Woman fired for Obama racial slur on Facebook

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Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100
Woman fired for Obama racial slur on Facebook

A woman has been fired and reported to the Secret Service for her President Barack Obama racial slur and assassination comment on Facebook.

The Modesto Bee says 22-year-old Denise Helms of Turlock posted the inflammatory comments on the social media site shortly after the president's re-election on Tuesday.

She used the n-word in referring to Obama and wrote that maybe he will be assassinated this term.

Helms then told a Sacramento TV station that she wouldn't mind a bit if someone assassinated Obama.

Helms was fired Thursday from her job at the Stone Cold Creamery store.

Store director Chris Kegle says the comments are disgusting.

Secret Service Agent Scott Gillingham in says the incident is being investigated.

Threats against the president can lead to felony charges.


http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Woman-fired-for-Obama-racial-slur-on-Facebook-4023129.php

Two part debate: was the store right to fire her? And is saying that "she wouldn't mind a bit if someone assassinated Obama" enough to be charged with threatening the President?

Sorry I can't make that part at the top a proper quote, it's making each sentence into a separate quote for some reason...

smsturner's picture
Joined: 05/11/09
Posts: 1303

Yes, grounds for firing. An employee (no matter how low on the totem pole) is a representation of a company, and I wouldn't want her to be a representation of my company!

For assassination threat - doesn't seem like one to me. But being reported, and being charged with it is different. "they are investigating" doesn't mean much, i'm sure they'll look at it, do an insane amount of paperwork, then call it benign.

Everyone knows employers are looking at fb these days....to say something so offensive so publicly was just asking for it.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

I have no problems with the store firing her...at-will employment and all. Last i checked sufferers of highly offensive diarrhea of the mouth is not a protected class of citizen. I'm not sure its what i would do, but I think its his prerogative to do so.

And i don't know if its enough to charge her with anything, but i think its fair to say it warrants an investigation. Its probably ridiculously unlikely that she is a true threat but i'm okay with investigations of this such as a matter of standard policy.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

First lets take the legal aspect of it. Saying I wouldn't mind someone being assassinated is different than planning to assassinate someone. For example, if someone really did not like some average Joe and said "I can not stand Billy Bob. I wish he would take a long walk off a short cliff", that person might have been being mean, but he was not threatening to kill Billy Bob.

To be honest I personally know someone who said the day after the election that they wished Obama would be assassinated. That person was very upset and I know they did not mean it and never, ever would have personally assassinated Obama. Just that they could not stand him and wished that he was out of the picture. To be honest, I think that is a terrible attitude to have, but it is a fact that people feel that way. I am sure every president from the begining of time has had a certain amount of people that did not like him and wished he would die. That does not mean each of those people were threatening to personally kill the president.

As for loosing your job, I think a boss should be able to fire who ever they want for whatever reason. I also think you should be able to put whatever you want on FB. The prudent thing to do would to not be friends on FB with your boss.

For the record, I think that is an awful thing to call someone for any reason.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

Yes she can be fired and yes it can warrant an investigation.

You can't threaten the Pres. at all like that especially in public. It's always cause to warrant a review. Rightfully so. What if they didn't follow up and she really meant it? I'm sure like everyone said it was vomit of words but still.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

I have a hard time with the firing thing, simply because I doubt that anyone was confused about whether she was representing her company when she said it. If a news station interviewed her while she was at work, or while she was wearing her uniform, or something like that, then I would feel differently.

Having said that, I know full well that if I posted something inappropriate or unprofessional on FB and my employers found out (and god forbid, it got back to my clients especially) I might well lose my job over it. You will never EVER see a drunk picture of me on FB and I am careful about what I post on there, for that reason among others. So I do get it. I don't necessarily think it's fair, but I do think it's reality.

No, I do not believe saying "I wish someone would assissinate the President" is the same thing as a threat. It's a terrible thing to say, and people who say that should really take a long hard look at themselves and question how they have let themselves get so worked up that they are wishing death on someone simply for having different political values, but I don't think it really constitutes a serious threat.

