned into certainties, and these evolved into what are now taken to be established truths. By my reckoning, it required a few days to a few weeks to advance from each of these stages to the next. This was accomplished via the indefensibly corrupt manipulations of language repeated incessantly in our leading media.”

The Nation’s report, essentially declaring that a major element in the “Russiagate” narrative, the DNC hacks, is fiction, that the intelligence agencies that declared it otherwise are wrong, and that Wikileaks, Russia, Putin and Donald Trump have been correct all along is noteworthy because the publication is no ally of the Republicans or Trump, but their declared intractable foes. This is an ideological publication, squarely in Bernie Sanders’ camp because it is run by Socialists like Bernie. But bias doesn’t necessarily make you stupid. The Nation has been around for a long time because while its analysis is colored by it view of humanity and the world, it has largely avoided the kind of dishonesty and distortion that are slowly destroying the credibility of CNN, Rolling Stone, the New York Times and others. The Nation has strived to maintain its integrity, not always succeeding, but obviously trying. Its staff believes that the truth supports its dedication to socialism, so it does not usually try to hide the truth—unlike the mainstream media reporters, for example, who apparently tried hard to make the troubling episode of Bill Clinton’s meeting with Loretta Lynch go away. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/11/17

GOOD MORNING!!!

1. From sources within Google management, we learn that the firing of the diversity memo writer, James Demore, was hotly debated, but in the end...

“…Damore’s focus on biology really made it clear that he had crossed the line.” What turned the tide, said sources, was when it was noted that if Damore’s dubious contentions about women’s skills were replaced by those about race or religion, there would be no debate.’

Ethics diagnosis: Bias made them stupid…that is, Google’s political correctness bias. If someone says that blacks, for example, are biologically handicapped for certain jobs, that’s bigotry and ignorance, the equivalent of poor Al Campanis’s  infamous statement to Ted Koppel that blacks “lacked the necessities ” to manage a baseball team. If someone says that holding religious beliefs suggests one may have biological disadvantages, then that individual is, of course, an idiot.

Women, however, are biologically different from men. If this was the reasoning behind Demore’s dismissal, then it is an example of regarding fealty to cant and politically correct mythology as more important than dealing with complex realities.

2. Professional Trump apologist Jeffrey Lord reacted with a tweeted Sieg Heil! to  Left Wing attack group Media Matters organizing a boycott of the Fox News star’s sponsors to force Sean Hannity off the air.  CNN responded by firing Lord, saying, “Nazi salutes are indefensible.”

Except that Lord was not performing a Nazi salute, but alluding to it to make the very accurate point that the Media Matters wing of progressive America is anti-free speech, and, Nazi-like, determined to shut down inconvenient dissent. Sieg Heil!, in the context of Lord’s tweet, did not mean “Yay Hitler, and let’s kill some Jews!” but rather “Media Matters embodies fascism of the left.”

Which it does.

This story is just full of detestable people and organizations. Jeffrey Lord is a dishonest hack whom CNN keeps parading before its viewers to pretend that the network is “balanced” in its relentless critical commentary on the President. Typically Lord is the sole defender of the Administration on a panel of multiple virulent critics, presided over by one of CNN’s myriad anti-Trump hosts. Sean Hannity is a knee-jerk conservative without scruples, perception or shame. Media Matters is a left-wing propaganda machine that makes a mockery of the term “media watchdog” by its very existence, and it is not unfair to rate its creator and leader, David Brock, as unstable. And I don’t like Nazi salutes either, though to call them “indefensible” is just plain wrong. They are defensible on the History Channel, to show how Nazis behaved. They are defensible in films like “Valkyrie,” since Tom Cruise’s doomed hero’s reluctant salute was a central theme.

It is defensible in Mel Brooks movies, which feature the salute frequently, to mock the Nazis. It is defensible in “Dr. Strangelove,” to make the running joke that mysterious ex-Nazi genius has a Nazi arm with mind of its own.

And it is defensible to use the Nazi salute derisively to say,”David Brock and Media Matters are fascist in the their methods and attitudes towards free speech.”

CNN’s firing of Lord falsely implied that he was referencing the salute positively. By doing this, the increasingly unprofessional and untrustworthy network was also able to impugn President Trump; after all, if his most visible defender in a Nazi, that makes the President Hitler, right?

In this particular basket of deplorables, CNN may be the most unethical of all. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Update: 8/10/17

Good Morning!

1. Less than two weeks after social justice bullies on social media chastised actor Mandy Patinkin for agreeing to take the place of a black actor in Broadway’s “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,”  causing the politically impeccable Mandy to withdraw with humble mea culpas, and the “woke” creator of the  the Tony winning musical to humbly kowtow to the new show business principle that it is better for a show to close entirely, putting everyone out of work, than for a white actor to take over a role from a black actor who took over the role from a white actor in the first place, “The Great Comet’s” producers announced that the show will close in September.

Good job, everybody!

Morons.

2. First Amendment incursions are creeping in from all sides and all angles so fast it’s hard to slap them down. Cowboy Joe West, the major leagues’ longest-serving umpire,was just suspended for three days for comments he made a in an interview with USA Today published on June 20, to mark   the umpire’s 5,000th regular-season game. Asked which player beefed most frequently about his calls, West said “it’s got to be Adrian Beltre.” Beltre, who recently punched his own ticket into the Hall of Fame by getting his 3000th hit, is apparently something of a human Bermuda Triangle for ethics controversies.

