I've been asked to remove a bumper sticker in order to qualify for a job.
November 6, 2009 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Corporate policy and bumper stickers. I've been asked to remove a sticker in order to qualify for a job.

I'm a systems administrator working for a small company which provides IT staff to larger companies. I'm scheduled to take over for one of our other employees who's moving out of state. The position I'm filling is not new to the client, nor are the job requirements different from my current position. I'm simply moving from one of our clients to another client but providing the same service.

This client has been very excited to hear that I will be staffing for them in place of the current guy.

I stopped by the client's site early one morning to pick up some computer hardware. During the ten minutes my car was in the parking lot someone noticed one of my bumper stickers which reads "W - The Idiot." I created and sold these as a riff on the "W - The President" stickers that were common in my area.

My boss received a call from the owner of the client business stating, in no uncertain terms, that I am not welcome to work there as long as the sticker is on my car. The reason given was the "respect of the Office of President of the United States, regardless of your personal views" canard. The owner just coincidentally happens to be a republican who donates the maximum allowed amounts each year to the party. Total coincidence.

Even if this were a company policy and not the owner's whim, are such things permissible? I've got a few other stickers as well which could potentially offend religious people and bigots. I'm not about to remove them either. By declining to remove the sticker in question, would this client have any legal grounds to terminate their contract with my company?

I've told my boss that I'll take the weekend before getting back to him, though I let him know I am not interested in removing the sticker. He is not asking that I do so, but may not be interested in starting a fight with the client.

I'd like to know if it's legal for a company to have policies that cover things outside of work like this, especially political speech. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.
posted by odinsdream to Law & Government (78 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 


Most workplace etiquette issues arise when people are unaware that their behavior is disruptive or annoying. I think your bumper sticker falls into that category. You're entitled to your views, so is everybody else. Don't go looking for a political fight in the office.
posted by IanMorr at 2:01 PM on November 6, 2009


Firstly, there's nothing illegal about them asking you not to put _____ on your car, just as much as wearing a shirt.

Secondly, why on earth would you have all this ugly stuff on your vehicle you use for seeing clients anyhow? It's really unprofessional.
posted by floam at 2:01 PM on November 6, 2009 [12 favorites]


You're bumper sticker is a bit tired, but hey, it is your car. I can't comment on the legal issues here, but I will definitely say that if this gets to the point where the law comes into question, it has already gone way, way too far and your relationship with your boss, client, and others will be irreparably damaged. If the owner of the company is upset at you now, imagine how upset he'll be after consulting corporate lawyers on the subject. I'd be loathe to turn down decent work in this economy, but at this point, you hate the owner of the company, he presumably hates you or is at least disgraced by your views: not a healthy way to start off. Do you seriously want to be working for this guy?

Personally, I'd stay put for now, arrange to get the most incompetent tech possible sent over to the new client, and then begrudgingly agree to come back to the new client when they are begging for someone better, but your boss may not be so fond of this scheme.

What happens if you ask to stay with your current client? Or transition to another one where you'll have a more harmonious workplace relationship?
posted by zachlipton at 2:02 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Woah, chill out Gadget. The car isn't in "the workplace," and odinsdream didn't say anything about spouting political viewpoints while at work.

Odinsdream, you should take a look at Freedom of Speech in USA for Employees of Private Companies. From the summary: This essay discusses the essentially nonexistent legal rights to freedom of speech of employees of for-profit and non-profit organizations.
posted by beerbajay at 2:04 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you want the job remove the bumper sticker.

If you don't want the job don't remover the bumper sticker.

Why is this even a question?
posted by dfriedman at 2:05 PM on November 6, 2009 [12 favorites]


I agree with both of you. He has his opinions you have yours. Yours is more of a free speech one, but its his parking lot. The only question to ask yourself is "At what price do I take a stand?" There are a lot of things you should take a stand about. One solution is to cover it up during the week. I assume you have additional copies since you made them. Can always put one back on if you take it off. Me thinks you will be bitter about working there no matter what now so why not take a stand and see what happens. Worst that can happen is you lose your job. You will still have your sticker and your pride.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:06 PM on November 6, 2009


Inspector.Gadget, I don't see any evidence that odinsdream is "being a dick" or a "self-righteous idiot" in his workplace whatsoever, regardless of what you happen to have inferred from his framing of the client's demand as "an old canard." He has political bumper stickers on his car -- bumper stickers that A) are his right to have (even if they may not seem professional), and B) placed there before this client came along and insisted he remove them. So maybe dial the outrage down a bit, yeah?

odinsdream, my two cents is to ask whether you've called the ACLU in your area, but I don't know that they're exactly going to be able to give you an answer over the weekend.
posted by scody at 2:07 PM on November 6, 2009


Whatever the legality (and I would be very surprised if the request is illegal, unless the client is a government office), I think you should ask yourself this question: is this the hill you want to die on? Are you getting more ideological mileage out of this bumper sticker than practical mileage out of working on this contract?
posted by Riki tiki at 2:07 PM on November 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am the QUEEN of having little patience with stuff like this issue. You are not going to get a "What a stupid issue to feel like you want to fight about!" lecture from me.

