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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Like it or not, Home Depot had every right to fire employee for God button

The story about Trevor Keezer, a 20-year-old man from West Palm Beach, Florida caused quite a bit of commotion yesterday after Keezer sued his former employer Home Depot. Keezer was fired on Oct. 23 for wearing a pin that said "One nation, under God, individsible."

Read the full article for more information. 

Keezer said he feels like he is being punished for loving his country, which may be how he actually feels, but it seems he knows that's not really the case. The fact that they offered him a different "patriotic" pin and he refused is pretty much going to ruin any chance he has in court. By refusing any pin that did not mention God, he made it clear it's not an issue of patriotism, it's an issue of religious freedom to him. Unfortunately for Keezer, private companies don't have to employ anyone that refuses to follow the rules, even if they are doing so to express religious beliefs.  It's not like they suddenly fired him out of the blue either. They brought up the issue, offered a comprimise and he refused.

The lawyer for Home Depot made it pretty clear when he said "we have a blanket policy, which is long-standing and well-communicated to our associates, that only company-provided pins and badges can be worn on our aprons.” That's pretty much the end of the story as far as the law is concerned. Sure, that won't satisfy a lot of people, but hurt feelings don't change the law. A commenter on succinctly stated it: "Having to adhere to your employer's policy on dress code is not the same as being punished for your beliefs. There are plenty of other ways to share your faith."

In the past, when a large corporation is getting sued for something embarrassing, I'm used to seeing their high-priced attorneys say they can't comment on pending litigation. This time though, they had plenty to say, and it seems pretty clear why: they're not worried about losing this case.

Now, Keezer claims he wore the pin for over a year and nobody said anything to him. While the sudden change of heart is unusual and interesting to people on a personal level, it's not legally relevant. If he was violating the company dress code and they let it slide for a year, lucky for him, but it doesn't make the policy void should they choose to enforce it.  Home Depot is a private company and they set the rules for working for them. I can't think of a company I've ever worked for that didn't have some kind of dress code policy. The only reason this made headlines is because this guy wouldn't follow the policy. Odds are any other retail store he wants to work at will have a similar one.

Comments on the story have readers debating the issue as though it's an issue of athiests vs. Christians, but it's not. This is a simple matter of company policy. Some people are suggesting boycotts or protests, and they have every right to do so. However, I'm skeptical if any real action will be taken and  doubt it will have much, if any, impact. They are welcome to try and prove me wrong though. I'm sure there will be outrage from some Christians who feel this is someone being persecuted for his beliefs, but they will have a hard time arguing why a private company has to allow this.

It doesn't matter if the pin said "Under God," "Jesus Saves," "Shabbat Shalom," "Praise Allah," "Darwin was right" or "Satan is my homeboy" though I imagine those making this out to be an issue of religious freedom wouldn't have a problem with anyone wearing a pin that said any of those things... right?



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