Want to Retain Good Employees? Then, Don’t Do This:

Lindsey Stone and her supervisor, Jamie Schuh, were reportedly good employees at LIFE (Living Independently Forever, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization).

Now, they are unemployed.

Schuh took a photograph of Stone standing beside a sign. Stone appears to be shouting and flipping-off the sign which asks for “Silence and Respect.” The photo was posted on Stone’s Facebook page for her friends to see. It was meant as an ironic joke similar to the time she posted a photo of herself smoking in front of a “No Smoking” sign. I’m providing an unedited version of the photo so that you can see for yourself what I’m describing.

Lindsey Stone posing for what became a controversial photo.

But, there were four major problems with the taking and posting of the “Silence and Respect” photo: 

1. The photograph was taken beside the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

2. The photograph was taken during a business trip.

3. The photograph went viral on the Internet.

4. Tens of thousands of people called for the termination of the employment of Stone and Schuh.

The photo was posted in October. When the photo clearly became a controversy, Stone removed it and issued an apology on October 20, according to Gawker:

Whoa whoa whoa… wait. This is just us, being the douchebags that we are, challenging authority in general. Much like the pic posted the night before, of me smoking right next to a no smoking sign. OBVIOUSLY we meant NO disrespect to people that serve or have served our country.”

In another public apology, Stone and Schuh said:

We sincerely apologize for all the pain we have caused by posting the picture we took in Washington DC on Facebook. While posted on a public forum, the picture was intended only for our own amusement. We never meant any disrespect to any of the people nationwide who have served this country and defended our freedom so valiantly. It was meant merely as a visual pun, intending to depict the exact opposite of what the sign said, and had absolutely nothing to do with the location it was taken or the people represented there.”

For many, the apologies were not enough. Jazz Shaw, on the blog Hot Air,  wrote:

She was grossly and crudely insulting the Honored Dead.”

By contrast, Robert Johnson, a military veteran, wrote at Business Insider:

More importantly, if Lindsey Stone wants to rip on the Tomb of the Unknowns, me, my service, or the hundreds of mutilated troops I served with at Walter Reed Medical Center, she should be able to do so without fear of retribution. Freedom like that is what we fought for, and respecting other opinions is part of what the military tried to teach all of us who served.”

When LIFE found out about the image on November 19, it issued its own public statement:

This photograph in no way reflects the opinions or values of the LIFE organization, which holds our nation’s veterans in the highest regard. We are proud to have veterans serving on our staff and board of trustees, and we value their service. The men and women who have selflessly fought and sacrificed their lives to protect the rights and lives of Americans deserve our utmost respect and gratitude. We are acutely aware that this photo has done a disservice to veterans and we are deeply saddened that it was taken and shared in a public medium.”

Stone and Schuh were placed on unpaid leave pending an internal investigation. It’s unclear what LIFE felt it needed to “investigate” as Diane Enochs, LIFE’s Executive Director, refused to answer my question about this or most of my related questions. Instead, Enochs emailed me the following statement:

Thank you for your inquiry.

LIFE has accepted the resignations of the two employees involved in taking and posting the inappropriate photo. Their resignations marked the conclusion of our internal investigation.

LIFE does have an employee handbook that includes a section on inappropriate use of the Internet and e-mail.

At this point, we will not speculate on what the ramifications might have been had the employees opted not to resign, other than to say that we were prepared to fully investigate the matter and determine a course of action in an expeditious manner.

We are now striving to return the focus to the outstanding care provided to our residents by our staff on a daily basis.”

It’s unclear from the Enochs’ statement and media reports whether or not the two employees were forced to resign. In any case, LIFE has now lost two good employees when, at most, public apologies should have been enough.

I’m troubled by these events.

Technically, this is not a First Amendment freedom of expression issue. The US Constitution applies only to government actions and not those of private citizens or organizations. The government cannot violate one’s freedom of expression, but private citizens and corporations may under certain circumstances. For its part, the National Labor Relations Board has stated  that a company’s social media policy cannot be “overly broad” but also stated that social media postings are not necessarily protected under federal labor law.

However, while the First Amendment or Federal labor laws may not apply to the Stone-Schuh photograph, the American value of freedom of expression certainly does. As military veteran Johnson stated, protecting that fundamental value is what our troops have fought and died for.

Let me be clear, Stone and Schuh did not mock their employer. They did not mock the military. They did not intend the photo to be viewed by the general public. However tasteless one might think the photo is, neither Stone nor Schuh intended to offend anyone and promptly apologized and removed the photo when they realized they had offended many people.