Joined: 05/23/12
Posts: 680

If the woman actually did something illegal then yes she should be totally accountable for that. If she put the company's reputation in jeopardy then I imagine the company would be upset. They have the right to hire and fire at their pleasure.

In general though I think we live in a time where we have freedom of speech but we also get held accountable and punished if we actually have something to say.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

"myyams" wrote:

In general though I think we live in a time where we have freedom of speech but we also get held accountable and punished if we actually have something to say.

Are you saying this part as a good thing or a bad thing? (I can't tell)

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116

It was a pretty stupid thing to say but I think firing her from an ice cream shop is a bit overboard. I really don't think it would have affected her job and it happened off the clock. If they want to investigate her that is fine but lots of people say stupid things they don't really mean, so I don't think they should spend a lot of money investigating her.

Joined: 05/23/12
Posts: 680

"KimPossible" wrote:

Are you saying this part as a good thing or a bad thing? (I can't tell)

I don't really me this in a positive or negative way. But I think it is both positive and negative at the same time.

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

To the firing issue- I wouldn't want to work with or order ice cream from someone who felt comfortable using that word on facebook.

The investigation is a huge ****ing waste of taxpayer money. It pisses me off and probably would piss President Obama off too as we all know he has better things to spend our money on. Wink

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1535

When are people going to wake up and realize you cant post stupid stuff like this on facebook?

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

Freedom of speech anyone? I guess someone could fire her, but I don't think they should. Unless she is creating a hostile work environment while there, facebook should be considered more.. talking in a bar atmosphere not work.

fuchsiasky's picture
Joined: 11/16/07
Posts: 955

"GloriaInTX" wrote:

It was a pretty stupid thing to say but I think firing her from an ice cream shop is a bit overboard. I really don't think it would have affected her job and it happened off the clock. If they want to investigate her that is fine but lots of people say stupid things they don't really mean, so I don't think they should spend a lot of money investigating her.

It may not affect her job directly, but her choice of words that start with n could present a problem to the company. If she is willing to use such a word in public (and fb is public) how do her employers know that she won't use it at work. Say that in front of a customer or a coworker and it turn into a serious issue. If I were an employer I wouldn't be comfortable with that risk.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

"Rivergallery" wrote:

Freedom of speech anyone? I guess someone could fire her, but I don't think they should. Unless she is creating a hostile work environment while there, facebook should be considered more.. talking in a bar atmosphere not work.

There was no violation of freedom of speech, which you seem to recognize, because you acknowledge that she could be fired. So why even bring it up.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

In no fault states you can be fired for no reason. So of course legally she could be fired. But I disagree that she should have. I think we should all have the Freedom of Speech. Not only if it doesn't offend someone.

Joined: 03/14/09
Posts: 624

That's not the way freedom of speech works. Freedom of speech only covers the government from censoring you, not from other people expressing their opinions about what you say.

Do I think she should have been fired if she had not mentioned her employer's name on her profile? No. But that's not a freedom of speech issue.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3187

I agree that she doesn't pose a real threat. But if I were her boss, I might consider firing her based on the fact that she has co-workers. Using the "n word" as they call it could create real problems and I can't imagine working with someone who expressed their racism so overtly. I would also be concerned about how she deals with customers if she views black people that way.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"blather" wrote:

That's not the way freedom of speech works. Freedom of speech only covers the government from censoring you, not from other people expressing their opinions about what you say.

Do I think she should have been fired if she had not mentioned her employer's name on her profile? No. But that's not a freedom of speech issue.

Yes, this. Freedom of speech is specifically limited by the law in certain circumstances like threatening the life of the President, which is why she is being investigated by the government. However, in general using the "n word" is protected speech in that the government won't arrest you for it. Freedom of speech does NOT mean that you can say whatever you like without suffering any consequences. There will always be social consequences for the things you say.