A manager at a restaurant in Canada, was fired after refusing to serve a customer wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat last week.
Darin Hodge, former manager of the Teahouse in Stanley Park, Vancouver, asked the man to take off the MAGA slogan cap which was used by U.S President Donald Trump during his 2016 electoral campaign.
Hodge told Global News that he stood by his decision to ask the man to take his cap, saying the it represented “racism, bigotry, Islamophobia, misogyny, white supremacy [and] homophobia.”
“As a person with a strong moral backbone, I had to take a stand against this guest’s choice of headwear while in my former place of work. Absolutely no regrets.”
This case raises multiple issues regarding questions of employee obligations, the ability to refuse service and Hodge’s dismissal.
Speaking exclusively with HR Grapevine, Mark Thomas, a senior Law lecturer at Nottingham Trent University’s Law School, says that establishments do have an ability to refuse service to an individual, particularly in instances where customers are abusive.
Speaking specifically about the case, he says: “The real issue is whether personal views should form part of an employee's ability to refuse service. An employee is an agent of his employer… and the employee is required to act in the best interests of their employer and not allow their own personal or moral beliefs to influence the decisions they make.”
Thomas says that it remains debateable whether political views or beliefs amount to a “protected characteristic” under the Equality Act 2010, which prevents individuals from being discriminated on the basis of sex or race etc.
He adds: “Case law from the Employment Appeal Tribunal has suggested that support of a political party is not itself a "belief", protected by the EA 2010, but a belief in a political philosophy, e.g. Liberalism, might qualify. In this instance, the wearing of a MAGA would be unlikely to be identified as a philosophical belief worthy of treatment as a protected characteristic so that issue may be put to one side.
In terms of Hodge’s dismissal, Thomas says that an employer is capable of dismissing an employee on the spot without appropriate notice period, which is known as summary dismissal.
“In English law, an employer is required to conduct a disciplinary hearing procedure unless the misconduct is considered sufficient too justify summary dismissal and that reason given is reasonable.”
He adds: “Morally, the employee no doubt believed their conduct to be appropriate. Legally, however, the employee would be considered as having stepped beyond what was expected of them under their employment obligations and into conduct which is contrary to the interests of their employer.”