my employees argued over gay rights and now they want their coworker fired

A reader writes:

I’m a regional HR manager of a chain of small retail stores. One of our rather new stores has six employees, including the manager. The employees are all in their 20s.

In something that is a bit of an anomaly for my country (not the U.S.), all of the staff are very religious, except for one. We’ll call her Alexandra. The other four employees, not the manager, are all good friends and knew each other before starting work, as they attend the same church. We’ll call them “the 4” just because it’s easier than assigning four fake names.

A couple of weeks ago, the shopping center the store is based in had a “Rainbow Day” to raise money for LGBT bullying awareness. Everyone was rostered on during this day as it was due to be busy as it was a huge event. On this day, the 4 were very critical about the “gay agenda” and what people need to do is “turn to religion” and how “awful” it is gay marriage could become legalized. Apparently Alexandra looked annoyed for a couple of hours before finally turning to them and saying something like, “So you believe that some people should have less rights to marry their much partner because of what it says in a book?” They confirmed to her that they do not support same sex marriage and believe it is a bad thing. Alexandra looked at them and said “you people disgust me” and walked away from them. She was dead silent for the rest of her shift and left in silence.

The 4 have complained to me now.

Every since that day, Alexandra has been what the 4 have described to me as “cold” and “rude.” I sought clarification from their manager, who said that she’s aware something has been going on, but hasn’t said anything because she doesn’t believe Alexandra has crossed the line into being rude and she’s not going to force everyone to be “best buddies.” She said Alexandra has always been “the outsider” anyway but she’s never seemed bothered by it and that Alexandra is civil when she has to speak to them for a work-related matter but says nothing to them otherwise and she believes that is fine.

That same night, Alexandra posted a picture on her personal Instagram account that says “You say: Gay marriage shouldn’t be legal because the bible says so. I hear: I’m a piece of shit who uses my imaginary friend in the sky to justify the fact I’m a hateful asshole who believes some people deserve less rights than me.” Alexandra didn’t tag them in the picture or make any reference to them. They obviously went looking for her Instagram and then found something they didn’t like and brought it to me. To me, that’s not a work issue and Alexandra can post what she likes on her personal account.

Alexandra has a pretty personal investment in this issue. She is a twin and her twin is LGBT. So I understand why she is so upset at people who are anti-gay marriage.

Alexandra is a masters student and has done some interning in our head office over university breaks. I got her know a few weeks ago when she did this and I liked her a lot. She’s a very smart and driven person who I am sure will go very far. She is also very self-assured and not the sort of person who cares if people like her or not. She mentioned while interning she doesn’t “fit in” with the people at her store but she doesn’t care because she has her own friends, a life outside of work, and is a different kind of person than the others who work in the store. I will say she was very kind during my dealings with her. She came across very well to me. She doesn’t seem nasty, just someone who doesn’t have a lot of time for people she believes as being bigoted against the LGBT community, and thus, her twin sister. I am friends with her on Facebook and Instagram and has made multiple posts about same sex marriage and doesn’t hide being an atheist, so it’s not like she ONLY did this because of that one exchange.

On the other hand, I haven’t met any of the other four. They just emailed me basically demanding I fire Alexandra for “not respecting our beliefs.”

When I asked Alexandra about it, all she said was “not every belief is one I am inclined to respect. I don’t have any respect for people who believe LGBT people don’t deserve basic civil rights.”

I’m at a loss at how to handle this and I’m worried that I am going to be subconsciously biased. On a personal level, I am quite fond of Alexandra as a person. I have similar beliefs to her and am a supporter of same sex marriage and agree with her that “bigotry is not a belief that ought to be respected.” I think just as the other four have their morals and convictions, Alexandra has hers too, and this is her standing up for them, much in the way the 4 did.

But I’m not sure if professionally, Alexandra is in the wrong. Alexandra also mentioned the 4 are always given preference for holiday leave to accommodate bible camps and religious days and she is chopped liver who has to take all the awful shifts around Easter and was even forced to not go away for a weekend to celebrate her birthday to accommodate their bible camps.

So basically, I’m at a bit of a loss how to handle this. I do know I will be saying that whatever Alexandra wants to post on her personal Instagram is her own business, even if it is a blatant subpost. I feel like if you don’t want to see something negative about you, don’t go looking for it. But in terms of the rest of it, help me out? I’m at a total loss. And there is no one else I can hand this off to, or I would to get away from the “I like Alexandra and agree with her” bias I might be clouded with.

Since you’re not in the U.S. and I don’t know what the law is in your country, I’m leaving the law out of my answer here, but obviously you’ll need to factor that in as well if it’s relevant.

This actually looks pretty damn straightforward to me: Tell the four employees who complained that you won’t tolerate anti-gay remarks at work — that it’s creating a hostile and unwelcoming environment for gay employees and people with family or friends who are gay (as well as everyone else who objects to bigotry, for that matter). Ideally your company has a firm policy against this kind of thing at work, but if it doesn’t, you can still absolutely say that this kind of speech isn’t acceptable there. Frankly, I’d make it clear that this is a one-strike situation and if you hear it again, there won’t be another warning. The fact that they were making these remarks on a day set up for LGBT bullying awareness makes this even worse, and you need to shut it down.

I normally wouldn’t be fond of Alexandra telling her coworkers that they “disgust” her, but she’d also listened to bigotry for hours by that point. I’d care more about reinforcing to her that your company doesn’t tolerate bigotry at work than calling her out on one fed-up comment. (And really, if she’d tolerated hours of this on any day, let alone on one specifically intended to combat LGBT bullying, I’m not seeing where she was all that in the wrong.)

Regarding the 4’s complaint that Alexandra is being cold to them, if her manager is right that she’s being civil when she has to talk to them about work but not otherwise socializing with them, that’s Alexandra’s prerogative (and a natural consequences of the crap the 4 were pulling).

Alexandra’s personal Instagram is no one’s business as long as she’s not obviously posting about work.

You might also take a look at whether your practices are giving people equal access to time off, regardless of religion, since it sounds like that might be an issue.

But don’t for a second entertain the 4’s demand that you fire Alexandra (!). They spent hours at work making comments that most people would find pretty damn disrespectful to others, so the suggestion that you fire Alexandra for “not respecting their beliefs” is laughable. She dealt with their talk for hours before saying something.

If anyone should be fired her for being disrespectful, it’s the four who spent hours — hours! — creating a hostile workplace (on a day intended to combat LGBT bullying, no less; I can’t get over that).

I think you’re getting stuck on the idea that you have to treat all viewpoints equally, and you don’t. It’s perfectly okay to say that you won’t tolerate bigoted speech, as well as to tell people to keep their political viewpoints out of the workplace or at least away from coworkers who don’t want to hear it.

{ 599 comments… read them below }

  1. Mustache Cat*

    Oh, it would be so delicious to see the 4 get fired. I am so angry at them right now that I’m not qualified to give good advice, but that would greatly satisfy the schadenfraude monster inside me. Please give us an update, OP!

    1. KeepCalm*

      Actually, you can fire anyone at anytime you just have to pay. In Canada its outlined in provincial employment standard.

  2. Anon for this*

    Fire the four.

    If you wouldn’t tolerate racism or sexism with a “but muh faith” excuse, don’t tolerate this.

    If they were truly harmless people wanting to follow their religion in peace, they wouldn’t be ganging up on others. They would be going about their business, possibly faintly aware that others are free to practice their beliefs just like they practice theirs.

      1. Annonymouse*

        The thing is if you’re in Australia it gets a bit more difficult

        You have to prove through warnings and write ups – unless the offence is particularly egregious – theft, fraud or abusing a staff member or customer. Then you can go instant fire.

        It is also illegal to fire or refuse to hire on the basis of:
        sexual preference
        mental or physical disability
        marital status
        family or carer status

        So if this is happening in Australia the our OP is stuck in a hard place.

        You obviously can’t fire Alexandra – she technically hasn’t done anything wrong and it would technically be for religious and political opinion reasons if you did.

        However you can’t fire the 4 for the same reason.

        You can however bring it up like Alison suggested:
        4, I am not going to fire Alexandra for “not respecting your religion” because by doing that I would not be respecting her religion and be discriminating against her.

        What I am going to do is tell you that your comments at the fundraiser day were inappropriate for our workplace – politics and religion have no place in the workplace and it creates a hostile workplace.

        Also by making such comments during the event – which would have had customers that are LGBT that could hear you – you demonstrated discriminatory behaviour to our customers which is not acceptable.

        If we hear of any such behaviour again, there will be serious consequences up to and including firing.

        You are entitled to your opinion and religion, you are not entitled to enforcing it at work.

        Our store is an inclusive store and if that is how you feel, you might not fit the culture here and want to reconsider if working here is the right thing for you.

        1. Chaordic One*

          Doing the paperwork, documenting the verbal warnings, doing the written warnings and write-ups is a PITA, but you’re better off to do them and to be safe rather than sorry.

          1. Fafaflunkie*

            Bingo! The last thing you (OP) needs to deal with is a wrongful dismissal suit. You have to dot all your Is and cross all your Ts on this one. The 4 will conguate a case citing religious discrimiation if you fired them all without noting everything that has been said. Bonus points if the office has cameras and microphones that can be used against them. Extra bonus if your country (which you said isn’t the U.S. but I did note how you spelled “center,” which every other English speaking country spells “centre” makes me curious as whether or not you’re an ex-American) has “loser pays” laws in civil suits.

            1. Talvi*

              OP could be Canadian. Many of us use both spelling varieties interchangeably, sometimes within the same document. (True story: in one building at my undergrad university, outside the elevator was labelled “centre elevator” and inside the elevator it was labelled “center elevator.”)

              1. Talvi*

                However, marriage equality has been around for 11 years now in Canada, so based on the comments that were being made, it occurs to me that OP is probably not Canadian.

                1. anonymous canuck*

                  As a Canadian – marriage equality has been part of the law for a long time. There are still plenty of hateful bigots around who wish it wasn’t.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      I vote for this, too.

      I also don’t like the idea that there’s this clique who came together, know each other and all go to the same anything outside of work. I guess that’s a possibility that’s hard to avoid in some areas, but, is this place one of them?

      1. I'm not a lawyer, but ...*

        I agree. My friend had a retail job and needed a 10 hour per week fill in person but they didn’t want to advertise, so she suggested me. They went out of their way to ensure we never worked together or that if one of us closed the books one night, the other didn’t open them the next morning. Basic fiscal responsibility. And we were boring, middle-age, middle-class band moms, if that matters. (And we support the LGBT community, just because.)

        1. eplawyer*

          The 4 need to be broken up. Regardless of viewpoint, it is clear they are clique at work and leave anyone out who is not part of their group. If another church member were hired, they might let that person in, but anyone else is an outsider.

          Not allowing cliques at work is important for just what happened here.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Employment attorney around?

      I’m not sure this is possible because, at least in the US, you’d have to prove they were discriminating. So far, they’re only talking about horrible stuff, which could also get them fired. But I honestly don’t know?

      This reminds me of the Mozilla exec who got fired because he donated to an anti-gay group. While he hadn’t discriminated against anyone (supposedly), he was still fired/forced to resign. Which is a good thing, of course, but I’m curious how the specifics worked out.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No, you don’t have to prove they were discriminating. You can have a policy that prohibits bigoted speech in the workplace, and you can fire people for violating it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m not sure why I wrote this comment this way — you don’t need to have a policy against it in order to fire people for it. You can have a policy against it, but you don’t need one in order to be able to act on bigoted comments.

          1. Anna*

            Right. Because the assumption is people would know better than to throw around bigoted comments in the workplace.

            Clearly that assumption isn’t always made in good faith.

            1. Norman*

              Or, even without that assumption and without a policy, you can fire them for begin bigoted, or any other reason that’s not prohibited by law. (In the U.S.)

      2. ThatGirl*

        I don’t know what the laws are in the OP’s country, obviously, but most states in the US are at-will, you don’t need to prove discrimination to fire them. You don’t really need any reason. But creating a hostile work environment is a pretty easy one-strike sort of thing.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yeah, I think this may be an actual example of hostile environment, unlike the way it often gets misinterpreted. :)

      3. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Assuming that they were in an at-will employment state, the boss could certainly fire them for making bigoted comments. There’s no requirement that you prove someone is discriminating before firing them.

      4. LBK*

        I think you’re getting your EEOC rules a little mixed up – the “only illegal if you can prove discrimination” tenet applies to the reason someone was fired, ie that reason itself was discriminatory, not that the reason was discrimination. Firing someone because they were discriminating is perfectly legal and doesn’t have any burden of proof.

      5. Elysian*

        I am an employment attorney, and actually see this misconception a lot. In the US, the “standard of proof” for termination is not the same as the standard of proof for court. Employers don’t have to prove in a court of law that you did something wrong in order to terminate you. Even if the thing has a legal analogue, they don’t have to prove it to the same standard.

        So for example, if you’re fired for sexual harassment, your employer doesn’t need to prove the elements of sexual harassment in order to fire you. They just fire you and say “we think you were sexually harassing a colleague.” If you weren’t, that’s unfortunate, but its not an unlawful termination of any kind. The only “standard” so to speak is that they don’t fire you because of your age, race, religion, etc.

        1. Megan Schafer*

          This is interesting. Is there any mechanism in place to prevent someone getting fired for an unlawful reason, but being covered up with any other reason? It’d really, really suck to be fired from a job because you were gay and then on top of that have the official reason be “sexual harassment”.

          1. Elysian*

            If you think they fired you because you were gay (and if that is a protected class in your state, because it is generally not federally), the your protection is the ability to sue for being terminated for an unlawful reason, the employer will say “nope, it was lawful, it was sexual harassment,” and then you have an argument in the lawsuit about whether or not the reasoned proffered by the employer is really a pretext for illegal discrimination. Messy, but definitely happens all the time in such cases, so there are lots of legal standards surrounding that part of things.

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            If you can prove that you didn’t partake in the fireable activity you are claimed to have, and/or can prove that significant animus existed against you for the protected class, you probably have a good case.

          3. Gaia*

            There is not a good mechanism in place. The onus would be on you to show discrimination and show, in court, that it makes more sense that you were fired because {insert illegal reason} instead of the reason they gave. Often, people feel it isn’t worth the fight so they give up and move on allowing bad employers to keep being bad.

      6. Tequila Mockingbird*

        Attorney here.

        No, you don’t “have to prove they were discriminating.” That’s nonsense.

        At-will employees can be fired if you don’t like the cut of their jib.

      7. slackr*

        No, it wasn’t a good thing. Brendan Eich was never proven, or even accused of discrimination against anyone. He donated less than 0.1% of his income to a cause he believed in. Were his opinions wrong? Yes, I think so. He wasn’t a gay basher or a neo-Nazi; he had an opinion on marriage that was outdated and dumb. But does having those opinions preclude him from using his rights as a citizen to donate and promote a cause he believes in, no matter how wrongheaded? The man got railroaded..

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          Regardless he’s not entitled to any particular job, and as CEO, your personal beliefs and actions reflect on your business. Mozilla is explicitly pro-gay rights so having a CEO who actively, knowingly financed an anti-gay rights group is direct opposition of Mozilla’s corporate message and they had every reason to fire him.

          If he were just a programmer or something and not in the c-suite hired specifically to act as the face of the company, his firing would be less justified (but likely still legal.) That’s why executives often make so much more money than us peons. Their jobs and their private lives are necessarily more intertwined.

            1. Dweali*

              The owner of Chick-Fil-a actually has. I can’t remember if he used his own personal money or if “the company” donated but while it was a big deal (kiss-in were staged) it seemed to die down pretty fast because (in part at least) it’s a Christian based company and blahblah not open Sunday’s blah…at least that’s what I remember seeing/hearing in my neck of the woods at the time (Bible belt)

            2. Fluke Skywalker*

              Having worked for Hobby Lobby, I can tell you with absolute certainty that yes, the CEO would be fired if they didn’t adhere to the family’s values. They’re not publicly traded, they don’t have to answer to anyone but the family that owns it.

            3. Temperance*

              Yes. You do know that the politically conservative religious right organizes boycotts and protests over far less, right?

          1. LBK*

            Exactly my thoughts. Being the CEO of a company is completely different than being somewhere lower on the hierarchy. Your actions reflect on the values of the organization; I don’t think you have the luxury of saying “my private and work life are separate” when part of your job description is being the face of the company to the public. He is completely within his rights to donate to and promote a cause he believes in, and his consumer base is well within their rights to react accordingly. This is pretty much the definition of capitalism.

            (As a side note, I find it amusingly ironic how often people with conservative social values tout the wonders of a laissez-faire market, then cry foul when that market works against them because of their views.)

            1. Isabel C.*

              Heh, yeah. If the free market had a body, they’d have centerfold pictures of it on their walls, and yet when it goes against them…

              I mean, if Eich didn’t like being fired, shouldn’t he just pull himself up by his bootstraps, work hard, and get a better job?

        2. Boop*

          I have to agree. Even though I don’t like his stance on the issue, what and employee does with his/her charitable/political donations is his/her business, especially if it didn’t have any bearing or impact on work performance. Just as we would think it was appalling if someone who donated to the Human Rights Campaign was terminated for the action, people have a right to donate to organizations that espouse different beliefs.

          Imagine taking this to the nth degree – can my employer terminate me for spending my money/time/energy on efforts they don’t agree with? What if I go to a concert of a band they don’t like – can I be terminated for effectively “donating” to that band? Anyone else ready to hide under the covers?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes, they can (in the U.S.). It’s standard business practice in certain industries for an employer to require employees to adhere to a code of conduct, even in their personal, non-work lives. It’s also legal and common to limit an employee’s outside activities and affiliations (e.g., can’t join a nonprofit board without employer’s permission, can’t lobby even in an individual capacity, can’t join X group’s rec basketball team, can’t post bigoted comments on personal social media accounts).

          2. SignalLost*

            You should work for state government. :) In my state, the rules on what we can and cannot do can be pretty stringent, and impact our off the clock time as well as our on the clock time. The most glaring example is around political candidates, but there are a few other areas, particularly non-profit boards and charitable activities. And I’ve seen ads for private industry that regulate that the company has a no-smoking/no-drinking culture at all times, so you cannot go home and have a beer; you’ve signed a contract stating that you will not drink while employed by the company. How enforceable that is, I can’t say, but it does exist, and I have to admit, I don’t drink at all, and I still wouldn’t apply there because I don’t like being told what to do in my personal time.

          3. Clytemnestra Stein*

            Depending on where you work, your employer can already fire you for that (or almost anything) if you are at-will and not give a reason. You’re not at all “protected” from that, as it is currently. So…hide under the covers now?

        3. Sue Wilson*

          I mean, to people who believe that these groups contribute to the deaths, loss of employment, homelessness, and torture of LGBT folks both in the US and around the world (and there’s reason to believe they do), then yes he was discriminating, and that was proof of it. LGBT folks, including myself, may feel very very different about whether he was gay-bashing (and it’s a little funny that you believe many anti-LGBT groups aren’t full of neo-nazis), since validating and promoting groups which hate us encourages a society to continue to treat us as lessor and then kill us.

          I would like to push back that “opinions” are not harmful when expressed either verbally or through money. Action may be an obvious method of determining discrimination, but it isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the only way of determining (social) harm. Those “opinions” are actually conceptions of how the world operates and it’s nigh on impossible to separate your conception of someone’s place in the world as lessor from the totality of how you treat them.

          1. LBK*

            I’d think this political season would provide a vast amount of empirical evidence about the danger of expressing opinions that embolden and energize the people who are willing to translate those opinions into action.

      8. Brian*

        He wasn’t fired. He quit because his employees told him they no longer respected him because of his actions.

        And that is as it should be no matter what. If the boss is no longer capable of being the boss, then the boss needs to go.

      9. andy80586*

        I’m going to go ahead and call BS on your assertion that you need to prove people are discriminating in order to fire them. It’s right to hire, right to fire, for any reason or for no reason at all, at least in the US.

        For Australia, however, I think the labor laws are different and I would imagine they depend on what province you’re in. Although ostracizing others for bigoted reasons should be a fireable offense everywhere.

    3. JMegan*

      I don’t know if I would go straight to firing, but I would certainly sit each of the 4 down and have a very serious talk about how their behaviour is unacceptable, and that they will be fired if it continues. Give them the chance not because they deserve it, but because it will be easier to fire them later if you have.

      1. MillersSpring*

        I’d tell them that you had spoken to Alexandra about saying, “You people disgust me,” but that the far greater offense is their hours of comments about gay rights, that such bigoted speech won’t be tolerated, and the rest of Alison’s advice.

        1. Dweali*

          I don’t know that I would mention talking to anyone else. Just have a separate meeting with all 5 (including Alexandra) it’s no one’s business what you speak with Alexandra about (although I would use it to address the time off issues and maybe a small note about professionalism even if you have to hear about something unpleasant (more like “Find the manager or contact me to if something like that is said in the future” not “you should have to take it”)). Odd’s are the 4 are each at least going to say “we’ll what about so and so?” and it needs to be clear the meeting is about them and the behavior OP needs corrected not what someone else did/didn’t say or do

          1. TempestuousTeapot*

            Let them ask about ‘so and so’. It’s none of their business. Are their meetings going to be discussed with Alexandra? I don’t think so. This is an inherent part of the problem. The 4 seem to think themselves always blameless and justified due to their beliefs. The truth is, their beliefs are not superior to any other beliefs in matters of work. Other peoples conversations are not their business, the rules of work are. The 4 need to follow the rules of work and be respectful to all. This is business, not religious services. Period.

