Thursday, July 23, 2015

Confederate flag helps teach a young man in Alabama a few harsh realities about the American workplace

Phillip Sims, with his Confederate flag
An Alabama man has learned the hard way that standing up for the Confederate flag does not necessarily boost your career. He also learned some harsh realities about American employment law and the relative weakness of the First Amendment in the workplace.

Phillip Sims recently drove to his job at Turner Industries in Decatur, Alabama, with the Confederate battle flag on his truck. A plant supervisor took him outside and advised him to remove the flag from his truck. "I hate to be the one to tell you that," the supervisor reportedly said, "but if you don’t, I’m gonna have to fire you." Sims refused to remove the flag, and he was fired.

The story does not end there, according to WHNT of Huntsville:

[Sims] says the company has called him three times since Monday morning offering to rehire him if he’d just take the flag off his truck. But now, Sims says it has just gone too far and he stands by his actions. “I’m unemployed now but I still feel that I made the right decision,” says Sims.

Apparently, Phillip Sims is not too bright, at least when it comes to workplace law. With the demise of unions, which never were strong in the South to begin with, most workers have almost zero protections on the job. Alabama, like every state but Montana, is an at-will employment state. That means workers can be fired "for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all."

The only exception is that employers cannot violate federal discrimination laws. Based on photos of Phillips Sims, he appears to be an able-bodied white male under the age of 40--one who happens to favor cowboy hats and giant belt buckles. That means he likely does not fall into any protected class (by age, gender, age, disability, etc.). Without a union--and I'm guessing Sims is a Republican who does not support unions--he has zero protections on the job.

So, why stand up for the Confederate battle flag anyway? "It’s a statement of our heritage and it’s just my right to have it, and I don’t think that I should just give it up because somebody told me I had to," Sims said. Well, unemployment now is part of your heritage too, so good luck with that.

As for discrimination, Turner Industries reportedly has fired one other employee for the same infraction, so that means the company isn't discriminating on the Confederate flag issue--it's firing everyone who makes a show of the flag at work. If Phillip Sims tries to get his job back through the legal process, he will be "sh-t out of luck."

Is that harsh? Yes. Is it fair? Not necessarily. But that's apparently how many Americans--especially the ones who vote for anti-union Republicans--want it. So the message to guys like Phillips Sims is, "Enjoy your flag while you fill out job applications."

Here's another tough lesson for young Mr. Sims: His statement that he has a "right" to display the flag  implies that he thinks the First Amendment right to free expression will protect him. But in workplace terms, the First Amendment only prohibits the government from stamping out free speech. That means the First Amendment protects only state and federal employees in the workplace--and that's as long as their speech involves matters of public concern.

For example, I had every right to start Legal Schnauzer--a blog about corruption and injustice in our legal system, a matter of clear public concern--while I was a state employee at UAB. In fact, I never would have started the blog if I had worked at Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, Regions Bank, or any other private employer.

But here's another harsh reality, even for government employees. Don't assume your employer is going to follow the law or a court will uphold the law. Little did I know that UAB, a university that supposedly stands (at least a little) for integrity and high ideals, would fire me in violation of the First Amendment. Little did I know that, when I challenged my termination in court, a federal judge named William M. Acker Jr. would let UAB get away with breaking the law.

In a "charming" display of "honesty" right out of an Orwell novel, Acker told me to my face--in open court--that he was going to cheat me. And he did exactly that. My speech, via this blog, was constitutionally protected, but I'm still out of a job--thanks to a handful of corrupt individuals at UAB and an equally corrupt federal judge. (You can read Acker's vow to cheat me in a court transcript at the end of this post. On pages 14-15, he not-so-subtly suggest that I read up on a writ of mandamus, which is an interlocutory appeal, asking a higher court [the U.S. Eleventh Circuit, in my case] to force a trial judge to follow the law.)

In so many words, Acker was telling me, "I'm going to rule against you on every tiny detail, at every turn, and I'm going to force you to waste time and and huge amounts of money to repeatedly go to the Eleventh Circuit in an effort to force me to uphold the law--that's the law that I took an oath to uphold, but I'm going to piss all over it in your case. And you can't stop me." In fact, I could not stop him because his crooked federal cronies protected him.

How evil is that? It's about as evil as the UAB management types who repeatedly lied under oath in court documents submitted during the case.

Tub grinder
These people, and Judge Acker, have ruined my life and my wife's life--and they seem to think it's funny to pull such a scam on someone they know did nothing wrong in the workplace--after all, their own grievance committee found I shouldn't have been fired, they're own IT investigator stated in a hearing that I never wrote my blog at work. But former HR director Cheryl Locke and former president Carol Garrison upheld my termination anyway. And UAB lawyer Lisa Huggins sat in court like a Cheshire cat, knowing that Acker was cheating me--to her apparent benefit.

All of these folks seem to think its easy--even fun--to get away with scams like that. Perhaps they will learn differently someday.

And that reminds me of another lesson for young Mr. Sims: You were lawfully fired at Turner Industries, and you brought it on yourself, but there is plenty of time for you to someday be the target of a real screw job in the workplace. How will you feel then?

I can tell you how I feel now. If someone were to bludgeon to death Judge Acker, the corrupt lackeys at UAB, and whoever was pulling all of their strings (Rob Riley and company), I would want to be right there to cheer. And if someone were to take all of their carcasses and run them through a tub grinder, I would cheer that too.

By the  way, I have a friend who says certain hard-nosed federal contractors have been known to initiate heart-to-heart discussions with certain individuals who cause them displeasure. During the discussions, the contractors let the person know that he could wind up being passed through a tub grinder, a large and loud device that chops objects into little bits.

That, my friend says, tends to resolve a lot of problems. I'm starting to have fantasies about certain people facing a grim fate via a tub grinder--and it makes me smile.

So there you go, Mr. Sims. That's what a real workplace screw job feels like. I bet there's one waiting in your future.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sims has told the press that he has no regrets about standing up for the Confederate flag. That's good because his job is long gone--and it ain't coming back.


Anonymous said...

This fella wants the ACLU to protect his "right" to display a Confederate flag on his truck at work? Good luck with that one, young man.

Anonymous said...

I bet some neo-Confederate lawyer will take this guy's case. And with a right-wing judge, he might win, no matter what the law says.

Anonymous said...

UAB actually offered to move you to another department, but you refused to move. You had a choice between being unemployed or changing jobs. UAB's stance was you were doing research for your blog on company time. Research for your blog is just as much working on your blog as the actual typing of a story and posting it to the web. You sued and lost. The judge didn't cheat you in court. The transcript shows the judge realizes you feel you have been cheated and suggests that if you feel that way you can file the paperwork and let a higher court decide. The judge said he believed he was correct and felt confident that they wouldn't agree with you. Did you file the writ of mandamus? If you did, what was the outcome?
Now if you could just get the case file and transcript from your more recent cases. You evidently thought it was a good idea with this other case.

legalschnauzer said...

I wouldn't be at all surprised if that happened, @11:39. The guy has no case, but someone might decide to make it a case anyway.

Anonymous said...

This company didn't just fire the guy. They told him multiple times about the problem, told him what he needed to do to resolve it, and he still refused. Seems to me he got what he deserved, regardless of how you feel about the Confederate flag.

legalschnauzer said...

I know you have a hard time with facts, @12.28, but I will throw a few at you anyway:

(1) UAB's "position" was that I was targeted and fired because of my reporting on the Don Siegelman case. An HR official admitted that on audiotape, and I've run it numerous times on this blog. (See here: Their "position" in court documents conflicts with evidence in the case, which is proof that there official stance was unlawful pretext. Sworn statements from UAB employees that conflict with the evidence constitute perjury. I'm sure, though, you have no problem with perjury.

(2) If UAB had a claim regarding my use of computer equipment, that is governed by the UAB Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). The AUP says such issues are to be handled with progressive discipline, which starts with an oral warning. I never received any such oral warning, so UAB's own actions show I was not using computer equipment in an improper fashion, for writing or researching my blog. (See here:

(3) I had filed a grievance in HR against my supervisor. The UAB employee handbook says an employee who files a grievance is to suffer no negative consequences from it. I was almost immediately fired, after filing the grievance, in violation of UAB policy. This again goes to pretext. (See here:

(4) Regarding the UAB legal matter, it was not a case where I "sued and lost." It was case where I sued and was cheated. Judge Acker says in the transcript that he is going to cheat me. I challenge you to cite any law that it is lawful for a federal judge to even consider summary judgment before discovery has even been scheduled, must less conducted. I'll save you the trouble--you won't find any such law. (See here:

(5) As it turns out, I had no need to file a writ of mandamus. Acker switched courses and granted summary judgment, with zero discovery, in clear violation of 11th Circuit law. His plan had been to rule against me on every discovery matter, allowing UAB not to turn over e-mails, phone records, and other documents--and forcing me to spend thousands of dollars to get a writ of mandamus from the 11th Cir. For some reason, Acker decided to change course and do away with discovery all together

You can try to argue this with your empty, ill-informed words, but you can offer no valid argument. The facts and the law cannot be disputed. Good luck trying.

As for files from more recent cases, I've already told you that I no longer have access to those files. If you want them, I suggest you go get them and pay for them yourself. The files, without a forensic examination, don't prove anything anyway.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Douchebag is back. Can we run HIM through a tub grinder.

Anonymous said...

What about @12:28's statement that, "UAB actually offered to move you to another department, but you refused to move. You had a choice between being unemployed or changing jobs." Is that true or false?

legalschnauzer said...

It's false. UAB offered to move me to an another department AND put two written warnings in my file. University policy calls for automatic termination if you get three written warnings in an 18-month period of time. I knew I was being set up to be fired all over again because my supervisor had screwed up on the first go-around--and she got forced out of her job, probably because of that screw up.

HR director Cheryl Locke claimed the grievance committee, which found that I shouldn't have been terminated, recommended the new department and two written warnings in their report. I asked to see the report, and Locke refused to let me see it. I noted that, under UAB policy, a grievance committee is to determine if discipline applied by a supervisor is appropriate. I asked Locke to show me in UAB policy where a grievance committee has the authority to actually issue discipline. She couldn't show me.

I sat through the 4-hour grievance hearing. My supervisor, Pam Powell, repeatedly was asked if she had documentation to support her claims against me. She repeatedly replied no. There was no evidence at the hearing to support one warning against me, much less two.

The move to another department was unjustified and represented a negative job action (i.e., discrimination, First Amendment violation) under the law. But I might have accepted it without the two written warnings provision. No way, I was accepting two written warnings, especially when UAB would not show me the grievance committee's report--or tell me where I would be working and who my supervisor would be.

Bottom line, Cheryl Locke lied to me from start to finish in our two meetings. She told me that one of her top priorities would be to ensure I had a positive experience if I moved to a new department. In a few weeks time, less than two months I think, she had left UAB for a lesser job at Wake Forest.

I like to think Cheryl Locke is a pretty decent person, who was forced to lie to me, at the direction of the president's office and the board of trustees. I sensed that she was extremely uncomfortable about my case, and I think it might be a big reason she got out of UAB ASAP. I believe she knew she was working for a corrupt administration took a lesser job at Wake Forest just to get out.

One final note: I'm the one who has reported this all along, so what's the reason for your "true or false, Gotcha" attitude? The public knows about all of this because I've reported it; UAB steadfastly has refused comment on my case. If you read this blog, you should have already known the answer to your question. Not sure why I wasted time explaining it to you.