Kanye West, well known for his controversial views, is now proclaiming to have seen the light and has become a self-professed ‘born-again Christian’. True to form, however, the rap star isn’t going into the light quietly, instead he’s attempting to drag his employees there with him.
During an interview with Beat 1’s Zane Lowe this month, Kanye revealed that he’d asked collaborators on his new album to adopt his own lifestyle choices, including fasting and abstaining from pre-marital relations. Wests comments have raised some eyebrows but very few concerns, however the law suggests they should.
Angelique Hamilton, Human Resources Expert at HR Chique Consultancy Group, suggests that "as an organization, Mr. West is not at liberty to implement such a requirement, it infringes upon the rights of his employees and potentially violates civil rights.".
Unless it affects their ability to do their job, whether that be through relations with colleagues or bringing the business into disrepute, an employee’s activities outside of work are not grounds for dismissal or discipline, or even for an employer to comment on. West appears to have gotten around that stipulation by simply making it a suggestion, however if his comments create a hostile work environment for those who refuse to comply, he could find himself in hot water.
For an employees after-hours conduct to have any legal bearing on whether you can be fired or not, you have to occupy a position of trust, if you don’t then your employer will have to pay out a fair severance package… which is what many employees have been choosing to do.
Due to social media and the ease with which ‘bad behaviour’ is found, public opinion can now have a profound effect on whether an employee stays or whether they go. Facing the question of whether to bow to cancel culture and cut contracts or stand by staff and risk losing sales, those who are caught out often find themselves out on their ear.
In the past this ‘bad behaviour’ often hasn’t been bad at all. Nate Fulmer, was fired when his employer took badly to a church skit he performed on a podcast, Stacey Snyder was denied a credit for a teaching degree when she posted a picture of herself drinking beer, and a police officer was fired after his wife posted racy pictures of herself online, leading to complaints it was ‘conduct unbecoming of an officer.’ All of these examples have led Bruce Barry to write ‘Speechless: The Erosion of Free Expression in the American Workplace’.
With the rise of ‘cultural fit’ has come this ‘erosion’, as employers strive to find people who will not only work hard but will also represent their company at all times. In the same way that schools come down hard on children acting badly whilst in their uniforms, businesses believe that once employees have their name attached to them, they should be conducting themselves in line with the company values.
It’s when these values include religious aims and overzealous rules that the business can go south (or West), with employees feeling untrusted and stifled.