Opinion Brief

The Green Bay Packers tie that cost a Chicago man his job

A car dealer was fired for proudly supporting the wrong football team. Was his dismissal justified?

The day after the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears to advance to the Super Bowl, car salesman John Stone showed up for work at a Chicago-area Chevrolet dealership wearing a Packers tie. According to Stone, his boss, Jerry Roberts, told him that "You have two options — remove the tie or you're fired." Stone chose the latter, and his firing became national news. Roberts, claiming that his dealership has advertising deals with the Bears, says he had reason to make the tie an issue. Stone maintains that he wore the tie "in good humor" as a tribute to his grandmother, who was "a huge Packers fan." Thanks to all the publicity, Stone has already landed a job at a rival car dealer. Should he have been fired? (Watch a CNN report about the firing)

Firing Stone was inexcusable: "Seriously?" says Ben Smith at The Journal Gazette. "You're firing a guy who sold 14 cars for you last month, in this economy" because he wore a tie to "honor his late grandmother?" Though "I'm no lawyer," I'd guess that Stone "has a pretty solid wrongful termination suit" to pursue. "And if I'm Roberts' boss, I'd fire him for gross incompetence and aggravated stupidity. Like, immediately."
"Knucklehead of the year...so far"

Customers may have found the tie a turn-off: It may puzzle some that Stone was fired for such a minor offense, says David Thomas at Cars.com.  But "we’ve heard stories of car shoppers being offended by salesman over trivial matters and heading to another dealership," and "it's possible that a Bears fan might react the same way" to seeing Packers colors at the Chevy dealership. Personally, "as a lifetime Miami Dolphins fan, if I walked into a dealership and the salesman was wearing a New York Jets tie, I’d walk out the door."
"Would you buy a car from a Packers fan?"

Right or wrong, the firing was legal: Whether firing Stone was the wrong thing to do is irrelevant, says Michael Helfand at Chicago Now. The only thing that matters is whether doing so broke the law — and "the fact of the matter is that it's not illegal to fire someone because you don't like what they are wearing." It seems clear that this was unfair, but it was perfectly legal. So consider this fair warning for any of my employees who show up wearing a St. Louis Cardinals jersey.
"Being fired for being a Packers fan"

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