Should he have lost his job?

Street Harassment Penalty

I suspect that there will be a lot of conversation in offices around the country re the firing of the Ontario engineer by Hydro One after he was fired uttering obscenities on film to a female reporter.

The phrase (now notorious and only initialized because of its crudity – FHRITP -complete with the appropriate number of asterisks in case you are too dim to figure it out)) is evidently a trend practiced by young males in order to gain notoriety and get their face on camera.  It has been described elsewhere as a meme (which is, according to Wikipedia:  “The word meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, as an attempt to explain the way cultural information spreads; Internet memes are a subset of this general meme concept specific to the culture and environment of the Internet.”  I had to look it up!)

In and of itself, this act directed primarily toward women (although to be fair, in the early days, any t.v. personality who was doing an on-the-street interview could be the butt of this type of attack the object being, evidently, to gain fame and notoriety.) would not be particularly memorable or noteworthy – unfortunately.

What has raised it to a topic of national conversation is that the young engineer was fired even though he was neither representing his company nor was engaged in company business at the time of the offense.  He was attending a Toronto soccer game, and the event occurred after the game (and his behaviour was quite possibly fuelled by alcohol) not to mention bad judgement, narcissism, and  a juvenile need for attention.

I am of two minds about this action.

Was the behaviour crude, offensive and stupid?  Absolutely.   Should there be consequences for this type of offensive action?  Without a doubt!  If there are no consequences why would we ever expect behaviour to change?  So far there have been two official consequences (and probably more personal ones in terms of being shamed nationally).

First, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Toronto FC soccer team, is taking what happened to the reporter seriously. It said the goofs (my word, not theirs) would be banned from future games if they are identified (as subsequently two have been) and promised to offer tighter security measures for female reporters covering future events.

Second, his employment at Hydro One has been terminated.  It is this second consequence that troubles me.

How much control should a company have over the actions of an employee when the employee is not working, is not representing the company either by function or dress (No identifying Hydro one clothing was in evidence) nor has been charged by law enforcement?  One wonders if the company president checked with his law department prior to terminating the guy.

According to a story on CBC Calgary Police laid a charge under the traffic act when a similar thing happened to a female reporter.   The camera man managed to catch the incense plate as the truck (and the drunken yahoo, a passenger, hanging out the window), and Calgary Police laid a charge under “stunting”.  He could face a $400.00 fine.  That too, I think is entirely appropriate.  Even if not found guilty, the expense of hiring a lawyer, having to go to court and go through a difficult process will be a consequence that hopefully will moderate such boorish behaviour in the future.   But do you think the Police (or anyone else for that matter) should go to this bozo’s employer, tell them what their employee had done, and have the guy terminated?

Not only is there nothing wrong with a company demanding high standards of behaviour – respect, courtesy, and even moral rectitude, but those that create and encourage this type of culture should be   acknowledged and saluted.  But, and this is, for me, a major caveat – to what extent should your non work behaviour out of the office be controlled by your employer?

About 20 years or so ago, a large oil and gas company in Calgary held their annual golf tournament. And two young engineers over imbibed, got rowdy, ran into the golf pro with their cart, and broke his finger.  The next morning they were called into the President’s office and fired on the spot.  Fair enough.  They were attending a company sponsored event and their behaviour put the company in danger of a lawsuit.  Would Hydro One be held liable for the behaviour of the doofus?  I doubt it.

I believe the incursion of an employer into the private lives of its workers is just as troubling as the antics, bullying and harassing as they are, of a 12 year old wrapped up in a 30 year old body.

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