When it comes to discussing religion or politics in the office, of course, tact is required. But just how tight-lipped should you be? Clive Hunt, a 58-year old IT consultant in Manchester, England, confronted this question head-on earlier this month when he offered to pick up "bacon sandwiches" during a meeting with a new client. That reportedly offended a Muslim co-worker -- and soon after, Hunt says that he was told that he lost his job. According to a report in the Manchester Evening News, Hunt says that a manager told him the decision was made because of his "racist remark."
Hunt says that he was in a meeting at a Manchester office of the Reed recruitment company to discuss an eight-month contract worth 32,000 pounds (or $50,000) to work with the British National Health Service, or NHS. And during the meeting, Hunt offered to pick up "bacon sandwiches," which as the Examiner points out, is "standard English breakfast fare." He didn't know that a colleague in the meeting, Sharika Sacranie, 29, was an observant Muslim, forbidden from eating pig products.
Hunt says that he didn't intend to offend anyone. "I'd never met [Sacranie] before," he told the Daily Mail, adding "we got on fine." But after the meeting, Hunt says that he received the call telling him that his services were no longer needed due to his "racist" remark -- an allegation that Hunt disputes. "There was no slur at her because I'd already met all the contractors on site before and one of them had actually told me they had really good bacon sandwiches."
Hunt added that Sacranie herself chose not to address the incident both when it happened and during a follow-up phone-call about the hiring process that took place before he was told that he was being let go. He said the job loss was a blow; he's been out of work for two months. Finally, Hunt claims to be bewildered that Reed had the power to terminate his employment. The "agency was just a middle man. How can it rescind an offer that was made to me by the NHS?" he asked the Daily Mail.
But according to John Spitzler, the president and principal recruiter for the Perimeter Consulting Group, an Atlanta-based executive search firm, it is common practice for search firms to rescind job offers. But in an interview with AOL Jobs, he said that the decision is usually the result of a criminal or other background check. "It's unusual for the choice to be made as a result of a cross-cultural insult, unintenteded or not," he said.
Both the NHS and Sacranie have turned down media requests for comment. The Reed staffing firm, however, did release a statement defending the decision and suggesting that Hunt made additional "inappropriate" comments during a phone call:
Due to inappropriate comments made to members of our staff during the recruitment process before Mr Hunt started his new role, we do not feel we can represent this candidate further. ... A senior manager from the Reed team spoke to Mr Hunt via telephone ... [d]uring that conversation, Mr Hunt made further inappropriate comments. At this point it became clear to the senior manager that Reed could no longer represent Mr Hunt.
Both side are in agreement about the charge that Hunt had a strong reaction to the news. In recounting to the Daily Mail the conversation he had with the Reed manager, he said that he "got so exasperated that [he] told him to 'sod off' and put the phone down.'"
Either way, Hunt's fall from grace is in keeping with a trend in Europe of workers running into problems for how they've handled religious matters in the office. Seven years ago, British Airways suspended clerk Nadia Eweida for refusing to take off her cross, saying that she wasn't in compliance with the airline's uniform code. Earlier this year, however, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, ruled that the airline discriminated against her, and said Eweida had the right to wear a symbol of her faith.
This story was updated on Thursday, June 27, at 4:30 p.m. EDT with quotes from John Spitzler.
What is the worst way to be fired? Check out the slideshow below.
The Worst Ways To Be Fired
IT Worker Loses Dream Job Over...A Bacon Sandwich?
Firing long-serving employees over email is pretty cowardly and insensitive. But you probably lose an extra 5 trillion karma points if those long-serving employees are soldiers. Due to an alleged "administrative error" several dozen British soldiers, who had each served for over 20 years, including one fighting in Afghanistan, were told that their services, or rather their service, would not longer be required. The email advised the troops to "start planning your resettlement."
Prime Minister David Cameron felt that "the way this has been handled is completely unacceptable," according to a spokesman. Jim Murphy, shadow defense secretary for the opposition Labour Party had stronger words, calling it "callous, cold-hearted, souless."
When a partially nude pic of Miss California Carry Prejean surfaced, Donald Trump stood by her side. "We are in the 21st century. We have determined the pictures taken are fine" and in some cases "lovely," said at a press conference in May 2009. He also defended her answer to a pageant question about same-sex marriage (she's not into it).
Less than a month later, Prejean got a call. It was radio and TV host Billy Bush, and he was wondering whether she had a statement. You know, about her losing her crown and her dreams being dashed in a hugely public and humiliating fall from grace?
"It is so bizarre to me how this has turned out," Prejean told Fox News. "I just couldn't believe it. I was so shocked, I didn't know what to say."
Sarah Silverman was on "Saturday Night Live" for a year, but only one of her sketches actually made it to dress rehearsal, and none got on the air. She claims that she was notified of her dismissal by fax, which isn't very cool now, and still wasn't very cool in 1994. She parodied the experience on "The Larry Sanders Show," in which the chauvinist head writer blackballs her jokes because she's a lady.
Getting fired is a bummer. Getting fired for being tired all the time when you're pregnant is a bigger bummer. Being told that you have to give back your uniform shirts or pay $30 is pretty wounding. And then bumping into your bright-eyed replacement on the way out is like pouring five pounds of salt in that wound.
That's what happened to one woman in East Hartford, Conn., who worked at Bell Foods grocery store. As she writes on her blog, she immediately went to her car, grabbed the dirty work shirts, and threw them on her supervisor's desk. Unfortunately, her supervisor wasn't sitting there. She was giving the new girl a tour.
By the age of 21, Chris Colfer had two Emmy nominations and ranked among Time's 100 most influential people in the world last year for his groundbreaking portrayal of a struggling gay teen on the primetime series "Glee." So he was a little surprised when he discovered that the show had tweeted that next season would be his last on the show. "I don't necessarily want to leave so soon, but I mean, it's fine," he told Access Hollywood. "It's what it is. And all things come to an end."
The show's creator, Ryan Murphy, had a different story. They'd been in talks about it for a while, he said, given that Colfer's character was graduating from high school, and that they were planning a spin-off. Annoyed about Colfer's comments, Murphy said that they were scrapping the spin-off idea. Colfer will be back on the show next season, however, as a high school graduate somehow integrated into high school plotlines with the logic-suspending grace of a truly great sitcom.
Sixteen-year-old Chelsea Taylor weekend job at a cafe called Cookies after she lost a ten-pound note (about $16). She was fired by a manager in a Facebook message riddled with the textspeak abbreviations that might be appropriate for dishing about the cute boy next to you in math class, but a little less appropriate for cutting someone off from their source of income.
"Sorry to send u a message like this but bin tryin to ring u but gettin no joy," she wrote. "I had to tell the owner bout u losin that tenner coz obviously the till was down at the end of the day. she wan't very pleased at all and despite me trying to persuade her otherwise she said I have to let u go. I'm really sorry."
Taylor shrugged it off with a resilient "oki x," but her mom wasn't too pleased, and had a little talk with the Daily Mail.
Back in 2010, Karen Ogilvie, a bartender in Dundee, Scotland, slept in and missed the start of her evening shift. She'd worked 11 hours the day before, four of them spent alone, so she couldn't even go to the bathroom, she claimed. Later that evening, she got a text. Bye-bye. Ogilvie replied with a few texts asking for her job back, but got no reply.
But things turned out rosy for Ogilvie. In October 2010, she was awarded the sum of 14,355 pounds ($22,461) by an employment tribunal, which found that her dismissal was "procedurally and substantively unfair."