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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Arguing With Myself About Hobby Lobby, Hypocrisy and MRAs

As opinionated and vocal as I am about certain topics, I'm sure many people think I 'shoot from the lip' as it were, and don't really take the time to think about what I say or believe. Most especially after I've written something about it already. That's entirely untrue, however, as I have continued to examine my beliefs throughout my life, wondering where a belief came from, and why it is so entrenched in me. I do want to know those things, because I don't want my beliefs coming from indoctrination of any kind. I want them based on real facts, too.

Having said that, you will maybe understand why I choose to write more about SCOTUS and Hobby Lobby. Just so you know, though, I have not kept up with the latest developments, other than what I discussed in the comment section of my last blog posting about it. There may have been other developments, but I'm not able to discuss them knowledgeably at the moment. That's not what this is about. It's about the types of hypocrisy we see from the opposite end of the spectrum, but we'll get to that in a bit.

Every time a company acts out of 'religious interests' we need to ask ourselves this:
Would I hold the same opinion I do now, if this was a different religion (or lack of religion) being represented?

Would you hold the same belief if it was a Muslim company, as you do if it's a Christian company? Would you think differently if it was a Buddhist company, rather than a Sikh company? How much of what we believe is true about the Hobby Lobby decision from SCOTUS, would still hold true if they were practicing Muslims who were in favour of imposing Sharia Law?

Religious prejudice does still hold sway in Canada, much to my disappointment, and I have seen it at work in my career. In fact, the last company I worked for would not give corporate shares to one of their executives because he did not attend 'their' church, and even though this practice is completely illegal here, and falls under discrimination laws, it still happens. Just not as often as it does in the U.S. We face it with the Catholic School Boards when it comes to their hiring practices, and the debate is very, very sticky. Anti-discrimination versus religious freedom. Do we tell people they have to share a religion in their personal life in order to be employed by an organization based on a religion? Especially when it's not a for-profit enterprise.

The reverse is also an issue to ponder; non-religious companies telling their employees to keep their religions out of the workplace. I do honestly believe that there's no way Hobby Lobby would have received the same court decision had they been Muslims. Not when there were 5 practicing Catholics in SCOTUS. My personal belief has always been, and will always be, that corporations have no business practicing religion of any sort. They're nothing but a business enterprise with no beliefs of any kind. They're there to make money, and they have court protection only because they took a step back from the personal beliefs of the owners. However, that swings back to me, too.

You see, I have a registered business, which you will already know if you read my prior post on Hobby Lobby. I have very strong beliefs about non-involvement in people's personal lives, and think people should be able to do what they like in their own lives. But...is that really what I think deep down? How would I feel if I found out my employee was doing something I completely disapproved of, that wasn't really any of my business? What if they were abusing animals in their spare time? Perhaps that's not the best example, since animal abuse is actually illegal and opens up other options, but what about things that are a little more esoteric?

How would I react if my employee was attending MRA meetings? (Men's Rights Activists - believe me that's not as benign as it sounds, as they have a tendency to threaten women and have been known to promote violence toward them.) If the employee has done nothing illegal within the scope of his own beliefs, would I be able to get past it in the workplace? Knowing the content of some of these meetings, and having met a few of the trolls online, I would definitely have an issue with a person like that working within my organization. I'd be very worried about it, actually. I have to fear the potential for violence against female employees, the discomfort the others might feel in their presence, and the simple knowledge that the employee would think less of me as a human being because I'm female. As long as the employee does not bring those opinions into the workplace, do I have any grounds whatsoever to let him go?

Well, from a legal perspective he could not be fired for this specific reason. It's discrimination. He is legally entitled to his own opinion. If he insults female employees, harasses them, is belligerent toward his female employer, or a number of other behaviours that are discriminatory on his part, then I absolutely have the right to fire him for it. I can not fire him for what he thinks, or what he does in his personal life. I can let him go because I don't personally like him, of course. That's always been legal. I just have to give him termination pay, and possibly severance pay (depending on the duration of his employment in the area where he's employed). But is it the right thing to do, believing what I believe about business being separate from the personal?

My business isn't incorporated so I have more personal leeway with respect to that sort of thing, and I'll get back to that later, but what about corporations? Take a look at the big employers, like Google and Facebook. Look at their investments, and where they donate their money. Liberal companies, basically. Sure, they can choose to donate where they like, considering it's a tax write-off and good for PR and the bottom line, but is it really something that corporations should be doing? They are, in fact, expressing an opinion about moral and/or political issues.

Hiring practices deal with the same issue. You try to find people who 'fit the corporate culture,' but what is a corporate culture if not an enforced moral compass for the employees? Sure, it might be an easy one to follow, like wearing blue jeans to work, but if one employee is more comfortable in his or her job wearing a suit to work they will not fit in. The position itself might even require a suit and tie because they're meeting outside clients who will be more traditional in their mode of dress. That big, colourful slide at Google's offices might look like fun to a lot of people, but some - possibly even me - would be a little taken aback by it. Some of us like a more traditional office where we aren't distracted by such things. That doesn't mean we're incapable of doing the creative work required of a company such as Google. I spent most of my time being creative, and I work in bed half the time (and my pajamas all the time), so I have an arguably relaxed environment, but do I really want a ball pit to play in? Nope. Knowing me I'd probably break a bone, or would get beaned by an employee.

