Back in January of this year, the large U.S corporation Papa John's found itself in hot water after an employee at one of their franchises used a racial slur to describe a customer on a receipt. The process that ensued afterwards reinforces the importance of carefully drafted company policies when a termination for cause situation arises.
Minhee Cho, a 24 year old Korean American received the receipt for her in-store order and noticed her name was listed as "lady chinky eyes." She took a photo and posted it to Twitter writing, "Hey @PapaJohns just FYI my name isn't 'lady chinky eyes'."
Papa John's stated on their Facebook Page, "This act goes against our company values, and we've confirmed with the franchisee that this matter was addressed immediately." However the store owner of the franchise only stated that he was sending the employee to sensitivity training, and a manager stated that the staff sometimes uses terms like that to identify people because it is a busy restaurant and that the cashier "meant no harm." Very damaging comments to be making to the general public and media.
The Papa John's corporation took the matter a step further and tweeted, "We are very upset by recent receipt issue in New York and sincerely apologize to our customer. Franchise employee involved is being terminated."
What lessons can we learn from this situation? How would the resolution to this situation have differed in Canada?
This type of immediate termination would not be acceptable in Canada and potentially put the company at an high level of legal risk. Under the Canadian Human Code, an employer would have a difficult time terminating an employee in this scenario. Even assuming they had a clearly defined policy that outlined the disciplinary measures for this type of conduct, termination for cause requires a breach of company policy or practise and a documented series of written warnings or disciplinary actions. Best practices dictate that an employer should utilize a progressive approach to discipline which would include a warning and opportunity to correct the behaviour - especially if this is a one time occurrence. In the Papa John's case it is likely that the sudden rush of negative publicity prompted the quick decision, without conducting a complete investigation.
The response to this situation also sent mixed messages to the public. The inconsistent public persona portrayed by the corporation and the franchisee vastly differed in terms of their public declarations of how the matter would be handled. In addition to the issues surrounding the termination, this situation highlights how companies with multiple locations are recommended to have a policy in place surrounding when and who can speak to media outlets or simply not allow it at all. In this case the store owner and a manager stated rather damaging remarks that contradicted Papa John's corporate social media messages.
Are you currently struggling with a termination situation? Not sure how to navigate a termination for cause? Join us on Tuesday October 16th for our session on Hiring and Firing Effectively.
Source: Yahoo News: http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-buzz/papa-john-employee-fired-racial-slur-receipt-180158302.html
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