Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

Man who berated Chick-Fil-A employee has been fired. Millions take joy in his termination, missing the point.

Written By: Bob - Aug• 02•12

Adam Smith meant to be hateful to a very pleasant young woman at Chick-Fil-A yesterday.

Today, he has been terminated as a result.

I’m not cool with this.

Smith was sharing his opinion and his beliefs. I disagree with his conclusions, his ambush of a very professional and poised Chick-Fil-A employee, his choice of words, his smugness, and just about everything about what he did… but I will fight until my last breath for his right to be a bigoted jerk.

I think the company he worked for was put in the unpleasant position of having to cope with the unpalatable actions of their CFO/treasurer. An unknown video turned into a social media firestorm overnight, but I contend that firing him wasn’t the right decision.

I would have had a lot more respect for the company if they stood behind Smith’s decision to share his personal opinion away from the office. They could have said they were respecting his First Amendment rights, just as those who lined up to buy meals from Chick-Fil-A were standing in solidarity for Dan Cathy’s right to have his opinion expressed without penalty.

A perfect outcome to this rotten situation (in my mind) would be for Cathy to offer Smith a job at Chick-Fil-A. We should all support free speech, even if that is speech with which we strongly disagree.

Update: If you want to mock discrimination, there’s better ways to do it.

Additional Update: Folks have made some very good points in the comments, the primary one that made an impact was the point that while government shouldn’t be able to regulate speech, employers do have both a right (and potentially an obligation to their investors) to expect certain standards of behavior from their employees, especially company officers. From that point of view, Smith didn’t just cross the line, he did so in a high profile and especially offensive manner.

I stand corrected.

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29 Comments

  1. Miguel says:

    I am guessing the company found itself between a rock and a hard place from an image & PR point of view and chose the lesser of two evils.

  2. Chris R says:

    No no no. No hand wringing. No angst. This douche got what was coming to him. Schadenfreude is OK in some circumstances.

    • Greg Q says:

      No, Schadenfreude is ok in MANY circumstances.

      Anyone on the right who did something like this would be hosed, and should be hosed. The only way we’re going to get back to having a decent society is if the same becomes true for the left. His firing was cultural hygiene, and it most certainly shoudl be celebrated.

  3. Shelly Sands says:

    You’ve got to be kidding! This joker posts his personal bio all over the place on the internet representing the company he works for then posts a video berating a minimum wage worker and you think that doesn’t reflect on the company he represents. I’d fire his butt in a nano second.

  4. Brian Guy says:

    Agreed, also even though I agree with his views on gay marriage, it was stupid and dickish thing to do to take it out on some young woman making minimum wage at a fast food restaurant.

  5. Whiskey Bravo says:

    I pretty much disagree with you on this one.

    He went above and beyond just “expressing his opinion” when he lectured someone while they are at work doing their job–and even had the audacity to video it (in case he got a “good” reaction?). That is a lot different from just simply “expressing your opinion” on YouTube for the world to see. This isn’t about him expressing his thoughts on YouTube…this is about him purposefully harassing a person at their place of work–in a drive-thru–with a line of customers waiting to be served. Just because he felt he had “the right” to be heard. Sorry…that’s not how the game is played. I’d have fired him, too. Even if I agreed with him. You do NOT do that to employees. PERIOD.

    It was not even in good taste–and she plainly said her own personal opinion was irrelevant–because this was her job.

    He was way out of line and violated the basic rule of “there’s a proper time and place for everything.” Yeah, say what you want, but also be reminded that actions have consequences.

  6. twistedmuser says:

    Well he does have freedom of speech. On the other hand, his company can decide what type of person represents them. He went too far in what he did.

  7. Robb Allen says:

    Sorry Bob, but I disagree with you strongly on this.

    Every day, I face the fact that being openly 2A, I could lose my job. I have been using my real name online since 95, and I understand that my views may, at some point, make me unemployable by certain companies. So far, I’ve lucked out in that many people seem to be closeted gun lovers, but imagine what happens when my company gets a client who is *vehemently* anti-gun? What happens when it’s in their best financial interest to take a client and lose an employee?

    That’s a risk I’m willing to take, and nobody should don a hairshirt for me.

    This guy was a grade a douchenozzle. There’s nothing that indicates this was a spur of the moment, ill conceived idea and Douchey McDoucherson’s attitude may have permeated his work ethic as well. Or he could have been a friggin’ angel, who knows?

    The fact is that he expressed himself in a way that his employer did not approve of, and he lost his job. Just like if he worked for Chik-Fil-A, he could have quit for hearing Cathy’s statement.

    I, for one, will not be losing any sleep over Dr. Dickbag’s canning.

  8. Sparky says:

    And I agree with his employers First Amendment right to demonstrate that they do not agree with this guy by firing him and will fight until my last breath for his (former) employers right to choose what type of person they want working for them.