    4. Evan Þ*

      Were they ganging up on her, though? All I see in the letter is that they “were very critical about the ‘gay agenda’ and what people need to do is ‘turn to religion” and how ‘awful’ it is gay marriage could become legalized…”, which prompted Alexandra to ask them a direct question, which they answered. If they were ganging up on her, yes, address that – but if they were just grumbling to each other, that’s a different matter. Talk to them about what subjects are suitable at work, but don’t phrase it primarily as attacking a coworker when (as far as we can tell from this letter) she wasn’t part of it until she asked them a direct question.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Since this is retail, were they talking like this out on the sales floor? Because especially during an LGBT day, that’s unacceptable regardless of the whole tiff with Alexandra. I’m surprised customers didn’t complain.

        1. Evan Þ*

          Exactly – and even apart from speaking against gay rights on an LGBT awareness day, talking about how people need to “turn to religion” on the sales floor isn’t appropriate. OP or another manager should definitely address that.

        1. Brogrammer*

          Yup. It also legally meets the definition of a hostile work environment in any US state where gay people are protected by law, which many things on this blog do not!

      2. VintageLydia USA*

        It sounds like the ganging up happened after this incident, like emailing the OP telling her to fire Alexandra and complaining to their manager that she’s disrespectful (which the manager does not think is happening.)

        1. Evan Þ*

          Hmm, good point. If they’re emailing her together, that probably would be ganging up. I wouldn’t lump the complaints into that, though – if someone really is being disrespectful, you could easily get four employees complaining about that without ganging up. I’d instead explain to them that no, she isn’t being disrespectful; please don’t complain about it again.

      3. Qmatilda*

        They were doing this on a day devoted to anti- LGBT bullying. I think that a such continued conversation/comments by everyone in the place but you would in fact be ganging up. It doesn’t have to be directly targeted at her.

        1. WorkingMom*

          Yeah, they basically teamed up to bully her, for standing up to their negative comments. Believe whatever you choose to believe, but you don’t talk about it at work! If the 4 truly believe what they said – fine, so be it. Work is not the place to discuss it. Technically, sure, Maybe Alexandra could be told, “hey, next time you’re in a situation like that walk away or see a manager rather than giving it back to them.” That way she’ll be prepared how to handle a situation like that in the future, without giving management anything to scold her on. I don’t blame her at all, personally.
          But the 4 going to management and demanding that Alexandra be fired because the 4 disagree with her and she won’t be bullied?! Now that is some disgusting behavior, they need to be seriously reprimanded, and warned that another act like that will be termination, on the spot.

      4. Jadelyn*

        “All” they were doing was being toxic and rude to any LGBT or LGBT-connected person within earshot, and yes, when you’re the only member of the sales staff to not be included in the hatefest, especially when you’re either LGBT or connected to the community as it sounds like Alexandra is, you feel surrounded and cornered and ganged up on because it’s you against literally everyone else, even if they’re not directing it *at* you specifically.

        Frankly, saying those kinds of things IS attacking a coworker, even if you don’t say them to the coworker in question. It’s making it very clear that the coworker is Not Welcome and Not Part of the Team, and that’s an attack. There’s no way to be “quietly bigoted” and expect that it’s going to stay confined to those few people if they’re talking about the issue out loud where others can hear them.

    5. Sadsack*

      Yes. These four were in a retail space that was celebrating the LGBTQ community, and they stood around complaining about gay rights all day, possibly within earshot of customers? Are they who you want representing your business?

      1. Lora*


        Pick any other holiday, and would it be acceptable to make nasty remarks about it to customers?
        Easter: “All those Christians need to realize that there is no Jesus” NOPE. Just sell people the chocolate bunnies and say, “thankyouandhaveaniceday”
        Passover: “Jews should find Jesus” NOPE. Just say, “the kosher food is in aisle 23, miss” and go back to stocking shelves.
        Dia de los Muertos: stick with “tequila is in aisle 12, the florist next door has marigolds, thankyouandhaveaniceday” and do not voice your opinion on nationalities under any circumstances.

        This is not even debatable. Your employer pays for your behavior, as long as they are asking you to do something legal. You don’t have to like it. That’s why they have to pay you to do it, because if it was fun people would do it for free.

        1. Isabel C.*

          Yep! I worked in a flower shop over Valentine’s Day and Easter one year. All the clerks were single, IIRC. I am…dubious…about a lot of Valentine’s*, and I don’t celebrate Easter, but I smiled, I sold overpriced red roses, and I wished people a happy evening. That’s adulthood.

          *Am not one of the tedious Bitter Single People–single, yes, bitter, no–and mostly my opinion is “yay, free candy!” but a lot of the traditions for couples and the emphasis on If He Doesn’t Get The Perfect Gift, He Doesn’t Love You do annoy me.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        This was my thought. If I were a customer who witnessed this I would probably complain to management, but I know plenty of people who would just leave and never come back.

        There’s a very real chance that these employees lost business for this company and alienated potential customers, depending on where they were making these comments (and given the nature of the event, it could have been a LOT of customers).

        Letting the 4 continue on as they have been is bad for the business beyond the interpersonal issues between them and Alexandra.

  3. The Cosmic Avenger*

    We don’t know what the laws are where the OP is based, but we do know that a shopping center there had an LGBTQ-themed fundraising and social awareness event. That indicates to me that there probably aren’t any anti-gay laws to support the Gang of Four’s anti-LGBTQ campaign, and that there probably are at least some basic legal protections there.

    Of course, this is all a guess, but there are many countries where holding such an event would be an invitation to public, government-sanctioned violence. We still have a ways to go here, but we’re better off than a lot of the world now that marriage equality is the law of the land.

    1. AW*

      and that there probably are at least some basic legal protections there

      If there aren’t, and it’s something they’re still working on in addition to marriage laws, that could explain some of the OP’s hesitation. Wouldn’t be the first time someone wasn’t sure they could shut something down without a law backing them up.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      “We don’t know what the laws are where the OP is based, but we do know that a shopping center there had an LGBTQ-themed fundraising and social awareness event. ”

      I think this also gives the OP a lot of space to do exactly what AAM suggests… If your store is participating in an LBGT-supportive event (I know you said the mall hosted it, but in theory the store could refuse/protest/whatever), then you have even more reason to take that stance – because the company supports (or is neutral on) the topic and really does not want that kind of representation.

    3. Becky*

      This is a good point.

      OP, the mall itself hosted an LBGTQ day, which shows the mall values it LBGTQ and ally customers. If your four employees were openly discussing their beliefs, they were creating an environment where LBGTQ and ally customers would be unwelcome, which does economic harm to your business. It also violates the mall’s clearly expressed welcoming of LBGTQ and ally customers, which could lead to repercussions for your store’s ability to stay in the mall.

      Shut them down. Alison and others in this comments section have provided great scripts to help you with it.

  4. Snarkus Aurelius*

    But the other 4 aren’t respecting Alexandra’s beliefs either. That goes both ways.

    I’m so tired of the argument that if I don’t agree with someone that’s disrespectful. It’s not. It’s a difference of opinions. A crappy opinion but still a difference.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      YES! This is so important! Disagreement doesn’t have to be disrespectful. And it sounds like these people are not “respectfully disagreeing” so much as trying to steamroll Alexandra right out of a job. Don’t let it happen OP!

    2. Newby*

      Technically she was disrespectful since she said that they disgust her. They were disrespectful first and she was severely provoked, but it isn’t really ok to say that to your coworker. She shouldn’t be fired for it since they did provoke her and acted much worse.

      1. Batshua*

        I disagree. When people provoke you, of course you’re going to react poorly when you reach your breaking point.

          1. babblemouth aka One Of The Greatest Minds Of The 2st Century*

            And when someone does lose patience, say that they are hurting their cause by not being 100% pure in their outrage.

      2. Callie*

        idk, if these 4 are talking about how gay people are gross and wrong and don’t deserve basic civil rights, it’s gonna be pretty hard for me not to say these 4 disgust me. Even if you don’t agree with someone’s “lifestyle”* you can still afford them basic human courtesy and acknowledge they have rights.

        * I don’t agree it’s a “lifestyle” but this is the term I often hear from anti-LGBT folk

        1. Ixnay Edfray*

          My response to the “lifestyle” comment is why do straight people have a “life” but LGBT people have a “lifestyle.”

    3. Adam*

      This, to me, is the core issue with debate in current times. So often it seems people can’t tell the difference between “debate” and “arguing”. I don’t think it applies to the OP’s example as The 4 very clearly are going out of their way to make the workplace uncomfortable for Alexandra, but in other places I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen someone chastised and verbally accosted just for having a different opinion (and not even one that can be objectively deemed a bigoted one!). If society so frequently stalls with getting anything done it’s because we can’t get our discussion skills beyond the playground level.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Honestly since the OP is in charge of HR, I think there may be a bigger issue to investigate to see how this clique of 4 was hired in the first place. It certainly looks like religious discrimination or at least favoritism.

        Even if all 4 aren’t fired outright, management needs to break up the group. Since this is a chain with multiple stores, I’m thinking transfers are in order so they can no longer dominate this particular location.

      2. Jennifer*

        > So often it seems people can’t tell the difference between “debate” and “arguing”.

        This. So often, people write to advice columnists asking if they should “confront” someone. To me, that smacks of those talk shows where people end up swinging chairs. Nobody ever asks if they should “bring up a topic” or “discuss” something. It’s always about “confronting”. It makes me sad.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I know it can feel that way, it’s not actually true — the vast majority of people writing to me ask about how to bring something up or what to say or whether to address something. It’s just the few who say “confront” who we notice.

    4. jack of all trades*

      ‘I’m so tired of the argument that if I don’t agree with someone that’s disrespectful. It’s not. It’s a difference of opinions. A crappy opinion but still a difference.’

      And that tolerance is the same as acceptance.

    5. Tammy*

      The issue isn’t that the 4 don’t respect (or agree with) Alexandra’s beliefs, though. The issue is how they’re choosing to express that. The issue is that (apparently) they vocally and repeatedly TOLD Alexandra some pretty hurtful things, then (apparently) went trolling her personal social media accounts for ammunition so they could jointly demand she be fired.

      As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a transgender woman in a mid-level management role. Because of a lot of things that aren’t strictly relevant here, I am well known to a fairly huge swath of the 1,300+ employees that work for my company. I am highly confident that at least some of those individuals disagree with the life choices I’ve made. I’m fairly confident at least one or two have strongly held opinions about it. Do I expect them not to hold those opinions? No, of course not. But my company has a strong commitment to diversity and non-discrimination, and so I do expect them to keep those opinions to themselves in the workplace.

      I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

  5. the.kat*

    Is there a way to remove Alexandra from the store and place her somewhere that fits better? I’m not saying you shouldn’t fire anyone, the four sound like they deserve it, but if that’s not a possibility, will things just get worse and worse for Alexandra? It can be really miserable working somewhere where the majority of your coworkers think you’re lower than a toad’s belly.

    1. Anna*

      This is not a good solution. It indicates to the four other employees that it’s okay to say shitty things and the person they were being shitty to has to face consequences. This kind of avoidance has been the way discrimination has been handled throughout history and it serves no one. What is often done to “protect” one person ends up being done to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

    2. Collie*

      It may be more work, but if this is an option, I’d rather see OP move the 4. Otherwise, it could appear as if Alexandra is being punished (unless the new location is more convenient for her).

        1. Michelle*

          Yes! Move some of the 4, if possible. Having 4 close-knit friends all working in the same store seems to be asking for trouble, as proved by the OP. If Alexandra moves on or transfers (which I DO NOT think should happen), what’s to say the 4 will like the next person?

      1. Dweali*

        not just more convenient but also a promotion…maybe even make a really big to-do out of “look how great she is getting this promotion/bonus etc…”…but that may make me slightly petty

    3. Temperance*

      That’s unfair. It’s punishing Alexandra while affirming that the 4 jerks are right to hate her for not falling in line with their beliefs. Nope.

        1. the.kat*

          That’s more of what I had in mind. It sounds like she’s really proven (at least after the initial comments) that’s she professional and capable of handling more responsibility. Sounds like a promotion is in order to me.

            1. Wren*

              Alexandra is said to be a masters student, and she did the interning on school breaks. It may be that non-manegerial in a retail environment is what fits best with her school schedule.

      1. Jennifer*

        On the other hand, it might benefit Alexandra to get to work at a location with much nicer, more tolerant coworkers.

        This is reminding me of the class on bullying I took recently. Unfortunately, I think getting the victim away from the bullies is usually the best solution, even if it’s “not fair.”

        1. Brogrammer*

          My issue with that is that while it does protect Alexandra, it just makes the 4 someone else’s problem. They’re still a clique and there’s no guarantee that they’ll be any better to Alexandra’s replacement than they were to Alexandra.

        2. Aunt Helen*

          I vote for moving the four coworkers, then. Why not give Alexandra a jerk-free workplace and let the burden of changing locations fall to the bigoted ones?

          (Though my favorite solution is to tell them ONCE that this is not to be tolerated, and terminate anyone who continues.)

    4. De Minimis*

      Depending on the laws and the nature of the new location/duties this may be illegal to do [if it could be construed as a demotion for Alexandra.]

    5. AnotherAlison*

      If I moved anyone, I’d be inclined to move two of the four and break up the clique. . .unless of course I was promoting Alexandra to manager at a different store.

      I really hate the idea of four clones all working at one store. It makes me think it is the type of store where I go in and the employees are all gathered in a corner talking and can’t be bothered to help the customers.

      1. Liane*

        I would give them the stern “One more strike and you’re out!!!” speech, then I would if possible assign each of them to separate stores. If that wasn’t possible, I would split them among 2 different stores and make sure the managers at those stores understood they were to be on separate shifts AND that “But BIIIIIBLE Camp!” isn’t a reason to give them (or anyone else) Time Off Priority.

        For the Record, I am devout Christian and I am not happy at all with The Four. Bunch of modern-day Scribes & Pharasees. They clearly haven’t paid a bit of attention to the Bible.

        1. TempestuousTeapot*

          I agree. These 4 really need to experience a journey. Each into a separate store and a new environment within which to practice their newfound ability to keep the personal out of work.

    6. Analyze All The Data*

      I would definitely support transferring some or all of the 4 to other stores. There is no room for ‘cliques’ at work, especially when there’s so few employees at a store. And when they push each other towards bigotry and bad behavior.

    7. Pearly Girl*

      That does not nothing to solve the actual problem of the 4 creating a hostile environment, which Needs To Be Dealt With.

    8. Norman*

      It might be illegal if she’s somewhere that has laws that prevent anti-gay discrimination in the workplace. An adverse employment action for her raising an issue of discrimination/hostile work environment.

  6. Temperance*

    Alexandra has a point, actually. She’s tolerated hatred in the workplace, and is on the hook to cover for the churchgoers when they want to celebrate a religious holiday or attend bible camp, and has apparently done this without complaint until they started attacking her and gay people in general. I think she’s handling this remarkably well, considering how I would handle working with homophobes – much less kindly and tactfully than she has.

    They’re bullying *her* and trying to get her fired because she doesn’t share their religious belief. They are the bullies here, not the wronged parties, although their persecution complex might say otherwise.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Also, yes, this. Making Alexandra cover for all their church things I think would fall under religious discrimination here…no idea how it goes with the law where you are, OP.

      This might be worth running past an employment law specialist in your area, actually – either in your legal (if you have one on staff) or just hiring one to talk for 15-30 minutes. That will give you some idea what you can, can’t, should, and/or must do.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Enh. Maybe it would. The more I think about this, maybe it wouldn’t. But nonetheless – asking a lawyer (not to handle it, just to clarify how the law intersects with it!) might be a good thing, if it’s an option.

      2. Jinx*

        I was interested in this as well, though I’m in the US and I don’t know what the laws are in OP’s country. I’ve heard of religious accommodations for holidays and church, but how does that work when people repeatedly want to take days off for things like camps (I’m Christian and camps were generally optional events in churches I’ve belonged to)? Does the employer have to give the 4 time off for bible camp just because it’s religiously-affiliated? I’m genuinely curious about how that works.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          Broadly speaking, employers only have to make religious accommodations that don’t burden the business. If an employee or employees are asking for so much time off that it’s creating a burden, the employer wouldn’t need to accommodate those requests. How much time off is is too much would depend on the job.

          1. Blurgle*

            In the United States. That is NOT the case in every jurisdiction outside the US, and the OP is outside the US.

        2. Anna*

          It sounds like this might be a form of discrimination happening here if Alexandra is always on the hook for holidays, etc. No Bible camp that I have been privy to are actually part of the religious observance (meaning there is no doctrine saying members of a given religion are required to attend Bible camp, unlike, say, Muslims who are required to make one lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca). So basically it would be and should be treated as a vacation request, and you can’t have four people off at once for vacation in a store that employs six people.

          1. Evan Þ*

            “Required” is fuzzy, though. A lot of Protestant denominations don’t view it as technically “required” that you even go to church on Sunday, but we can still demand Sunday morning off as a religious accommodation. Plus, US law basically asks the individual employee what in his mind his religion says rather than look at any outside source (for very good reasons).

            In this case, though, it does seem like giving four of the six employees a whole week off would be unreasonable even if you do treat it as a religious accomodation.

          2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            Religious accommodations are based on individual belief, not organizational belief, so the question would be if the individual genuinely believes that their faith requires them to attend these camps. That said, employers don’t have to accommodate every genuine belief, and this could be an area where accommodation is too burdensome and wouldn’t need to be allowed.

            That said, I don’t know that Alexandra would have much luck arguing that she’s being discriminated against because she always has to work holidays or gets the worst shifts. Just because something’s unfair doesn’t mean it’s discriminatory. That’s getting past employment law 101, though, which is about the extent of my knowledge.

            1. Anna*

              I don’t know. If all four people who are Religion X get these days off every time and person who is Atheist or Agnostic or Religion B that doesn’t necessarily observe those holidays always ends up working them, I think you’re going to have a hard time arguing that it’s NOT inherently discriminatory, not just unfair.

              1. OP #3*

                If Alexandra doesn’t observe it though, it’s not a holiday for her (interestingly I know some atheists who celebrate Christmas, but not from a religious standpoint, which confuses me, but is beside the point). The important thing would be making sure that atheists get to have as much time off (and maybe priority during other times of the year) and that folks of other religions get to have time off during *their* holidays. As a devout Christian, I wouldn’t be upset if I were working in an office with a lot of Jewish people and was expected to work during the High Holidays, as we’d likely be short-staffed those days. Those holidays are just days on a calendar to me and so I have no problem having them be ‘blackout dates’ for me in order that my coworkers can observe their religious holidays. Same with if a few colleagues who don’t celebrate Christmas wanted to take a week off during some other time of year, and I was expected to work those days because I had already taken my time off for Xmas and they had covered for me.

                In the US, or at least in MA I think, businesses are required to give time off for religious reasons if they have 50 (?) or more employees, and it wouldn’t create a super hardship for the business. I can sympathize with Alexandra having negative views of Christianity and therefore maybe feeling bothered at being expected to work during Christian holidays so that the folks who actually observe those holidays/hold them to be sacred can take time off, but that seems to be more of a personal issue than one of workplace discrimination.

                How else are you going to make sure that shifts are covered during various religious holidays without expecting the non-religious colleagues or colleagues of different religions to work those shifts?

                1. (not this week's OP, oops!)*

                  oops i was an OP for a prev post, not this one!! didnt realize my computer had kept the posting name!!!

                2. Emac*

                  I agree that it shouldn’t be a problem for non-religious people to let those who do practice a religion take time off on religious holidays, in general. However, in some cases, it can work out to be unfair for the non-religious people if the religious people are always taking not only the holiday off, but days around the holiday off. In the US, this would especially be true around Christmas. Because Christmas is a federal holiday when even most retail stores are closed, if only the practicing Christians get to take time off around that day, they’re they only ones who get to benefit from adding that federal holiday onto whatever vacation time they have.

                  Another problem with Christmas is that schools are closed, so if I have kids who are on vacation that week, shouldn’t I have a chance at taking time off then, even if I’m not religious?

                  So my point would be that, yes, those who practice a certain religion should be able to take their religious holidays off, if it doesn’t hurt the business in general, but I don’t know that they should necessarily be prioritized for the days around those holidays all the time.

          3. Lora*

            No, this is really easy: tell the bullies in question that the work schedule for the next X amount of time have already been set in stone, would they please give you a list of religious holidays and you’ll see what can be done to ensure that folks have some time off that day, although it might mean working a different shift or what have you.

            Bet you a dollar they hand in the typical Xmas/Easter/etc list which does not list out Bible camp. All other time off requests will be first come first served. You didn’t put Bible camp on the list? Well I’m sorry to hear that.

        3. Lemon Zinger*

          No, they’re not obligated to do that if it would hurt the business. It sounds like this particular store has run into that issue before, as there are only five employees.

          1. LBK*

            The bar for “undue hardship” is fairly high and fairly specific, though. Since this has been an ongoing, repeated issue, that might give more credence to it, but if it were just one instance where the store was understaffed due to vacations, I don’t think that would be enough of a burden to qualify (unless maybe it was Black Friday or another special event where that single day’s worth of sales could account for a significant portion of the business).

      3. LBK*

        On the EEOC’s website, the definition of undue hardship caused by a religious accommodation includes if that accommodation “requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.” I’d say the OP’s description of Alexandra constantly being stuck with the worst shifts could potentially qualify as her having to do more than her share of burdensome work, but IANAL.

    2. blackcat*

      I can see having Alexandra cover when the 4 take off for religious holidays. That makes some sense in theory, even if it can be a bit shitty in practice.

