A former cashier believes his rights were violated by The Home Depot when they fired him for wearing an openly religious piece of flair. The Home Depot counters that it does not permit non-approved buttons, pins and other regalia on their store associate aprons.
“I’ve worn it for well over a year and I support my country and God,” Trevor Keezor said Tuesday. “I was just doing what I think every American should do, just love my country.”
This is the problem with America today: We think our rights overrule the rights of others.
Home Depot spokesman said Keezer was fired because he violated the company’s dress code.
“This associate chose to wear a button that expressed his religious beliefs. The issue is not whether or not we agree with the message on the button,” Craig Fishel said. “That’s not our place to say, which is exactly why 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.”
Fishel said Keezer was offered a company-approved pin that said, “United We Stand,” but he declined.
In other words, he got away with breaking the rules for a year. When he was caught and asked to follow them, instead of complying to keep his job he refused. He was fired. It should have ended there.
Trevor Keezor doesn’t seem to understand this his right to expression does not supersede the right of The Home Depot, its owners and managers to control the message that is disseminated to its customers. Allowing him to wear the pin could be seen by some as an endorsement of his religious views.This is the reason why The Home Depot doesn’t allow religious expression on its uniforms: It can be seen as an endorsement of one viewpoint by that store. It is one thing to promote Christmas sales (which, let’s face it, have nothing to do with the Christian holiday and everything to do with American consumerism), but entirely another for an employee to wear a religion pin.
It does not matter if the pin is Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or Scientologist: The very appearance can cause deep schizms to appear that could offend customers. Imagine if the store allowed employees to wear NRA or Planned Parenthood pins. Imagine if an employee were wearing an Obama pin or a John McCain pin. A Star of David or a Swaztika. The carefully controlled message that The Home Depot is a safe place for people to find assistance would be destroyed.
Think about it from another perspective: Hobby Lobby and Chik-Fil-A are both openly religious companies. Their corporate identity is, at least in part, tied to the religious views of the company. Should these organizations be forced to allow an employee to wear a Satanic or Islamic symbol?
Of course Mr. Keezor’s pin is relatively innocuous, but allowing him his pin could lead to another employee demanding they be allowed to express another religious or other viewpoint. Eventually someone will demand to wear a pin that expresses a racist, sexist or other highly offensive or divisive viewpoint. When The Home Depot managers allow an offensive pin to be worn, the public knowledge could damage the company’s image with its core clients. This is why the company established guidelines for what employees should wear.
The key to remember is that the First Amendment is a right we hold between us and the government. No matter how offensive, divisive or otherwise tasteless a statement might be, the government cannot stop our freedom of expression (assuming said expression does not injure or defame another person), the government cannot restrict that right.
However, when Mr. Keezor took the job with The Home Depot, he agreed to abide by their standards of conduct, including the dress code. He violated that dress code, was asked to comply, and failed to do so. He was fired, and justifiably.
Keezer’s lawyer, Kara Skorupa, said she planned to sue the Atlanta-based company.
“There are federal and state laws that protect against religious discrimination,” Skorupa said. “It’s not like he was out in the aisles preaching to people.”
No religion is being discriminated against here. No one forced Mr. Keezor to go work at The Home Depot. And no one is allowed to wear religious flair at The Home Depot. Kara Skorupa should be disbarred if she pushes forward with this frivilous lawsuit. It is irresponsible to sue a company for exercising its right to control the message it presents to customers.
Full Disclosure: The author worked at a Home Depot store for a year and a half during college.