If Stone and Schuh worked for a veterans’ organization, I might better understand the action taken by the nonprofit organization. However, LIFE is not a veterans’ organization. What Stone and Schuh did has nothing whatsoever to do with the organization or its mission.

As long as employees do not violate the law, are not immoral, are not unethical, and do not do significant harm to an employer’s organizational mission, they should not be deprived of their right to earn a living. This is not a Taliban society. Employees should not be fearful that their employer is going to police their off-duty activities and terminate them for some offense that has been ambiguously defined.

Human beings are generally offensive creatures. Ok, maybe you’re not, but I am. I’m sure that I do something on an almost daily basis that some might find offensive. But, should I, or anyone for that matter, be denied our livelihood as a result? Should we have to live in fear that our employer might catch us doing something that our employer capriciously considers offensive? Is this really the society we want?

While I do not defend the Stone-Schuh photograph, I do defend their right to create and post it. And, I find it difficult to believe that anyone could be genuinely offended by it. Are people really that thin-skinned? Maybe. And, I defend their right to be offended.

For my part, I’m more easily offended by far more serious and harmful matters. For example, I’m offended that people sexually abuse children. And, I’m offended that few pedophiles are ever brought to justice. I’m also offended that when pedophiles are brought to justice, they seldom get serious sentences.

Photographs don’t often offend me. If I don’t like it or don’t agree with it, I move on. I hope others will embrace the same strategy.

Denying anyone a job for any perceived offense is bad for society. It’s bad for an organization that might lose an otherwise good employee. It’s bad for the remaining employees who will now live in greater fear.

In this electronic age, our “offensive” behavior is more likely than ever to go viral. As a society, as employers, we need to develop a thicker skin and recognize the difference between behaviors that are truly harmful to our organization versus behaviors that are merely tasteless. We need to practice greater tolerance.

Nonprofit organizations exist to make society a better place. Therefore, the sector should be particularly sensitive to any actions it takes that do the opposite. In this light, I’m offended by the actions taken by LIFE-Living Independently Forever.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?


ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: The early comments I have received (below) have been overwhelmingly supportive of LIFE’s decision to let the two employees go. I find this particularly interesting when contrasting this post to my original post about Lance Armstrong. In a reader poll, about half of respondents felt that Armstrong should not resign from the LIVESTRONG Foundation board. This was despite the fact that the governing body of his sport found that he broke their rules by doping, might have violated the law by doping, and lied about doping. As a role-model, Armstrong’s behavior was not just harmful to himself, it was harmful to others as well. And, his actions were certainly unethical. So, why did/does Armstrong enjoy so much support while Lindsey Stone and Jamie Schuh do not? Could it be the power of celebrity? Hmm. If only Stone and Schuh had won a Tour de France title.

24 Responses to “Want to Retain Good Employees? Then, Don’t Do This:”

  1. Michael,

    I believe there are two issues that should be considered in this unfortunate situation. The first is that the two LIFE employees took the picture while on a trip for the organization. They publicly represented the organization during that time, so their actions indicated that the organization appeared to show disrespect to veterans, even if it was not their intentions. The second is that due to their actions, it is likely that the organization will feel the affects financially. Donors and potential donors who saw the picture may very well discontinue their support, and in this economy, it could end up hurting LIFE in a big way. With lost support, fewer people will receive services and the hours and jobs of other staff who were not involved may end up getting cut. While I agree it was a foolish thing to do, and the two did apologize, what’s done is done, and their actions will forever be associated with LIFE. Once on the internet, always on the internet.

    • Richard, thank you for commenting. You are correct; there are a number of issues to consider in this complex case. While the photo was taken during a business trip, there is no evidence that has come to light that reveals that the photo was uploaded to Facebook from a business computer on business time. Furthermore, there is no link in the photo to LIFE. As for the impact that the photo might have had on donations, I specifically asked LIFE’s Executive Director, “How would LIFE have been affected if the employees were not fired? (i.e.: Did you see a loss in donations or government contracts?)” And, I asked, “How has LIFE been affected following the terminations? (i.e.: Did you see a loss in donations or government contracts?)” Her only response was to say she would not “speculate on what the ramifications might have been.” That indicates to me that LIFE did not see an immediate drop in donations or threats from donors to stop donating to any significant degree. If there had been calls from several donors, there would have been no need to “speculate.” Without any evidence that the organization was harmed or faced grave harm by the actions of the two employees, letting them go is simply an over-reaction. Apologies from the employees along with the organization’s own distancing statement should have sufficed.

