Wednesday, May 23, 2007

how I almost fired someone over black pride

Awww…Pride. I'm a big fan of Pride. In fact, it was at Pride almost 3 years ago that I met my boo and it was a night I will never forget, despite my high level of inebriation. I heart Pride so much that it’s strange how I often forget that there’s two—DC Pride and Black Pride.

Black Pride is traditionally on Memorial Day weekend, which is usually a big retail weekend so I wasn’t always lucky to get it off when I worked at the Crap. However, neither were some of my employees at the time, a couple of which were not-so-closeted homophobes. Apparently, the homophobes griped about getting hit on by people they wouldn’t want to go out with (black gay men, oh my!) and tried hard to get those days off. They weren’t successful and they had to work.

On one particular Black Pride weekend a few years back, I had to work late with Homophobe and Idiot (the distinction will become apparent shortly although the descriptions were interchangeable). Homophobe did his job and complained quietly about getting hit on. Idiot wasn’t doing his job and complained loudly about getting hit on. Needless to say, by the end of the day, Idiot was getting on my nerves.

After closing, the staff would play the radio and talk about whatever they wanted to while straightening up the store. I encouraged this because (Lord knows) I didn’t like to work in silence. The topic of Black Pride came up. I knew we were about to tread on troubled waters. Homophobe started talking about how uncomfortable it made him to get hit on constantly that day (from what I remember, Homophobe wasn’t hot or God’s gift, but he was charming I guess and that’s what made him an excellent sales person). Idiot agreed and went on about how all gay people in general make him uncomfortable. Before I could say, “Idiot, please keep those opinions to yourself,” Idiot continued talking about how homosexuality is morally wrong and that God said that marriage should be between a man and a woman and it is against all religions to be gay. My jaw dropped.

I am not surprised that anyone feels this way. But I am surprised that he had the stupidity to actually say those words in front of a closing staff of 10, half of which was gay including my fellow closing manager. I’m not gay and I was thoroughly offended. I looked at my fellow closing manager and noticed that he was about to flip his lid. To prevent a major catastrophe, I told Idiot that it would be best if he changed the subject and pulled my fellow manager into the office to calm him down. As the week went on, all of the gays I worked with that night came up to me and told me how uncomfortable it was to work with Idiot and how they didn’t want to be scheduled with him any more. It broke my heart to listen to them talking about their feelings. What’s worse is how they all felt that work wasn’t a place of comfort for them any more. They no longer felt free to be themselves. The last straw was when the one closeted gay who was there came and talked to me about it. At that point, I was the only person he had come out to. He told me he didn’t want to work for the Crap anymore. I knew then that something had to be done.

The Crap has a zero tolerance policy for discrimination, racism, and sexism. I saw no difference between his comments and that of say someone who hates Mexicans and says, “All Mexicans are fat, stupid, and lazy.” I decided to use the zero tolerance policy as my weapon to fire Idiot. I pulled the management team together and we all agreed to it. I consulted Corporate about the right steps to take in order not to get sued (the Crap is very litigation-phobic). In the end, my district manager was too scared to fire him because she was certain Idiot would sue. I was livid. So much for “zero tolerance.”

The management team decided to go with Plan B—fire him the old-fashioned way. Idiot wasn’t known for his timeliness so we wrote him up on three different occasions for being late (three strikes and you’re out) and he was fired because of this technicality. Idiot didn’t sue or try to fight it. In fact, he probably knew the real reason why he was fired.

But I really wish he had been fired for the right reasons.

3 comments:

DCWeddingPhotog said...

oooh that boils my blood! Ugh! Can't believe that those things come out of people's mouths!

sunchaser said...

The descriptors you used for those individuals are so apt though :)

And good for you for actually doing something about it! Maybe "idiot" actually learned to keep his trap shut after his ass got canned (but perhaps that's hoping for too much?).

Pride parades are so much fun!

Marisha said...

Idiot really is an idiot. He reinforces the results of a "study" that I recently read on The Onion titled, 38 Percent Of People Not Actually Entitled To Their Opinion.