|Phillip Sims, with his Confederate flag|
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.
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.