Friday, May 28, 2021

Yes, Karen, your boss really can fire you for being a Karen

Do you remember Amy Cooper? She was the woman who called police on a Black man (Christian Cooper, no relation) who crossed her path while she was walking her dog in Central Park. One day later, her employer, Franklin Templeton, fired her, explaining, "We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton." One year late, she has filed suit against her former employer, claiming that she was wrongfully terminated based on the company's failure to investigate what actually happened in the park.

Through a spokesperson, Franklin Templeton denies any wrongdoing related to Cooper's firing. "We believe the circumstances of the situation speak for themselves and that the company responded appropriately. We will defend against these baseless claims." 

In other words, Christian Cooper's viral cell phone video speaks for itself. Franklin Templeton either fired Amy Cooper because it concluded that she's racist, because her actions brought the firm negative publicity, or both. Either way, I see no chance that Amy Cooper's lawsuit succeeds.

Indeed, I give Ms. Cooper somewhere between a 0 and .01% percent chance of winning her lawsuit. As long as Franklin Templeton has an honest belief in the reasons for its termination based on an investigation and it doesn't have a history of not firing similarly situated employees under similar circumstances, the termination decision should be protected. Her lawsuit reeks of publicity whoring, and it's shameful. 

While Ms. Cooper absolutely has every right to act however she wants to act outside of the workplace, Franklin Templeton has every right to fire her if it concludes that such behavior is racist, exposes it to negative publicity, or both. Ms. Cooper is accountable for her inappropriate behavior, and Franklin Templeton is entitled to hold her accountable for that behavior. It had all of the information it needed to reach the decision it reached.

If an employee exhibits racist behavior that the employer can confirm via video footage, I would dare the individual to sue after being fired. Do not pass go, do not collect severance, just bring it on. Because what kind of employer am I if I ignore that behavior? What message does it send to my minority employees and customers (not to mention my Title VII obligations to provide a workplace free from racial harassment)?

Good luck with your lawsuit, Ms. Cooper. You're going to need all of it and then some.