  2. Michael — Interesting points, but I think something has been overlooked, or I am not seeing the emphasis: This was a business trip. I think the employer has every right to question and act upon questions ranging from very poor judgment to abuse of privileges. We all have the freedom and option to defriend someone on Facebook who offends us (as this photo did for me). But the employer does not judge them as individuals, and whether, for example, they would be fun to socialize with on a trip to DC. They judge them as employees. I think it’s a different set of questions — and social media makes it all so much more complicated.

    Sonya Aronowitz

    • Sonya, thank you for sharing your thoughts. You’re quite right. The fact that the photo was taken on a business trip is an important factor in this case. However, I believe a reprimand and warning, along with the apology from the employees and distancing statement from the organization, would have been more appropriate than letting two otherwise good employees go. When no actual harm as been inflicted, I think denying someone the right to earn a living is extreme. Given that a military veteran like Robert Johnson was willing to give the employees a pass, who am I, as a non-veteran, to disagree?

  3. Michael, I agree with your viewpoint. I find that, in the times we live in now, people take offense to actions, comments, photos, etc. of other people much too easliy. I find that tolerance for the opinions of others seems to be at an all time low and that does not bode well for our society in general.

    • Cecilia, thank you for your comment. Based on the initial reaction to my post, I was beginning to feel a bit lonely. Your comment and the incident itself remind me of a childhood adage: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Even if one finds the photo to be distasteful, what actual harm has it caused? Without evidence of harm, I find it very difficult to be offended.

  4. Michael, your understanding of fundamental rights is spot on except when you get to the part in which you state you have a right to earn a living. In order for this “right” to exist, I do not accept it is a right, you must enter into a contract with another person. When she entered into her contract with her employer she agreed to behave by their standards of ethical and moral conduct. She violated those terms of the agreement at which point LIFE was morally justified to terminate her employment. Unless you know know these two individuals personally how do you know they were good employees? Employers say nice things about their employees even when they don’t believe it in order to protect themselves against a lawsuit. I have no problem with people expressing themselves but be an adult and live with the consequences of your actions. Her actions probably cost the non-profit gifts that would have helped sustain its mission. That is reason enough for her termination/resignation.

    • Wendell, thank you for your comment. I continue to believe that the right to earn a living is a fundamental human right. Without the right to earn a living, people would not be able to provide for themselves or their families. How would they survive? People have a right to survival. However, I do agree that an employee contracts with an employer. And, an employee does not necessarily have a right to work for a specific employer. As an employer, I have fired people. But, I have always taken it very seriously when I had to face that decision. While recognizing that I would be doing harm to the terminated employee, I had to consider the harm the employee was doing to the company, its other employees, and its clients.

      In the case of LIFE, there is zero evidence that the organization was harmed by the incident. When I directly asked Diane Enochs, Executive Director at LIFE, about this, she declined to “speculate.” Well, if several donors had called her to end their support, she would not have needed to “speculate;” she would have known. So, I can only infer from her vague answer that the organization has not yet seen any significant negative impact.

      You asked, “How do you know they were good employees?” I know because the Executive Director at LIFE said so. Unless you’re prepared to call her a liar, and I am not prepared to do so, you have to take what she says at face value. As for Lindsey Stone, she was with LIFE for 18 months. That means she made it through her initial tranisition period and her one-year review. If she was a bad employee, that might not have been the case. Stone was also trusted enough to be assigned to go on a company field trip. So, taking the Executive Director’s statement and the fact that Stone continued to be employed until this incident and the fact Stone was trusted to go on a company trip, all leads me to accept the Executive Director’s claim especially since there is no evidence to suggest I should do otherwise.

  5. Disagree with you completely on this one, Michael. Drawing an equivalency between LIFE’s actions in terminating these employees and the Taliban is way, way, over the top. The Taliban, among other things, systematically imprisons, tortures and executes women for minor and imagined offenses, and is among the most grotesque violators of human rights and dignity on the planet. LIFE, in contrast, decided that they no longer wanted to be associated with a couple of knuckleheads who did, in fact, likely do “significant harm” to the organization by their incredibly insensitive actions. These employees have not been “deprived of their right to earn a living” as you contend, and they can find work elsewhere. Judging by the number of people who are leaping to their defense, it probably won’t be difficult. Also, as you note, they were on a business trip. Presumably, this means that donors’ gifts were in effect used unwittingly to facilitate this debacle. I think LIFE made the correct decision.