      But forcing Alexandra to change plans to accommodate bible camp? Bible camp! It’s an elective activity, just like whatever plans Alexandra had. I’d be super pissed, too.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yes, I noticed that it sounds like Alexandra’s coworkers get preferential treatment in which leave requests are approved because of the nature of this activity of theirs, and while it may be important to them, it’s something that probably happens at least once a year if not multiple times a year, and isn’t a milestone or a crisis for an immediate family member, so I do think the manager is giving preferential treatment to the Gang of Four.

      2. Temperance*

        Yep. Also, as an ex-evangelical … you can seriously go to bible camp every weekend in the summer if you really want to.

        1. blackcat*

          I am not nor have I been an evangelical, but I’m closely related to several. All of them would agree that bible camp is on par with things like “I want to go camping that weekend.” They would not expect to be accommodated over other people’s plans. But my relatives are a very reasonable bunch, proving by example that religious fundamentalism* doesn’t necessarily mean being an asshole.

          *A cousin self-identifies with the term “Christian fundamentalist,” so this is not a judgmental term, just the truth.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            If a court was determining if something was a sincerely held religious belief they’d start with whether the individual believed that practice was required. The opinions of other members of their religion wouldn’t be irrelevant, but would be secondary. With this kind of thing, a court generally will give a lot of latitude to the individual’s assertion of belief. That’s not to say the camp attendance has to be accommodated, just that arguing it’s not a genuine belief wouldn’t necessarily be a very good argument.

            1. Anna*

              I see your point and you’re right, but I have seriously never at all met a Christian who firmly believed they had to attend bible camp as a part of their observance. It is generally considered by the people I know to be a fun addition to church. Same as Vacation Bible School.

      3. EddieSherbert*

        Yeah, especially if she’s covering outside of her normal shifts; in theory, Alexandra could refuse/already have plans/be unavailable. She has been super accommodating to the 4’s wants at this point.

      4. Allison*

        I think religion gives it some weight, and I could see managers being hesitant to interfere with people’s religious activities.

        1. Anna*

          But Bible camp is more a social activity than a religious observance, so if managers are hesitant it’s because they’re not well-informed on the difference.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            It’s generally up to the individual to decide if something is required by their religious beliefs or not, so even if most evangelicals see camp as a social activity, an individual could still argue that they consider it a core part of their faith. Depending on the court, they might even win on that point as many states call for a high level of deference when it comes to the genuineness of a belief. I think the more significant question here is whether the accommodation is overly burdensome, and I think there’d be a solid argument that it is.

        1. TL -*

          I don’t think it’s a matter of what trumps what, just that each employee should be able to get some days they want off and they shouldn’t be forced to switch after they’ve gotten approval, or cover if they’ve already got planned. Alexandra should not always be on the hook for covering for them – but it totally makes sense if they have Easter off as a priority, she can get her birthday off as a priority.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            My company gave people a couple of days of “floating holidays” – they could be any formal religious day or the day before/after, or birthday, or a couple of other things. I used it for Easter Monday because I’m in a choir and after a week of rehearsals and singing I really needed it :)

        2. Evan Þ*

          Not necessarily – they both happen every year, and possibly once a year. If we’re judging which is more important (which a manager typically shouldn’t be doing), I’d actually say that any week-long vacation trumps a birthday with no special plans.

          1. Kelly L.*

            To me, the camps sound like they’re more frequent–somewhere between every few weeks and every few months was my guess, but I don’t know for sure.

  7. animaniactoo*

    Dear 4,

    If you don’t support gay marriage, don’t get gay married.

    Alexandra has the right to tell you how your beliefs made her feel, exactly as you were busy discussing how her beliefs made you feel.

    You don’t like it? Stop talking about it. Don’t ask for what you’re not willing to give – respect for somebody else’s belief.

    Signed, – On Alexandra’s Team.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      As someone who grew up religiously anti-gay (and has since been enlightened), I still have (and have always had) absolutely zero sympathy for anyone being pro-bullying of gay people or being anti–gay marriage.

      You don’t have to believe someone is moral (for whatever your ideas of “moral” are) to not want them to be bullied or to allow them to get married.

      1. MommaTRex*

        Ditto to animaniactoo, not Anonymous Educator, but I really like what Anonymous Educator said, too. I know people who are possibly uncomfortable with LGBT matters, or think that it is against their religious teachings, but are very anti-bullying and support their rights. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, when I was being taught religion, it was more focused on the bullying being EXTREMELY immoral.

  8. Kyrielle*

    Yes. If I think from a US-centered focus for a bit (because it’s what I know and this touches on laws, and I don’t know the laws where you are, OP) – the four absolutely have a right to hold their religious beliefs, follow them, etc. However, they do not absolutely have a right to speak about them at work, especially if it goes against the goal of the workplace (at that time, supporting a day that, yes, opposed their beliefs).

    “You disgust me” is a strong statement. So is reducing the Bible to “a book” (it is, but to many people the words in it mean more than that). But “gay agenda” and saying people need (these people’s specific, I assume*) religion so they won’t be gay and so on is *also* a strong statement, and variations on that theme had been repeating for hours? And Alexandra made her two statements, then reduced her coworkers to business talk only and won’t engage with them? She’s a stronger person than I am; I might have rage-quit, and if I managed not to, I’m pretty sure the ‘rage’ part still would have happened. And now they’re trying to get her fired because she doesn’t agree with them or like them after what they said? Good grief.

    * Being as there are other religions, even based on the same basic book, that would not at all feel that people should change their sexual orientation regardless.

  9. OlympiasEpiriot*

    I think you’re getting stuck on the idea that you have to treat all viewpoints equally, and you don’t. It’s perfectly okay to say that you won’t tolerate bigoted speech, as well as to tell people to keep their political viewpoints out of the workplace or at least away from coworkers who don’t want to hear it.

    That sums it up very well.

    And she should absolutely not have to constantly be the one to cover for bible camp absences, whether or not she has a birthday. Covering for others needs to be evenly distributed unless some people actively are volunteering for unpopular shifts due to wanting more ot.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Yep, I think with the Bible camp thing, it doesn’t help that they’re all good friends, so they’re probably always going to the same Bible camps, together, every time one comes up.

      1. Katie F*

        Yep. Bible camp isn’t a religious requirement. Deny them on a rotating basis if needed, and if they argue about it, ask them to point out where in the Bible camp is a required aspect of practicing Christianity, because I would sure be curious to know the answer to that.

        1. Anna*

          If Bible camp turns out to be a required religious observance, then I would like to start a Harry Potter religion so I can attend the Hogwarts camp that I’ve been seeing stories about on Facebook.

    2. LBK*

      I hate that somehow it’s become a reasonable argument to insistent that tolerance and hatred are equally respectable “viewpoints,” and that you can’t argue for treating LGBT people/POC/etc with respect without also respecting bigots for their “opinions” (apparently being gay or black is just an “opinion”?). Certain recent news stories have really highlighted the absurdity that calling out racism or sexism is now seen as just as offensive as actually being racist or sexist.

      1. Kate M*

        OMG yes. It’s the people saying “you have to be tolerant of my intolerance.” No – I will tolerate whatever people want to do that doesn’t cause harm to others and only affects themselves. If you want to personally believe that being gay (or any minority group) is wrong, I’m going to think that you’re incorrect and think less of you, but if it’s only affecting you I’m not going to say anything. But when it gets to the point that you’re advocating for laws to restrict others’ rights, or harass them, then no, I’m not going to tolerate how you’re acting on your viewpoint.

        You don’t have to tolerate hatred to be a tolerant person.

        1. Julia*

          I wonder if the people who want tolerance for their intolerance just don’t realise the ironic cr*p they’re spouting, or if they do it on purpose.

          This seems like the same problem to me like getting a bully and the bullied together to tell them both to “change” and “get alone”.

      2. Kristin D*

        I could actually see the 4 arguing that, if they were disciplined, that it was religious discrimination. People seem to believe that intolerance/hatred are “bona fide religious beliefs” that they are entitled to express without being subject to criticism. (Indeed, I’m waiting for the lawsuit that claims terminating someone for harassment based on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. is religious discrimination.)

      3. Lissa*

        This is really similar to how people who are tolerant (aka not bigoted) are then expected to be tolerant even of bigots and bigoted opinions. It drives me up the wall when I see this.

        Person A: LGBT people are wrong and should not be able to get married!
        Person B: You are a disgusting bigot
        Person A: HA you are bigoted too, *and a hypocrite* because you say you’re tolerant but you’re not! Gotcha!

        Sure fine I totally see the point in not calling somebody disgusting (though I personally sympathize) but they are not magically a hypocrite because being pro LGBT means you need to accept every last viewpoint.

  10. Allie*

    As the older sister to someone who is LGBT, I admire Alexandra’s restraint. I would have likely said something much worse. When people say things that are anti-gay, what I hear is that they think my sibling is a lesser person, and that triggers my big sister protective nature (not that I think these comments would be okay if I didn’t have a gay sibling, obviously). These 4 are classic bullies: it is okay for them to be vile, but the instant someone stands up to them they yell unfair and try to make the other person into the bad guy. This shouldn’t be tolerated.

      1. C Average*

        Yaaaaassss. (Would it be crossing the line to hope that the basket doesn’t have breathing holes? Yes, it probably would.)

        1. Random Citizen*

          Yeah, I may believe someone is dead wrong and egregiously bigoted, and still find it wildly inappropriate to wish terrible things on them. Whatever horrible thing they believe, they are still a human being, and I’m acting an awful lot like them if I start wishing disaster on them.

          1. C Average*

            Thank you. I’m sorry. That comment was out of line on my part.

            I do believe that certain forms of bigotry, if current sociopolitical trends continue, will become more and more unacceptable to broader society, and that opinions like those of the 4 will gradually die off with older generations. I believe the day will come when it will be as socially unacceptable to be openly prejudiced against homosexuality as it is to be an avowed racist. And just as I’m never honestly sorry to see people like Strom Thurmond shuffle off this mortal coil, I have a hard time mourning those who would rather make sweeping statements about people they don’t know than accept that maybe God created people like my sister completely on purpose. I don’t spend a lot of time wishing them ill, but like Alexandra, I’m generally disgusted and unsympathetic to them. But I shouldn’t joke about them, or anyone, meeting an untimely demise.

            (Of course, I’d rather they have an Abuela-on-“Glee” moment of enlightenment, but alas, life is not a “Glee” episode.)

      2. RVA Cat*

        Well in this case there’s only 4 of them, so maybe they’re just a handbasket of deplorables – and we all know where you go in a handbasket.

    1. C Average*

      This! Big sisters of LGBT people unite! I had to go to the mat with my MOTHER about accepting and supporting my sister, so you can bet your ass I’d take on the Four, given the chance.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Well fine, if we’re going there. Big sister here. And in many ways, tg, because it meant that I had those conversations with my mom and viewpoints were adjusted long before my son showed up (and came out).

      2. Jennifer*

        Thank you C Average! (Is it okay if I think of you as C+? Or even c++? Oh, my little joke.)

        My *little sister* when to the mat with our stepfather when he decided that he could not attend my gay wedding for moral reasons. Something about taking the sacrament, which was really very funny because not only are we not even close to Catholic, *he’s* a lapsed Catholic himself. And I was raised Jewish and Unitarian, and we got married under a chuppah (that’s a jewish thing, for those who don’t know — it’s the cloth “roof” the couple and rabbi stand under), so the whole “taking the sacrament” thing would have been HILARIOUS, if I weren’t busy burning up in rage and also trying to ignore it all long enough to get important decisions made. (He did change his mind. I managed to contain my joy.)

        (For the record, the man didn’t raise us. He married our mother when we were in our late teens and moving out of the house already.)

        (Oh! And this was almost 15 years ago, so it was not even a legal wedding. Which apparently didn’t matter to his morals? We’re legal now though, you betcha.)

        1. ArtsNerd*

          So glad you had support from your sister, and I’m sorry your stepfather was being such an ass and a bigot. You’re right that his own logic doesn’t hold up by its own rules; somehow that makes this attitude even more infuriating.

          I just this week found out that my [SUPER Catholic] dad had asked my sister if I was gay, stating that he just wants me to be happy.* I happy-cried at how hard he is trying. And am tearing up even just typing this.

          *(The question didn’t come out of left field: I do not ID as gay, but am part of a community that largely does.)

  11. Katie F*

    Well this is just a big giant mess.

    Go Alexandra. The other four can learn how to be professional in the workplace even if they don’t agree with an event going on outside. Their behavior is far less professional than hers.

      1. Katie F*

        I have to say, if I were a customer and had overheard them, I think I would have been all on the phone with corporate wanting to know why their employees can’t be trained to be civil to other human beings while on the clock.

        1. babblemouth aka One Of The Greatest Minds Of The 2st Century*

          AND all this during an LGBTQ friendly event!!!! The mind boggles.

    1. SystemsLady*

      Agreed. Anything Alexandra did that was unprofessional was in direct response to a larger volume of unprofessional behavior from “the four”. And the four’s continued behavior (trusting that it’s true Alexandra keeps the coldness on a personal level) takes my view of them down yet another notch.

      Yes, you do have to personally exercise “political correctness” to be professional in most workplaces, where politically correct is the union of what all angry partisans on the Internet negatively think politically correct is, and then some!

      It would’ve been equally politically incorrect (and unprofessional) for Alexandra to have started off on an atheist rant near them following a particularly nasty Sunday.

      If the four are going to be bigoted and want to talk about how much the event annoyed them, they have the freedom to express those beliefs in their own private time on, perhaps, their Instagrams (and ideally not snoop on a disliked coworker during this time, how petty!). I bet Alexandra wouldn’t have been bothered by that.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Right–a lot of “PC” is really just manners, and The Four are appallingly rude on top of being bigots.

  12. SquirrelsJustWannaHaveFun*

    During the Chick-Fil-A hullabaloo, I worked in an office where some Christians (I’m also one) frequently discussed how they don’t believe in gay marriage. It took all my strength not to start major office drama. Maybe I should have?

    I admire Alexandra’s defiance and commitment to what she believes is right. She’s my badass inspiration today. \\m/(>.<)\m/

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        And likewise, “Well, I just don’t agree with…” can best be answered with, “Hm, well, their [relationship/marriage/etc] isn’t your decision to make, is it?”

      2. Katie F*

        “I don’t ~believe~ in gay marriage.”

        “Well, good for you that nobody’s forcing you to marry a man, isn’t it?”

  13. Let Bartlett be Bartlett*

    “My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police?”

    “Here’s one that’s really important cause we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7 If they promise to wear gloves can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?”

    1. Joe Bethersonton*

      I approve of this comment.

      (I’m normally Katniss here but I had to change to a TWW themed name for this one)

    2. caledonia*

      My day has been made that much better by this quote, so thanks!

      (OT: Also, I recommend the west wing weekly podcast)

  14. Beaks*

    Poor Alexandra. I can’t believe she has to work alongside that sort of hate every day without complaint. In addition to the great advice from Alison, I would also have a chat with the store manager to make sure he understands that hate speech isn’t tolerated and give him some tools to shut it down in the moment next time.

    If they did this in a store, it’s also possible a customer could overhear them. I’m sure they’d try to keep their conversation for when the store is empty, but it only takes one mistake to have a public relations nightmare on your hands.

    1. JMegan*

      Yes, I forgot about the store manager! He definitely needs to be part of this. If he didn’t know what was going on, or if he knew but didn’t know how to handle it, then he needs some coaching. If he knew what was going on and encouraged it (or worse, participated in it), then he should get the Last Chance talk as well.

      And it couldn’t hurt to sit down with Alexandra as well, to let her know that you know about the problem and that you’re taking steps to resolve it. And while you’re at it, reassure her that *she* is not the problem here, and that her job is safe.

  15. Edith*

    I object to the assertion that religiosity is inherently anti-gay. I get why the 4 would associate the two, since they’re using their religion to justify their bigotry, but OP seemed to equate them too. There are many many religious folk who support the LGBT community, and many many LGBT folk who are themselves very religious.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Not only that, but entire denominations of Christianity are pushing back against the anti-gay dogma.

      The Bible has more to say about consumption of shellfish than homosexuality.

    2. Anna*

      It’s true that it’s not an automatic causation, but since so many MANY people who oppose equal rights for people who are LGBTQ tend to lean heavily on their religion as an excuse for their feelings, it’s normal for someone to see it as a causation. Let’s face it, we are all a little surprised when someone says they’re religious AND pro-gay rights.

      1. LBK*

        All squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares; likewise, I find that in general not all religious people are anti-LGBT, but almost all anti-LGBT people I’ve encountered are religious.

        1. CanadianKat*

          LBK: not necessarily. I’m a (long-ago) immigrant from a certain Eastern European, post-Communist country. Some in my community have some level of anti-LGBT sentiment, but I assure you, it’s not based on religion (the country has since turned frighteningly religious, but that was after most of the immigrants that I’m referring to left). Not sure what it’s based on, but perhaps for those growing up in the Soviet Union didn’t have exposure to it during Soviet times. Homosexuality was “non-existent.” It wasn’t publicly acknolwedged, not even negatively. I’m sure gay people existed, but there must have been sufficiently clear signals from society to keep them in the closet, without informing straight people that it’s a thing.
          In any event, homophobia from those growing up in Soviet (or other non-religious authoritarian) regimes would usually not be related to religion.

          1. LBK*

            Good point; I should amend to say that in current US culture, I find homophobia to be propped up by religion the vast, vast majority of the time. I have, however, met plenty of religious people who aren’t homophobic.

        2. Brogrammer*

          Homophobic atheists definitely exist. They’re fairly uncommon, but I’d put that down to atheism itself still being uncommon. The Almighty Google tells me that 3% of the US population self-identifies as atheist.

          1. LBK*

            Yeah, that’s why I said “almost all”. There is definitely a certain type that can frequently be hanging around some of the more gross corners of Reddit whose homophobia is fueled by believing gay people have crossed the line into wanting “special treatment” and who think things like institutional prejudice and disparate impact are made up. Fortunately I think this is a very small percentage of the population whose voice is just amplified by their omnipresence on the internet.

            1. Brogrammer*

              This is getting a bit far afield, but I have a theory that those groups you mention are actually a specific haven for sexist/homophobic atheists. A sexist/homophobic Christian can find a church that preaches homophobia and traditional gender roles with little difficulty (welcoming churches are becoming more common, but still have to be actively sought out), but atheists don’t have an institution in place that caters to those prejudices.

              1. LBK*

                That’s an excellent point about there not being other havens for that demographic. I don’t know that sites like Reddit or 4chan are necessarily designed with those demographics in mind, but they certainly attract them for their extremely lax moderation and valuing of “truly free speech” above all else.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm, I don’t think that’s actually a universal experience! I think that depends on who you know, and what the religion is, and the way in which they practice it.

      3. Mazzy*

        I agree with your first part and not the second. I see people using it as an excuse, and that is all it is, but I don’t think I’m surprised when someone is religious and tolerant. Maybe 30 years ago but definitely not now.

      4. Edith*

        “Let’s face it, we are all a little surprised when someone says they’re religious AND pro-gay rights.”

        Incorrect. YOU may be surprised, but please don’t include everyone else in your stereotyping.

        1. LGBTnonymous*

          Include me in that stereotyping. I live in a rural conservative area near a progressive college town, and generally speaking, people who are ‘out’ about religion are out about being anti-gay. Assuming that is a survival issue for my household, because gay people are still harassed and even killed in my country (US). If my partner & I tried to live a normal life in my neighborhood, like a normal married couple, we’d definitely have problems (well, more than we’ve already dealt with). So yeah, I assume strong religious beliefs = potential personal danger.

          1. Edith*

            I live in an extremely red state, and yet a good third of the floats in my city’s pride parade each year are churches. I work for a Christian organization that is so overtly religious we have a chapel with daily services employees can attend. The day our state’s Supreme Court overturned our ban on same-sex marriage one of my coworkers married his fiancé in that chapel. It was officiated by another openly gay coworker who happens to be an ordained minister, and it was the first same-sex marriage in the state. I’m not saying we’re living in some post-homophobia utopia, but the idea that devoutly religious equals anti-gay is demonstrably false.

            Polls back me up on this. Among Catholics and mainline Protestants the percent that support gay rights is in the high 60s. That’s not enough, and it’s not the high 80s atheists and agnostics can boast, but it is a majority, and it’s getting better every day.

            1. Mander*

              There are certainly plenty of people who don’t fit the stereotypes. Many of my relatives live in a tiny town in the Midwest and are Christians with a capital C, and yet while they might not totally understand homosexuality they do their best to be accepting and understanding. I’ve never heard any of them say anything overtly nasty, it’s usually something along the lines of “well as long as they’re happy” and they leave it at that.

          2. Oryx*

            I think it’s a geography thing: I live in a very liberal city of a swing state and several of my close friends are both religious AND social liberals, including being pro-gay rights. One was married at a church that has a rainbow banner and a #BlackLivesMatter banner as well.

            1. Lucie in the Sky*

              I have a couple family members who are ministers and some of the biggest social liberals in the family. My cousin actually married her husband, who are both Ministers the day after gay marriage was legalized in the US, and they made sure to have the minister performing it talk about how great it was that gay marriage was now legal. Theyre both involved with #BLM as well.

      5. Calacademic*

        One of the churches in my town PROUDLY (see what I did there) hangs rainbow banners outside their doors.

      6. Nichole*

        The thing that has helped me the most when I’ve faced intolerance and self-doubt is that when I was 13 (before I’d started to figure myself out), my rabbi said he wanted to officiate my wedding no matter who I married. This was before same-sex marriage was at-all widely accepted in this country, and he made it clear that the state/country law wouldn’t keep it from being a marriage valid in the eyes of God if it was to the person I loved.

