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Mr. Oiler’s Case

The issue of off-duty conduct has posed a major problem in many companies. Some of the employees that may find themselves the victims of the off-duty conducts may decide to sue the company. The company may also lose its image in the eye of the public. All this poses a cost in different forms to the company. Some of the off-duty activities can affect the employees’ performance, kill their morale or even destroy the company’s image (Hirschman, 2003). This poses a major problem to many companies.

* Why wasn't Mr. Oiler protected by Federal law? Why wasn't he protected by state law? Was there a privacy law that applied to Mr. Oiler? Be specific in your answer.

Mr. Oiler was an employee at Winn-Dixie Stores. He was a very competent driver who was praised by everyone for his good performance. He also obeyed the company’s code of dressing while executing his duties. However, he cross-dressed while he was off his duties. This led him to lose his job as the company feared that they may lose their customers due to the bad image portrayed by Mr. Oiler. This forced him to sue the court on the ground that it was practicing gender discrimination.

Unfortunately, Mr. Oiler was not protected by both the federal law and the state law. According to Hirschman (2003), the federal judge ruled that the federal and state laws that prohibited sex discrimination did not apply to the people who have a gender identity that is different from their biological sex. The Civil Rights Act 1964 title VII prohibits discrimination in employment because of individual’s sex. In its interpretation, the court understands this chapter to mean discriminating against women and men because of their respective sex.

By using women’s makeup, clothing, wigs and even putting on fake breasts, Mr. Oiler was displaying a gender identity of female. He, therefore, displays an identity that does not match his biological sex. The federal law does not recognize the protection of such kind of people. This is the reason why he was not protected by the law. Similarly, the state law does not recognize the protection against discrimination of transgendered people.

According to Anonymous HR Focus (2009), employees who believe that the company is violating their rights can use the common law tort for invasion of privacy rights to defend themselves. Mr. Oiler could have used this right to make his claims.

* What do the terms "just cause," "due process," "employment at will," and "wrongful discharge" mean? Do any of these terms relate to Mr. Oiler's situation? Why?

The at-will doctrine of employment explains that a worker can be laid off for any reason or no reason provided the act is not illegal. Miletsky (2008) further added that the main point of “at will” is to enable the company to hire and fire employees whenever they want (pg. 1). This means that employer has are justified to lay off workers provided their action does not go against the law. This protects the employees in their activities while off their duties. In Oiler’s case, this was not successful as the court felt that the transgendered employees to which Oiler belonged were not protected by the laws.

The term ‘Just cause’ means that final decision made should be preceded by a thorough investigation to avoid false judgment. According to Hirschman (2003), the collective bargaining agreements ensure that employees are laid off only with enough reasons. This is achieved by taking cases through a multiple of stages that includes arbitration.

Due process is the legal actions executed fairly with respect to the established rules. In the case of Mr. Oiler, the due process was followed since the court ruled according to what the law specified.

Wrongful discharge is a situation where an employer discharges the worker through illegal discrimination. With Mr. Oiler’s case, this does not apply since the law does not recognize the form of discrimination which faces him.

* How did Winn-Dixie react when they found out about Mr. Oiler's off-work activities? From an HRM standpoint, is this what should have happened? Why or why not?

When Winn-Dixie realized about Mr. Oiler’s off-work activities, they were enraged. They viewed it as a great danger to the company.

From the HRM standpoint, this is what should have happened. According to Hirschman (2003), everyone had argued that Mr. Oiler was not terminated for anything to do with his job performance. He performed his duties competently and everyone believed that he did his job well. From the HRM perspective, the company will lose a very important asset. It may take the company a lot of time and resources to train another person of equal competence.

Diedrich (2008) commented that it is necessary for companies to provide the collection of policies to the employees that will govern their conduct both off-job and on-job. In this case, employees

will be able to conduct their behavior accordingly. Winn-Dixie should have opted to give Mr. Oiler an opportunity to understand their desired code of conduct in dressing.

* What is meant by a "progressive discipline system"? Be specific. Do you think this applied or should have applied to Mr. Oiler's situation? Why?

Progressive discipline system is a kind of system which allows both the employee and the organization every chance to salvage the employment relationship before opting for termination (Gentry, 2003). In this case, the company aims at correcting the employees rather than laying them off. This should have applied to the case of Mr. Oiler. Since Oiler’s off-work activities did not affect his productivity, the company should have negotiated with Oiler to change his code of dressing without necessarily changing his sexual orientation. This could have helped the company to retain both its productive employee as well as their customers.