Video: Florida hotel worker fired for wearing American flag lapel pin

Normally in these cases, my sympathy tends to run towards employers, who have the legal right to set uniform and presentation policies, especially in public positions.  Barring the display of pins on a uniform is not unreasonable, as adopting a laissez-faire attitude might end up with a whole lot of political messages seem as though they represent the views of management rather than individual employees.  As a former mid-level manager in a corporation, I also know how difficult life can get when exceptions get made to policy, and suddenly every employee wants an exception for their own pet causes.

With all that said, why make a point of firing someone over a flag pin?

Note that the hotel doesn’t deny that this was the basis for the termination:

“The Casa Monica Hotel located in St. Augustine, Florida, is an American-based, homegrown historic hotel,” the email reads. “The property reflects its pride in America and great patriotism by flying the Stars and Stripes high over the hotel. The American flag greets every guest and employee with its symbolism of our belief in this great country.”

“However, our employee handbook clearly states, ‘No other buttons, badges, pins or insignias of any kind are permitted to be worn.’ No matter an individual’s national preference, political views or religious affiliation, it is a standard regulation which ensures equality for all Grand Performers (employees).”

Again, it’s not difficult to see how a few exceptions to this rule would result in perpetual management headaches, but the “national preference” for one’s own country doesn’t seem all that indefensible as a singular exception, either. Whatever headaches this one exception would have caused, it can’t equal the public-relations nightmare of admitting that the hotel fired someone for being a little too patriotic. One county commissioner, who served two terms in Iraq, offered some common-sense wisdom:

St. Johns county Commissioner Mark Miner issued this statement on the issue:

“The Casa Monica Hotel and Kessler Enterprise certainly have the legal right to forbid their employees from wearing an American flag pin. However, their inability to discern between the flag of our nation and other pins and buttons that their policies forbid is of great concern to me. St. Johns County is home to nearly 20,000 military veterans and is made up of an ideologically and culturally diverse population whose collective love for the United States is second to none. I want to make clear that the actions taken by the Casa Monica Hotel and Kessler Enterprise do not represent the patriotism shared by St. Johns County residents and businesses.”

“I hope Kessler Enterprise will act quickly to correct the disrespect they have shown the flag of our great nation and end the embarrassment they have brought upon St. Johns County.”

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