    3. LBK*

      I didn’t get that sense from the OP’s letter, more that she highlighted their religion because a) they make a huge deal out of it themselves, b) they’re using it as their explanation for their viewpoints, and c) it brings additional consideration into how the OP should handle the situation since she wants to be respectful of their religion. I don’t see a way the OP could tell the story without involving the fact that the 4 are highly religious, it seems very relevant to the question at hand.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, the 4 are the ones saying “because religion.” They are the ones who made it part of the problem.

    4. The Strand*

      I don’t go regularly, but my (extremely liberal) church’s head minister is not only gay, but in a same-sex marriage.

    5. Temperance*

      Which is super strange for you to bring up, since literally no one said it. I’m so over this persecution complex that liberal Christians have, where they feel the need to say “NOT ALL CHRISTIANS” when we’re talking about the craptastic behavior of some Christians that is absolutely rooted in Christianity.

  16. Elizabeth West*

    that it’s creating a hostile and unwelcoming environment for gay employees and people with family or friends who are gay (as well as everyone else who objects to bigotry, for that matter).

    Not to mention customers!

    What if a customer overheard their nastiness? The store would lose business. Everybody could get in trouble, including you as a manager. I for one would walk right the hell out if I heard employees talking like that, especially in the middle of an anti-LGBTQ bullying event. Gah.

    1. Lucie in the Sky*

      This is a good point! In an event specific for that you would figure the average amount of LGBTQ & Allies as customers would go up, that could be an absolute mess if someone heard it and I can easily imagine people start posting about it online and drawing up all sorts of drama you wouldn’t want people to be saying about yours store.

        1. Jacob*

          It doesn’t always, and contrary to assertions I’ve heard ’round certain parts of the web, the A certainly hasn’t ALWAYS been used to refer to asexuals. When the acronym was originally formed in the LGBTA/LGBTQA version, back in the 90’s and early 00’s and before asexual awareness and incorporation into LGBTQ+ communities had really reached the mainstream, the A was very explicitly and exclusively referring to “allies.” This was partly to recognize the historic place of straight and/or non-transgender people in the LGBTQ+ movement and communities but also, and I’d say more importantly, to provide cover to closeted LGBTQ+ people (especially youth with hateful parents) to participate in LGBTQ+ communities without having to come out to an extent with which they’d be uncomfortable.

          Mind you, I’m fully supportive of inclusive of asexual and aromantic folks in the big rainbow umbrella, but I’m disturbed by the historical revisionism that often surrounds this issue. It’s too much like gaslighting. I also think there’s still an important place for allies within the collective movement, but that’s more of a personal opinion.

          An Actual LGBT Person

          1. Oryx*

            Yup. I am a cis straight woman and in college in the early 00’s was friends with lots of people from the LGBT group on campus. I was always invited to events and meetings as an A for Ally.

          2. Gaia*

            Thank you for your comment. I am, and have for many years been, a cis straight Ally. While I won’t pretend that my anger and frustration at the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community comes anywhere near what the LGBTQ Persons experience, it can be hurtful to have the contributions of Allies discounted. I have rallied, I have protested, I have argued, I have lost friends and I have screamed in celebration and elation at the SCOTUS victories.

          3. ArtsNerd*

            +1. I’m not terribly old but my school’s group in undergrad was “Gay/Straight Alliance,” so my understanding is that the initialism started there and grew to become more inclusive over time. I read A as serving a dual purpose of “ally” and “asexual.” I also read Q as both “queer” and “questioning.”

            I do not ID as ace at this time, but DID openly describe myself as asexual for years, before I even knew there were others. I thought I simply appropriated the term from its “proper” context.

          1. Anonymouse*

            I didn’t not see Jacob’s comment before posting, but he’s put it better than I could! As an LGBT+ person myself, I’ve seen arguments on both sides, but it is definitely an opinion about what the A currently stands for. Historically, like Jacob said, it’s Ally for Reasons.

        2. Adonday Veeah*

          Depends on who you ask. It can also mean Ally.

          “Cite your source, Adonday.”

          “LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQA, TBLG: These acronyms refer to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Asexual or Ally. Although all of the different identities within “LGBT” are often lumped together (and share sexism as a common root of oppression), there are specific needs and concerns related to each individual identity.”

          Other sites say the same thing.

          1. an ally*

            It has historically meant Ally, but to use A for ally now contributes to Ace erasure – as told to me at length by my Ace friends.

            I am an ally, but I don’t need a place in the acronym.

            1. Gaia*

              I think there must be another way to ensure everyone has a seat at the table. We need to discount Allies in order to include Ace Persons.

              1. NotASalesperson*

                Why is Ally included in the definition of the population to begin with? People are allies for marginalized causes across the board without having the word “Ally” capitalized and used as a title.

                Allies are by definition not part of that population and by definition affiliated with that population. You won’t get as much hate or direct violence (usually) for being an ally, but you will for being LGBTQ (especially the T part of that).

                1. Misc*

                  To provide cover for the *actual* queer people attending those events (and also because *out* LGBTQIAA people were probably few enough in number that they needed to encourage the support of friends and family).

                  (The acronym comes from common usage as much as ‘definition of the population’ – that’s one reason it’s commonly ‘asexual/allied’, it’s contextual, or ‘hey this letter handily doubles up’).

                  *disclaimer: I do actually identify as mostly asexual

                2. Z*

                  I get what you’re saying, and largely agree, but there are reasonable historical reasons it coalesced that way (for example, back during the AIDS crisis allies often did experience harassment/loss of jobs/etc merely for befriending LGBT people). Additionally, the biggest reason is that “Ally” allows closeted people to attend events or access support without being outed.

                3. Gaia*

                  Allies have played a significant role in the normalization and societal acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. If nothing else, as others have said, it provides “cover” for someone to stand up and participate in the community before they are Out.

                  Beyond that, while I don’t receive “as much” hate or direct violence as a an LGBTQ+ Person would, I receive a huge amount of hatred and violence as an Ally. I have been threatened, I’ve had people wish rape upon me, had things thrown at me, lost friends, lost jobs, been ostracized in my community, I have family that refuses to acknowledge that I exist – all because I dare to stand up and say that LGBTQ+ Persons deserve an equal seat at the table, acceptance and the same rights as everyone else.

            2. Jacob*

              Whereas a lot of non-ace LGBTQ folks feel it’s vitally important to keep the A for ally (sometimes to exclude ace people–which is a position I personally disagree with–or in addition to an A for ace people).

              Point is, this is a contentious intracommunity discussion, and I’m not sure you, as a relative outsider, are really well-positioned to fully appreciate all the issues, concerns, or history involved.

              1. NotASalesperson*

                I most often use the acronyms LGBTQ+ or LGBTQA+ to define our community. A few gatherings in my area now use the acronym QUILTBAG or just simplify it by saying “alphabet soup”.

                If we must include “Ally” with a capital “A,” I think it’s important first and foremost that the A stand for Ace. Add a second A if people must.

          2. MommaTRex*

            Maybe we should make A stand for “All others and their allies who should be included in this group because of the shared common root of oppression and we don’t want to leave anyone out accidentally.”

          1. Anon for this*

            Posted before I was done. The A was originally for allies. It can mean whatever you want it to mean, but allies aren’t appropriating it.

            1. Vendrus*

              Unfortunately, enforcing that meaning now (when there’s a generation growing up with a) awareness of asexuality) and b) not having lived the history of A meaning Ally tends to make asexuals and those who support them feel pretty darn excluded.

              I’m all for something like LGBTQIAA (or A+, or A&A) though. I’d just ask that A not continue to be enforced as Ally without including Asexuals.

    2. Temperance*

      Yep. I heard the manager of a bar in my neighborhood make a transphobic joke, and haven’t spent one thin dime there since, and make sure to tell everyone I know what he did and said. You don’t get to run a business like that and not reap the consequences.

    3. A. Nonymous*

      I was thinking this exactly. If my wife and I were shopping there and heard that sort of talk we’d walk out and report the 4 to corporate. They can believe however they want and yes, say whatever they want, but they shouldn’t be free from repercussion just because they’re hiding behind their religious ideals. It blows my mind that no one’s complained.

    4. Pearly Girl*

      I would have said something in the moment to the 4 if I’d heard it, and then head over to speak with the manager.

      “Do you realize how hateful you sound, and how ironic you’re speaking this way on a day meant to celebrate inclusion? Oh, and which way is the manager’s office?”

  17. Wrench Turner*

    If you can be intolerant and demand I respect your beliefs, I can be intolerant of your intolerance and you have to respect my beliefs. ^_^

    1. Purest Green*

      I hate the assumption that people should respect each other’s beliefs. I respect the freedom or right to have whatever belief you want. But the belief itself? Nope, it’s not a given that I should respect that.

      1. Allison*

        Right. I get that I shouldn’t be a complete jerk to people just because I happen to know they hold beliefs that are different from my own, but I have zero obligation to tolerate hatred and bigotry.

      2. Golden Lioness*

        This! No tolerance for hatred and bigotry here either… and I don’t have ant LGBT relatives, just believe it’s basic human decency that we are all equal and no-one should be considered a lesser citizen or have less rights because of this.

      3. NotASalesperson*

        I respect your faith/religion. I don’t respect any beliefs you have that people are somehow deserving of less than you because they don’t follow your particular code of conduct or life path.

  18. Gandalf the Nude*

    I could write a freaking novel, but I’m going to comment on only two points.

    1) If the manager was aware of those comments during the day, she should have shut them down immediately. Had customers overheard them, that would have been a huge discredit to the message the store was trying to promote. Beyond being reprehensible, it was super unprofessional and potentially harmful to business. If the manager was not aware of the comments on the day, she absolutely should have said something to The 4 as soon as she was made aware.

    2) OP, it’s not a good idea for HR people to be friends with employees on social media for all the same reasons that it’s not a good idea for managers. I’d recommend reading Alison’s various posts on that, but you’re seeing some of the reasons for that now in this situation, particularly the concern about objectivity. I definitely suggest that you make that a personal policy going forward.

  19. Clever Name*

    Thank you so much for this answer! My uncle was gay, and I missed out on about 30 years of a relationship with him because he kept himself apart from our family, assuming we wouldn’t accept him. He only got back in touch after his long-time partner died. So when a coworker started talking about how he thought being gay is “a choice” I started crying, because my uncle had recently died.

    I guess what I’m saying is that anti-gay bigotry doesn’t just hurt the “sinners” it hurts their family, their friends, and really everyone. Everyone is free to have their own religious beliefs and opinions, but don’t be surprised if expressing some of them offends and hurts people you don’t intend to hurt.

    1. Wren*

      I had a gay uncle who died when I was college aged who also kept himself away from family because he didn’t think his sexuality would have been accepted. I enjoyed him a lot the 2 times in my life he visited. I have a lot of wistful thoughts about how if we’d had social media while he was alive, we could have got to know each other and my support for his sexuality would have come up in a way that wouldn’t be so nonsequitur. (ie, I was hardly going to write a letter and put it in the post, or make a long distance call out of the blue and say, “Uncle, I know you’re gay and it’s cool,” but expressing generally on social media my thoughts on LGBTQ issues and so forth would be natural.)

  20. C Average*

    The Homophobic Four sound unbelievably awful. As a proud member of the Christian left, I’m embarrassed by and for them. It’s easy to construct a faith bubble for yourself where there are no non-Christians, no gays, and nobody like you–I’ve seen it happen to many people in the small red-state town where I came of age. It sounds like these guys have done that. They go to church together, they go to camp together, they go to work together, and in each place, they are united in their attitudes and beliefs.

    It needs to be conveyed to them that their workplace is not within the bubble. It’s a place that contains people of various faiths and beliefs and orientations and outlooks, and they need to conduct themselves in a religion-neutral way while they’re at work. It sounds like they’re young and have grown up within the bubble, and it’s possible (especially if they’re religious college alums) that no one has ever spelled this out for them explicitly.

    I am so with Alexandra. I have a gay sibling, and gay rights are a political and social litmus test for me. They are the hill I die on. I’ve had to spell it out to former friends: “Look, you can believe anything you want to believe and I can’t stop you. But I’m not going to hang out with people who believe that my sibling and people like her are going straight to hell because of a few lines in the Old Testament (which, by the way, had some important advice about consuming shellfish and wearing mixed-fiber clothing, too, if you’re going to be a purist about this stuff). So I don’t really see a future for our friendship. Sorry, not sorry.”

    1. CA Admin*

      Me too. I actually broke off a lifetime-long friendship over someone being a homophobic ass to my little sister. A coworker? You better believe that I’d have said something far worse than Alexandra did.

    2. JKP*

      I’ve also read some very interesting discussions that suggest that those few lines are actually mis-translated, that the correct translation is that it is a sin for two men to lie together in a woman’s bed. (Because a woman’s bed was a sacred space with its own religious significance, so they should have gay sex somewhere else).

        1. JKP*

          Word by Word Translation of Leviticus 20:13

          As translated now as justification against homosexuality:
          If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. (KJV)

          Correct translation:
          And a man who will lie down with a male in a woman’s bed, both of them have made an abomination.

          It can be seen that, rather than forbidding male homosexuality, it simply forbids two males to lie down in a woman’s bed, for whatever reason. Culturally, a woman’s bed was her own. Other than the woman herself, only her husband was permitted in her bed, and there were even restrictions on when he was allowed in there. Any other use of her bed would have been considered defilement. Other verses in the Law will help clarify the acceptable use of the woman’s bed. (Lev. 15.)

          The first part of this verse is literally translated as “And with a male you shall not lay lyings of a woman”

          The phrase “lay lyings” has no obvious interpretation. Attempts have been made to make sense out of the original Hebrew by inserting a short phrase into the verse.

          1. “And with a male you shall not lay [as the] lyings of a woman.” A man must not have sexual intercourse with another man as he would normally have with a woman.

          2. An alternative translation would insert a different pair of words to produce: “And with a male you shall not lay [in the] lyings of a woman.” That is, two men must not engage in sexual behavior on a woman’s bed. Presumably, they must go elsewhere to have sex; a woman’s bed was sacred and was to be reserved for opposite-gender sexual behavior.

      1. Fire*

        My religious studies teacher’s personal theory was something similar to that – that no one should have straight or gay sex on a bed a woman who is menstruating has slept on. I’m admittedly behind on more Judaism-centric parts of “studies” (ie reading for funsies because I’m interested), but I don’t remember anything saying that a woman’s bed is inherently “sacred” or off limits or whatever aside from the whole menstruation thing.

        1. TempestuousTeapot*

          In Judaic faith a woman by nature is sacred because of the womb. A menstruating woman is closest to ‘God’ because she can create life. It’s an extension of the reverance and respect to ‘God’ for the original creation of life.

    3. Jennifer*

      I’m with you on that one.

      That said, my mother is fine with gay people and equality but has a few religious bigot friends from high school that she tolerates in a “well, so-and-so is just like that” sort of way. Maybe that’s an age difference thing when you’re in your 60’s, but I don’t know how she can stand it.

  21. Isben Takes Tea*

    If the 4 give any pushback, which I’m sure they will, about being bullied or singled out, please remind them that Alexandra was not the one who tried to have someone else lose their livelihood because she didn’t share the same beliefs.

    1. OhNo*

      Seriously. It’s one thing to disagree, to be cold or unfriendly, or even to avoid someone that you don’t see eye-to-eye with. It’s another thing entirely to try and get them fired from their job. Alexandra did nothing here that would justify a firing. Under other circumstances, the manager might have had a talk about professionalism and how to move concerns up the chain of command, but it probably wouldn’t have risen to the level of firing just based on this. (At least, based on the places I’ve worked retail – they tended to have a strict policy of progressive discipline, aside from egregious violations.)

      This really seems to be the 4 trying to punish Alexandra because she disagrees with their religious beliefs and expressed that fact. However you end up handling this, please please please make sure someone sits down with the 4 and reads them the riot act about bullying coworkers.

  22. I'm Not Phyllis*

    Yes to EVERYTHING Alison said. I can tell you I wouldn’t have made it through hours of that before speaking up. I’m also not clear on why they think she disrespected their beliefs (unless you count her personal Instagram post, which I don’t think you should). Shut this down … and quickly.

  23. Sarah*

    Wow. All I can say is wow. Kudos to Alexandra for standing up for herself/beliefs. And I agree with above statements that it should be made blatantly clear that bigotry and hate speech should not be tolerated at work. The icing on the cake is that they said this on a day that was specifically dedicated to anti LGBT bullying. I’m not religious myself but I respect anyone’s beliefs until they cross the line into blind hatefulness. The four should be told that if they don’t appreciate these kind of company values that perhaps they are not a good cultural fit and encouraged to seek employment with companies to whom they would be a better cultural fit.

  24. Nobody Here By That Name*

    Speaking as someone who is LBGT I also admire Amanda’s restraint. But then I get tetchy when people tell me I deserve fewer rights than they do.

  25. AyBeeCee*

    A hypothetical question building on the letter – what if the OP had happened by the location on that day and overheard The 4 being homophobic? Would it be inappropriate to address all four of them at once, publicly, by saying that anti-gay speech won’t be tolerated and if they continue they will be terminated? Or would the manager in this situation be better off pulling all four of them into a private room ASAP to tell them?

    1. Anna*

      I think it still wouldn’t be good to call them out in front of customers, etc. No matter what, it’s still an employer/employee situation and those are normally not showcased on the shop floor.

      1. OhNo*

        I agree that doing this in front of customers would be a big faux pas. Customers might not notice the homophobic comments if they were being quiet, but I bet they would notice workers getting chewed out by their boss. That kind of thing tends to attract attention.

        Plus, in terms of getting the result that you want out of the workers, embarrassing them publicly (or what feels like publicly) is not a good plan. It tends to make people defensive, and probably wouldn’t end well.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        And yet, if I were a customer in the shop who heard those comments, having them addressed immediately and in front of me might determine whether or not I ever step foot in the place again. So there’s that.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’d be satisfied with an immediate and stern, “You four, please come with me. I’d like to speak to you” that left no doubt they were getting in trouble. And then I’d probably hang around just to see what happened because I’m incurably nosy, haha.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Eh, I don’t necessarily agree. The whole discussion shouldn’t be public, but I think having the manager step in to say “Knock it off — we’ll be discussing this later!” or something along those lines would be an important gesture for customers to see that the language they were using really is not representative of the store.

        1. Anna*

          I think an immediate, “Hey Joe Talksalot! How about you head back to the stockroom and count pencils” followed by an apology to the customer gets the point across without it being this weird parental thing.

  26. Meg Murry*

    I think rather than sweep in as the regional HR manager, OP needs to make it clear that bigoted comments will not be tolerated from either side (“the 4” can’t make anti-LGBT comments, Alexandra can’t refer to their “imaginary friend in the sky”) and then coach the local manager on dealing with this. Because it sounds like the local manager is being too hands-off and not shutting things down before they get out of control, and the employees are leapfrogging that manager to go above his/her head.

    Also, I don’t know that OP should be friends with Alexandra on Facebook or Instagram in her current position of authority over her. LinkedIn, yes, but I don’t think Facebook is appropriate for their current relationship.

    Also, did Alexandra have to work the crappy shifts because the others put in time off requests first, or were their requests accommodated over hers because they were religious based and hers were not. Because it stinks for her to get the crummy shifts, but if the manager and employees followed protocol regarding days off by giving it to the person who requested first or whatever, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s for a religious holiday, church camp, or just because, and that’s a red herring in the argument. So again, more training for the manager as to the laws and protocol in your country and corporation.

    That said, if Alexandra really is the kind of employee you could see excelling at the corporation in the future, but this store location is a bad fit for her, could you help her transfer to a different store? The issues with the manager and bigoted comments/vacation policies would still need to be addressed, because otherwise they will be an issue for anyone hired to work in the store, but it may be worth looking at what it would take to keep a good, qualified employee around for the long term.

    1. Kyrielle*

      However, “the 4” made their comments at work, whilst Alexandra made hers on her personal Instagram after-hours, with no reference to work. If the 4 want to make comments (again without names or references to work) about how people who tolerate the “gay agenda” are going to hell and need to find religion ASAP, I would find them disgusting people but think they should not face work repercussions. I feel the same way about Alexandra – as the “imaginary friend in the sky” comment was on her Instagram, after-hours, I do not see that it should have work consequences. She absolutely *should not* be permitted to say that to them in the workplace, but she also didn’t. (She should also not be able to say their beliefs “disgust” her in the workplace, but they also shouldn’t have been permitted to share those beliefs, let alone carry on for hours, as they reportedly did.)

      DEFINITELY the local manager is too hands-off in this matter and needs to get on top of it.

      1. Anna*

        Exactly. She probably would have posted that after she read a story about something similar to what happened to her happening to someone else. The OP can connect the dots from cause to effect, but in all reality they have no idea if that’s what Alexandra was referring to and it would be unwise to talk to her about her vague after-hours posting.

      2. anonderella*

        Well hold on now – we have no proof that Alexandra is actually disgusted by what they believe, but we have hella proof that she is disgusted with how they conducted themselves. As many people have put forward, there do exist those who are both LGBT and religious, and I would bet (my opinion only) that as someone who considers themselves a part of that community, or at least has intimate ties to it, Alexandra knows that to be true, also. I would bet that she knows at least one or two people who have struggled with their sexual identity coupled with how their faith is perceived by the majority. I don’t think her comments were aimed at all at their particular beliefs, just to point out fallacies in the reasoning – which they were offering by saying in the first place. She didn’t go looking for a fight; standing up for yourself doesn’t make fighting wrong, as long as you know not to cross the line before you (which Alexandra did not; I think she conducted herself quite professionally in the moment, while making a clear and decided stand to shut the comments down).