The problem I would have in your shoes, is that removing the sticker would really make me annoyed. It is none of the client's business what is on your car, and it is (imho) a petty, stupid person who would attach bumper sticker-requirements to a job offer. I don't want to work for or with petty, stupid people. On the other hand, this petty, stupid person HAS nevertheless decided to care. I would think that outside the bounds of strictly-defined statuses on which people cannot discriminate, a client is free to choose to work with anyone they want. Clients in my business like to work with people who give them tickets to sporting events as a courtesy. Clients of your business seem to want to work with people with....acceptable bumper stickers.

So, I think you're going to have to make a decision to go with the flow or cause a ruckus. Only you can decide which you want to do. Think about whether you are happy in other areas of this job - I once had to make a decision with my job about an eyebrow piercing (one of my past AskMes) and ultimately decided to remove it, even though I think restrictions on facial piercings are dumb. If you refuse, your boss will probably think less of you, might not fire you for it, but I would expect some repercussions in terms of loss of professional respect. Is this a nice, flexible, open-minded place to work, otherwise?

Think about whether you would be cutting off your nose to spite your face if you kept the bumper sticker, or alternately, consider earning yourself +100 Moral High Ground points for complying with a dumb request.
posted by bunnycup at 2:08 PM on November 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Perhaps you could compromise by offering to park somewhere other than the company's parking lot. Back in the 1980s, I worked in a labor union office while driving a Japanese car, and I got a bit of flak for that. They never told me not to park there, or not to work there, but I understood their sentiment.
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:09 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Inspector.Gadget: Seriously? While I find the OP's conduct less than admirable, I think the owner of the client business deserves well over 60% of the blame here. The OP had a bumper sticker on his car, and he had it there for some time. As far as we know, at no time did he bring up his views with the client or otherwise introduce them into the workplace besides parking his car in the parking lot. In contrast, the owner is the one "being a self-righteous idiot casting aspersion on other people for matters that have nothing to do with the paycheck" he gives to his employees.

There's an enormous world of difference ethically between what the OP did, displaying controversial views in a potentially inappropriate setting, and what the owner did, freaking out to the OP's boss instead of growing up and recognizing that he may, from time to time, be presented with opinions he disagrees with.

Is the OP blameless? No. Does he deserve to be called a jerk and self-righteous idiot? Absolutely not under any circumstances.
posted by zachlipton at 2:10 PM on November 6, 2009


If you want to go the slightly passive-aggressive route...

Have you considered getting a magnetic sticker backing? Slap on the sticker at 5pm and remove it again in the morning. You'll probably get tired of this routine, but if it makes you feel better about communicating about politics in the workplace...
posted by theraflu at 2:12 PM on November 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Couldn't you find a sticker that is way pro-Current President and replace the anti-Idiot one. How could the client possibly have a problem with supporting and respecting the President after making his objections all about that.
posted by Jazz Hands at 2:13 PM on November 6, 2009 [45 favorites]


I think the client is being a tremendous dickweed for wanting to censor his parking lot.

However, he's the client and it's not illegal. If this were me, I'd get some printable magnetic paper and cover up the sticker with something mockingly innocuous (like "Puppies and Kittens Rule!") while I was in the client's parking lot.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:14 PM on November 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Is the OP blameless? No. Does he deserve to be called a jerk and self-righteous idiot? Absolutely not under any circumstances.

For being unprofessional, politically combative in an inappropriate venue, and absolutely blind to the fact that this sort of stuff turns people off and cuts into the revenue from which he is paid? Absolutely. Anybody that behaves like that has no right to bitch about a rather simple request to behave professionally while in the workplace.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:15 PM on November 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I might also make fake magnetic bumper stickers for horrible presidents of the past. "Hooray for Martin van Buren!" "James Buchanan ROCKS!" etc.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:16 PM on November 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


zachlipton: I think the harsh tone is coming from the fact that the business owners he is representing his company in front of get to be dicks. That's just how it works. They're the client. It's his job to make them happy, and assuming they're worth something to his own company, he should probably realize that their desires trump his, and even trump his status as employed.
posted by floam at 2:16 PM on November 6, 2009


rather simple request to behave professionally while in the workplace

The parking lot really isn't "the workplace" though. It's a jerky request from the client.

That said, it's not the hill anyone wants to die on.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:17 PM on November 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I think we'll all pretty much agree that it's a petty and and power-trippy thing for the client to be objecting to.

