Adam Smith appears to have been caught on the wrong side of supply side economics. After the chief financial officer posted a video (below) of himself confronting a minimum wage worker at a drive thru window, his Tucson medical manufacturing company Vante fired him. The question is whether a protest that occurs outside business hours should be the grounds for dismissal.
Smith drove up to order a free cup of water to harass the company for its position on gay rights. In picking up the water, he proceeded to lecture the young person in window.
Most people agree that Smith was being a bit of a jerk to dress down the young lady in the drive thru. After all, this is not her policy and she remained calm and polite through the confrontation. I thought it was a bit boorish and if anything was likely to incur more sympathy for the company. I am not sure what Smith thought he was achieving by first lecturing the worker and then posting it on YouTube. I found it a bit over-the-top for a CFO of a company to tell a minimum wage worker that “I don’t know how you live with yourself and work here.”
It appears that CEO Roger Vogel had equal problems with the encounter and cashiered Smith. Vogel stressed “we hope that the general population does not hold Mr. Smith’s actions against Vante and its employees.” Smith had already removed the video before his termination but it did not help.
We have been dealing with an array of cases where employees — often public employees like teachers and police officers — are fired for their outside activities and associations. It is a highly problematic trend.
I tried to find how Smith was identified as part of this company. That would seem a key issue. If the company fired him upon learning of his participation in a protest, it would raise many of the same issues in the prior cases. Yet, from the company’s standpoint, he elected to post the video and, in so doing, threatened a backlash against the company. It is simple business. The company did not want to lose customers based on the conduct of one of its employees. From a free speech angle, private companies are not limited by the first amendment in such actions since the Constitution protects us against government denials of free speech. However, there remains the public policy question of the right of employees to engage in expressive speech. As a senior member of the company, Vogel clearly views this action as threatening a serious backlash from customers.
What do you think?