        Our proof from the letter was that Alexandra is often ‘othered’ from her coworkers, either by their comments or her own decision to distance herself from it, and that she understands and accepts this reality – also, we have proof that for an overwhelming amount of the time, she is civil and tolerant of this gap (in values, in treatment, etc) between herself and the 4. We only know that they pushed her to an edge, she did what she felt she had to do to shut it down, and has decided to accept the outcome of this reality, as well. If your point was that her “because of what it says in a book” comment was derisive and/or intentionally inflammatory, I would argue that she made a pretty poignant point, via rational argument, that her contenders were not ready to face, (IMO) because their experience with their faith is not very self-critical; (IMO) that lack of self-criticism leads to an internal crisis of faith which must be resolved by attacking the ‘other’. Also to that point, their (the 4’s) specific religion’s intense focus on identifying evil in the world, which would possibly make them feel justified in both their comments and in publicly making them.

        1. Blurgle*

          Oh, they pushed her. They pushed her deliberately and maliciously so they would have a plausible excuse to get her fired.

    2. laurennovember*

      “Also, I don’t know that OP should be friends with Alexandra on Facebook or Instagram in her current position of authority over her. LinkedIn, yes, but I don’t think Facebook is appropriate for their current relationship.”

      – This, a thousand times. I support Alexandra against The 4 Horsemen, but why is she ‘friends’ with her when the OP is in HR??? Weird.

  27. NoWorries*

    Out of curiosity, how would this situation be handled under US law, as I saw Allison mention that she could not address that at the start of the response?

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Assuming an at-will employment situation, the OP could fire the four or Alexandra, or all five of them if she wanted to, and I’m not sure that any of the parties would have grounds for an employment discrimination lawsuit even in a jurisdiction offering protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation. In the case of the four, firing someone for using bigoted language in the workplace isn’t the same as firing someone for being religious, and a single incident like this wouldn’t seem to rise to the level of a hostile work environment. In the case of Alexandra, firing someone for speaking harshly to coworkers (even if they deserved it) isn’t protected either, and I don’t know that an ally would have grounds to bring a hostile work environment lawsuit based on anti-LGBT language (though an LGBT person might have a leg to stand on).

  28. TootsNYC*

    This is one reason why I, as a store manager, would never hire people who were friends or part of the same club/church/etc.

    I don’t want them forming this sort of clique. They start to feel they have some power.
    And they substitute their own identity, as a group, for the job identity.

    Plus, what if one of them steals? The others will probably cover for them.

    I think that’s part of the problem, and it’s something I’d be talk w/ the store manager about. About the fact that there are many reasons to have diversity (not just of race, but of social circle and belief) in your workforce.

      1. TootsNYC*

        The anomaly for the OP is that so many people are so religious.

        True, the manager might not have known. Then again, I think it’s an easy thing to happen in retail, bcs when you’re hiring, your current employees are one of your recruiting tools.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Oh, and the fact that they are demanding the Angela be fired is proof of how they’ve lost sight of the power structure here.

      That would be one of the things I’d be wanting to do, is to re-establish that, and it’s part of why I’d say, “*you* are actually the ones who are on notice here. And a part of why you are on notice is that you have demanded we fire someone. You don’t get to ask that. You get to bring us the problem, but you are not the boss, and you don’t get to make these sorts of recommendations. This is not a social club.
      “If you don’t want to work here, you can quit. That’s fine with us.”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t know that I’d come down hard on that part of it. If a coworker had, say, sexually harassed someone, I think we’d see a demand to fire that person as less ridiculous. Plus, in the U.S., coworkers have the right to band together about working conditions, and this probably falls under that. The part to come down hard on here is the bigoted speech in the workplace.

    2. Mona Lisa*

      Would you also have a rule that your employees can’t become friends with one another or spend time together after hours? It might be easy to control people coming in during hiring, but you can’t prevent co-workers from becoming friends on the job. Also if you like and trust an employee, asking them to recruit their like-minded friends might net you similar caliber employees.

    3. Mazzy*

      I agree on the different forms of diversity, but having some sort of quota where there were “too many” people of a certain religion? Only matters if said religion is spreading negativity and hate, however, most religions are about peace and getting along, so not sure “too many” people of a religion is actually going to be a problem.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I don’t think I said anything about a quota. And I don’t think I’d have any rules.

        I think the biggest thing, perhaps is to just be aware of the dangers of hiring a big group, or maybe a high percentage, of friends. One or two isn’t likely to create quite the same problem.

        Ditto w/ people becoming friends. They aren’t as likely to create the “rival allegiance” problem when it’s people here and there, and when their employment predates their friendship.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Well, if you had a retail store and hired “too many” observant Jewish people, you might have staffing issues on Saturdays…

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          If your store required Saturday shifts, then presumably people who don’t work on Saturdays would not apply.

          1. fposte*

            People apply to jobs all the time without being able to make every shift offered. Lots of people hold jobs where they can’t make every shift. That’s where accommodation comes in.

          2. Batshua*

            Or, if you’re in my position, you don’t know there’s Saturday shifts at your office when you apply, but your coworkers happily cover them for you because they get overtime. :)

          3. Anna*

            This can be seen as a form of passive discrimination, too, though. For years Texaco stations had a dress code that required short hair, no beards or headwear for men. Strangely enough, not a lot of Sikh, Native American, or other groups who wore facial hair as part of their cultural or religious observation were hired because they were self-selecting out. It’s not a good idea to go in with that mindset.

            Also Texaco was known for discriminating against minority employees and basically being fairly disgusting in general.

  29. TootsNYC*

    Customers overhear the comments retail employees make to one another.

    That would be a problem for me as well. Because some of their customers may agree with them, but others will not–and you can’t tell who will.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Although you can bet that on the day of an event focused on anti-bullying for a group, the number of people who are in that group or allies of that group who show up will likely be higher than normal. This is exactly the worst day on which to have this happen, from a company public-relations point of view.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        Right? My family would pointedly drive over to Chick-fil-A or Hobby Lobby if they found out someone was having any kind of pro-LGBT sale.

        1. Jadelyn*

          And in similar vein, my VP (who is gay) called in my vote as a tie-breaker (I’m bi) when our straight team members were trying to insist we do Chickfila for lunch one day, because both he and I flat refuse to spend money there. We told the rest they were welcome to go to Chickfila, but we wouldn’t be going as a team, and it wouldn’t be covered on the company card the way a regular team lunch would be.

          Business’ social stances affect their customers and their sales. The 4 were potentially causing problems for the company as much as any single coworker. Why did the manager not step in???

          1. MommaTRex*

            I’ll be anyone’s hetero-cisgender tie-breaker in a case like this. I’ve heard Chick-Fil-A is delicious, but I will never know for sure as I’m worried I will choke on the bigotry.

            1. Jennifer*

              Seconded. I loooove fried chicken, but I can’t stand to go there (I never have ) or Hobby Lobby (went twice before I figured out they were bigots). It’s painful, but…yeah, worse to actually give bigots money.

            2. Regular Lurker*

              The Chick-Fil-A franchise in my area purposely donates to LGBTQA-friendly organizations so I eat there without feeling guilty.

              1. Ixnay Edfray*

                As much as I’d like to patronize the LGTBQ+-friendly franchise, I’d feel I would still be supporting the company as a whole, and my two far-right, evangelical, gay-hating cousins (and others) would say “See! No one cares about gay rights. Their profits are going up X %!”

              2. Elizabeth West*

                Well I can’t, because the CEO donated money (that he presumably makes off my purchase) to anti-gay organizations. It’s his money and he can do whatever he wants with it, but I feel I would be indirectly contributing and I don’t want to. I heard the foundation isn’t really doing that anymore, but it’s too late–and the chicken isn’t good enough to get me back, sorry.

                Nor do I want to give money to Hobby Lobby or subsidize Papa John Schnatter’s lifestyle or Jimmy John’s non-compete bullsh!t. I can totally live without all these companies.

            3. Katie F*

              It’s okay. I grew up in an area where Chik-fil-A doesn’t exist, and currently live in the Land of People Obsessed With Chik-Fil-A, so I’ve tried it a couple of times and… it’s okay. It’s pretty good. The fries are meh.

              You’re not really missing anything.

  30. EddieSherbert*

    I’m 99.5% on Team Alexandra here, but the one thing I would say is that she could have shut them down sooner and more politely:
    (a couple hours earlier) “Hey guys, I’m really uncomfortable with this conversation. Let’s keep our personal beliefs out of work, please.”
    (if they keep talking) “Hey, you’re making me uncomfortable again. I think a lot of our customers today would be uncomfortable too.”

    And then if they continued or directly attacked her (and they probably would have), they wouldn’t really be able to convince anyone she went after them (and OP’s dilemma might be simpler?).

    Again, I know it’s too late for this – and I believe reassuring Alexandra that THEY are in the wrong is better than pointing this out to her, but I think it’s worth remembering for the future (where hopefully this never ever happens again, because wow).

    1. Bookworm*

      I agree. Ideally a work culture would be created where politics and religion were not major discussion points – and when they came up, people should shut them down with professionalism.

    2. Katie F*

      We don’t know that she didn’t try the politeness route and was just overrun by the Four, though, to be honest. The manager may think she was silent because the manager never caught her trying to speak up. And, besides that, it’s entirely possible this isn’t the first time this has come up and this event happened be the straw that brke Alexandra’s back.

      1. OhNo*

        This is true, and it might not be a bad idea to get Alexandra’s side of the story (it sounds like the OP only has the 4’s side right now, unless I’m missing something?). There might be some background there that would give the situation more context.

        But given that the OP is already friends on FB with her, it should be the store manager or someone else having that conversation. They can pass along the important details.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          OP did say: “When I asked Alexandra about it, all she said was “not every belief is one I am inclined to respect. I don’t have any respect for people who believe LGBT people don’t deserve basic civil rights.””

          but it may have been a causal-friend-convo? Not work?

    3. Mike C.*

      I really disagree that one should have to be so passive to remain “professional” in a situation like this.

      1. TL -*

        There are other ways to shut it down than “you disgust me,” though, which are still cognizant of the fact that they are at work (totally a fan of the you disgust me response, though!).

        I, personally, would say, “My grandmother is a lesbian,” and then stare them down, hard-core, because I have yet to meet a person who can say hateful things about my grandmother to my face. But if that’s not your situation or you don’t want to out family members/friends: “Wow, those are rude and hurtful opinions to many people; this conversation needs to end.” or, “Stop talking about this now. It’s making me really uncomfortable.” “This is an incredibly inappropriate subject for the workplace. Please stop.” in a hard tone would all be things you can say that are technically professional and not passive.

        A huge fan of “you disgust me” but depending on the work culture, other phrases could be a lot better.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I kind of don’t love the “my grandmother/aunt/brother is X” response though, because it implies that you’d otherwise be fine with the bigotry. I get that it has some merit in that it forces people to rethink their assumptions and makes them uncomfortable continuing with their bigoted talk, but doesn’t it reinforce the idea that it’s really only an issue for people who are X and their loved ones, rather than being an issue for everyone?

          1. OhNo*

            I think it depends on what your goal is. If you just want to talk to stop, then it’s appropriate. Like TL, I’ve yet to meet anyone who is willing to continue spewing bigotry at that point (although my phrasing is usually “I’m gay.” with a hard stare).

            If the idea is to change their mind, address the issue of bigotry as a whole, or otherwise turn it into a big-picture issue, then you’re right. But not everybody has the time or energy to do that. I think it’s good to give people options so they have a way out of an unpleasant situation even if they’re not willing to talk big-picture issues.

            1. ClairefromLondon*

              I agree. I’ve used this technique when living in a different country in 2003 and wanting to shut down the interminable and partly bigoted conversations about Americans (rather than the American foreign policy at the time). “My mother is American and she’s not like that….” tended to shut down the conversations very quickly. I wasn’t looking to change hearts and minds though :-).

          2. TL -*

            To be honest, sometimes the person I’m speaking to is an ass who doesn’t have to listen to me. I’m not going to change their mind if they don’t want to listen. But I can make it super, super awkward for them to speak hateful things around me.
            The first and last time my granddad used a pejorative term for Muslims around me, I gave him the saddest look ever and said one of my best friends was Muslim and she is a lovely person. I’m sure he still uses that term around other people in my family (who argue with him about it, including his wife), I’m sure he still holds the same beliefs, but around me, he doesn’t say anything. Best I can hope for in that scenario. He knows that term is offensive. He just doesn’t care.

            Like OhNo said, it’s useful when nothing else is going to work. I can’t change the fact that you hold hateful opinions and thoughts but I can make sure that I never have to hear them. If I’m in a position of authority, we have a serious talk about why that language is inappropriate. If you’re a peer, I’ll call you out on being hateful and racist. But if I know you realize you’re being hateful and don’t care? I can’t change that but I certainly don’t have to listen to it.

          3. LBK*

            Yeah, and there’s little evidence that even having a loved one who’s gay changes your thinking as a whole – 538 had an article a few months ago about some researchers who essentially proved that the famous study showing that meeting/knowing an LGBT person was the best way to change someone’s attitude about gay rights was completely fake, both because the specifics of that study were sketchy and because they were completely unable to replicate the results using the same method. They found that the best way was to evoke empathy by linking someone’s own past of being judged or hated for some element of themselves with how LGBT people feel when the same thing happens to them.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I actually worked with a guy whose brother was gay (and struggling with it, according to what he said), and he would say nasty things about HIS OWN BROTHER. I told him I didn’t want to hear it anymore. It made me incredibly angry and incredibly sad at the same time.

          4. Sir Alanna Trebond*

            I’ve used this technique in situations where I otherwise have very little social capital. I come from a culture where you *have* to treat older people with a lot of respect, so I’ve used some variation of that script a ton just to shut down the conversation, e.g.

            Grandmother Who Must Be Respected: Awful racist thing blah blah racism
            Me: My best friend is actually [race] and that’s not true for her at all!
            GWMBR: awkward pause
            Me: SUBJECT CHANGE

          5. Hollis*

            Good point, but I also am kind of tired of people only talking about “gay rights” as an abstract concept, because when you talk about gay rights, what you’re really talking about is gay *people*, real-life individual gay people with names and faces and families, and if you respond to bigoted comments with “My sister [friend, uncle, etc.] is gay,” you’re bringing that home to the commenter. Also, it’s more likely to make things awkward for the commenter, which in my opinion is a plus! They should feel embarrassed, and that’s more likely to happen if you tell them your loved one is gay than if you stand up for gay rights as an abstract concept.

            Also, there’s evidence that personally knowing an openly gay person is a lot more effective at getting straight people to support gay rights than presenting logical arguments is. So knowing someone who knows someone gay might have some (at least small or gradual) effect as well.

            Also, I’m gay and I just want you to know that your response to the letter writer made me burst into tears on the second sentence. I don’t know how to tell you how much it would mean to any LGBT employee to have a manager who so unequivocally has their back as you do.

  31. Mena*

    So the 4 want you to fire Alexandra for not respecting their beliefs … which essentially translates to ‘fire her because she doesn’t agree with us.’

  32. art_ticulate*

    I worked at a super conservative Christian chain of stores while in college, so I learned to hold my tongue around stuff like this. I mean, I knew what I was getting into by working there. But if your store isn’t affiliated with a belief, well, then, The Four need to either hush or get out. It’s so, so gross that they did that on a day dedicated to anti-bullying. Like. That behavior is WHY THAT DAY IS NEEDED.

    I admit that the schadenfreude part of my brain really wants this turned around on The Four so that they’re the ones who end up fired instead.

  33. NW Mossy*

    I think it’s worth reminding the 4 that “respecting their religious beliefs” does not obligate Alexandra to share their views or hide her counter-views. She’s not interfering with their practice or undermining the institution of their faith. Instead, she’s disagreeing with their views, and particularly how they manifest as opinions on a political/social justice matter.

    People of all faiths and no faith at all will routinely encounter others who hold different beliefs, and disagreement is inherent in that kind of set-up – there would be no need for different faiths if we all believed the same things. One can reasonably expect that others will be professional towards you in a work environment, but it’s not reasonable to expect that you’ll never be knowingly exposed to differing beliefs.

    1. Alton*

      I agree. And while I think referring to their beliefs as imaginary would be rude to do the coworkers’ faces, Alexandra is not obligated to hide the fact that she’s an atheist. It’s no more oppressive for her to make a reference to gods being imaginary on her Instagram account than it is for a Christian employee to post something to social media, off the clock, about Jesus being the only path to salvation. And if her coworkers bring up religion at work in an antagonistic way, they should be prepared to hear that someone disagrees. If she were going out of her way to openly mock them for going to church or start debates any time they made a reference to their faith, I’d say Alexandra was way out of line. But the 4 invited disagreement when they were hostile and exclusionary at work.

    2. Temperance*

      Yep. The 4 talking over and over about how Jesus is real is equivalent to her saying her belief that he isn’t. Atheism is equally important to Christianity.

  34. Critter*

    I’m just tutting over here. “Please fire her because she has different beliefs and is not our buddy.” Loons.

    1. Student*

      Yeah, I find the whole thing puzzling in terms of why the OP is even vaguely entertaining the idea of firing Alexandra over this. The four said they find her sister disguising, to which she replied that she finds the four disgusting. Sure, they used slightly different vocab, but that’s what they all said to each other.

      Alexandra is not trying to force the four into gay marriages – that would be a violation of their beliefs. Letting them know she disagrees with them does not trample their ability to practice their religion in any way, just like her being an atheist does not prevent the four from going to church. She’s not even asking them to be polite to gay customers on a day to celebrate gay customers (!). If you think customers did not overhear the four’s discussion, by the way, think again – the four probably were talking about it in part to publicly broadcast their clear insubordination to the event and discourage gay-supportive clientèle, rather than to annoy Alexandra.

      You know what you should do, though? Fire the manager.

      Seriously – where was the manager when four employees were publicly and for hours undermining the shopping center fundraiser event? Where was the manager when things got personal and the four told Alexandra her sister doesn’t deserve the right to marry? Where was the manager when these four decided to reach out to you (instead of going to the manager) to complain about Alexandra and try to get her fired? Why is the manager letting her authority be undermined by allowing the employees to go around her to you – why is she even vaguely letting you entertain the idea that Alexandra ought to suffer consequences instead of the four, instead of forcefully telling you that this is completely crazy? What, exactly, does the manager do – since she’s obviously not supervising employees, managing their interpersonal disputes, meting out discipline for them picking fights with each other, and ignores them being insubordinate at major events? Why isn’t she asking you to replace the four?

  35. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    This is ridiculous. One of my friends is an evangelical conservative Christian, and she has her beliefs. But even with that, she knows not to act like these 4, and would probably support a lot of the LGBT day’s aims. (Yes, she’s against same sex marriage but sees that the civil government can do what it wants, and that LGBT people should not be harassed).

    It’s not about these 4’s beliefs; you can think like they do and not be a jerk, is my point.

    1. Bookworm*

      Right? I just spent the weekend the rural south, at a wedding between a hippie Californian and a local. We had a lovely time bonding with the new half our family, despite the fact that it’s pretty obvious we’re all on opposing sides of a political (and religious) spectrum. Politics and religion did come up, but everyone navigated it gently.

      And this was at a wedding where the booze was flowing. No reason that the 4 can’t be that mature in their workplace!

      1. Gadfly*

        That is a lot of opposing sides…

        I ended up semi-eloping to avoid the LDS/Mormon, Pagan, Militant Atheist, Vaishnava/Hindu, Jehovah’s Witness event that was shaping up. Although it was really the strict vegetarian versus cattle rancher that pushed it over the line…

        Anyway, coming from Utah I’ve had my share of workplaces where people don’t seem to ever manage to learn how to deal with people with opposing viewpoints. When one group is overwhelmingly dominant in an area and thinks of itself as victimized generally, it makes for a situation where even pretty reasonable members of the group tend to see any response to them being (sometimes very pleasant, sometimes nasty) bullies as attacks on them just living their faith. OP says that all of the store people is of this faith (including the manager?–I wasn’t clear if of the faith but not part of the friend group or not of the faith) and they probably have this vision of it being them against the world. They are just going to close ranks and reinforce to each other that they didn’t do anything wrong.

        People who have to deal with outsiders learn to be better about it. Those who can stay in a bubble/echo chamber usually don’t.

  36. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Also, does Alexandra have coworkers who agree with her ideas? I have experienced not-gay coworkers standing up for me, with great success. I think it’s more effective coming from them, sadly.

    1. AW*

      It sounds like it’s just her: Alexandra, the four, and the manager.

      I think it’s more effective coming from them, sadly.

      Yes, it’s that ridiculous idea that if you belong to the group being discriminated against, you can’t be “objective” about it.

      1. Alex*

        It is ridiculous. When I have stood up for gay people(as a non gay person), I have even had the conversation turn to “well you must be gay if you are supporting them” numerous times. And obviously, if I am now gay then I cant be objective. I wonder if supporting Rosa Parks or anything else with the black civil rights movement makes me a black women then by their logic.

        1. Gaia*

          I hate it when that happens. I usually respond with “So I guess I must be black too, since I think slavery was a horrific thing that happened. I suppose I’m also Jewish since I speak out against anti-semitism in our community. And we can all clearly see I’m a homeless veteran since I push for better programs and assistance for that group, too!”

    2. Temperance*

      I’ve seen this when I stand up for gay rights (straight, many lesbian/gay/bi friends and family, including my husband). It makes me sick.

      I also feel more of a duty to speak up because I’m not putting my safety at risk in the way that someone under the umbrella would be.

    3. Liz T*

      Eh it depends. Sometimes if you’re not a member of the aggrieved group, people think you’re just being “PC.”

  37. AW*

    When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down anti-gay marriage laws as unconstitutional, our CEO made a statement praising the ruling (we’ve offered benefits to same sex couples for N years, this is great for our gay employees, important historical moment, etc.).

