This blog is an update to a previous blog, Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow…was it worth it Rhonda Lee? posted on December 14, 2012.
Fired Meteorologist Rhonda A. Lee appeared on the Steve Harvey Show which aired Friday, February 11, 2013. I watched The Steve Harvey Show hoping that Rhonda A. Lee would say something say that would change my mind about her termination. However she made comments that made me stick to my original opinion (which is KBTS rightly terminated Ms. Lee). Rhonda Lee continues to state that KBTS does not have a “social media policy”, however media outlets have reported that all employees were given the email directive on August 31, 2012 not to respond to negative comments on social media platforms including Facebook. When interviewed by CNN Contributor, Roland Martin, Lee said, “she never saw it!”
While Lee volunteered to tell Steve Harvey that the viewer apologized to her, she neglected to freely share that the viewer who made the comments was mentally ill and has been bi-polar since birth and that this was her second job in 11 months.
You can read the updated response here.
Or View Our Video Podcast Here
Have you ever heard the expression, “two wrongs, don’t make one right?” There’s been a constant buzz about Applebee’s terminating an employee who posted a receipt where a patron, who just happens to be a pastor, wrote “God gets 10% why do you get 18%” on a receipt. The ridiculous thing about this “pastors” action is she wrote zero in where the $6.29 automatic tip was inserted and still paid her portion of the bill which was $34.93 (which actually includes the tip), but I won’t call her stupid, that would not be polite.
Removing the fact that this person is a pastor, (which is irrelevant to me, but it seems to be “the main reason” people are so upset) anyone who serves a party of 20 people deserves a tip – - and a nice one if they deliver on the service. After all, isn’t that what T.I.P.S. stand for ? To Insure Proper Service. In most restaurants, it is customary for the wait staff to receive an automatic 18% for parties over 8. That’s not Applebee’s specific, but just a socially accepted “expectation”. I’ve never been a waiter, but I know I’m funny about how my eggs are cooked.
All over social media and the blogshere, people are outraged that this employee was terminated behind this, but let’s remove emotion and look at this from another perspective. As a 20+ human resources professional, I try to refrain from making decisions without gathering the facts. Since I have zero documentation on what happened (other than second hand accounts), let’s consider the possibility of things we don’t know, let’s start with these three:
- WE DONT KNOW…The track record of the EMPLOYEE (suppose she was already on a final warning?)
Make no mistake about my position, the pastor was 100% wrong, but the employee is 100% wrong as well. We know nothing about this employee other than she was terminated “as a result of her decision to post the receipt on a social media website”. Truth is, she may not have been the best employee. It’s quite possible that the restaurant already wanted to get rid of her (for whatever reason) and her actions of posting a “company record” to the Internet gave them just cause to terminate. Even if the employee was a model employee, her actions have now brought negative press and unwanted attention to Applebee’s. Almost every blog I read were people saying, “they would no longer patronize Applebee’s as a result of the termination“. No matter the level of compassion we have, the employees’ action is causing a direct and negative response to the company’s bottomline. Do I think Applebee’s will shut down behind this? No, but they may receive some fallback and some loss income at least this weekend, those 2 for $20 meals rock!
Always remember your actions off the clock can affect what happens when you return back to work.
- WE DON’T KNOW…The guest services policy of the EMPLOYER (what happens in Applebee’s, stays in Applebee’s)
Even if Applebee’s doesn’t have a “what happens in Applebee’s stays in Applebee’s guest policy”, the receipt was not the employee’s to post. It is company property. It is a financial record that belongs to Applebee’s and it should not have been “recorded and posted to the Internet”. I know that people do it all the time, in fact, I just shared a receipt on own social media FB page on Jan 30, 2013, but, I’m not an employee of the restaurant (and my comments about the receipt were positive). Regardless to the company policy, the employee doesn’t own the right to that receipt, it’s property of her employer. Her job as an employee was to get it signed for payment processing and turn it in.
Always remember if it’s issued by the company, it belongs to the company.
- WE DONT KNOW…What potential damage will the pastor receive (as a result of the employee’s actions)
By posting this receipt to the Internet, the employee of Applebee’s has subjected the pastor to identity theft. According to a report from USA Today, the receipt posted on Reddit.com (the originator of the story) shows the FULL SIGNATURE of the pastor. The employee had no right to share the pastor’s legal signature on any social media site. It leaves the pastor vulnerable to thieves. Anyone could copy the signature from the Internet, scan it, and use it inappropriately! And guess who can get sued for that? Applebee’s! If the employee had posted about it and not showed the receipt or cropped out the signature, I may inclined to say she just erred in judgment. To expose someone’s signature on the Internet does violate their privacy in my opinion (had this done to me in college where a roommate scanned my signature and added her name to my bank account, then cleaned it out…NO FUN!) I have to assume that is where Applebee’s drew the line also. Another blog comment, I read was “the pastor caused this employee to lose her livlihood“. Well, I disagree with that. The employee lost her livlihood as as a result of making a poor decision. At some point, the employee has to be held accountable for her part in this.
Always remember anything in the wrong hands is a weapon.
