David Tuff is a security guard of Blue Mountain. As a security guard, he is required by law to report to the police all serious accidents and crimes, including felonies, occurring within the premises wherein which he is detailed. However, Blue Mountain created a new company policy ordering the security guards to just escort intoxicated persons, including drunk drivers, from the parking lots onto the public road. The company policy prohibited the security guards from reporting such incidents to the police.
Tuff complained against this new company policy. He says this is contrary to the oath he swore to uphold as required by law. Thus, contrary to another company policy, he revealed to the media this new policy which seemed wrong to him. The result was public disgust against Blue Mountain. Because of this, Tuff was fired.
Propriety of Tuffs Action
As a matter of right, Tuff had every right to speak what he spoke to the media. His right springs from the constitutional guarantee to freedom of speech. This means that his right to speak is not just some ordinary right granted by some law. It is one which is inherent in every man from the moment he is born and is protected by the constitution.
However, when he signed up with Blue Mountain, he agreed not to disclose anything to the media as reflected by company policy. In a sense, he waived a portion of his right to freedom of speech in order to be employed. This is a valid waiver. Since Tuff violated company policy, he violated an agreement he voluntarily entered into. Thus, his act of revealing company policies to the media is, in the final analysis, inappropriate.
What he should have done?
If I were Tuff, I would have not been so rash as to incite public outcry against my employer. To my mind, such a course of action violates the rules of fair play. In fact, it is a violation of a company policy which I agreed to as a requirement for my employment. There are three things to consider: the law, the company policies and my employment contract. Since it is hard to harmonize all three in determining a proper course of action, the right thing to do is to have gone to a lawyer who will discuss to me my options. A lawyer could tell me how to proceed without violating the law, the company policies, or my employment contract, or at least, in case I should violate one, I will still make a better informed decision.
Propriety of Firing Tuff
Tuff violated company policy. In fact, his violation can be considered as serious misconduct because he did it with utter disregard of specific orders not to talk to the media. His first infraction was forgiven by management. Yet after that, he made the same violation. This serious misconduct makes his termination justified.
Alternative to Termination
The termination of Tuff is not the only remedy available to Blue Mountain. From a certain perspective, such act is too harsh for after all, he was just exercising his right to free speech on what he sees to be wrong. Moreover, the new company policy is contradictory to what the law requires of him. Under the cognitive dissonance theory, he was just having a hard time harmonizing the dissonance. Management should have at least tried to see it this way.
Surely, the company would hate to make a company policy which makes its employees violate the law. Hence, it should have first sat down with Tuff, which it did not do in this case, to discuss a solution for Tuffs dilemma. They should have sought to employ one of the many alternative dispute resolution methods. A compromise would have been reached. This solution is quiet and amicable and makes everybody happy. Sensationalizing the issue by going to the media or to the court, for that matter, just worsens the situation and makes everybody edgy, including those not involved, making a compromise harder to reach.