    Well some employees threw a huge fit. I can’t go into specifics but suffice to say, it was really ugly stuff. And I felt about that as I feel about this: Why do people think this is OK to say at work or in workplace communications? You’re talking about your co-workers! When you say stuff like this you are literally telling your co-workers that people like them shouldn’t exist/are evil/whatever awful thing just came out your mouth.

    1. Temperance*

      AND CUSTOMERS. This is a retail establishment, and these dumbasses don’t seem to get that queer money spends just the same as straight money.

        1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

          Aaaand queer money boycotts. A LOT. My wife and I won’t even feed our cats Purina any more, even though it’s cheapest, because that company makes anti gay political donations.

          1. Episkey*

            Well, no big loss, because Purina is horrible food. You don’t want to feed your cats that regardless if the CEO was blasting rainbows out his ass.

          2. Venus Supreme*

            I didn’t know that! Crap. I’ve been feeding my cat Friskies, and I see they’re owned by Purina PetCare Company. I’m guessing that’s the same as Purina.

            overcaffeinatedandqueer, what brand of food do you feed your cats?

            From, a fellow queer cat mom <3

            1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

              It’s called Weruva- you can get it at a lot of dedicated pet stores. 2.79 a can, but that is 2 dinners for each cat.

              They get cheaper bulk dry food, Chicken soup for the Soul brand, for breakfast.

            2. CA Admin*

              Forget canned food–it’s actually more expensive per meal than frozen raw (and frozen raw is waaay healthier). Primal, for example, can be found for ~$20/3 lb bag, which translates into $1.67/day (4 oz/day = 12 days). We thaw 2 oz in a tupperware container in the fridge in the morning and 2 oz in the evening. No kibble or canned food required to supplement.

              1. Nunya*

                But if your cats are like our cats, the minute you find the ultimate perfect unicorn-crafted, rainbow-sprinkled cat food, order a few cases on Chewy, the felions develop an instant hatred for said food. We’ve ended up trying dog knows how many flavors, and now stock 2 or 3 kinds and rotate. Ugh!
                Luckily my queercatmom spouse tracks all that…

        1. Plaster*

          Hahaha…you win the thread :P Man, if only somebody would send me a three dollar bill whenever I felt attracted to another woman!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Hahaha, that’s what really blew my mind after the ruling. Especially for folks in the wedding industry–not only are they missing out on the increase in income, they lose the straight customers who think they’re idiots.

  38. Katniss*

    Their right to express their religious beliefs should stop where the right of others not to hear bigotry begins. You don’t get to spew hate speech and then hide behind your religion. Or at least you shouldn’t get to.

    I also have to say as a former Christian who has read the Bible many times, if they’re Christian, Jesus would not approve of any of the behavior of The Four here.

    1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

      Definitely! Also I am a gay Christian so it is actually hurtful to hear that God hates me and thinks I’m wrong. I’ve spent years overcoming that mindset!

      1. Cat Steals Keyboard*

        It really aggravates me when people attempt to use the bible to cover up their discomfort in the name of religion and act like they speak for us all. I’m a straight Christian who thinks everyone should marry someone they love. That felt important to say.

        1. Cat Steals Keyboard*

          I’m pro gay marriage, in case that wasn’t clear. Or rather I’m pro marriage and don’t feel the need to restrict that on gender lines.

    2. Golden Lioness*

      Right! the number one thing in common all religions have is to love your brother…
      I will never understand hatred and bigotry!

    3. bearing*

      In this case it’s more like their right to express their religious beliefs stops where the right of their employer to set the working conditions, and the right of employees to work in a non-hostile environment, begins.

      I’m pretty sure there’s no “right not to hear” … well, anything.

      1. Temperance*

        I’m an atheist, and it’s my sincerely-held religious belief that hearing bigoted statements by Christians is an affront to my atheism and humanism.

        I would absolutely make this argument if I had to. ;)

  39. animaniactoo*

    A number of people have suggested the possibility of moving Alexandra to another store so you don’t lose her as an employee.

    I think that’s a bad move. #1) Alexandra may not want to move. #2) It still leaves you with a pit of vipers who are going to try to get someone fired for being clear about not holding or liking their beliefs, and who feel free to do things like discuss “the gay agenda” during an LGBTQ anti-bullying event.

    If you’re going to move people around, move a minimum of 2 of the 4 to another store. If you happened to have 4 different stores and could send each them to a separate one, that would be even better.

    Yes, they’ll feel persecuted. That’s not your job to resolve. Your job is to ensure that their persecution complex does not create a problem for other employees or your customers. Separating them and reducing their collective “clout” in any particular store goes a long way towards that.

    1. Beaks*

      I agree. Moving her – particularly against her wishes – wouldn’t resolve the issue and may even give her more grounds to say the company gives preferential treatment based on religion (depending on local laws). The only reason I’d move her is to give her a job a head office that’s in line with her career aspirations.

    2. Gadfly*

      As long as the 4 are together, it creates an echo chamber bubble. They have strong incentive not to play nicely with others as long as they have three co-workers watching and judging them by how well they put church policy before company policy.

      There is a common joke in Utah about how if you want to go fishing with a Mormon you should always invite two. If you invite one, he’ll drink all your beer, if you invite two neither of them will touch it.

      You get that same thing here. They have to posture for each other or risk looking bad. And they get their bad behavior reinforced by the other three applauding–and the other three will applaud because they can each see the other ones watching them. It spirals.

  40. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Also, Alexandra could come back with “but my faith” to the 4 or the manager- there are a lot of LGBT Christians and progressive denominations.

    Galatians 3:28 – “For in Christ there is neither slave nor free, nor Gentile nor Jew, nor circumcised or uncircumcised, nor male or female; all are one in Christ and heirs to God’s promises.” A lot of liberal theologians read “neither male nor female” as including LGBT people.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Well, it’s a little hard to be gay (or straight or anything else for that matter) when you take gender off the table…

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        I have occasionally been tempted to use “heterosexual” since, well, almost anyone I date is going to be some other gender than my vague “probably agender or something?” confusion, but since I get read as female and am dating a cis guy, everyone would just assume I meant “straight”. :-b

    2. Temperance*

      Alexandra is an atheist, and that is just as valid as Christianity.

      I personally would come back to discuss my own beliefs, which are atheist and humanist in nature. I strongly believe that what I believe is just as important as Christanity and deserves the same ton of legal protections that Christians get.

  41. Jane*

    I agree with Alison’s advise and I think the four are in the wrong and should, at least, receive a stern warning, if not have their employment terminated. Regarding the Instagram post, I get that it was “off work” but people get in trouble all the time for posting on personal social media sites, even if its not something directed at work. I feel far more sympathetic to Alexandra here, don’t get me wrong, I think the four are totally in the wrong, but at the same token the “imaginary friend” comment made me cringe. Not sure what to make of that or if I would give different advice, just thought it was interesting that my reaction was “wow, the 4 are really wrong here” but also I cringed when reading about the Instagram post.

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      They both may have said things that made you cringe, but the point is the 4 made it at work and Alexandra made it not at work–the issue isn’t that Alexandra is somehow more angelic than the 4, but what is appropriate at work and what isn’t.

    2. LBK*

      Yeah, I agreed that the Instagram post was a bit questionable, even if it was her personal account. Although I think it also depends how easy it would be to tie her post back to her employer – if there’s no evidence on her Instagram that she’s an employee of the company, I think it’s hard to justify that it should have any bearing on her work situation. It sounds like the 4 had to do some digging for it and they already knew exactly who the OP was, so it might be more hidden/harder to associate the two for someone who wasn’t already looking for it.

    3. Kate M*

      I think the difference though is that sure, the company could fire her if they found her postings to be questionable. But this company as a whole is obviously pro-LGBTQA (considering they had a day to support the community). So she probably figured that the post wouldn’t be offensive to her company.

      If she had been working for an evangelical bookstore or something and posted it, then yeah I’d expect her to be fired.

      The people who have been fired for social media comments are usually post outright bigoted comments, especially about race (and sometimes gender and sexual orientation). Things that should be overall condemned.

      I think people get caught up in the “you can be fired for anything on social media!” idea. Yeah, it’s technically true, but what people don’t usually think through is that it would probably be something the company would object to. So if you work for a pro-LGBTQA company and post something about supporting the community, you’re probably not going to be fired, no matter how many anti-gay bigots boycott the company. If you work for community outreach in poorer communities and post something racist, then yeah, you’ll probably be fired. Context matters, not just the fact that “someone might boycott the company over what an employee says.”

    4. TootsNYC*

      they *think* they know who it was in reference to.
      There may have been other people who made comments that Alexandra reacted to.

    5. Alton*

      I feel kind of borderline about the Instagram post. I can see both sides. I think the “imaginary friend” comment isn’t very respectful toward religious people, and I wish people wouldn’t argue against religious bigotry by making statements about belief in general that are dismissive and absolute. But I feel the same way about any religious belief that’s presented as objective truth. I think saying that Jesus is the only way to salvation is also disrespectful toward other people’s beliefs, but I don’t think a Christian is hurting their colleagues just by expressing these sentiments in their own time, because it’s an “agree to disagree” thing.

      I also think there’s a subtle but important difference between expressing your disagreement with beliefs and showing prejudice towards someone’s identity. I don’t think that expressing divisive opinions about the existence of a higher power (something people have different beliefs about) is in the same league as, say, stating that Muslims are terrorists or that Christians are all hateful bigots. Those are statements about specific groups of people that make generalizations about what they believe and do.

      Basically, I think Alexandra’s Instagram post sounds hostile in a counter-productive way, but I wouldn’t support her being disciplined over it. Likewise, I wouldn’t support disciplining one of the 4 for posting a Bible verse condemning idolatry just because some religions might disagree with this, but I might feel differently if they posted about how sickened they are that Wiccans are seen as a valid religion when they’re clearly idolators and devil-worshippers, because at that point they’re really being hostile toward a group of people based on their religious affiliation.

      1. Temperance*

        It’s my unpopular opinion that their constant nattering about Jesus is equally offensive and rude, if we’re considering Alexandra’s Instagram post offensive and rude.

  42. burnout*

    Legalities aside, I see this as a policy issue.

    This is a retail establishment. The focus should be on customer service, sales, things of that like. It is no place for debating personal beliefs, religious beliefs/practices, lifestyle choices.

    They should all be warned, if not reprimanded, and told to work together professionally from here on. If one or more cannot agree to that, then they can look for work elsewhere.

  43. 42*

    Looks like Alexandra set the thermostat to Cold. “You are merely treating them as the sort of people you do not want to know.”

    I hope Alexandra doesn’t buckle or flinch on this one, not one iota.

  44. Hannah*

    I’m still thinking about last week’s letter about not shaking hands with women only at work. I’m still stuck on why that was an accommodation that should be made when this isn’t. I’m much more comfortable with the answer that people need to leave their bigoted ideas at home when they come to work… I don’t know if I have a point, I’m just kind of confused.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I don’t think we ever did come to a consensus on the hand-shaking thread. I think the most popular option was for him to shake nobody’s hand, so that he was treating everyone the same.

    2. LSP*

      There is a slight difference there, I think. Not shaking hands with women is not about being disrespectful to women. People who choose to follow that rule of their faith usually see it as an act of RESPECT for both women and their husbands/fathers. Maybe outwardly it amounts to the same thing, but I am far more likely to be okay with that than someone being openly, verbally bigoted toward a group of people.

      1. Temperance*

        I actually come down on the side of him treating everyone equally and not treating women as lesser beings by respecting our fathers and husbands, in the same way that I come down hard on breaking up this religious nightmare clique because they are treating Alexandra, and by extension, anyone who identifies as LGBT and sets foot in that store, differently.

    3. Em Too*

      But this one isn’t just about own beliefs. Last week’s guy wasn’t telling anyone they needed to turn to religion and stop shaking hands with each other, and I think everyone’s happy to accommodate the 4’s beliefs by not requiring them to get married to gay people.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      The man in that letter wasn’t walking around on Storewide Handshaking Day throwing shade on those who dare to shake hands with women.

    5. Dankar*

      I had the same thought, initially (even though I am 100% in Alexandra’s camp on this). Then I realized that the not-shaking-hands was a tenet laid out in his coda of beliefs.

      Bad-talking, disparaging and demeaning the LGBTQ+ community, however, is not a requirement of any major Christian religion. Ministering to the “sinner”? Perhaps. But that is something that very obviously doesn’t belong in the workplace and won’t be accommodated anyway.

      I would argue that there’s nothing to accommodate here. They’re not adhering to any strict requirement of their religion, and forbidding them from being nasty doesn’t infringe on their beliefs.

      1. Observer*

        There is another, even more fundamental difference here. It’s possible to accommodate the other guy without firing anyone(!) or even being overtly disrespectful to anyone. (Not shaking hands with anyone would accomplish that.)

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        I would argue that there’s nothing to accommodate here. They’re not adhering to any strict requirement of their religion, and forbidding them from being nasty doesn’t infringe on their beliefs.

        This. They aren’t claiming that they can’t interact with anyone from the LGBTQ community, and, assuming this is some kind of retail establishment, I am hard pressed to come up with any job duties they might have that their religion would preclude them from performing depending on someone’s sexual orientation. I suspect that being nasty to people around you because “religion” is not a tenet of their faith, so telling them to knock it off shouldn’t pose any problems.

        In the case last week, the action in question was something that the person would normally be expected to do as part of his job duties, but it conflicted with a clear tenet of his faith. Hence, the question about whether it was reasonable to consider an accommodation.

    6. Observer*

      You really don’t see the difference?

      The difference here is so large, that it’s actually hard for me to take this as a serious question.

      1. Hannah*

        It’s not that I think the situations are the same, and I didn’t say that (nor did I ask a question). But Alison concluded:
        “I think you’re getting stuck on the idea that you have to treat all viewpoints equally, and you don’t. It’s perfectly okay to say that you won’t tolerate bigoted speech”

        I don’t fully understand why this same logic can’t be applied to the handshaking situation. Change “bigoted speech” to “sexist behavior”. The letter last week concluded that the employee could go on refusing to shake hands with women only. Again I’m not sure I have formed a fully informed opinion on this but that feels wrong to me, and this letter highlighted it again. Yes, it’s someone’s religious belief, but it’s also sexist. Why can that person not be told that they can’t behave like that at work, that they must either shake with no one or everyone? Why is it protected to be sexist as long as it’s handled respectfully rather than in an openly hostile way? It’s something I’m struggling with.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Well, in that case, the law required them to accommodate the Muslim employee. And lots of people did suggest with that letter that he be told he has treat everyone equally, meaning potentially that he not shake anyone’s hands.

    7. Alton*

      The difference is that the Muslim employee may be very willing to forego shaking hands with everyone so that it’s not exclusionary to women. And he hopefully wouldn’t talk about how terrible and immodest it is for men and women to shake hands in front of colleagues or clients.

      I don’t really feel comfortable with the Muslim applicant’s belief, but I think it’s a personal thing as long as he takes care not to impose it on others. Similarly, if I found out that someone believed that acting on homosexual attraction was a sin, that would make me uncomfortable and would stand in the way of us becoming friends, but I can respect their right to live according to that belief and not have gay sex, because that’s none of my business anyway. Once they start saying homophobic things at work, that’s another matter.

  45. Always Anon*

    The only person who I feel needs to be fired in this situation is the store manager. Because clearly she is not doing her job. Or if not fired, she needs significant coaching and to be put on a PIP.

    I’m kind of appalled there isn’t a fair and specific system for time off requests. How many christian religious holidays are there when most retail places are still open? Good Friday, Easter? I mean I don’t know many christian’s who are requesting Epiphany and Ash Wednesday off. Just because you need to give them Good Friday and Easter Sunday off, doesn’t mean that they should also get days off in the run up to Xmas, Thanksgiving, etc. And providing time off so the all 4 can go to bible camp is an issue with the store manager.

    In terms of the “4” I think the problem is that many people espousing the beliefs don’t think that they are bigoted. They feel that they are sharing the truth. And I do think the “4s” behavior needs to be addressed. It needs to be made very clear that discussion of potentially controversial topics such as politics and religion isn’t appropriate in the workplace. And that needs to be enforced by the store manager. Because otherwise this sort of behavior will continue. Next time it won’t be about gay marriage, it will be about some other issue that can be equally as offensive. And again, that is on the store manager to enforce.

    Basically, I feel that this is largely a store manager issue. Yes, the “4” have inappropriate behavior. But, it seems like they are the ones managing that store, not the store manager.

    1. Jadelyn*

      Thank you! I’ve been wondering where the hell the store manager was in all of this, because they seem to have been incredibly passive throughout all of this. That manager needs some intensive coaching on what it means to actually *manage your people*, and on how to do so fairly (re the time off stuff).

      1. Always Anon*

        Seriously. This situation has been caused by the total lack of management/supervision. This entire situation was completely avoidable if these employees had been managed appropriately.

    2. Sybil Fawlty*

      I thought that too! Manage the days off fairly, and tell them all that they are to stick to professional conversation only.

      I had to ban all discussion of SEC football one year. I have no idea if that was legal, but I did it and enforced it.

    3. Gadfly*

      So I read the OP as possibly saying the manager was also of the some religion, just not the same clique. The problem may be that the manager isn’t capable of dealing with the 4 as a block in part because there is a threat there socially. I doubt they are any better at church than they are at work, and may hold important positions (official or otherwise.)

    4. DoDah*

      This is retail. My expectations of retail management (looking back on 10 years in that business) are extremely low. It’s not an excuse–but it “is”.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Well, if it’s anything like food service, retail managers are basically workers who get promoted and have no experience in management. They might be good shift leaders, but that’s not necessarily the same thing.

  46. LSP*

    Story time: When I was in high school, I had a physics teacher who was a Mormon. He was known to be a little sleazy towards the girls and I personally witnessed him ignore black students who raised their hands again and again.

    One day, about half the class was missing due to an assembly where students would be hearing from a man who had been living with HIV for over a decade. This teacher decided to use this as an opportunity to start telling the class what a waste of time that was and if you just “lived right” you wouldn’t get HIV or AIDS and that no one in his family would ever get it, because they were “good” people.

    My uncle died when I was 10 from complications due to AIDS. I have no idea how he got it, because, really, it doesn’t matter. I argued with this teacher, telling him that people get sick and people die and that it has nothing to do with being a good person or a bad person. He tried to shut me down, and kept talking from his perspective.

    After class, he came up to me and said he hoped we could still “be friends” (whatever that means; i never liked the guy), and kept trying to convince me that people who get AIDS/HIV deserve to get sick/die. I called him the “biggest bigoted a$$hole I’ve ever met!” and slammed the door on my way out. When I got home, I told my mother, who set up a meeting at the school. They basically did nothing to the teacher, and acted like they were doing me a favor by not suspending me for my use of foul language.

    This was the mid- to late-90’s. I feel like today things would have been handled a little differently.

    1. Allison*

      Did he not know about Ryan White, the kid who got AIDS through a blood transfusion in the 80’s? That really brought to light the idea of “innocent victims,” and that you could get it without being gay or using heroin. We watched a heartbreaking play about it in middle school (early 2000’s), not sure if it was based on Ryan’s life or just a similar story. The Purple . . . something.

      1. Kate M*

        But religious people who think of illness as a punishment don’t necessarily think that there has to be a direct cause and effect. Some people believe that if you get sick (no matter the means), God is punishing you. It can be if you get cancer, or AIDS, or any disease or condition. And that if you are faithful enough, God will heal you. Ergo de facto, those that are healed “are faithful enough” and those that aren’t, weren’t.

        1. JKP*

          That seems bizarrely illogical. No one lives forever. Eventually everyone dies from something. So does that mean that if you live to be 100, you were super faithful all those years, but then when you die of the flu in your nursing home, that God has decided that yesterday you were an awful person and deserved to be punished? Is there some immortal person running around somewhere who has stayed in God’s good graces for centuries?

          1. Kate M*

            I mean it’s definitely not logical. And I think it’s most often attributed to young/middle-aged adults, kids with cancer probably don’t get the same treatment (although that might be a punishment for their parents’ sins), and old people don’t either.

          2. Student*

            The “bad things only happen to bad people” is a very perverse self-defense mechanism humanity developed, and it gets applied to all manner of bad things – not just illness.

            It’s still an extremely common, one could probably say the most common, reaction to news of rape – an immediate blame-the-victim instinct, as a way we try to reassure ourselves that it can’t happen to us, because we’re “good” or “would never do X behavior” or “didn’t dress slutty” or whatever nonsense people come up with. It’s part of why majorities are so quick to blame minorities for crimes and various social ills too – if minorities are to blame for their own suffering, we can then reassure ourselves that bad things won’t happen to us because we’re the good majority who does everything right and is responsible for all the good successes of society.

            It’s nonsense, it’s a crazy coping mechanism to avoid facing the reality that bad things happen to good people. It somehow seduces a large number of people in one way or the other, and was responsible for an awfully big war.

        2. Anna*

          For some context on how old that thinking is, people believed the Great Mortality was punishment from God for their sinful ways. Hence the rise of self-flagellation and all sorts of weirdness in the 1300s. This is not new thinking and it’s time for the people who believe disease is a punishment from God to join the rest of us in the 21st century.

      2. anonygay*

        also pulling a gotcha with a “good” or “pure” AIDS victim is really kind of awful and gross. all people with AIDS are innocent.

      3. Rater Z*

        As a blood donor, I ran into things like this back in the mid-80s. People actually thought we could get AIDS simply by donating blood. My boss (who was also a donor) and I had to keep telling the kids working with us that no, you don’t get it by donating it, but that one could get it by receiving it. And, these kids were recent college graduates.

        There was a lot that we didn’t know about AIDS at that time. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people who didn’t care and didn’t want to know anyway because it was just a “gay” disease. I did care, because I have good friends who are gay and I wanted to know.

