In this strange new world of oversharing, a Walmart assistant manager in the suburbs of Buffalo, N.Y., learned first-hand earlier this month how a public Facebook post could cause him to lose—and gain—a job.
Walmart fired Terrance Earsing after he posted a photo of two women in traditional Muslim dress walking down a Walmart aisle, with the caption: “Halloween came early this year. … do they really have to [expletive] dress like that … your [sic] in my country … get that [expletive] off!!!!!”
A member of the Muslim community saw the post and informed the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which made an official request for Walmart executives to discipline the employee. The company fired Earsing on Sept. 4.
“As soon as we became aware, we began looking into this and as a result, this associate is no longer with the company,” said Kayla Whaling, a Walmart spokeswoman.
CAIR expressed concern that the photograph was taken while Earsing was working and not on his own personal time, according to The Buffalo News. CAIR-NY Board President Ryan Mahoney praised the retailer for its quick action: “We absolutely commend them for doing the right thing. I wish this person didn’t take this course of action and force this outcome.”
Earsing made a public apology to The Buffalo News, saying he did not take the photo while working, but a friend sent it to him and he added the comments. Within a week, CAIR-NY reversed course and became an advocate for the now jobless assistant manager.
“After the incident, we have engaged in conversations with Mr. Earsing on the situation and have come to the conclusion that Mr. Earsing is truly apologetic and will try to engage in more community and religious tolerance dialogues to ensure no future religious discrimination situations occur,” Mahoney wrote in letter to Walmart President William Simon. “We hope that Walmart will accept his apology and if possible provide him employment.”
In the meantime, CAIR also urged leaders in the Muslim community to connect Earsing with job leads.
As social media blurs the lines between personal and professional time, firings over Facebook posts have become more common, especially when employees publicly bash the company they work for. But the Earsing case raises a new question: How religiously “tolerant” must you be to keep your job?
What Earsing posted was wrong, and he was right to sincerely apologize for his actions. But what happens if a Christian posts a Bible verse or religious saying that his employer considers intolerant? Could volunteering with a religious group and posting event pictures risk your job? Is it safe for an employee to list a favorite magazine or book that critiques a different faith?
Earsing’s lesson: Think twice before hitting Facebook’s “post” button. Private thoughts are available for all—including the boss—to hear.