In the service industry, this is a classic case of “The Customer is Always Right”, even though we all agree the pastor is WRONG! Sometimes, “we the people” forget that an action causes a reaction! Countless employees have and will continue to be terminated for things that are posted on social media sites. So I’ll share a tip with the readers of this blog that I’ve shared with my network many times, “don’t post anything on a social media site that you don’t want mom, management or the media to see! It might be your “personal page”, but the Internet is PUBLIC!”
In closing, if I were the HR Director for Applebee’s, I MAY NOT have terminated this employee if this was her first offense but my decision would be based on the hard facts and company policy. My recommendation would be that the employee be placed on a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) and receive additional training. In my professional opinion, I totally understand Applebee’s position and would support their decision to terminate.
I hope the employee has learned an invaluable lesson that everything is NOT for social media especially, business transactions that rightfully belong to an employer. As for the pastor stating that she is ashamed for her ministry, well, she should be ashamed that the world knows she’s too cheap to tip $6.29.
So what do you think….?
There’s a ton of buzz surrounding Rhonda Lee, the KTBS Meteorologist “fired over defending her hair”…but IS that the real reason she was fired? If you haven’t read the story, you can read it her on Yahoo.
Personally, I think she looks fantastic with her hair and find it becoming on her. Apparently, the station didn’t have a problem with her hair either. The station had a problem with her responding to the viewer -or viewers repeatedly. As a certified HR Professional (and a black woman)….I understand the position of the station. Rhonda knows her public persona is subject to all kinds of comments. She had a choice to engage or not engage with the viewer who posted about her hair. Really, who cares that a viewer doesn’t like her short hair?
According to the story on Yahoo, even though Rhonda states she was not at the meeting where the social media policy was discussed, I’m sure she was aware of the “unofficial social media policy” as the story states she was “warned about this repeatedly”. Which indicates there was previous conversations (plural) about Rhonda’s “social media practices”.
According to the story on Yahoo, “Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued,” KTBS-TV executives said in a statement posted on Facebook on Tuesday, after Lee appeared on CNN. “Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.”
If that is true, then I stand with the station on the termination. Okay so this is probably NOT the response that many of you were expecting from me,…BUT…as a 20 year human resources professional (and an black woman)…let me say this. Rhonda is a high compensated employee HIRED TO BE A PUBLIC PERSONA for the station. Every time she opens her mouth publicly, it is essentially a “response from the employer” With that being said…she did not have to respond. Again, I say, WHO CARES THAT A VIEWER DOESN’T LIKE HER HAIR? It’s not a secret that there are double standards in every class of people…black/white, men/women, young/old, rich/poor…as in this case, I totally believe that Rhonda Lee has a right to be who she chooses to be. But I also know the station was paying her boo-coos of money to be who they needed her to be.
Sometimes we forget that social media and our expressions on social media are not a “free” as we’d like them to be. There have been so many cases in the media about employees being terminated over Facebook and other social media outlets. Sometimes we have to learn to hold our peace. I believe this was one of those times.
The issue I have with this whole story is “the station” didn’t have a problem with Rhonda Lee’s hair and she could have (and should have) IGNORED the Facebook post and this whole nightmare would have been avoided. Personally and professionally, I didn’t find anything “wrong” with her response,
“Hello Emmitt—I am the “black lady” to which you are referring. My name is Rhonda Lee. Nice to meet you,” she wrote on October 6, in the comments. “I am sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer.”
“I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair,” Lee, 37, continued. “For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that . Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals.”
“Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that,” she concluded. “Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.”
However, I am not her employer and since another employee of KTBS (Rhonda’s Employer) was also fired for defending himself online (see Chris Redford’s Story here), this appears to just be the policy of the station and not racial motivated -but a practice of KTBS. Sometimes we have to dig a little to find the truth. Many times those of us in the HR Profession are accused of siding with the employer (we don’t we are just tasked with enforcing the policies and procedures set by the organization), as I’m sure I will be due to my stance on this but this termination appears to be justified. Again…her employer CLAIMS Rhonda was terminated for “repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued!” If Rhonda was terminated on this for her first offense, I would be outraged but repeatedly and multiple stands out to me. Let’s remove the profession for a moment and look at this from another point of view, how many times will you tell your child repeatedly not to do something before you punish them for it? Rhonda is not a child, but I think you get my point!
One thing we have to learn in this world, is we don’t HAVE to defend a lie, ALWAYS prove to be right, or ALWAYS make a point. That is where Rhonda Lee made her error. Yes she has a right to defend her appearance, but why? She choose to embrace who she was on the inside as she claimed in her response, of being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave her contribution to society and that should have been enough. Personally, I think Rhonda could have made a stronger statement by not even giving thought to the Facebook post. After all, it was just his opinion, it wasn’t worth her job!
She’s an employee of the company and she didn’t have to be “in the meeting” to hear the unofficial social media policy” I’m sure she heard about it and I’m sure that she knew about about Chris Redford being terminated for defending himself online as well. As an employee who is a public figure, (the news for Pete’s sake) Rhonda should have known it wasn’t worth it. She went to battle but lost the war!
Rhonda Lee is an intelligent, educated black woman who knows that her VERY public position means everyone wont like her…her hair…her smile…her voice…her skin color… and to that..she should have said.. SO WHAT and kept it moving. In this day and age, people have to remember….the employer is paying you to be who they need to you be during the hours of “9-5″.