“Every pitch you call that’s a strike, he says, ‘Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!,'” West was quoted as saying.  “I had a game with him recently and the pitch was right down the middle. He tells me, ”That ball is outside.’ I told him, ‘You may be a great ballplayer, but you’re the worst umpire in the league. You stink.'”

MLB suspended West for three days, telling the umpires union in a letter that the discipline was in response to an “appearance of lack of impartiality.” Beltre has said that he never assumed West was being anything but facetious. The umpires union is livid, and West is likely to file a grievance.

There are two theories about this strange episode in the Marshall household. I think it’s more evidence of slippage on the societal slope to speech suppression. My wife thinks baseball is laying the groundwork for replacing umpires on balls and strikes with robo-calls. After all, robots aren’t biased.

I hope she’s right, but I doubt it.

3. Why don’t Democrats want to clean up eligible voter rolls?the Justice Department filed a Supreme Court amicus brief  supporting the state of Ohio as it fights to defend its law that purges names from voter rolls if  those names aren’t attached to votes for a significant period. This reverses the Obama Administration’s position, which backed a lower court decision  that it ran afoul of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.

Why does Ohio want to de-register voters who don’t vote for two years, then are sent notices asking that they confirm their voter registration, don’t respond to the notices ,and continue to not vote for another four years? I assume it is because the state doesn’t want dead people on the voter rolls. Why do Democrats want the names of dead people listed as eligible voters?

I’ll leave that to your imagination… Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: An NFL Wife, On The Private Facebook Fearful Spouses Of Future CTE Victims Support Group Page

“It’s scary to think about the future and the ‘what ifs’ … if it’s what he loves, I have to support it.”

What? No, you don’t!

The above anonymous quote from a feature about how 2,000 wives of past and current NFL players share their fears and console each other as the evidence mounts that their husbands are likely to spend their final years as tortured, brain-damaged victims of their sport and burdens on their families illustrates how delusional supporters of the NFL money machine have become.

It also shows, to depressing degree, how people will rationalize and justify conduct that cannot be rationally defended.

If an unmarried NFL player without family responsibilities chooses to shorten his life and cripple himself in exchange for a brief career in the limelight and a lot of money, that’s his stupid choice to make. Then the only other responsible parties are the cynical and corrupt sport that knowingly pays him to make that choice, the amoral and greedy corporations that make such cruelty worth the NFL’s while, and the ethics alarms deficient football fans who get their Sunday thrills watching young men slowly disable themselves. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “The Viral Google Diversity Memo”

The perspective Ethics Alarms readers often add to topics based on their personal experiences is a often great enhancement to the discussions here. This Comment of the Day by Alex is a perfect example, as he clarifies the context of the Google diversity memo through his own observations as an employee of another large tech company.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “The Viral Google Diversity Memo”:

Rather than rehash the memo or analyze it or say what is right or wrong with its reasoning, I’ll instead add my experience dealing with internal policies and “requests for comment” at a large tech (software) company – this is a direct competitor of Google, based in the Pacific NW and employing ~100,000 people (you can figure out who they are with that). My background is in Electrical Engineering with a strong focus on Computer Science, and I was hired by my previous employer just out of college after spending a summer internship with them. I worked there for 12 years, until the summer of 2016 (actually today is my one year anniversary at my new job). In my time there I can only describe diversity and HR policies around race and gender are schizophrenic, even if well-intentioned. These are my stories [insert Law and Order opening notes].

The official harassment/discrimination policy as stated in the employee handbook (which was updated every year) is incredibly vague, and this is intentional (although no one will come out and accept it publicly). We are in an at-will state, so you can be easily dismissed based on that one vague rule; and it has been used as a negotiation tactic on borderline performance dismissals to settle for a lower severance package. (“Do you really want us to state that you’re leaving for violations of the harassment policy? No? Ok, how about you settle for 2 weeks instead of 4?”) But I also have to state that the cases where I saw this section being arguably misused can be counted with the fingers of one hand. Also, I am certain that there are good intentions behind this policy, but as is the case with many well-intentioned rules, it is when the rubber meets the road that things get messy.

Every year we had to take Standards of Conduct training. Every year we had a new edition, and every year there was at least one case study dealing with gender or racial discrimination. Some years were better than others, but in general the training was terrible. If you had the cognitive abilities of a 7-year-old you could figure out what were the right responses without watching the videos or reading the policies. (The Saturday morning cartoons I watched in the 80s – G.I. Joe, He-Man, Transformers – had more complex moral dilemmas). I remember one year around the middle of my tenure when the videos and cases were actually interesting and engaging. A case that I still remember from that time is about an ambiguous situation between a male manager and a female engineer not in the same chain of command. There was a big internal debate about that one, and the next year we had the blandest possible training to avoid controversies.

The above two points are to set the stage: corporate policies are clear, you should toe the line, do not do anything that might be misconstrued, you can be dismissed for very small transgressions.

And then… well… tech companies are rebels, they thrive in chaos, and you’re expected to rock the boat. In many (may be even all) groups you can only grow so much by being a technical expert, you are expected to influence larger and larger teams as you get promoted to keep getting good performance reviews. You can be the only expert on a certain software component, but unless other people know about you and have been “influenced” by you, you are not considered good enough. This has the effect of incentivizing “visibility”. Other people and other teams should know you exist and be willing to state that you’ve had a positive impact for the company. Continue reading

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