If companies donate to Planned Parenthood, aren't they guilty of the same thing as Hobby Lobby in a sense? They're taking the company profits, given to them through the hard work of their employees, and sinking them into something the employees might very well disagree with wholeheartedly. Sure, it's the company's money by that point, but those of us who are angered by the Hobby Lobby decision don't believe a company should be able to tell employees what to do, either. Admittedly a very large part of that anger comes from the fact that they're still funding vasectomies and Viagra, so they seem to think men should have unencumbered sex, but not women. I'm not going to get into all that again, because the hypocrisy of the company is not the issue right now. It's the hypocrisy of those who think 'liberal' companies should have the freedom to do what they want, and be able impose those beliefs on their employees.

Should companies be forcing any moral standpoint on any employee? That's the real question. I've heard myself say no a million times, but deep inside I need to be sure I'm expressing that for all sides of the equation, and not just my own personal belief system. Do I like the idea of donating lots of money to animal protection groups, and organizations that help women who have been raped? Sure I do. Do I think it should be a part of my corporate culture? If I responded emotionally, I'd say yes, but there I'd be trapped by my own logic about business. As a business, I really have no business doing anything from an emotional standpoint.

Getting back to the MRA, I think I'd be one of the hypocrites if I said I would even hire him in the first place if I knew about his activities, but maybe not. I can justify the action by saying he would most likely not fit in, and would make the other employees uncomfortable. I'd be acting like I can predict the future, of course, because I can't honestly say with any certainty that what I think will happen will in fact occur. The odds are on my side, but odds aren't facts. Would it be right for me to base a decision on that? Well, yes and no. As an employer I have an obligation to hire people that I don't think are a risk to their fellow employees. MRAs represent a risk to not only the female employees (including myself), but also to the male employees who don't feel that way about women. They will likely be placed in untenable situations where they see things they don't like, and have to decide whether or not to speak up against them, possibly placing themselves outside their peer group's approval.

An employee such as that is very likely to poison morale, and as an employer I have to consider that very seriously. I want all of my employees to be able to come to work and know that it's a safe environment for them. If I'm going to be completely honest with myself, though, I have to admit that my gut decision would be not to hire him for very personal reasons. It would be my very first emotional reaction to a man like that. My distaste would be quite pronounced, in fact. Still, knowing myself as I do, I also know that I would force myself to think about it very seriously and continue to regard him as an individual human being. I'd have to determine within the scope of an interview if I really believed he was part of that fringe group where violence against women is not only condoned but encouraged.

Of course, maybe the point would be moot. Maybe all I'd have to do is ask him about it - simply tell him I know about his outside activities, and ask how he proposes to reconcile that with the fact that he will not only be working with women, and for a woman, but also working for a woman who is in fact a feminist. Any sort of negative reaction to that would be more than enough to tell me he would be a problem, and not worth hiring. If there's no reaction at all, I have to let the issue go and judge solely on his skills and experience, as well as his personality as a human being. I mean, bosses will never hire someone they think is a jerk, unless that's the personality they're looking for - which does happen for certain positions. Sometimes you need an employee like that.

If he's already an employee? Well, it boils down to this: I can't legitimately fire him, even if I can do so legally, if he has never done anything wrong to justify the firing. I might have to grit my teeth for a while, every time I'm in his presence. What he does in his free time is none of my damn business. It never was. How he behaves at work is entirely within my province as his employer. Case closed. I may not like it, but I'll not go down in history as a hypocrite if I can help it. There may be times I do it where I'm unaware of it, but hopefully it will be pointed out to me by one of my very intelligent friends.

There are plenty of employers out there right now who are showing off their 'good deeds' with expensive PR campaigns. Starbucks is one that's always doing that, and I've lost track of the stuff they promote about themselves. One minute one group loves them, and then the next it's a different group who loves them and the original group is ticked off. JC Penney riled people with an ad about a lesbian couple that were parents, and when there was an outcry they responded by showing an ad with two dads - another gay couple. Emotionally I can cheer that, because I believe wholeheartedly in marriage equality, and I'm proud that my country has had it for about 9 years now. Logically, I'd like to know why companies are even making stances like this. It may advance a cause, but it creates a dangerous precedent, much like the Hobby Lobby ruling. One company is allowed to do it, and is in fact encouraged, but then people get angry when a company does something they disagree with.

I find myself again stating that people can't, or shouldn't, have things both ways. Companies can't have separation from risk without separating from having personal rights. They stop being people and become nothing but a business. The same needs to hold true for the public when they view these companies. If we're going to get angry about companies taking these moral stances, we can't be cheering others on when they do the same thing just because we happen to hold the same opinions. We are personalizing bricks and mortar, and not seeing them for the non-sentient entities that they are supposed to be. By all means, cheer on a fellow human being for taking a moral stance you approve of, but not a corporation.