But that part's done and there's nothing the OP can do to change it. The answers have to focus on the things within the OP's control, and that includes talking about whether this sticker is dickish or unprofessional.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:17 PM on November 6, 2009


"respect of the Office of President of the United States, regardless of your personal views" canard

So, you will be getting an Obama sticker, I hope?
posted by Houstonian at 2:19 PM on November 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


To reiterate:

"Secondly, why on earth would you have all this ugly stuff on your vehicle you use for seeing clients anyhow? It's really unprofessional.

It really is unprofessional.
posted by 517 at 2:20 PM on November 6, 2009


Get a large magnet or other cover up for it when you go to the site. It is their parking lot /building that you will be at.
posted by nestor_makhno at 2:20 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


that includes talking about whether this sticker is dickish or unprofessional

I don't think it's reasonable to expect people's cars to be "professional" if they're not actually using them in the course of their professional activities.

I understand that that's what the client is doing, and there's nothing the OP or his boss can do about that, but I think that the client is being unreasonable.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:21 PM on November 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


the larger company chooses to use contract labor for a few reasons - one of these reasons is the ability to terminate the contract for any reason they would like. whether he should be able to ask your boss to make you take the bumper sticker off is immaterial. there are a lot of small companies that could fill this contract. if you don't take the sticker off you're losing business for your boss in a tough economy. i'm sure he'll remember that when he has to let people go because there's not enough work to go around.
posted by nadawi at 2:22 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not a good trench to die in. Regarding your free speech rights, get the idea out of your head that the bill of rights protects your individual rights against all intrusions. It doesn't. It protects the government from doing a number of things to you. The exception that proves the rule is that it does protect you from private slavery, but that's it. As to whether they can break their contract with the company, that wholly depends on what the contract says about the topic.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:24 PM on November 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've had gigs where out of respect for the client's very different views, I removed a sticker from my car. It was on a magnetic backing, so I could just slap it right back on again once I was out of sight. I saw it as a minor annoyance and part of being a professional in a world with widely varying opinions.

It's the client, not your employer, who is having an issue, so to me this isn't a simple freedom-of-speech-in-the-workplace issue. It's a "How far do I go to please the client" issue, which in your case is closely related to "How well do I protect my employer's client relationships?" Don't expect your employer to damage a relationship with a client in support of your right to have a bumper sticker.
posted by PatoPata at 2:26 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


IANAL, but this strikes me as entirely permissible. Companies and individuals choose to do business, or not do business, for all sorts of reasons. Note, this has nothing to do with employment discrimination or the like - you're not employed by this guy.

Could this be an issue with your employer's contract with the client? Absolutely. It depends entirely on how the contract is written, but almost every support contract will have some kind of cancellation clause that would allow the client to walk away.

You're absolutely within your rights to stand up for what you believe in, and to stand on a streetcorner and preach about it. But the owner of that business is equally within his rights to decide he doesn't agree with you, and as a result not do business with our company.

What's right and wrong here? Depends on your criteria. From a legal standpoint, the client will win. From a moral standpoint? Whose morality?

Sorry, but this is life. Is the client a jerk? Absolutely. But perhaps he thinks your a jerk as well.

Perhaps the best option would be to see if your boss can put someone else on that client, and you work with other clients who are less offended by the fact you proudly wear your opinions on your car.
posted by swngnmonk at 2:26 PM on November 6, 2009


My boss received a call from the owner of the client business stating, in no uncertain terms, that I am not welcome to work there as long as the sticker is on my car.

Well, that's the crux of the issue. The client hates it, your boss is serving the client, you're serving the boss. Better remove the sticker. Sidhevil, nadawi, and others are quite right. Not the hill you want to die on, and silly as it is, this may adversely affect business relations. If you kept it on your car, I doubt the client would think to themselves "oh wait, I was wrong about that, it's all cool now". Seems like it's a power thing.

If you're very serious about your bumper sticker, then you probably don't want to be working for people who would demand that you remove it anyway. But again, seems like a bad trade.
posted by Maximian at 2:29 PM on November 6, 2009


To put it simply, you've pretty much got three options:

* Take the stickers off your car. Collect 100 Moral High Ground points and pass go. You'll feel like you caved, your client will feel like he won (a pointless, stupid victory, but a victory nevertheless), and perhaps you can all move on. Potential variations include the "cover the stickers during work" and "replace with an Obama sticker " approaches.

* Refuse to remove the stickers. Force the client into even more of a power play and force your boss into a difficult situation where nobody wants to be. On the other hand, you "win" for whatever it's worth.

* Go in to work as if you've removed the stickers, but leave them there. Not the greatest of plans. See how long it takes for anyone to complain. When the owner comes to you and asks you to remove the stickers, keep responding, "I would prefer not to." Get fired, refuse to leave the office, go to jail, and starve yourself to death. Ah, odinsdream! Ah, humanity!
posted by zachlipton at 2:39 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The parking lot really isn't "the workplace" though

From a legal perspective, it probably is.
posted by hermitosis at 2:40 PM on November 6, 2009


Remove the car from the equation. Ride your bike or take the bus. Park on the street and walk a few blocks.
posted by gyusan at 2:42 PM on November 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


He who pays the piper calls the tune.
posted by holgate at 2:45 PM on November 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's reasonable to expect people's cars to be "professional" if they're not actually using them in the course of their professional activities.

He's driving to a client's site with the car . . . unless you're a delivery driver, it doesn't get more "using them in the course of business" than that. If we were talking about his employer I might agree with you. We're not. We're talking about clients.

He's got a bumper sticker that's offensive to his client. The client doesn't want it in his parking lot.

Having a negative-politics bumper sticker doesn't make the OP a dick (usually other way around, in my experience) but being outraged that someone would be offended by his bumper sticker sure makes him seem like one. After all, the whole point of a bumper sticker like that is to piss people off.
posted by toomuchpete at 2:46 PM on November 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


You want the job? You don't want the job? Bumper sticker or the job? Your choices are clear. Decide without regard to what is legal. If it were me, I wouldn't want to work for anyone so intolerant, mean-spirited, close-minded and bullying. What might he demand next? Why subject yourself to someone who exhibits such authoritarian behavior if you don't have to. Stand up for yourself and what you believe in. W IS an idiot! You're right, this client is wrong. IMO, no job is worth compromising principles and personal integrity. Stand up for yourself. BE A MAN! (And Inspector.gadget is the dick here, not you.) Be still, listen to your inner voice, follow your instincts.
posted by NorthCoastCafe at 2:46 PM on November 6, 2009


he's not working for hte client, he's working for his employer. if it quits a job every time a client makes a demand that is "authoritarian" and "bullying" he should find work that doesn't include client/contract sort of set ups. this is part and parcel of being an outsourced company.
posted by nadawi at 2:52 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the owner is a total douche, but like others have said, he has that privilege, and the state of the job market kinda supports him and others like him. Unless the contract limits the ways he can break it off, then he can do what he likes.

If I were you I would take the stickers off the car, period. While it would be funny to put on an Obama sticker or something like that, I think that would defeat the purpose...the trick is not to provoke this dude. You don't have to stop being yourself, or feel how you feel, you're just kinda putting on an invisible cloak of neutrality, so you can get through the day and do your job with minimal friction, which is usually a good attitude to have in the workplace anyway.
posted by weesha at 2:53 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think OD is being at all "combative" here. The (imho unreasonable) demand was made by the client, after all, and it's something that has absolutely nothing to do with the job OD is doing.

Assume that, if you keep the sticker, then the client will find some excuse to terminate the contract. If that's something that you/your employer are willing to absorb, then I'd say keep the sticker, and let the client shoot themselves in the foot. Or perhaps your employer can find someone else to take this client. Otherwise, cover it up, and consider that this is probably just one of many dickish moves and power trips this client is going to make, some of which will probably end up costing your business real money. But it may well be worth it.
posted by hattifattener at 2:54 PM on November 6, 2009


Yes, it's totally legal for them to not ask you to bring a car in with that sticker to their parking lot. Political views are not a protected class. If it's not on that list you can be fired for it.
posted by delmoi at 2:57 PM on November 6, 2009


Also, if you do decide to take off the stickers, you don't need to feel like you've "lost". Bumper stickers are a pretty ineffective and fighty way to support things anyways. There's plenty of more tasteful and meaningful ways to support the causes you care about. And you'll have a nice clean car.
posted by floam at 2:58 PM on November 6, 2009


He's driving to a client's site with the car . . . unless you're a delivery driver, it doesn't get more "using them in the course of business" than that. If we were talking about his employer I might agree with you. We're not. We're talking about clients.

I bet the client is the same way with his actual employees, though. And I think there's a big difference between "please don't use the car covered with super-fighty bumper stickers to chauffeur customers around" and "I don't want to see bumper stickers I don't agree with in my parking lot, no how, no way."

Here's the thing: I understand that there is no legal barrier to the client wanting to censor his parking lot.

But it's a stupid, rude, control-freaky attitude for the client to have, in my opinion. That said, sometimes you have to cater to the whims of stupid, rude, control-freaky clients.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:01 PM on November 6, 2009


[Early comment removed. If you can't refrain from combativeness, just don't answer the question, please.]
posted by cortex at 3:07 PM on November 6, 2009


If you have a significant other, why not trade cars with them for a while? You get to keep your sticker, and the client will know it's still there, without having it in their face.
posted by atchafalaya at 3:07 PM on November 6, 2009


How about, as a show of good faith to your employer, you remove the sticker so that it will not be a problem in the future but you tell your employer that you don't want to work for this particular client.

You've proven to your boss that you don't want to cause trouble for him but you don't have to feel like you've caved to the whims of a difficult client.

Granted, there may not be enough work that it's possible for your boss to keep you away from this client but it might be worth looking into.

I'm not the type to put bumper stickers on my car but I also don't like to be told what to do with my personal property.
posted by ericthegardener at 3:07 PM on November 6, 2009


I like the idea of replacing the sticker with a nice, respectful pro-Obama one.
posted by jb at 3:09 PM on November 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Personal experience: I worked for 10 years for a company where Richard Riordan was a part-owner (about 5%, which he got when his law firm helped to undo a merger with a much bigger company), and I'd been there just over a year when he ran for Mayor of L.A. I was supporting one of the other candidates and asked my boss, one of the nicest bosses of my working life and totally apolitical, if I'd have a problem with having a Vote for Other Candidate sticker on my car. He frowned the way I rarely saw him frown and said "well, as long as you never park in the company lot..." I've rarely experienced anything approaching Freedom of Speech in the workplace, especially when I was doing temp or contract work. Since the jerk couched his criticism in "respect for the Presidency" terms, if you want to make any statement, a pro-O sticker might satisfy the letter of the law, but you'll still have bad blood with a client you might otherwise like working for. Get out the razor blade and start scraping...
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:16 PM on November 6, 2009


By declining to remove the sticker in question, would this client have any legal grounds to terminate their contract with my company?

How would we know what your client's contract with your company says? Except in cases of racial discrimination (which appellate courts have found extends to contractors under 42 U.S.C. §1981), people don't have to do business with people they don't like for whatever reason, so unless the contract's termination clause prohibits it they're free to tell your employer that they no longer want to work with them, or with you.

And even in the case of employees, only some states prohibit employment discrimination by private employers based on political affiliation, and so far as I know North Carolina isn't one of them.
posted by nicwolff at 3:35 PM on November 6, 2009


Thanks everyone for your thoughts. A couple of clarifications.

If you want the job remove the bumper sticker.

If you don't want the job don't remover the bumper sticker.

Why is this even a question?


It's a question because I feel there's more at play here. It's about my views outside of the workplace being potentially used to disqualify me for a job which I am otherwise qualified for. I understand perfectly well the logistical method of solving this situation from my end. Where does it end, though? The person I'm replacing has WND as his homepage, and was probably very like-minded to the individual who complained. Politically (even though it shouldn't matter) I will be a vastly different person than who I'm replacing.

I also have an HRC sticker, a Socialist National Parks sticker, FSM, EFF and AAA (oh, the horror). If and when the client decides that any of these also don't belong in his parking lot I'd like to understand my options. I was not familiar with the concept of bumper stickers being incompatible with employment. If that's the case, I understand. That would be unfortunate, but so be it. I should probably also avoid putting up yard signs, right? Those can be seen, and the guy lives in my neighborhood somewhere. He may drive by and disagree.

Couldn't you find a sticker that is way pro-Current President and replace the anti-Idiot one. How could the client possibly have a problem with supporting and respecting the President after making his objections all about that.

I already have several pro-Obama stickers. I don't have a sticker that says "Blindly support ${CURRENT_PRESIDENT}." though.

For being unprofessional, politically combative in an inappropriate venue, and absolutely blind to the fact that this sort of stuff turns people off and cuts into the revenue from which he is paid? Absolutely. Anybody that behaves like that has no right to bitch about a rather simple request to behave professionally while in the workplace.

I do appreciate your commentary. However, please note that I have not bitched about anything yet, unless you count this question as bitching, which perhaps you do. I have yet to respond to this request, which included among other things, outright threats from this client that he would have personally kicked me off his property if I hadn't already left by the time he noticed the sticker. It was a very hostile discussion that he had with my boss, which surprised me and causes me to worry about how far it could be taken, even if the sticker in question is removed.
posted by odinsdream at 3:52 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I already have several pro-Obama stickers.

Man, how big is your bumper?

It was a very hostile discussion that he had with my boss, which surprised me and causes me to worry about how far it could be taken, even if the sticker in question is removed.

Let me just put this out there: I'd either remove all of them or none of them. Or at least all of them you think probably are going to offend republicans, the negative anti-what-they-like ones.

If you just rip off the one, I think it'll end up being in vain, and you'll have done it for nothing. I can't be sure, but I'm guessing the guy was pissed off by almost everything on the car, and will just take removing the one he specifically mentioned as passive aggressive.
posted by floam at 4:05 PM on November 6, 2009


Let your boss know that if he needs you to continue working for that client that you'll gladly remove the sticker/s for the sake of the business. Then for each sticker send an appropriate and satisfying donation to some charity the douchebag W lover will hate. I'm sure there are lots of excellent pro-gay marriage right charities for example. Then if you have to go and work for the douche you can grin at the thought of how much money he's raised for gay marriage! You could even have a little private 'swear box' for your favourite charity. Every time Mr Douchy McDouche is a douche about something - you send a little donation to a charity he will hate. That way you keep smiling and he unwittingly raises money for good causes.
posted by Flitcraft at 4:24 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like the idea of replacing the sticker with a nice, respectful pro-Obama one.

Yes, that.

Or, a "Way to go, Joe!" sticker - as I suspect the irony of it would be completely lost on Mr. Client.
posted by ourroute at 4:27 PM on November 6, 2009


The reason given was the 'respect of the Office of President of the United States, regardless of your personal views' canard.

Mr. Bush is a private citizen, not the president.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:29 PM on November 6, 2009


It's gone beyond the bumper sticker. If he's hostile, then I'm sure that he will know who you are and your views regardless the presence or absence of that sticker or the others. Even if you remove the sticker, will he continue to seethe about your differing political views and your presence in his office? Then he can do even more harm by maligning your skills and abilities, which will be more germane to your employment than the sticker. It's good that he showed his hand now, rather than in some passive aggressive fashion later on.

Can you keep your promotion and have this client assigned to someone else? It doesn't seem to be a fortuitous start with the client.
posted by elle.jeezy at 4:36 PM on November 6, 2009


It's about my views outside of the workplace being potentially used to disqualify me for a job which I am otherwise qualified for

This is legal in the US, according to all the news I read. As delmoi says, political affiliation and philosophy is not a protected class even to the limited extent that age/race/ethnicity/gender/religious affiliation are.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:40 PM on November 6, 2009


Mr. Bush is a private citizen, not the president.

Exactly, which is why I mentioned it was a canard.
posted by odinsdream at 4:57 PM on November 6, 2009


my views outside of the workplace being potentially used to disqualify me for a job which I am otherwise qualified for.

There's a truck I've seen around a few times. The back bumper is covered in right-wing bumper stickers. I'm generally capable of civil conversation with conservatives despite my being a liberal, but when I see his "John Kerry for President of France" sticker still stuck on among all the other right-wing messages, it just makes me irrationally angry. If I hired a contractor for something and he showed up in that truck, it would be both unfair and natural for me to be annoyed by his bumper stickers in a way that affected my decision to hire him or not.

Cars with lots of bumper stickers are noticeable. The politically conservative client noticed your noticeable car with its 5+ liberal bumper stickers, including an outdated jab at George Bush. It annoyed him.

Maybe this guy would have been a jerk even if all you had was a single "Obama/Biden" sticker, but if you have a job that requires driving to clients' locations and don't know for certain they'll appreciate your array of bumper stickers, it's reasonable to assume someone is going to see and react negatively to your car.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:59 PM on November 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


if it was your employer, i'd be bitching up a storm about your freedom of speech. but it's not your employer--it's a client of your employer. when you go onsite, you are representing your company to the client, not you personally. in that vein, you should be as professional as possible. as someone above indicated, you shouldn't really even have any offensive stickers at all.

the person requesting removal is a customer, not your employer. not giving the customer what they want is bad business.

if it's that much of a big deal, get the sticker on a magnet and remove it when you get there every day. otherwise take the sticker off and show that client that liberal idiots are awesome consultants.
posted by lester at 5:24 PM on November 6, 2009


I get where you are coming from because I think we share many of the same views politically and I think the client's request is outrageous. I also have a tendency to get stuck when I encounter a black-and-white situation like this so I will just say that when you say:

I've told my boss that I'll take the weekend before getting back to him, though I let him know I am not interested in removing the sticker. He is not asking that I do so, but may not be interested in starting a fight with the client.

I hope you are considering the consequences. Maybe finding another job would not be difficult for you, or maybe, like me, you could get work pounding nails. However, when I read your question I am reminded of situations I have been involved in that aroused tremendous anger, frustration and resentment in me. In some of those situations I prevailed and was "right" albeit at great personal cost. I hope this works out for you and that you make the decision that is best for you. Good luck.
posted by mlis at 5:35 PM on November 6, 2009


I removed a bumper sticker for my first job. It was a very small office and we shared parking with a funeral home.


I removed my Grateful Dead sticker...
posted by cosmac at 5:36 PM on November 6, 2009 [13 favorites]


You should not work for someone who demands that you do this - it says a lot about the people involved. Personally, I'd make a huge public stink about it.

One possible solution (if you'd be willing to give them the satisfaction of being able to successfully get you to do this) would be to take a new sticker and stick it to a sheet of magnetic paper which you could easily remove when going to work. Probably a hassle though.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:56 PM on November 6, 2009


and how much do you bet that the company owner who complained sends around offensive and outrageous e-mails about Obama? get some magnetic tape, put blank paper on one side, and simply magnet over the bumper sticker in question for those times you go to this office, and hope at some point it will all be forgotten and you won't have to do this anymore...
posted by kuppajava at 6:04 PM on November 6, 2009


Outright threats to have you kicked off the property?! Even if you remove the bumper sticker, it won't end there if you work for this client. I'd stay away.
posted by wens at 6:53 PM on November 6, 2009


Keep your sticker and turn down this job. Trust me-this kind of Republican can and will be a thorn in your side.


( I know this because I am a Republican and I know these types all too well.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:24 PM on November 6, 2009


"outright threats from this client that he would have personally kicked me off his property if I hadn't already left by the time he noticed the sticker. It was a very hostile discussion that he had with my boss."

This is the key here. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to have a positive work relationship with this client at this stage. I think your best bet is to go to your boss, say you're happy to take all the stickers off your car, but doubt that it will work out well for you to work for this client, and see what he thinks about assigning someone else to that job. Say you will remain as professional and appropriate as possible if you stick with it, but you're concerned that the relationship is already ruined. Give him the information he needs to do his job and let it be his call. It's your boss who ultimately has to deal with this, and you want to be the reasonable one here in his eyes.

If your boss wants you to proceed with this client, promise to do your best to remain professional, document everything inappropriate this guy does during your time there, and be prepared for frequent blow-ups.
posted by zachlipton at 7:39 PM on November 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


"I also have an HRC sticker, a Socialist National Parks sticker, FSM, EFF and AAA (oh, the horror)." ... "I already have several pro-Obama stickers."

That many bumper stickers on a car used to make trips to service clients, regardless of the content of the stickers, is really unprofessional. Even if it's your private car, it's also your private clothing, but you dress professionally when you go to work, right? The car you drive to work, especially to client sites, is part of cultivating a professional appearance. It's best to have no bumper stickers or other decorative clutter on it at all.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:39 PM on November 6, 2009 [13 favorites]


Too bad you don't live in California:

Labor Code 1101 and 1102 prohibit employers from forbidding, directing, controlling, terminating or threatening to terminate an employee based on politics. This was further expanded on in Ali v. LA Focus Publication (2003) 112 CA4th 1477. (from linked in, but I'll buy it)

That being said, losing that client in this market could make for very bad things at your job.

If it was me: "I'm sorry we do not have the same political views, but it in now way will affect how I perform my duties here." And the sticker would stay.
posted by Big_B at 7:46 PM on November 6, 2009


You don't mention what state you're in (I'll assume this is the US), but I am a California liberal living in conservative Louisiana and I am very careful about what I put on my car here. I occasionally go out to work appointments and such in my personal vehicle, and I would not find it appropriate for my current job for me to have anything wildly political on my car. I work for a rather conservative company in a conservative area, and I just don't find it appropriate. If I were working for some grassroots nonprofit back in California and everyone had crazy stickers on their car, it might be another story.
posted by radioamy at 8:01 PM on November 6, 2009


Tell your boss that you are going to park your car a block from the office and walk the rest of the way.
posted by digsrus at 8:29 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Go with the pro-Obama sticker. You get to express your political views and the client, who has already framed his objections as a "respect for the President" red herring, pretty much has to go along with it.

Of couse, I suspect at that point, Mr. Client will forfeit the pretense at patriotism and simply tell you to remove the pro-Obama sticker, too. In my experience, folks like this only pretend to occupy the moral high ground just as long as it serves their purpose. As soon as it's no longer useful, they'll resort to simple power-play tactics to get what they want. In which case, you'll be back at the same position you're in now: lose the bumper sticker or lose the contract.

And that's a question none of us here can answer for you, because it really depends on what your personal priorities are, what your financial situation is, what is the likelihood of any fallout from this client affecting the rest of your job, etc.

Good luck!
posted by darkstar at 8:55 PM on November 6, 2009


I recently refused to do business with a company based on offensive (to me) political bumper stickers. The stickers were on what appeared to be a company vehicle, emblazoned with the company logo/phone number/etc. I feel that stating their over-the-top right wing viewpoints ("Rush is Right" and "I'll keep my money and guns, you can keep the Change" are two I recall - there were some pro-life ones too) alongside their logo was disrespectful to me as a prospective customer. I'll never do business with them even though they're a local leader in their industry, a service I'm in the market for.

Flip the politics around, and I guess I can kind of see the client's point. The difference between a personal vehicle and a company one is a big one, in my mind, but it must not be to the client.

Since the vehicle in question in this case is your personal property, it should be--certainly must be--covered under free speech laws. Nobody can make you remove the stickers. IANAL, but I think that you might be able to get some weight behind a wrongful termination lawsuit if you were fired for this (and could prove it--try to get it in writing by responding to your boss via email?). As everybody has already said, though, this is a "pick your battles" kind of situation. If you really like/need the new assignment, I think you'll have to clean off the sticker and suck up to the client to smooth over the issue. The damage has already been done. If it were me, I might clean off all the stickers just to emphasize the point.

If the principle of the issue is more important to you, I'd tell your boss that this is the reason you should have company cars, refuse the assignment, and let the chips fall where they may.

Sorry this post is long... I had the personal anecdote I wanted to share, but I wanted to try and answer.
posted by maniactown at 9:07 PM on November 6, 2009


This client has been very excited to hear that I will be staffing for them in place of the current guy.

That should read, "This client was very excited". Now they don't want you and you probably don't want them. It's likely that office will always be a contentious work environment for you. Ask your boss to have someone else service this client.
posted by 26.2 at 9:30 PM on November 6, 2009


Discuss a reasonable compromise with your boss. This could include alternative forms of transportation or hiding the "offending" stickers underneath magnetic sheets while visiting clients.

If he fails to compromise, look for a new job, because if your boss would be unreasonable about these approaches to solving the problem — the problem being the client's unreasonable requests — then you'll probably have to deal with worse from your boss going forward: drug tests, loyalty tests, political re-education, etc.

Your personal rights as a human being, your dignity as a human being, and your sanity as a human being are too valuable to sell, even in a shit economy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:50 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


maniactown: The First Amendment is very, very clear: "Congress shall make no law..." Through the Fourteenth Amendment and various court decisions, many of the responsibilities of the Bill of Rights are extended to also apply to the states, but there is no legal basis for extending the requirements of the First Amendment to private corporations and/or individuals. Free Speech means that the government cannot unreasonably tell you what bumper stickers you can display on your car ("unreasonably" being a key word here), but it does nothing when it comes to the actions of an employer. There may be other laws providing similar protections to employees under other circumstances (e.g. those in California as described by Big_B above), but Free Speech doesn't apply to private businesses, nor does it apply in many circumstances where people like to raise it as a defense.

Furthermore, the OP isn't an employee of the owner in this case, he's a contractor employed by another firm. Here, he has even fewer rights than he would have as an employee. There are a few protections against outright discrimination (where a protected class like race or sex is involved), but generally, the employment relationship here is between the OP and his boss, not the OP and the client. This is, in large part, a reason why businesses like hiring contractors, because they are insulated complaints for wrongful termination, workers' comp (IIRC), wage&hour, and other labor laws.
posted by zachlipton at 12:25 AM on November 7, 2009


If it was me, I'd definitely go the pro-Obama sticker route. It seems like a perfect "compromise".

The more patriotic and flag-wavey the better.

But yeah, I agree with the commenters who say that this is a transactional thing. If it came down to it, I would probably choose the job over the sticker. But I'd probably push for a policy of some kind that requires no political/issue stickers at all. Another "compromise".

And I disagree with those who say this is an issue of your "soul" versus "the man". I don't know about the rest of you, but my soul or self worth or freedom doesn't depend on whether I can express my opinions on someone else's dime.
posted by gjc at 5:58 AM on November 7, 2009


Is it a parking lot/garage with a wall or line of trees? Perhaps you can park back in (FANCY parking!), and avoid further scrutiny of your car's backside.

But in the meantine, I agree with the comments that it looks unprofessional and you're deciding between the sticker and the job here.
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:12 AM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't have a sticker that says "Blindly support ${CURRENT_PRESIDENT}." though.

SUPPORT OUR CURRENT PRESIDENT! would be an awesome temporary bumpersticker to cover up the ones that Douchebag McControl-Freak objects to.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:23 AM on November 7, 2009


Call the ACLU. They'll know if it's legal. I agree with your politics, and I would be profoundly pissed at such a request. But. A client of your employer does not want your bumper sticker on the premises. It's usually accepted that pissing off clients is unwise, esp. over trivial matters. So, it's okay to remove the sticker; you won't lose your progressive cred. It's okay to keep it, and you probably won't be working for that client. If you have the energy to tackle this, go ahead and make it a cause.

I'd get a Peace is Patriotic sticker, or Support the Troops - Bring Them Home.
posted by theora55 at 4:27 PM on November 7, 2009


The problem is that both you and this client are more interested in politics, than work. I feel sorry for your boss.

The client sounds like a bully and an idiot. Regardless though, it's unprofessional for you to park in a client's lot with a car covered in political bumper stickers. As someone said upthread, they're guaranteed to be offensive to some people: that's kind of the point.

So really, it's up to you. If you want to be the kind of person who plasters his car with political slogans, then go work at a place where that isn't likely to cause problems. It may be that client-facing work for a generalist organization isn't for you.

Otherwise, Zachlipton and 26.2 are correct. If you like your job and want to help your boss, then 1) ask to have someone else assigned to this client, so your company doesn't lose the business. Because this guy hates you, and that won't change. And 2) take off all the bumper stickers, so the whole episode doesn't just repeat itself with the next client.

You're not a jerk, and obviously you have a right to your views. But there's a mismatch here: you can't be a client-facing service provider, and simultaneously openly display strong political opinions. It jus t doesn't work that way.
posted by Susan PG at 1:57 AM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


« Older Spyware help   |   How to sympathetically restore an old marble top? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.