Can You Fire an Employee For Having a “Nazi Shrine” on Facebook?

By Eric B. Meyer

Last week, I read this story in USA Today from Cam Smith, in which he reports that the North Delta Minor Hockey Association fired one of its junior hockey coaches after it learned that he had posted pictures of Nazi items and propaganda — described as a “Nazi shrine” — on his Facebook page.

The Hockey Association defended the termination in a statement in which it characterized the post as containing “extreme and objectionable material believed to be incompatible with an important purpose of our minor hockey association — to promote and encourage good citizenship.”

Now, let’s assume that this went down in the U.S. Could the former employee argue religious discrimination (with a straight face)?

An important consideration

Well, Title VII does forbid discrimination based on religion, which comprises sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs. And I suppose that, under this broad umbrella, there may be a religious aspect to Nazism.

Or how about some claim of wrongful discharge because posting pictures of Nazi propaganda on one’s own time, while offensive to some, is perfectly legal? Some states do have these off-duty-conduct laws.

But, there’s another important consideration here.

Remember that an employer should take reasonable steps to keep its workplace free from discrimination. And in our 24/7 social media world, what are the odds that a Facebook post about Nazi propaganda — even one made “off the clock” — doesn’t somehow become an issue in the workplace?

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Can an employer turn a blind eye?

There are situations in which an employer can turn a blind eye to the stupid stuff that employees say and do on their own time on social media. But, this isn’t one of them.

Besides, imagine what would happen if a company knew about an employee’s Nazi post and did nothing about it. It could easily offend a co-worker; maybe contribute to a hostile work environment.

So, firing makes sense to me.

And do you really want to be known as the company that employs a Nazi enthusiast?

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.

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