  9. Paula says:

    I agree that every American has the right to act like an idiot, just as Mr. Smith did. Free speech is free speech. But as a CFO myself, I understand that the actions I take in public reflect on my company and can result in termination. A private employer has the right to decide who represents them. And a good executive knows that.

  10. twolaneflash says:

    Those Right-to-Work laws are a real bother aren’t they, Bob? If only this guy had been a union member or a NYC school teacher, he could just go to the rubber room and keep drawing his paycheck, keep his pension increasing, and garner all those other benefits. Most reputable employers have multiple measures in place reminding employees that they are responsible for their public words, which may by association, reflect poorly on and create liabilities for the company. For an executive of a company, there are elevated expectations, especially if you are handling the money like Adam Smith did as CFO. Over my working life, I’ve observed many executives “seek opportunities outside the corporation” due to public actions which made the company look bad. As my father sometimes told me: “Don’t let your bulldog mouth overload your chihuahua ass!”. Mr. Smith could have used this life lesson, but as Dad also said: “Life is a tough teacher; it gives you the test, then teaches you the lesson.”.

  11. SpideyTerry says:

    I never felt this slob should be fired for his stunt. Truth be told, I didn’t think he even had a job. Nonetheless, he wasn’t simply expressing his opinion. He wasn’t even simply just being verbally abrasive with someone. He went out of his way to be obnoxious and recorded it, thinking he was scoring some great victory for gay marriage rights. All he did was embarrass himself and by extension his company. What they do with him is their business, but as others have said, he brought it on himself.

  12. Steve says:

    As an officer of a company, they unequivocally did the right thing. Executives represent the company in their personal behavior – like it or not.

  13. Trump says:

    A CFO that’s so intemperate as to bully a freaking drive-thru window clerk? He couldn’t retain that job. And eff him. As someone else said “we take endless crap from smug little shitbirds like this” for years. I’m glad to see he’s the one eating shit now. I’d gladly see worse happen to him. I’m tired of people like him.

  14. Roz Smith says:

    It is not just the damage to the corporate image, which a public apology to the Chick-fil-A employee could have helped correct. If there hasn’t already been complaints by employees the CEO is now certainly on notice the CFO likes to bully helpless low level employees to a level that could be considered the intentional infliction of emotional distress. He’s a walking cause of action and this video would be front and center when the lawyers sit down to work out a settlement.

    • styrgwillidar says:

      Exactly right. And I would be very much surprised if there weren’t already a few questionable incidents in his past. Can anyone say ‘pattern of behavior’.

      I am just speculating, but I’m guessing this was one of those last straw kind of things.

  15. JeffM says:

    The First Amendment is a restriction on government’s power to prevent or punish expression; it imposes no restrictions on the powers of private individuals or entities. What part of “Congress shall make no law” is so hard to grasp.

    As someone who was a senior executive for many years of a company that did business with the public, it was quite clear that one of the conditions of employment was to do nothing that might annoy a significant number of customers or potential customers. Every senior officer is partly a sales person.

    Mr. Smith has the right to speak publicly without governmental interference or sanction. He does not have a right to a job with a private entity.

  16. thebronze says:

    Life’s all about choices. It was his choice to do what he did and consequently the company’s choice to fire him for his piss-poor judgement.

    Had no one known who he was, this wouldn’t have been an issue for him. However, it was very easy to link him to his CFO position, as well as his faculty position, because of his youtube post. He thought he was cool and okay to do what he did. His employers thought differently. He was fired for being an indiscreet cretin and boor.

  17. Rob Halvorson says:

    Bob,

    Aside from his embarrassing himself and the company he worked for, as an employer would you want someone this irresponsible and let’s face it, stupid, as you Chief Financial Officer? I wouldn’t.

  18. S. Weasel says:

    Speaking as a woman who worked the counter at Dunkin’ Donuts during college, I can tell you there’s a certain brand of douche who gets his jollies roughing up minimum wage serfs. If I hadn’t really, really needed the money…but then, this kind of predator instinctively knows who’s needy, doesn’t he?

    I wouldn’t want this character within a mile of my business, on either side of the counter.

  19. Unix-Jedi says:

    Nah, terminating him was the proper and right thing to do.

    He wasn’t an ass, he was an ass with malicious forethought. And thought to publicize it.

    From a practical standpoint, this wouldn’t be the first time he’s used his position to beat up on someone who was relatively powerless in front of him – and the next time, or the last time, might end up in a lawsuit.

    You want to explain that video to a jury, along with “Well, yes, he did that, and he berated a young girl, just to make her miserable, but, really, really, he never did anything like that to this person who worked for him?”

  20. Scott says:

    You are off the mark on two levels. The First Amendment applies to the relationship between the citizen and government. In other words, a citizen’s speech is protected from retaliation from the government. We don’t allow the government to punish people for expressing political opinions that dissent from the political majority. The Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was as much a reaction to the mayors of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco who expressed a desire to punish Chick-fil-A by denying permits to open in their cities simply because they don’t like the CEO’s view as it was about support for traditional marriage.