    • Jim, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your comment and am not the least bit offended that you mischaracterized or misunderstood my Taliban remark. I specifically wrote, “This is not a Taliban society.” Clearly, you agree with me. I did not say that LIFE should be equated with the Taliban. However, if we continue to look for offense everywhere and if we insist on severely punishing people for their personal thoughts when they differ from our own, we will find our society inching more closely to the Taliban society than either one of us would likely be comofortable with. I’m reminded of Alexis de Tocqueville’s comments about the “tyranny of the majority.”

      When LIFE let the employees go, they did indeed deprive them of the right to earn a living, even if only for a short while. By letting the employees go, LIFE has affixed a metaphorical scarlett letter to them declaring them unfit for service. In a smallish community like Cape Cod, that most certainly could have a significant impact on the employees.

      In my mind, the issue is one of harm. It’s a question of harm to the organization versus harm to the employees versus harm to society. Having not seen any evidence at all that the organization was harmed, I find the response entirely disproportionate. The apologies from the employees, the suspension, the distancing statement from the charity, a reprimand and warning to the employees, should have been sufficient. Letting the employees go was over the top.

  6. Michael,

    I saw your post on Twitter and I must say, I pondered both sides carefully. I strongly believe social media got Stone and Schuh fired. If there were no Twitter or Facebook, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Yes, those two exercised poor judgment; however, I also believe they were truly sorry for their actions as their apology seemed heartfelt and, once they learned many were offended, they removed the picture. Although I do not believe their intention was to “rip on the Tomb of the Unknowns, me, my service, or the hundreds of mutilated troops I served with at Walter Reed Medical Center,” as Mr. Johnson espoused, I do agree with his statement, “She should be able to do so without fear of retribution,” which is what the military fought for.

    I understand the two were on a business trip for the organization and should have displayed professional decorum; but, I don’t believe Stone and Schuh were mocking their employer or the military. How many times have we seen the sign, “Wet Paint,” and touched it anyway. She saw a sign, “No Smoking,” and lit up in front of it to take a picture. She did the same thing here. Yes, it was poor judgment and maybe they should have been disciplined, but it should not have cost them their jobs. Perhaps, we chalked this up as a lesson-learned, definitely a costly one, and hopefully, it will bring about change and maturity. Again, if it was not on Facebook, we would be discussing something else!

    • Vanessa, thank you for commenting and for taking the time to visit my blog site. I appreciate the time you took to consider this complex story. Back in the pre-Internet days — yes, I’m old enough to remember them well — this photo never would have gone public. Schuh would have snapped the photo, taken the film (remember film?) to the local Photomat, and then she and Stone would each have a copy to put into their scrapbooks. Family and real friends would have been the only ones to see the scrapbook. That would have been the end of it. Instead, in the Internet Age, very little remains private, as you’ve noted. How much scrutiny can any of us withstand? If the photo were taken, but the only person other than Schuh and Stone to see it was the Executive Director of LIFE, would it still have been an offense justifying letting go of the employees? In the Internet Age, we need to recalibrate our outrage. If we don’t, we’re going to find offense everywhere and end up terminating a lot of employees.

  7. Another good read, Michael. A few thoughts come to mind….

    1. On a business trip? I could not tell any association with LIFE by looking at the photo and unless they were supposed to be working at the time they were sightseeing — I think that is a red herring.

    2. How were their FB pages linked to LIFE? The direction I am leaning here is that if you completely wrap yourself and identity in your work and regularly use your “personal” FB pages to spread the “work word,” friend donors, clients, etc… then it seems to me “they” crossed a line diminishing the view that it was not meant for the broad consumption of others.

    3. “It went viral”…. what does that mean? Seems to me that if 50 million people viewed it — is irrelevant if only a handful know of the connection to LIFE. If 50 million are negatively influenced toward LIFE then see #2 above.

    Not knowing the answer to the questions above leads me to say this: I think we have a wishy-washy nonprofit that is lead by an equally wishy-washy board and leadership.

    On the heals of that statement, allow me to add this: Most of us know that if a quality employee makes a mistake, there is almost always a way to “save them” if you want to save them. Perhaps there have been lapses of judgment or other issues that we are not aware of.

