Sunday, September 29, 2013

How NOT to Handle Your So-Called Negro Problem

Business Insider recently posted an interview with Simon Anderson, CEO of DreamHost, a web hosting provider and domain name registrar, during which Anderson talked about his hiring practices while revealing his favorite interview question.

But I really wasn’t interested in that. Instead, I was interested in this statement from Anderson:

“I think there’s this big shift under way in business where you have to respect the fact that people are going to forge their own path, and they’re going to be motivated by different things and they’re going to want to do meaningful things."
You don’t say? Well, Minnesota company Izza Bending Tube & Wire didn’t get that memo.

When manager Myrna Peltonen decided to “forge her own path,” by refusing her boss’ directive to fire employee Randall L. Smith, Peltonen was demoted and given a pay cut. Later she was laid off and eventually, fired.

According to Peltonen, she’d recommended that Smith, a temporary worker, be hired full time after working the requisite 500 hours.

But her manager rebuffed the recommendation, allegedly telling Peltonen that “We have not had good luck with n-----s [racial slur].”

The manager then told Peltonen to fire Smith, but she refused. Instead, she called the staffing agency that had placed Smith. She also told Smith what had happened.

Smith then spoke to the staffing firm’s owner, Rose Vaughn, asking her what the agency planned to do. Vaughn suggested that Smith work elsewhere. (Gee, thanks lady.) The agency later lied to Izza about why Smith couldn’t work there any longer, and then effectively dropped him.

I think I understand why Creative Staffing Solutions didn’t confront their racist client. Doing so would have required an amount of caring, courage, and lack of self-interest that most individuals just don’t have (which is what makes Peltonen such a compelling character, actually). But dropping Smith like a hot potato? Hmmm ...

(However, I do get a chuckle thinking that Izza must have heard the news about Smith not being able to work there and thought “Whew. Dodged that bullet.” Haha.)

Smith later filed a complaint against Creative Staffing and Izza, and the parties reached a confidential settlement earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Peltonen is waiting to see how things will shake out in her case. 

She says Smith “worked hard and deserved the opportunity for a full-time permanent position with benefits at Izza. This case is about doing what is right and taking a stand against intolerance. Mr. Smith deserved better. Everyone at Izza deserved better.”

Wow. Talking about "forging your own path." 

You go, girl.


  1. Thinking with my HR employee relations hat on. . .why didn't Peltonen report HER manager to the upper levels of leadership. His comments are not healthy for an organization and indicative of bad practices. If she's going o whistleblow about her mgr, make sure the leadership is aware. The fact that she told will obviously come back anyways.

    A lot of times a contractor may not be comfortable with approaching the hiring company with challenges of wrongdoing. They fear jeopardizing their contractual relationship.

    1. "...why didn't Peltonen report HER manager to the upper levels of leadership?"

      Hey Rodney, that's a really good question. Was her boss the owner? Was Peltonen completely apolitical? I have to say I was a little surprised to read that she'd immediately gone outside the organization with the problem, but I'm inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she had a valid reason.

    2. her "manager" was the owner. I worked with that company for many years. There wasn't any more levels to climb for her.