A story for our times

So here’s the short version: A woman who objects to an eight-year-old girl selling bottled water on the street is filmed apparently calling the police on the young kid. The video goes viral, and the woman loses her job. There’s a racial dynamic here too, as the woman is white and the girl is black. As reported by CBS News:

STUDIO CITY, Calif. — The woman dubbed “Permit Patty” for threatening to call police on an 8-year-old black girl selling water on the street has stepped down as CEO of her cannabis company. CBS Los Angeles reports the move follows a massive online backlash that resulted in her products getting dropped by other marijuana sellers.

Several Bay Area dispensaries are now refusing to sell products made by Alison Ettel’s company TreatWell Health, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.

“It is Ms. Ettel’s belief that TreatWell, its employees and patients should not have to suffer because of a situation that occurred in an escalated moment,” company spokeswoman Cynthia Gonzalez is quoted as saying in the paper.

At least three marijuana dispensaries stated publicly they would stop selling TreatWell products.

It’s a story for our times: Incivility, race, smartphones, social media, legalized pot, and job loss.

From an employment standpoint, the lesson is an easy if unsettling one. Anything we do these days can be caught on a smartphone camera. If the behavior reflects negatively on us and the video goes viral, it can affect our employment status. Most American workers today are employed on an at-will basis, which means they can be terminated for any reason that does not violate existing employment laws. Video footage from an incident outside of work that causes negative publicity for the company can be among the legally valid reasons to fire an at-will employee.

I don’t know the specific nature of Allison Ettel’s employment status with her now-former company, but her demise was swift.

As far as the racial aspect goes, I won’t assume how race impacted Ms. Ettel’s actions. But in these hyper-charged times, racial optics matter and sharpen quickly. When they go viral online, that can be all that counts. This just looks bad.

The marijuana angle adds a humorous twist. Believe it or not, I’ve never even tried pot; I’m a pretty straight-laced, geeky guy. But how many of you were thinking that Ms. Ettel might’ve benefited from a toke or two before getting so worked up over a young kid trying to earn some money by selling bottled water on the street?

5 responses

  1. This really is odd! The Entrepreneur CEO in the cannabis “industry” would have been perfectly fine for the 8 year old black girl to sell weed on the street!! Don’t you dare sell life giving WATER on the streets!

    Good on the mum to film! 😀

  2. Slightly different situation in Canada, but no less cruel. For example, in a non-unionized environment you can be “dismissed/terminated with no just cause”, but the underlying “reason” is that you don’t fit/play the game. In other words, you pay a price for standing in your values and not fitting in with the dominant, and often toxic, workplace culture. Sad.

  3. The piece I forgot to add is that unfortunately Canada, though it is an industrialized nation, is not that much different from the US when it comes to being employed on an at-will basis. You can be an excellent employee, even having gotten awards, and if someone above you doesn’t like you or feels threatened by you, they can see to it that you’re gone “with NO just cause.” It will be couched under “lay off”, “re-organization/re-structure” (aka. bullying/mobbing). So yes, you do get severance, but it comes at a cost. So, in reality, Canada is no better.

  4. I’m in lil ole green NZ. I am extremely mindful of public conduct – you would be just a little neglectful or naive to think that anything that is objectionable (racism is objectionable to me personally) would not impact directly on your employability. It is just the new landscape now.

    Pamela

    On Sat, Jun 30, 2018, 1:56 AM Minding the Workplace wrote:

    > David Yamada posted: ” So here’s the short version: A woman who objects to > an eight-year-old girl selling bottled water on the street is filmed > apparently calling the police on the young kid. The video goes viral, and > the woman loses her job. There’s a racial dynamic here too” >

  5. You make a good point on the whole, but in terms of racist behaviour that could have fatal implications for the innocent people reported, it is a safeguard of sorts. People with hate-filled racist intentions and motivations are not good for any workplace! They are often the biggest bullies in the workplace! Also, this woman seems to have beensomewhat of a hypocrite – a CBS report stated that she had previously admitted in an interview that her company illegally sells cannabis medications for dogs.

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