    What leads me to say this? Trying to make an apology to a group that was offended by the photo that includes “being the douchebags that we are, challenging authority in general” is not likely to appease those that were offended — perhaps an example of “lack of judgement”?

    I don’t shy away from making tough calls, Michael, but I’d need answers to some of the things I’ve mentioned before I’m ready to “cut’em loose” or “work to save them.”

    You always make me think, Michael, and that is a good thing. Thanks.

    • Gary, thank you for your carefully thought-out comment. You’ve asked some interesting questions.

      In your first question, you asked if Schuh and Stone were working at the time of the trip to Arlington Cemetery. While I do not know the answer for sure, I believe the visit to Arlington was part of the business trip. However, there is nothing whatsoever in the photo that identifies LIFE or any of its employees other than Stone.

      Your second question concerned whether or not the Facebook accounts for Schuh and Stone blurred the lines between their personal and professional selves. While I do not know the answer to your question, I have seen nothing in the media reports and have heard nothing from LIFE’s Executive Director that indicates that the Facebook accounts were anything other than personal. By the way, neither Schuh nor Stone worked in the development office. They both worked on the service delivery side of the organization and, therefore, would have had little if any contact with donors.

      Regarding your third question about the connection of the photo to the nonprofit organization, it’s difficult to know what the public thinks about LIFE. First, there was nothing in the photo to connect it with LIFE. However, tens of thousands of people called for Schuh and Stone to be fired. However, I don’t know how many of those angry folks were from Cape Cod, the service area for LIFE. I also don’t know how many folks also directed or would have directed their anger toward the organization. I tried to get some insight about this from LIFE’s Executive Director, but she provided none. So, I’m left to infer that she has heard little if any negative feedback directed at the organization.

      As for the Executive Director and board of LIFE, I don’t know if they are “wishy-washy” or not. I suspect that they may have acted merely out of a sense of fear. As a result, they took extreme action to protect the organization. If I get a bad splinter in my finger, I simply remove it, wash my hands, put a little antibacterial ointment and a bandage on, and go on my way. In the case of LIFE, it’s like they got the same splinter and, fearing a possible infection from the splinter, they decided to amputate the hand.

      Schuh and Stone exhibited bad judgment. Maybe this wasn’t the first time. Maybe LIFE wanted to get rid of them all along. However, I’ve read nothing in media reports and have heard nothing from the Executive Director to indicate that was the case. So, if Schuh and Stone generally exercised good judgment, then we must ask if this lapse was serious enough for them to lose their jobs. Think of all of the offenses that might trigger the termination of an employee: sexual harassment, stealing, workplace violence, willful misconduct, etc. Does a silly photo really rise to that level of offense? What real harm has been inflicted? To me, it seems more like a teachable moment than anything else.

  8. Like it or not, folks, there are consequences in life. All of us have said or done things we wish later we had not. I don’t know what was really in their hearts as they staged the photo and then posted it. Perhaps the price they paid will help them to revisit their personal value system and to think how their words and actions impact others.

    Even now, the US has military servicemembers worldwide, putting themselves in harm’s way for our freedom. We tend to forget the enormous price so many have paid to protect our way of life. Michael, I think you belittle that sacrifice by excusing this “silly photo” as innocuous. People have been fired for a whole lot less than that before.

    I hope that Schuh and Stone go a step further and go visit Walter Reed or another military or veteran’s hospital to see first-hand what they have taken absolutely for granted.

    • Don, thank you for commenting even though I completely disagree with you. I also take exception to your accusation that I have belittled the sacrifice of members of the armed forces. First, other than paying lip-service to supporting our troops, what have you actually done to support them? I hope you’ve donated time and/or money to help them. For my part, I’ve supported the USO, provided care-packages to active duty military folks, and welcomed home returning troops, among doing other things. Second, the photo does not attack our military. While taken beside the Tomb of the Unknowns, you can’t tell that from the photo. There are no troops in the photo. The only connection to the military is the sign which indicates the location as Arlington National Cemetery. If Schuh and Stone wanted to insult the troops, they could have taken a photo flipping-off the soldier guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns. But, they did not do that.

      From your comment, I can guess that you probably did not read Robert Johnson’s column voicing strong support for Schuh and Stone. If I’m mistaken and you did read it, I encourage you to re-read it at Business Insider (http://www.businessinsider.com/lindsey-stone-2012-11). Johnson is a military veteran. Did he “belittle” the sacrifices of our military people, too?