    The second thing you get wrong is Smith’s actions were planned and deliberate. It wasn’t something stupid he dreamed up spontaneously. He planned to visually record himself on video. He planned to berate whoever took his order at the drive thru window. And here’s the important thing, he planned to post it on Youtube for the world to see. If you are the CEO of his company, how on earth can you rationalize to the company’s investors that this is a man with the good judgment to be corporate treasurer and Chief Financial Officer? The Board and the CEO had a fiduciary duty to can this guy. If I were an investor in the company, I’d have more confidence in the CEO because he instantly recognized his CFO’ atrocious judgment and acted decisively to remove him.

  21. furious says:

    Q: How’s that wrecking-your-career free-water?
    A: Tastes like chicken!

  22. Col Bat Guano says:

    I see a lot of people have already beaten me to the punch, Bob, but you were wrong in this. If Adam Smith was that cowardly and sniveling to a poised young woman (who deserves a HUGE raise if not promotion by CFA) he had never met, and who couldn’t fight back given her customer service position, imagine what a condescending putz he was to his subordinates at Vante. That video may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for Vante’s CEO. If the CEO had to constantly negotiate spats in his company where Smith was the common denominator, he probably saw that video and said enough is enough.

    “Smith, pack your stuff up and get out of my company! IT, disconnect his email and server access, NOW, before he sabotages us!”

    I have absolutely no issues that a cowardly, sniveling, smug puke like Adam Smith got Chik-Fil-A’d over his horrible behavior towards that young lady. Just as her professional and poised demeanor needs to be awarded by CFA, Adam Smith was justly awarded for his behavior.

  23. Col Bat Guano says:

    P.S. What’s interesting is Vante’s website is down. Three theories on that:

    A. Smith did sabotage their servers after the CEO handed him his sniveling head on a platter. He strikes me as someone that would do that.

    B. Vante took down their server to avoid the email barrage that was headed their way.

    C. The amounts of hits their server was getting crashed it.

    Whatever actually happened, Adam Smith’s intentional online behavior is not good for Vante’s business. Smith is costing Vante a lot of money. I’d want to sue the sonofabitch as well now for breaking his agreement to act like the professional they thought they had hired and damaging their business.

  24. Linoge says:

    I do not own a company and I probably never will, but if I did, I would not want someone with the attitude, interpersonal relations, and maliciousness exhibited by Adam Smith representing that company, especially at a CFO level.

    And, incidentally, I probably agree with him about the stupidity of laws banning homosexual marriages…

  25. Catseye says:

    This type of behaviour is Never a one off event there is always a history. People like this can cost s company clients and personnel. Not to mention the possible monetary loss from Lawsuit. The CEO acted rightly and in the best interests of his company.

  26. Rob B. says:

    The ever-present, unbelievable Conservative double-standard continues …..

    So let me see if I get the gist of these comments. Cathy, the CEO, takes a controversial stance on gay marriage – an opinion. He also donates monies to anti-gay causes and takes a stance that limits the opportunities available to gay Americans. His actions created this situation in the first place and offended previous customers, like myself. His actions, which materially impact others, are deemed okay and are protected, staunchly, under the 1st Amendment. Correct?

    However, when an officer of another company, possibly someone whose opportunities (the ability to marry, have a domestic partnership) have been limited by those like Cathy and is understandably upset, expresses his opinion suddenly he is held accountable for his opinion/action and MUST be fired. Right?

    What I saw was a frustrated man, expressing his opinion. Although this might have made the employee uncomfortable, I did not see the patron call her names or use profanity. He did not threaten her. What I saw was an understandably frustrated individual expressing his view to someone representing Cathy’s organization – I doubt Cathy would make himself available to debate the point. I wonder – had this guy announced his corporate affiliation and then staunchly verbalized Cathy’s opinion on the matter would he have been fired? Doubtful. Think about it. Guys, we simply cannot have a “pick and choose” mentality when it comes to protecting freedom of speech …

    • 1mathteacher says:

      Nobody is picking & choosing anything. I believe the guy has a first amendment right to say whatever he wants. More power to him. That is, I don’t believe he should be arrested or prosecuted for his remarks. However, life is not without consequences. Dan Cathy’s remarks had consequences. The Jim Henson Company severed their business ties (fired) Chick-fil-A over this, and that’s their right! It’s also my right to choose to patronize them MORE because I hate the bullying attitude of Rahm Emanuel, et al. Every employee at Chick-fil-A can choose to quit, every franchisee can choose to disconnect from the company.

      If the guy (Smith) had posted just his opinion on Youtube, I’m sure he would still have his job. It was the irresponsible way he berated the girl that made it so bad.

      Also, if he were an assembly line employee, I think he might have gotten away with it. He showed his employer that he was not reliable enough to be the public face of the company.

      So please, let’s not confuse first amendment rights with what happened here. You have a right to say whatever you want, and other people have the right to associate themselves with you or not, as they see fit. First amendment just means you can’t be arrested for it.