    2. Ineloquent*

      Please don’t think that all Mormons are like that; that guy was an asshat who apparently doesn’t understand his own religion. Next time you run into a Mormon spouting that crap, pull out Articles of Faith 11 and 12, which are taught to every Mormon child:

      11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

      12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

      1. Gadfly*

        Sorry, as a Utah girl with a big old LDS family… no, not all Mormons are like that, but a large number are and it is supported by the Church to be that way and is not simply a matter of people not understanding their own religion. There are a lot of responses to those “gotcha” Articles of Faith, and many of them do not involve being less blindly bigoted.

        It is currently not the fashion for that to be the LDS position, but at other times and in some places that has been the fashion. Official stances are contradictory. And so it really ends up coming down to local culture–ward by ward. It really matters who your Bishop is. I know wards where the people still strongly believe in the mark of Cain being a reason why Black men shouldn’t have the priesthood, and others where they just were not ready for it until ’78, and some where God was holding it out as a special blessing to not burden them with it until the world was a better place.

        My mother was raised in the Church, and is a member. When she was baptized in 1960 the woman helping her prepare told her to her face that there was no point in it as she obviously was disabled (congenital muscle issues in her legs) for choosing the wrong side/sitting on the fence during the war in heaven. Growing up her parents were frequently told that her existence proved that they were sinners. I heard similar variants of this growing up in the 80’s, by the 90’s it started to shift, and my much younger kid brother (with similar leg issues) was exposed mostly to the idea that he’s extra special for choosing to take on a crippled body to give others the opportunity to serve. But the other beliefs are still there. And none of those are official and yet very rooted in the religion

        1. Ineloquent*

          All the more reason to remind bigoted members that they should be relying on actual scripture and personal revelation rather than on cultural conformity and Mormon mythology, yes?

          The people your mother dealt with are horrible people and cometely wrong. How awful that she had to deal with that crap.

          I’d say that there are a lot more members who find this stuff disgusting and horrible than you’d think. We have to be somewhat more quiet about it in public, lest we be excommunicated, (which is stupid and awful) but we’re pretty vocal about it in our families and social groups. A lot of us want change and feel that there’s no way that the God we know would want members of his church to inflict so much pain on others. However, we also know that leaving the church makes it so much easier for the leadership to ignore our discontent.

          1. Anna*

            The threat of ex-communication is how the Catholic Church kept dissenters quiet, too. It took Martin Luther hammering a piece of paper to a door to actually make any changes.

          2. Gadfly*

            You would think that, but what you say will never matter as much as what they remember their bishop once saying. Not with a certain type.

            It also matters where you are, both in the sense of which ward and if you are inside the Zion Curtain (Utah, a bit of Idaho and Nevada…) “Utah Mormons” tend to be a bit different than LDS people who grew up having to interact in meaningful ways with the non-LDS (If you want to, in Utah, you can pretty much choose to never have more than superficial interactions with non-LDS.)

    3. AnonAnalyst*

      Not quite the same, but your story reminded me of a teacher I had in junior high. One day our school had a similar assembly, after which he proclaimed that AIDS was really no longer a problem for “regular people.” It was now exclusively a concern for “gays and drug users, despite what the media would have had you believe.”

      This was in 1994, to a class of 12-14 year olds. My mother just about hit the roof when I came home and shared that gem with her.

      1. Julia*

        At least your mother reacted appropriately. I wonder how many Kids heard the same thing at home because their parents had been taught the same nonsense.

  47. LQ*

    I think the real question is “Is your business ok with employees talking for hours (even quietly, it can be heard by customers and should be assumed if you say it in a retail store that customers will hear it) about LGBTQA folks in that way?” Is that the position your business has taken? Because that is the position your business is presenting. Is your business ok with bullying LGBTQA folks on anti-bullying day? Because that is the position your business is presenting. Not maybe. Not a little. Not kind of. That is what you’ve done. That a customer didn’t happen to over hear it and put it on FB and have it take off doesn’t mean it isn’t true. People may have heard and left. They may be passing the word along. It may have been a FB post without a photo so FB didn’t promote it and it got lost in the mix. But your company is currently supporting the bullying of LGBTQA folks by not telling these employees to stop talking about it at work.

    Do you want that?

  48. Paul Hicks*

    I am gay. It is difficult to work in a hotile enviroment. Where is the Love, the basis for most religions. I would also never shop at this stote or any subsidiaries. I feel for Alexandra having to work in hateful environment. The 4 should be fired or better yet, sent to hell where they fit in.

  49. Rafe*

    Okay, I 100 percent agree that the 4 need to be given a warning. But so does Alexandra. She’s bigoted too and proud of it. The whole thing is ridiculous all the way around.

    1. LSP*

      How is Alexandra being bigoted? As far as we know, she hasn’t been making hostile and hateful comments about the religious practices of the 4.

    2. Jadelyn*

      How in the hell is Alexandra bigoted??? Unless this is more of that “if you don’t respect hateful beliefs that makes you the hateful one” BS.

      1. burnout*

        Alexandra is disgusted by people with strong religious beliefs – that is bigoted.

        The 4 are disgusted by LGBTQ people – that is bigoted.

        They are all in the wrong here as far as the workplace goes.

        Respect goes both ways.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          No, she is disgusted with people who use their strong religious beliefs to deny the civil rights of others. That’s not bigotry.

        2. Jadelyn*

          She was just disgusted by their bigotry. They’re the ones who made it about their religion. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that people with strong religious beliefs are the problem, merely that anti-gay bigots are the problem, and because of this situation Alexandra associated that with a specific type of religious belief – which, again, comes down to the 4’s behavior, not Alexandra’s feelings toward “people with strong religious beliefs” in general.

        3. LBK*

          “Strong religious beliefs” is a bad simplification of their expressed viewpoints purposely being used to make this false equivalence look more balanced. If we’re measuring who’s being more disrespectful here, I think casually agreeing that people should be denied basic rights because of an intrinsic quality of themselves is one of the most disrespectful things you can possible say, and doesn’t even come close to the level of what Alexandra said in response.

        4. burnout*

          I am not saying their religious beliefs are not repugnant. I agree that they are.

          They are, however, entitled to them.

          Just as Alexandra is entitled to hers.

          The wrong here is that they ALL decided to have this discussion AT WORK. Doesn’t matter who started it, in my opinion. They all contributed. No one party here is more at fault than the other.

          1. A. Nonymous*

            The belief that a class of people is inherently “bad” and unworthy of the same rights everyone else has isn’t one that needs to be respected. I think they are absolutely at fault here, for the hostile environment and for bullying behavior.

          2. A Teacher*

            I disagree. She took their comments for hours and was expected to “tolerate” intolerance, frankly, I think she showed restraint.

          3. Dankar*

            I wouldn’t say Alexandra contributed to it. I’d say she ended for the time being. (At least until the 4 decided to wage a campaign to get her fired.)

            She spoke up after hours of abuse (not discussion), then walked away. She’s a lot less at fault.

          4. mazzy*

            Mmmmm I’m not sure about them being religous beliefs though. Yes, Islam and Christianity have rules on the books that are homophobic, but anyone who analyzes the respective holy books will find a clause to supercede being homophobic.

            But the real issue is that parts of said books are very outdated and it’s ignorant of a follower to assume that they should be followed verbatim, especially in this day and age.

          5. LBK*

            This wasn’t a discussion, this one one person enduring hours of hateful speech and then putting a stop to it. The other four people were the only contributors, and Alexandra is absolutely not at fault here in any way for wanting to get her coworkers to stop espousing bigoted views.

          6. Jadelyn*

            That is such a massive false equivalence I’m legitimately amazed to hear someone say it. They did not “all contribute”. The 4 decided to be bigoted jerks AT WORK. Alexandra finally responded after putting up with that for hours. Alexandra did not “decide” to “have this discussion”, she was put in a bad position and finally stuck up for herself. You absolutely, categorically cannot try to put Alexandra in a “they all contributed/nobody is more at fault than any other” position. To do so requires twisting the situation to the point of absurdity.

            And, again, nobody is saying anything about what beliefs the 4 are or aren’t entitled to. They can believe all they want about whatever they want. They cannot, however, force coworkers to endure hearing about those beliefs, and it is entirely reasonable of Alexandra to be upset at that specific BEHAVIOR, regardless of the BELIEF behind it. Why are you so insistent about conflating their BELIEFS (which are their own business) with their BEHAVIOR (which is what caused the problem)?

          7. OP*

            Wait. How is saying thing to attempt to end the conversation after HOURS of the 4 discussing it an equal contribution?

      2. Alton*

        Being disgusted by a specific belief that you disagree with, especially when it’s a belief the person has actually expressed and not one you’re assuming they have, is not automatically bigoted just because it’s a “religious” belief. Beliefs don’t deserve respect just because they’re religious. Beliefs are subjective things that you can agree or disagree with, and treating a person with respect doesn’t mean pretending you aren’t bothered when they make a bigoted statement.

      1. Brogrammer*

        Duh, intolerance of bigotry is just as bad as bigotry. If I’m disgusted by someone “disagreeing” with my right to exist, that makes me just as bad as them.

        I have no patience for people who claim that that members of an oppressed group standing up for themselves (or allies standing up for them) is just as bad as the people oppressing them.

    3. Faith*

      Merriam-Webster defines “bigot” as “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.” Can you please point out where Alexandra was doing that? And no, calling someone out on their bullshit after having listened to them spewing anti-gay vitriol for hours does not qualify as treating them with hatred or intolerance.

    4. Dankar*

      I would argue she’s not proud of being a “bigot,” but is proud of herself for standing up for a slice of the population that had been discriminated against for decades. And that is something to be proud of.

      If you’re referring to her Instagram post, timing is everything. She didn’t bust out with the imaginary sky friend talk at a pro-religion event at work. She posted it after hours, to her personal account, with no way (that we’ve seen) to link her or her opinion back to her workplace. Should she be warned about doing that in the future? Maybe.

      But the 4 certainly deserve something a bit more strenuous than a warning for behaving the way they did at work. (At work!)

    5. designbot*

      I think Alexandra should be spoken to, but to tell her how OP would like it handled in the future. Tell her we all understand the frustration, and in the future bring things like that directly to the store manager–don’t wait until they boil over after listening for hours on end. The 4 were out of line, and while this may be a teaching opportunity for Alexandra her reaction and their provocation were not equal.

    6. Observer*

      Slight difference here. Alexandra is willing to keep her mouth shut, and make her comments after work, on a non-work affiliated account.

  50. Mae*

    Another take: Is it possible to boil this down to basic workplace etiquette as opposed to right vs. wrong? E.g. What Allison suggested: a company-wide notice or policy forbidding making such remarks that create a hostile environment. In turn, emotional outbursts need to be contained, no matter the context. While I’m very pro-gay-rights, and I do not condone the way the 4 behaved, it sounds like they were further fueled by Alexandra’s emotional outburst, and now the situation has escalated. She hasn’t helped herself, and her Instagram, while a personal account, was somewhat of a cry. Again, not helping. It’s admirable that she has her beliefs, but she let her emotions get the best of her which is unfortunate. I think breaking this down to basics first can help gain some clarity into what is basically a bigger issue.

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      Yes, it would be great if we were all able to maintain perfect equanimity in the face of hostility, and I’m sure it would be a useful tool for Alexandra to learn some scripts for shutting down this sort of talk more quickly and politely, but she shouldn’t have needed to. She has a right to a non-hostile work environment and a manager who shuts down bullying, especially at an anti-bullying event. She certainly shouldn’t have to police her emotions to that degree outside of work, when most people are able to let their hair down and vent if needed, especially in a personal account not linked to work.

  51. Observer*

    I just had to comment. For some context here, I’m an Orthodox Jew, which should give yous some idea of where I’d have to come down on same gender marriage.

    Nevertheless, I simply do not understand where you are coming from. The short version of the story you are telling is that “The 4” are demanding that you fire someone for advocating gay marriage, and for pushing back after they spent hours at work pushing their agenda. I can’t imagine why you would think that this is a reasonable request / demand.

    The fact that Alexandra seems to have a reasonable case that she’s being discriminated against because of her religious beliefs is icing on the cake.

    I’m with Alison – shut this down. And, look at your policies around, as well as how they are being applied.

    1. Observer*

      One edit:

      that “The 4” are demanding that you fire someone for advocating gay marriage, and for pushing back after they spent hours at work pushing their agenda.

      should read:

      that “The 4” are demanding that you fire someone for advocating gay marriage OUTSIDE OF WORK, and for pushing back after they spent hours *at work* pushing their agenda.

  52. Christine*

    OP — please let us know how you have decided to handle this & what has taken place. If I was in a store and heard their comments I would have turned around and walked out; than tell all my friends what I had heard and send a letter to the corporate office. Other customers might actually record the conversation on their cell phones & post it on you tube, saying where they were shopping, etc .. maybe even do a video recording of the religious nuts. Years ago I worked with someone that was religious and they treated me like shit … I was young, naïve and stupid enough at that time to have been truthful when she asked me what church I went to and I was honest enough to say “I don’t attend.”

    I might have recorded it and sent it to the corporate office. Now I think about it, those ladies were lucky someone didn’t hear them and post it. I wouldn’t be surprised that they had dug around & found out about the twin and decided to be nasty. You might want to ask them. Their facial expressions might tell you, if you are close enough to meet with them.

  53. Cucumberzucchini*

    Good for Alexandra, she sounds like a wonderful employee and I’d fire the Four immediately and possibly the store manager for not managing this situation in the first place. I would personally give Alexandra a little bonus as an apology to for having to deal with the Four as well. Telling them they disgust her, in my opinion, isn’t even out of line.

  54. Elle*

    I have yet to wrap my mind around the concept that the co-workers who are attending Bible camp have so little understanding of what the man who started Christianity really stood for and was trying to teach (I’m assuming they are attending a Christian camp). Their actions don’t support it if they do.

  55. Menacia*

    The only comment I can make about this is that it’s disgusting how some religious groups are so incredibly intolerant and will go to any length when they feel they’ve been “offended.” This is the same as bullying, as long as it’s tolerated, it will continue to exist. I was going to suggest the OP help Alexandra get a new job somewhere away from these gross people, but that would only send the message that they have the power. Please tell them unequivocally their comments to coworkers (and customers!) about their religious beliefs that makes others feel harassed is completely UNACCEPTABLE. It does sound inevitable that Alexandra will move on of her own free will as this is not the right environment for her in any way and is only a job to pay the bills while she’s in school.

    1. PlainJane*

      In some cases, I think people like this have such extreme reactions when they’re called out for their bigotry, because they aren’t used to it. They’reused to being part of the dominant culture, used to having their beliefs be mainstream. That’s changing, and now they’re being challenged. To which I (a pro-LGBT Christian) say: good. Get used to it.

      1. Menacia*

        Yes, living a sheltered existence surrounded by people who look and think the same can really do a number on someone when they are out in the real world. And to that end it seems like they are taught not come to an understanding about those who are different, but to instead become defiant. The real (age 0ld) issue…ignorance and fear….

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Absolutely. I recently butted heads with a relative who has yet to learn this because of her young age. Hopefully, she will get it fairly soon, now that she’s off to college. I did–I grew up very sheltered and when I went into college and began hanging out with a more diverse group of people, I learned really fast. And the transition wasn’t always smooth or comfortable for me either (I cringe thinking about how ignorant I was), but I’m very glad I made it.

          1. PlainJane*

            I can relate. I was clueless about so much when I went to college and said some dumb things. I learned, and to be honest, I’m still learning. So much is changing so quickly (generally a good thing), that I have to be open to new ideas so I can keep learning.

  56. Katie from Scotland*

    Thanks for this answer Alison! If these were my employees there’d be words had. I also like the ideas up in the comments about splitting up the four across different work locations as it sounds like there’s evidence that they can’t behave professionally together. Depending on how well they performed in other aspects, I’d be looking at replacing them anyway I think!

  57. RVA Cat*

    I can’t be the only one thinking that the OP needs to get Marg-, I mean Alexandra out of there before it all blows up in a green flaming ball of crazy….

  58. 123456789101112 do do do*

    I think that your problem is actually the store manager. This person can’t seem to control the clique that is working for her, has let this problem fester to the point where employees are making bigoted remarks out loud in the presence of customers (who are presumably gay-friendly since they are shopping at a pro-LGBT event), and favors some for time off and other perks at the expense of others. Fire the manager, promote Alexandria, and break up the clique.

  59. LCL*

    OK, someone has to take the unpopular view so I will. And I am not doing this as an academic exercise, I really believe the following.

    The problem of dissing LGBT is not the biggest problem here. The biggest problem is there are 4 employees running amok and a weak manager. 4 people get the choice vacation and leave one person to always cover? Mean and wrong. 4 people have a disagreement with another, and all 4 go OVER THEIR BOSS’ head and email up the chain to get the outcast fired?! I would fire all 4 people, today, if you can get away with it. And if you can’t, that store should be targeted for a financial and process audit. When there is that much group action going on, there will be funny business.

    In the meantime, talk to the manager first, and order the manager to make clear to the employees that in the workplace some topics are off limits. Like religion, and political opinions.

    1. Observer*

      I don’t think it’s an unpopular position at all. There is clearly an huge failure of management here.

      Both the store manager, and the OP. I don’t mean to pile on the OP, but really – your manager says that Alexandra is NOT being rude, even though she didn’t see fit to stop the comments that day, and you STILL think that Alexandra’s behavior might be unprofessional, while “The 4” are ok?

    2. designbot*

      I don’t think this is actually unpopular, it’s just so much easier to pile on the 4!
      I would add that if you can’t fire them all, get at least two of them transferred to other stores. Any that stay in the same store, make it clear that the store needs a minimum staff of X(whatever makes sense to you) and vacation requests will be first-come first-served, or by seniority, or any other objective system that suits you. “Because religion” is no reason for one person to get the shaft every single time, and no reason for your store to wind up short staffed when they all take vacations together.

    3. HRish Dude*

      I don’t think that’s an unpopular position so much as recognizing the other problem with the situation.

  60. Anon for this comment*

    A great deal of nuance is needed when discussing this very divisive topic with those who are religious and have strong opinions on same sex marriage. I run in very religious circles so I come up against this every now and then. If this was an event meant to battle the bullying of people in the LGTB community, I do not understand how anyone–especially Christians—could have anything negative to say. This workplace was not asking these people to participate in political rallying for the right of same sex couples to marry. They were not asking them to participate in their weddings. They were throwing an event encouraging people not to bully others! I do not know how any church in good standing would have a problem with the idea that each and every human being has inherent dignity and deserves to be treated in a non-bullying manner. God save us all.

    1. Temperance*

      Actually, nuance isn’t needed. The topic shouldn’t be divisive. You either recognize the humanity of the gay community, or you don’t.

      1. Serafina*

        Amen. Hateful people who hide behind cherry-picked verses of the Bible are cowardly hypocrites who want others to not have the same rights that they do – end of story. It isn’t bigotry to push back OR be disgusted by them.

    2. Rater Z*

      The problem is there are churches and ministers out there who are adamantly anti-LGBT and are pushing it as hard as they can. Thee are reports out there now of ministers talking about the shootings at the gay nightclub in Orlando three months ago and saying the only thing wrong about it is that the shooter didn’t kill more people there than he did. As a Christian, I have had to stop reading the “religious” websites because I can’t stand many of the blogs and the comments that show up. I don’t blame the LGBT community from walking away from religion and I am sometimes amazed that more don’t.

  61. Gaia*

    I am not a fan of saying anyone “disgusts” someone but…the four disgust me. Their behavior is gross and the idea that they want Alexandra fired for not supporting their ugly hatred of LGBT folks (which, let’s be honest, is exactly why they want her fired – punishment for daring to support equality) is abhorrent.

  62. Kore*

    I think another thing to keep in mind is that they are working at a store – presumably, there is the possibility customers heard their bigoted speech. This doesn’t just harm employees and potential employees, this could harm business – I know I’d never shop at a store where I heard the employees using hateful, bigoted language. I’d definitely give the 4 a warning.

  63. kobayashi*

    I have a question. I agree with Alison’s answer. However, the Instagram angle got me thinking. One can be disciplined for things they say off duty that affect the workplace. So, let’s say the OP were a man and had coworker “friends” on his FB or Instagram account, and he spouted highly offensive ideas that were anti-gay or blatantly sexist or racist? Would / Should the company do something about that? Since Religion is protected like gender, race, and sexual orientation in most places, would anti-religious comments like the one OP posted potentially also contribute to a hostile work environment? I’m asking because goodness does this come up a lot all around! I’m really curious what other people’s take on that is?

    1. Gaia*

      In the US, yes they can. For example, if you go on a hate-spewing spree against nationality X on your Facebook page and your employer finds out they can argue that you are not the kind of person they want associated with their company and fire you. There is a lot of debate about whether this should be allowed and what about if you don’t list your employer on your social media pages, etc. But under the law, they can fire you for events outside the workplace.

    2. Alton*

      Yes, because religion is a protected class in the US.

      But that doesn’t mean that expressing your own religious beliefs, including atheist beliefs, is automatically creating a hostile environment for religious colleagues, either. It’s a fine line sometimes. But generally, it’s making a derogatory comment about a group of people, not their stance on an issue or a subjective belief they hold, that’s the main issue.

      1. kobayashi*

        Right, so I was wondering about her Instagram comment, “You say: Gay marriage shouldn’t be legal because the bible says so. I hear: I’m a piece of shit who uses my imaginary friend in the sky to justify the fact I’m a hateful asshole who believes some people deserve less rights than me.” I was turning it around in my head to make it about women, or people of a certain race or sexual orientation. Heck, even if it were about Muslims. I’d think it would be construed as offensive. So, I’m wondering if the “4” will state they find this is creating a hostile work environment. While one comment generally won’t be enough, I know, this can create a messy situation all around.