  9. We’ve all done dumb things, and this was surely among one of the dumbest, given that it was at Arlington. Based on what is described here, I believe good public relations counsel could have saved this situation and these particular employees’ jobs. They immediately apologized candidly, which is what you do when you make a mistake. Perhaps they also could have volunteered their time to a local veterans organization to show their goodwill. But I believe the world in general has gotten out of whack with its estimations of perceived and actual harm. Let’s acknowledge how much courage it takes to apologize with sincerity!

    • Cindy, thank you for taking the time to comment. I particularly appreciated when you wrote, “But I believe the world in general has gotten out of whack with its estimations of perceived and actual harm.” I agree. Epictetus, the ancient Greek philosopher, has several lines that I find particularly appropriate to our discussion:

      “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

      “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.”

      “When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it.”

      “It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting.”

      “What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.”

      “It is not external events themselves that cause us distress, but the way in which we think about them, our interpretation of their significance. It is our attitudes and reactions that give us trouble. We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”

      “Try not to react merely in the moment. Pull back from the situation. Take a wider view. Compose yourself.”

  10. Love your Epictetus quotations and the thoughtful back and forth discussion of this issue. Of course, they shouldn’t have been fired. What people put on their FB pages is their own business. Unfortunately, however, nothing you put on the Internet remains your own business, so hopefully these two have learned a good lesson.

    But gosh, it’s disheartening to see what some people, supposedly adults, like Lindsey, think is funny. That’s what she considers to be a statement about her attitude toward authority? How pitiful is that! I guess with all this instant communication, as you’ve already pointed out, we get to see way more than we want to. And although she didn’t owe anyone an apology, the “douchebag” apology sounded way less than sincere to me. It sounded like she didn’t give a hoot, really, and just wanted to get a lot of people, offended for some silly reason, off her back.

    • Jean, thank you for commenting. I’m glad you enjoyed the Epictetus quotes and the discussion here. I appreciate all of the comments folks have made, even those I don’t completely agree with. I have the best readers. They think before they write, and they are civil.

      I want to let you know that I chuckled when I read your line: “It’s disheartening to see what some people…think is funny.” If the Schuh-Stone incident didn’t dishearthen you, then it only would have taken watching just a few hours of Comedy Central to obtain the same effect.

  11. In my opinion, the issue here is whether the organization (employer) loses any business or customers from the poor judgment of the Stone-Schuh photograph. I have to disagree with Stone-Schuh when they state that the photo was taken and posted for their own amusement. While I can agree that the photo was taken for their own amusement, the posting of the photo on Facebook was something else. When will we all realize that postings on Facebook are not private!?!

    Once the reputation of the company/organization is compromised, the company/organization has the right to terminate the employment of those employees. They don’t have to terminate, but they have the right to terminate. As far as the comments above, no one is saying that these people cannot make a living at their craft, just not for that entity.

    • Jim, thank you for sharing your thoughts. You’ve made some good points. The Schuh-Stone incident serves as a reminder to us all that there is virtually no privacy left in this electronic age, certainly not on Facebook. As for possible damage the incident may have caused the organization, we simply don’t know. I did give the organization’s Executive Director the opportunity to provide some additional details, but she mostly declined. This could mean either that there were not any damages yet, or that she simply did not want to discuss the damages. In any case, the organization had the right to terminate the employees. To keep the record clear, however, I need to point out that the employees actually resigned.

      Now, I’d like to address your comment, “…no one is saying that these people cannot make a living at their craft…” While technically that is a true statement, the reality could be something quite different. First, for at least some time, Schuh and Stone will be unemployed. So, for a period, they will not be earning a living because of this incident. Second, Schuh and Stone work in the Cape Cod area. This is not a large metro area with plenty of jobs in their chosen field. So, it may indeed be very difficult for them to find employment in their field without relocating. Also, in this smallish community, news of the situation has no doubt spread making it even more difficult for them to gain employment without relocating. Third, if we agree that Schuh and Stone should have been let go from LIFE, why would we be willing to hire them? If we believe they are bad employees who exercise poor judgment, why would we hire them? And, conversely, if you would hire them, why would you have supported letting them go? So, while no one has come right out and said that Schuh and Stone should be or will be denied the right to earn a living, it’s certainly implied.

      Again, LIFE had the right to let go of the employees. That’s not my quarrel. My only issue is: Should they have let the employees go? Sometimes, the greatest exercise of power is restraint.


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