J.D. Vance Weeps Big Tears For All The Zero Trumpists Fired For Loving Trump Too Much
Let me tell you a story. A story about a guy we will call Jim.
Jim was a hardworking employee of the local widget factory. He was always on time for work, courteous to his co-workers and generally well-liked. Then, one day, Jim posted on social media that he really loved Donald Trump, the then-president of the United States of America, and intended to vote for him. Jim did not like Donald Trump because he was racist or because he hated immigrants, or because he loved the idea of women getting grabbed by the pussy, but rather for some other wholesome, totally non-racist, non-sexist, non-xenophobic reason that we would all find very fair and reasonable were we to ever hear it.
After that post, Jim's boss at the widget factory was immediately inundated with phone calls and emails from social justice warriors across the nation calling for his head and demanding he be fired. The boss, afraid of looking non-woke, fired Jim from his job at the widget factory and he lost his house and his children were forced to sell matches like Victorian street urchins if they wanted to eat.
This story is all too common across America. Commonly told and commonly believed, anyway. The fact is, it happens so rarely that we hear about it every single time it happens, and it's pretty much never been a story in which some poor schmuck gets fired because he gently told the internet he loved Donald Trump for non-racist reasons. If there were such a story, Fox News would have been all over that shit and Jim would have a vibrant career in rightwing grifting. But there isn't.
This is not to say that people don't get fired for social media posts, because they do — it just doesn't happen the way some people like to pretend it does. People like newly minted Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance.
The Hillbilly Elegy author told Axios this week that one of the things he wants to do is give people the right to sue their employers if they're fired for loving Donald Trump too much.
Vance told me in a phone interview from Cincinnati that so-called cancel culture was a big part of conservatives' conversation as he worked Fourth of July parades over the holiday weekend.
- "People are terrified that if they speak their minds about what's going on in the country, they're going to lose their job," he said. "'If I say that I voted for Trump on Facebook, somebody's going to try to get me fired."
- "You can basically give people the right to sue companies that they're fired for their political views," he added. "I think that would benefit a lot of Republican voters in Ohio quite a bit."
It's true. People are afraid. Just like they were afraid of Satanic cults and rainbow parties and other things that weren't real things. It is very easy to make people afraid of things that aren't actually happening, and for that fear to create problems of its own.
The thing is ... even if one's political views were considered a protected category, it actually would not do all that much to prevent the non-existent rampant firings of people who simply say they like Donald Trump online. Thanks to Republicans (like Vance himself), we have a super shitty system for dealing with unjust terminations.
Under U.S. law, an administrative complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) must precede the filing of a discrimination lawsuit in federal court. The vast majority of people who experience discrimination never file a charge with the EEOC; BN&N estimate that of the 3.4 million yearly cases of perceived racial discrimination, only about 31,000 (less than 1%) are filed with the EEOC. Of these, the EEOC pursues very few cases in the courts, preferring to mediate disputes in a non-adversarial conciliation process. BN&N estimate that 15% of the cases the EEOC takes up receive favorable outcomes (although what that means is not clearly spelled out). After processing, the EEOC sends plaintiffs letters giving them the right to sue. About 5,000 cases are eventually filed in federal court as discrimination charges. Thus, BN&N estimate that only 0.13% of potential lawsuits ever occur.
Of these 5,000 cases, about 60% are settled by the firm's lawyers with a median settlement of $30,000. These settlements typically include the plaintiff losing their job, no admission of guilt by the employer, and the signing of a confidentiality agreement to protect the reputation of the firm charged with discrimination. Virtually none of the cases (6%) actually go to court, and when they do, plaintiffs "win" only about a third of the time. There is, however, little evidence in this study of plaintiffs "winning." What plaintiffs want is their job, respect, and moral vindication. What they get is vilification, unemployment, and, if they "win," small cash settlements to shut up and go away. Oh, and their lawyer gets a third of any settlement.
Is that what they want? Because it's not great.
There is a better way!
Now, I do not for one goddamned second believe that anyone is getting fired simply for saying they love Donald Trump on their Facespace. However, let's say they do exist and that this is just as rampant a problem as Vance and others claim it is. The thing that would help them the most would be to replace the at-will employment system that exists in every state but Montana with "just cause terminations." Several states are now considering getting rid of this nonsense and giving workers the kind of leverage they have in literally every other developed nation on earth.
Perhaps, with Vance's sincere and heartfelt encouragement, Ohio could be next?
This would mean that instead of employers being able to fire people for a bad reason or no reason at all, rather than the onus being on the employee to prove that they were fired for a discriminatory reason, employers would only be able to fire people for "just cause." Of course, while "just cause" would cover simply saying one loves Donald Trump on their Facespace, while it would protect our friend Jim at the widget factory, it would not cover publicly being a gross bigot, becausethat would still be just cause. Because it would make the employer look bad or be used as evidence in discrimination suits from other employees. Duh.
It would, however be a very simple way of proving that this bullshit they are saying happens actually happens, and would do much more to protect the jobs of these innocent Trump-lovers than declaring them to be a protected class would. And surely, that is what Vance wants, no?
I mean, unless what he wants is just for people to be able to be bigots without any consequences, social or otherwise? Or unless he wants to suggest that firing a person who goes around saying he doesn't think women are suited to work in STEM fields is the same thing as a woman getting discriminated against in STEM fields for being a woman? Because ending at-will employment will not help with that. In fact, nothing will. Because that would be really stupid.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse