Cartoon do not usually make for legal doctrine, but then again most employers can recognize a joke. The managers of Catfish Bend Casino, however, seemed to lack an sense of humor or sense of perspective. They fired Dave Steward, a former security supervisor, for simply posting a Dilbert cartoon — a termination found by a judge to be without cause.
Steward thought that people needed to be cheered up at the casino with a slew of firings planned for the workforce. So he posted a Dilbert cartoon on the bulletin board. In the strip, Dilbert and another character have this exchange:
“Why does it seem as if most of the decisions in my workplace are made by drunken lemurs?”
“Decisions are made by people who have time, not people who have talent.”
“Why are talented people so busy?”
“They’re fixing the problems made by people who have time.”
Pretty funny. However, the management of the Catfish Bend Casino also so insecure that they took immediate offense and fired Steward for not being a “team player.” What is most astonishing is not just that these managers would take such a facially moronic action over a cartoon, but (rather than backtracking in the face of public outcry) they actually litigated the case to defend their lack of humor.
The casino’s human resources director, Steve Morley, testified how “upper management” was offended and demanded retribution over the cartoon: “Basically, he was accusing the decision-makers of being drunken lemurs.” It turns out that this was an insult to drunken lemurs.
Administrative Law Judge Lynette Donner ruled with Steward, finding that his posting was “a good-faith error in judgment,” not intentional misbehavior. Moreover, the creator of Dilbert Scott Adams is now doing a series in the cartoon strip on the case. All over a cartoon and “upper management” without a modicum of humor.
It appears that the old adage that the fish rots from the head down at the humor challenged management of the Catfish Bend Casino.
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