Mastodon Politics and work don’t mix: Southwest Airlines investigating pilot for “Let’s go Brandon” in-flight announcement

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Politics and work don’t mix: Southwest Airlines investigating pilot for “Let’s go Brandon” in-flight announcement


Southwest Airlines is investigating one of its pilots for saying "Let's go Bradon" during an in-flight announcement.  

What is "Let's go Brandon," you ask? It's a euphemism many conservatives are using in place of saying "F**k Joe Biden." The origin of the phrase stems from an Oct. 2 NASCAR race won by Brandon Brown. During his post-race interview with NBC reporter Kelli Stavast, the crowd started chanting "F**k Joe Biden." Stavast, however, said, "You can hear the chants from the crowd, 'Let's go, Brandon!'" 

While it's unclear whether Stavast misheard the crowd or was merely covering up its audible on-air obscenity, the phrase "Let's go, Brandon" stuck and quickly spread among conservative groups and continues to be used in place of a direct expletive toward President Biden, even among members of Congress.

In a tweet, Southwest apologized.
The Southwest Team takes pride in providing a welcoming, comfortable, safe, and respectful environment for the millions of Customers who fly with us each year. Southwest does not condone Employees sharing their personal political opinions while on the job serving our Customers, and one Employee's individual perspective should not be interpreted as the viewpoint of Southwest and its collective 54,000 Employees. Southwest is conducting an internal investigation into the recently reported event and will address the situation directly with any Employee involved while continuing to remind all Employees that public expression of personal opinions while on duty is unacceptable. Southwest does not tolerate any behavior that encourages divisiveness, as it does not reflect the Southwest Hospitality and inclusiveness for which we are known and strive to provide each day on every flight.
I'd like to focus on one sentence in that tweet: "Southwest is conducting an internal investigation into the recently reported event and will address the situation directly with any Employee involved while continuing to remind all Employees that public expression of personal opinions while on duty is unacceptable."

As my friend Suzanne Lucas shared on Inc.com yesterday in covering this same story, there are certain facts any (good) employer would want to investigate before taking action against the offending employee.
  1. Did the pilot actually say, "Let's go, Brandon!"? — Can we reach an honest belief based on an investigation that it actually happened? 
  2. Have other political slogans been tolerated? — Will our decision look pretextual based on some protected category (race, sex, religion, etc.)
  3. What does the union contract say? — If your employees have a labor union, does this action reach the level of "just cause" for discipline or termination.
Without that information, an employer cannot determine whether the employee should be fired, should suffer some degree of lesser discipline, or should be let off the hook.

We want our employees to be political. We want them to hold opinions and to vote. What we don't want them to do, however, is to express those opinions in a way that offends our customers or harasses their co-workers. When they do, we as employers have the right to hold them accountable. We just need to make sure we have our i's dotted and t's crossed.