I'm glad finally to get a chance to blog about this. Consider the following scenario:
A Muslim works at a clothing store. A higher-ranked manager from another store is working one day, all day, at the Muslim's store. The manager starts talking about the drinks he had at the bar last night and how much he is looking forward to going to the bar tonight again after work. Noting the Muslim's discomfort, the manager chooses to bring the subject up again and again throughout the day. After changing the subject or ignoring the comments several times, the Muslim employee finally takes the manager aside and begins by saying, "You know, that whiskey you're talking about, that's bad stuff..." intending to go on to ask that the manager not goad him in this manner anymore in the future.
The manager steps back, begins laughing, and says, "H.R. buddy, H.R.!" The intent is clear: The employee is to be reported to human resources for speaking "offensively" to the manager. And that's just what happens. The Muslim employee is summarily fired. He explains what happened to the person doing the firing, and in response he receives a letter in which the higher-level management person ignores the allegation regarding the repeated references to drinking. Instead, the letter says something like, "You claimed that it was a factual statement about previous and future drinks that made you feel that your Muslim beliefs required you to speak out. Your actions were offensive and unprofessional. We have a zero tolerance policy regarding harassment. You are living in a country where drinking is legal, and you will find that many of your colleagues do drink alcoholic beverages. You must learn to live with this..." and so on and so forth.
Is it not self-evident that the employee would have a case for a religious discrimination suit? In fact, a fairly strong case? If anyone was creating a "hostile work environment" and engaging in "harassment," it was the manager who deliberately and repeatedly goaded the employee and then got him fired when he finally expressed his views on the matter of drinking.
Now watch the video here.
I note that the letter of dismissal makes it sound like Vadala spoke up immediately upon the manager's first reference to "her fiance," and makes it sound like this is his own account, when that in fact is contrary to his own account.
I also note that the assumption that one cannot harass someone by making factual statements is obviously false. Even waiving the tendentious statement that it is now, by legal fiat, a fact in Massachusetts that women can marry women (as though metaphysics is decided by court order), of course you can harass someone with factual statements. If a male manager followed a female employee around repeatedly describing a strip act he recently saw in excruciating detail, this would certainly be a form of sexual harassment even if every statement he made were factual. My scenario above illustrates the same point.
It looks like Peter Vadala isn't planning to bring a complaint of religious discrimination, so we won't, probably, get a test case. But this is a very serious matter. From my perspective, the world would be a better place if anti-discrimination laws hadn't been invented in the first place. But since they have been invented, the worst outcome is the one we get here--direct discrimination on the basis of religious views in the name of non-discrimination on the basis of homosexuality. That sort of one-sidedness is a straight road to liberal totalitarianism of a particularly bad variety, and we need to stand up now against it.
In hindsight, and with great cleverness, I can write a speech Vadala might have tried instead of the opening he did use. It probably wouldn't have worked, but he could have tried this: "It seems to me that you, as my superior in this company, have been harassing me today. You think that you know my views on a particular subject, and you keep trying to goad me to express those views. Perhaps you think you can get me in trouble in some way if I express my views. I want to ask you to stop that harassment in the future." It would be interesting to see what she would have done. She's obviously a bully, but that sort of jujitsu move tries to use her bullying against her.
But I applaud Peter Vadala for being a straight shooter. I wish him all the luck in the world in the future, and I wish for all of us the courage to speak up while we still can.
HT Scott W