        1. kobayashi*

          And by “even” what I was getting at is “even another religion — just not the most dominant one” (not to imply that there’s a higher threshold for Muslims). I kind of winced after I re-read it!

        2. Alton*

          I think it’s a fine line. The comment isn’t referring to a specific religious group but a specific practice that Alexandra disagrees with. And it’s not really a person’s beliefs that are protected so much as their right to express and practice them.

          It’s a really fine line when you’re specifically arguing with a belief or political position that a group holds. I don’t really think it would be seen as automatically offensive if the post was commenting on Muslims who believe in honor killings, for example.

          The controversial aspect is referring to god as an imaginary friend in the sky, which I think is overly hostile. But it is a valid belief considering we have no idea if a higher power exists or not.

        3. designbot*

          Does the instagram account link back to the company? Did Alexandra friend request the 4? Is she posting this from work? If none of those things were true, then I would say it’s not a hostile work environment, because it’s not a part of the work environment.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          I’m not wild about the way she worded the comment myself. But the real problem isn’t the Instagram post; it’s the workplace dysfunction caused by these four idiots and the wimpy manager. It doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on the company, but their behavior and the failure to check it does.

          If the company sanctions Alexandra because of the comment, I would assume they truly do not understand the problem.

    3. Brogrammer*

      If Alexandra were saying that members of a specific religion are inherently bad people, or that they should be denied the right to marry, then you could probably argue that she were creating a hostile work environment. But she didn’t do that.

  64. Nichole*

    I want to say that I’m impressed and actually surprised by how many people come down on the side of supporting Alexandra here. Not because I would think most people on a site like this would support the ideas the 4 suggest, but because I expect there to be a greater sense of ‘nothing to be done about it’. It’s nice to see.

    1. designbot*

      To be honest my first instinct was that the shield of religion might protect these people, but I was glad to see there was another way to view it from a legal perspective, because the side Alison came down on was the one I wanted to see win.
      I think a lot of people tiptoe around whatever issue we ourselves are the most biased against–many racists find anti-discrimination laws onerous in that regard and give anything related to origin a wide berth, and I do the same around religion because I wish I didn’t have to deal with anyone’s religion at all.

  65. Alexandra is the bigot*

    Alexandra reminds of the CFO of Vante that was fired for his bullying of a Chick-fil-A employee. He recorded the video himself.

      1. Alexandra is the bigot*

        Definition of bigot is:
        a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions

        “Alexandra posted a picture on her personal Instagram account that says “You say: Gay marriage shouldn’t be legal because the bible says so. I hear: I’m a piece of shit who uses my imaginary friend in the sky to justify the fact I’m a hateful asshole who believes some people deserve less rights than me.””

        I.e. Alexandra is a bigot calling those who disagree regarding same-sex marriage ‘piece of shit’, disgusting etc.

    1. fposte*

      The Vante CEO is a major asshole, no question.

      But I’m not seeing the connection beyond, I’m guessing, the fact that you have different beliefs than they do. Alexandra was at her workplace, not going to somebody else’s. Alexandra didn’t take her issues to a random low-paid person who had nothing to do with her concerns.

      Surely even if you’re opposed to LGTB rights you can see the logical failure of treating these situations as the same. Otherwise all Christians are the same as Eric Rudolph.

      1. Alexandra is the bigot*

        The similarity is that instead of acknowledging that the two parties disagree, Alexandra rants at them calling them disgusting etc. The left is actually illiberal, i.e. demanding that everyone conform to PC agenda.

        1. Observer*

          That’s actually not what’s happening. She said ONE thing ONCE. According to the manager in the store she spent a morning listening to their spewing, verified their position and responded that she’s disgusted. After that, it’s been silence on the personal front and civility on work front. That’s hardly the definition “ranting” or demanding anything. It’s “The 4” that are making demands – ie that she be chatty and friendly with them.

            1. Isabel C.*

              Ha, thanks!

              It’s one of my go-to non-profane responses to trolls (the other, if they’re being particularly pretentious/Reddit Guy is “simmer down, freshman,” which I stole from Tomato Nation).

    2. Observer*

      Seriously?! You really don’t see the difference between someone finally snapping at someone whose been making rude comments all morning and this guy?! To be clear – this guy was in a position of (relative) power and affluence, who took time out of his day to publicly browbeat and try to humiliate a low paid worker who is probably just trying to get through the day and make ends meet.

      With friends like that, no one needs enemies.

      1. Alexandra is the bigot*

        BTW, I’m not advocating that anyone be fired in this case.

        However, people should be fairly treated in the workplace. You shouldn’t take the side of those in favour of same-sex marriage and allow them to say whatever they like, including name-calling etc., and disallow those who oppose same-sex marriage to even utter a peep against it.

        1. Mishsmom*

          AitB, it’s not the same no matter how many times you say it and in how many ways. technically me saying to a friend i can’t go out with her because i want to stay home and veg is selfish but can you compare it to someone who drives dangerously fast because they are in a hurry? this isn’t about logic or technicality, it’s real life, and real life is not about equalizing things just because they can technically be defined as similar.

        2. Kyla*

          There is a big difference between spewing hate for HOURS and one ‘you disgust me’ comment to try and shut them up and an annoyed post on a personal Instagram account that they went specifically looking for to try and get her into trouble and further their victim complex.

          Alexandra is not the bigot. She is sick of bigots.

        3. OP*

          I do not see the problem at all with taking the side of someone who speaks out against bigotry and discrimination.

          Would it be different if ‘The 4’ were saying that they find it ‘awful’ that equal rights for people of colour or for women might soon be legalised? Would you still insist they have the right to say it and that Alexandra shouldn’t put them in their place?

          1. Lurker*

            I think the problem with “taking sides” with Alexandra, is people are latching onto the fact that she told “the four” they disgusted her, and then posted on her personal account (which-why were they looking at if they weren’t looking for trouble) in a way that connected her disgust at them to their religious beliefs. I think some people are interpreting Alexandra’s behavior as being closer to telling someone ‘people of your religion disgust me’ which is obviously problematic, than ‘people who don’t share my support for this policy-and spend all day making sure I know it-disgust me’ and by turning it into a debate over her behavior they distract from what “the four” did.

            Is it possible to deal with them without “taking sides” and instead just focus on “the fours” inappropriate behavior and deal with that (e.g. ‘I am not going to talk to you about Alexandra, and I am not going to talk to Alexandra about you. I am going to talk to YOU about YOUR behavior at our event. A company event is not the appropriate time or place to proselytize your personal beliefs, in a way that makes customers feel unwelcome.’)?

        4. Green*

          The BUSINESS has taken the side and were holding an event supporting anti-bullying of LGBT individuals. Many businesses have a nondiscrimination policy that extends to LGBT individuals.

          If they were persecuting Christians for their privately held personal beliefs that same sex marriage is wrong, you’d have a point. Instead, the women here were creating a hostile environment for LGBT workers and customers. They can hold whatever views they like — they are not welcome to express those views at work.

  66. Masha Gessen said:*

    “It’s a no-brainer that (homosexual activists) should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. …(F)ighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there — because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.

    The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist. And I don’t like taking part in creating fictions about my life. That’s sort of not what I had in mind when I came out thirty years ago.

    I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally… I met my new partner, and she had just had a baby, and that baby’s biological father is my brother, and my daughter’s biological father is a man who lives in Russia, and my adopted son also considers him his father. So the five parents break down into two groups of three… And really, I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.”

      1. animaniactoo*

        not picking at word choices I swear but I think you mean sock puppet? if you choose to fix go ahead and delete this.

  67. Tiny_Tiger*

    My first reaction was simply shock that not only were these 4 were a) talking so extensively about it on the work floor b) blatantly did this on a day that the COMPANY had designated to be in support of the LGBT community! I’ve had a total of 1 discussion about LGBT rights in the office and it was during the time that the Supreme Court decision was being made. A coworker expressed the belief that “the people have already spoken about what they want (in support of Prop 8), why are they going back and trying to change it.” To which I simply replied, “Just because it’s what the majority wants does NOT make it right.” The conversation quickly dead-ended there and the coworker left. OP, you need to take charge of this situation! The 4 need to either change their behavior at work or they need the boot. And them basically going in search of something to “dig up” on Alexandra to tattle to the manager to? Highly immature to say the least.

    1. Temperance*

      I’m frankly not surprised, but I’m an ex-evangelical, so I know how these jerks think. Also not surprised that your homophobic coworker forgets the whole “tyranny of the majority” thing, or how certain groups registered to vote in CA on the sly to change the tide. ;)

      1. Tiny_Tiger*

        I’ve run into the “tyranny of the majority” thinking often enough that my first response upon hearing it is “Congratulations, you have the same logic as Hitler.” That REALLY tends to trip people up.

    1. Kyla*

      So ‘the 4’ essentially made hateful comments about Alexandra’s TWIN for hours and then tried to play the victim when she called them out on it and made an angry post about people in general who do that?

      So much nope.

      The 4 need to go. They have created a hostile working environment AND a hostile environment for customers.

      Also: Alexandra was far more restrained than many would have been.

  68. Kimberly*

    I love the answer but would add tell the manager to make sure that vacation is granted in the order that requests come in with no preference granted for what the vacation is for (only exception Funerals or family emergencies) or she will be fired for discrimination. Then have Alexanderia BCC the LW on her vacation request so LW has proof of the time of the request. If instructions are not followed lower the hammer.

    LW I hope you send a follow up. I really want to hear what happens.

    1. ArtK*

      First-come-first-granted can develop fairness issues. Somebody could, at 8:00AM January 1 submit for every holiday in the year. The person who’s 20 seconds later with their request loses out. The manager needs to actually manage and take responsibility for the fairness of the schedule. “Sorry, you got T’giving, Christmas and Easter last year. Pick one for this year — you don’t get all three again.”

      1. Kyla*

        Yes, I agree with this. I used to work in a place that was strictly ‘first come, first serve’ and if you didn’t have an 8am shift on the first Monday after New Year’s Day to be on the system the moment the requests for the year opened up, then that was too bad for you, no desirable holidays all year.

        And to say there was often favouritism from what employees got allocated 8am shifts on the first Monday after New Year’s Day would be an understatement.

      2. LCL*

        The way you make FCFS fairer is to limit the choices. So sure, nightshift Joaquin gets his request in first because he is in the office, but he doesn’t get 12 picks, he gets 2 or 3, or whatever the group decides on.
        We do a combo here of seniority picks first, and their choices are limited to 2, then FCFS.

        The problem with the system you have described is it only works well for very small groups, and it makes management prioritize which days off are the best, which should be done by the employees working the schedule.

  69. Blurgle*

    The Gang of Four may very well have done this deliberately and with malice in order to provoke the reaction they got. They want Alexandra fired. They want her out of their circle. This may have been planned for Pride Day specifically to ensure she would react.

    Not that you’ll ever prove it, but some of these anti-gay churches overtly encourage their parishioners to do this to gay or allied coworkers. It’s a big con and you should be very aware of that.

    1. OP*

      I do have the impression that even if they didn’t have the conversations on ‘pride day’ to provoke the reaction, they definitely were trying to get her fired and out of the store/circle when they went hunting for the personal social media accounts.

      I asked how they were aware of Alexandra’s Instagram username when she hasn’t friended them and she actually doesn’t list her last name on her profile. They admitted they searched the sister’s name and then found a picture of the two of them and then went to Alexandra’s profile from the tag. I find it quite….petty and a sign they were clearly looking for something they could use to get her into trouble.

      1. Brogrammer*

        Wow. They openly admit that they went looking for her? It’s like snooping or eavesdropping: if you go looking for something you weren’t meant to see/hear, you don’t get to complain when you don’t like it.

        1. designbot*

          yeah, that knocks their religious complaints right out the window, since she has even taken steps to make it harder to identify her and they went well out of their way to be offended.

      2. Serafina*

        Oh. My. So not only are they bullying this poor woman at work, they are cyber-stalking her and her twin! Please, I beg you, fire them FAST!

  70. Fafaflunkie*

    Sorry for coming late to the party, but my understanding is that your fundamental religious beliefs end when they intrude on someone else’s. Just because your religion prohibits same sex anything doesn’t mean you can impose it on someone else’s. The 4 can and should be disiplined, and even fired, for just that reason. They’re creating a hostlie environment, which shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere.

  71. Liz*

    Due to political shenanigans around marriage equality in Australia, this hit a nerve for me. Like, really hard. ANYWAY, I am not a manager or HR professional (and nor do I play one on TV), but this is what I would want if I were an employee or customer in this store:

    – tell the Gang of Four that you take their concerns very seriously, and will begin an investigation at once.
    – find out what the manager was doing all this time, and determine whether the manager is merely clueless and unobservant, or actually supporting the Gang of Four. (I was a retail supervisor many jobs ago, and even in very large stores, you’d have to work quite hard to not know what people were discussing on any particular day.)
    – get the rosters and leave requests/allocations for the last … oh, I don’t know, ideally 12 months, but that might leave you with a massive workload. Find out whether there are patterns, eg, the Gang of Four taking leave together and leaving Alexandra to carry their load, and other evidence of favouritism. This will also help you decide what the manager’s part here is.
    – speak to Alexandra, and help her devise strategies for dealing with this in the future. I’m generally not a fan of tone arguments, but the workplace calls for pragmatism — I’m impressed she had the guts to speak her mind about their disgusting attitude, because I’d have just started crying*, but obviously it’s not the most productive way to address it. (One of the strategies you offer might be asking you or the manager to intervene.)
    – when everything is in place, and you’ve dealt with the manager’s issues, inform the Gang of Four that you have reviewed the matter, and [whatever your ultimate conclusion is — PIPs, updating of company policies on workplace harassment**, sensitivity training, whatever]. And, if you can, break up the clique by transferring them to different stores.

    * At my mother’s wedding, one of her friends cornered me with his thoughts on How “Gay Marriage” Is Just Like Bestiality, and I dealt with it by having a panic attack and bursting into tears, whereupon my two-year-old nephew shouted at him for upsetting me. It makes a great story, but isn’t really ideal in a professional environment.
    ** This would fall under the banner of harassment at most of the workplaces I’ve ever been at, but then, I’m Australian, YMMV.

    1. P. in Melbourne*

      I was wondering whether the OP’s from Australia when I read the post. I totally feel for you, Liz. If the marriage-equality plebiscite goes ahead, things are going to get very ugly here.

      1. OP*

        Apologies for the late reply…..the time difference between the US-Australia made it impossible to be online when the post first went up.

        In a plot twist, I received an email today from a customer who hear the comments of ‘The 4’ and after ‘giving it much consideration’ decided to write to us to complain. While that is not necessarily a good thing, I’m glad because I now have a stronger ‘case’ against ‘The 4’ who I believe are the ones completely in the wrong.

        Unfortunately, I can’t move them to other store as it is in their contracts that they can not be shifted around without giving agreement. But I do want to reduce the ‘power’ this clique seems to have over both Alexandra and their manager and will be looking at ways we can do that, such as getting Christmas staff on a lot earlier and reducing their hours….which will also help keep them separate. The manager and the 4 are all going to have the riot act read to them…..the manager because she has admitted that she was expecting Alexandra to give up things like her birthday because she doesn’t like Alexandra as much. She seems quite….threatened by her because she is a very intelligent girl and it comes across in her way of speaking. I very much got the sense she enjoys putting Alexandra in her place.

        Nothing is happening to Alexandra other than an invitation to come and intern over the summer break again….which will get her out of the store over mid November-late February. I’ve decided I’m completely correct with my first instinct and I’m not just biased: she has done absolutely nothing wrong. Not even the Instagram post…….because it was posted on her personal account in her personal time and her account makes no reference to her being an employee of the company.

        1. Liz*

          I’m so glad a customer contacted you! That means it’s not “just Alexandra being difficult” or you taking her side because [some imagined conspiracy] — there’s a real, life customer being impacted by the unprofessionalism of the Four (and their manager).

          (The manager just comes off worse and worse in this story! Since you can’t move the Four, can you move the manager?)

  72. OP*

    Apologies for the late reply…..the time difference between the US-Australia made it impossible to be online when the post first went up.

    In a plot twist, I received an email today from a customer who hear the comments of ‘The 4’ and after ‘giving it much consideration’ decided to write to us to complain. While that is not necessarily a good thing, I’m glad because I now have a stronger ‘case’ against ‘The 4’ who I believe are the ones completely in the wrong.

    Unfortunately, I can’t move them to other store as it is in their contracts that they can not be shifted around without giving agreement. But I do want to reduce the ‘power’ this clique seems to have over both Alexandra and their manager and will be looking at ways we can do that, such as getting Christmas staff on a lot earlier and reducing their hours….which will also help keep them separate. The manager and the 4 are all going to have the riot act read to them…..the manager because she has admitted that she was expecting Alexandra to give up things like her birthday because she doesn’t like Alexandra as much. She seems quite….threatened by her because she is a very intelligent girl and it comes across in her way of speaking. I very much got the sense she enjoys putting Alexandra in her place.

    Nothing is happening to Alexandra other than an invitation to come and intern over the summer break again….which will get her out of the store over mid November-late February. I’ve decided I’m completely correct with my first instinct and I’m not just biased: she has done absolutely nothing wrong. Not even the Instagram post…….because it was posted on her personal account in her personal time and her account makes no reference to her being an employee of the company.

    1. LCL*

      Good on you for doing the detective work and taking action. I couldn’t figure out yesterday if the manager was cowed by these people or if she was one of them. Sounds like she’s one of them. The part you posted about how they found Alexandra’s private accounts was chilling.
      I still think it’s worth checking that stores finances very carefully. Small staff, highly unified and trying to get rid of outsiders, away from the central office…someone is doing something off the books on company time.

    2. Observer*

      the manager because she has admitted that she was expecting Alexandra to give up things like her birthday because she doesn’t like Alexandra as much.

      I have no idea of the legal aspects in Australia, but in the US that would be a lawsuit waiting to happen. The manager has admitted to discriminating against Alexandra, and there is a clear case of religiously based animosity going on here, which the manager clearly knows about. So, firstly, the manager is not taking care of a clear case of religious discrimination that she knows about – this does sound like a situation that could easily fall under “hostile workplace” in the legal sense. Also, it makes a strong case that the manager is discriminating against Alexandra because of religion. That’s also illegal.

      1. LBK*

        If she’s doing it because she just doesn’t like her, I don’t think that’s discrimination, and only have one person as an example means you can’t prove disparate impact. Playing favorites is completely legal.

        1. Observer*

          Sure, but it’s going to be a bit hard to prove that in court. It would be hard under any circumstances. But here, with the clear religiously based harassment that the supervisor is doing nothing to stop, I can’t imagine any jury is really going to believe that religion has nothing to do with the manager’s feelings about Alexandra.

          I read a number of employer side hr blogs. And one of the things that comes up a lot in the discussion of discrimination suits, is this. What seems to be the fairly standard line toward employers is (more or less.) “If you want to win a harassment claim, be fair. Yes, you can fire someone for any reason, good or bad, as long as it’s not for a discriminatory reason. But, if you don’t act in a way that a jury will see as fair, they are absolutely going to believe a claim of illegal discrimination, if it makes any sense at all.”

          Remember, HR’s job is not just to make sure that managers don’t break the law (which the manager is doing in regard to the harassment by “the 4”). It’s also to reduce the risk of lawsuits in general, and of LOSING a lawsuit – and the manager’s behavior certainly raises both risks.

    3. Zahra*

      Wait, is the manager very religious too? If so, you may need to read her the riot act about discriminating about a non-religious worker. I don’t know how rulings have gone in the past about atheists having the same rights to anti-religious discrimination as Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, etc., so check that out first.

      Also, is there any way to fire the 4 (and maybe the manager) for creating a hostile workplace if Alexandra suffers retaliation from this incident? I know some countries have a higher bar for firings, and that a lot of companies require a higher level of proof in cases of potential discrimination lawsuits, but you should start to build that case now. That way you can act on this as soon as possible after further incidents if they occur. Frankly, I’m thinking that “when they occur” is closer to the mark, especially given the 4 constitute the majority of the staff. I wouldn’t be surprised that they think “They can’t fire all 4 of us at once, so we’re safe.”

  73. SadieMae70*

    I agree completely with the advice given, except that I would also acknowledge to everyone concerned that Alexandra’s “you people disgust me” comment was not okay (though completely understandable!). Yes, definitely point out that the ongoing bigoted comments of the 4 were a much larger issue, but if you don’t mention that Alexandra’s wording there was also inappropriate, I think the 4 are going to seize on that (“She called us disgusting and the boss doesn’t even care!”) rather than hearing the part about how they carry the majority of the fault here.

    A quick, “Alexandra could have chosen a better way to express herself, yes, but she was understandably angry because your behavior that day was hurtful and inappropriate in the workplace…” would suffice.

  74. KeepCalm*

    What’s concerning to me is that:

    1. Alexandra is being bullied. She has coworkers emailing someone in a position of power and demanding that she be fired.

    2. Has a workplace investigation been conducted? Gather statements from everyone involved, review the evidence and make a determination on what is more likely to have happened.

    3. Depending on the country you reside moving her could be considered constructive dismissal. Don’t do it.

  75. Chris*

    Why not just have a policy that religion and politics are not to be discussed at work, during work hours. The four of them can hang out and talk to their hearts content about whatever they choose on their own time. However it is considered unprofessional to discuss such topics at work because of the problems they might cause. The people who bring up such topics, or those types of topics are the ones in the wrong. Tell them to stick to work related communications only.

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