Hotel Attendant Fired For Wearing American Flag Lapel Pin
The stars, stripes and a pink slip.
Sean May was fired last week by the Casa Monica hotel in St. Augustine, Fla., for refusing to take off a lapel pin displaying the American flag. He says he had been wearing it on a daily basis for some two years.
"I've actually gotten probably more compliments about it than any of the service I've actually done at the hotel, which is an interesting concept," the hotel attendant (pictured above) told local television station News4Jax, according to a report in the New York Daily News. He added via e-mail to AOL Jobs that he wore the pin in "support" of his country.
Yet despite the accounts of the pin's popularity among customers, May was told to leave the hotel premises on Thursday after he refused to take it off. He came in Friday only to be notified that he was being fired. The hotel, located in the heart of the St. Augustine tourist district, found itself on the defensive after locals sprang to May's defense. Among those throwing their support behind May were members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
"Anybody who takes a chance on his livelihood to take a stand for patriotism is a hero and should be treated like a hero," local Air Force veteran Bruce Whalen told News4Jax.
Blanket Policies Against Insignias
"The Casa Monica Hotel located in St. Augustine, Florida, is an American-based, homegrown historic hotel," the hotel operators said via e-mail to News4Jax. "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)."
With the hotel showing no signs of reconsidering the decision, locals were planning to organize a boycott on behalf of May. Were such a movement to take off, May would become just the latest American worker to be in the spotlight of a lapel pin controversy. As was reported on AOL Jobs in 2009, Florida-based Home Deport cashier Trevor Keezor was fired for refusing to take off an American flag pin that had an inscription that read, "One nation under God, indivisible."
Keezor said that he was wearing the pin out of solidarity with his brother, then on a second tour of duty in Iraq for the National Guard. Home Depot's rationale was of a piece with that of the Casa Monica.
"This associate chose to wear a button that expressed his religious beliefs. The issue is not whether or not we agree with the message on the button," Home Depot spokesman Craig Fishel said. "That's not our place to say, which is exactly why we have a blanket policy, which is longstanding and well-communicated to our associates, that only company-provided pins and badges can be worn on our aprons."
But of course, no one has been more famously tied to lapel pin controversies than the current president, Barack Obama. When he ran for president back in 2008, the then-Illinois senator had an on-again, off-again relationship with his American flag lapel pin.
When confronted about the issue on the campaign trail, he sought to tamp down the political controversy.
"I haven't been making such a big deal about it. Others have," he said, according to a May 2008 report in Time. "Sometimes I wear it, sometimes I don't."Correction: An earlier version of this article said May was a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.
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