Don’t Fire Someone for Their Spouse’s Social Media Posts

by Evil HR Lady on June 8, 2020

Racism is bad.

All my readers (I hope) agree.

There are racists.

We also all agree.

If you are a horrible person, even off the job or on social media, you may lose your job. With a few exceptions, there is no right to free speech at work in the private sector.

But, if your spouse is a horrible person, should you also lose your job?

LA Galaxy terminated soccer player Aleksandar Katai after racist posts his wife, Tea Katai, made on Instagram.

The posts were inappropriate, racist, and inflammatory in a time when everyone is on edge. She shouldn’t have posted them.

But Aleksandar isn’t the lord and master over his wife. This isn’t 1453 when women were property and husbands were accountable for their wives’ actions. She’s an adult. He’s an adult. He condemned what she wrote, saying that he condemns what she said.

His employer, LA Galaxy, still terminated him.

We can all agree that racism is bad without punishing family members of people who say and do bad things. We are not North Korea. We should not be using Stasi tactics. There should be no guilt by association. We do not hold husbands accountable for their wives’ actions, or vice versa. Getting married does not do away with your ability to think and act independently.

Holding someone accountable for their own social media posts, fine. Holding someone accountable for their spouse’s posts is a road we don’t want to go down. Ever.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

grannybunny June 8, 2020 at 1:40 pm

I agree. It’s so commonplace as to be a cliché, but just about everyone has a “crazy uncle” — or other unacceptable family member — we dread seeing at Thanksgiving.

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Anonymous June 9, 2020 at 6:52 pm

I’m the crazy uncle for those of my nieces and nephews who are cream puffs and snowflakes.

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Dorothy Young June 8, 2020 at 4:04 pm

I agree with the post as it regards ordinary employees BUT …

Pro athletes contracts often have morals clauses and this incident involving a player’s spouse may be covered by that sort of clause.

And very public actions by very public employees like a professional athlete cause a company more grief than the same action by an ordinary Employee might.

And sad as this is for Katai, he’s one of MANY casualties of this series of events. That’s a cold stance to take, but in the context of the time and place this “parting of ways” was probably self-preservation for the Galaxy.

What do you think the appropriate action by the Galaxy would have been?

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Anonymous June 9, 2020 at 6:54 pm

Since the spouse is not under contract, the contract could hardly reasonably make the player responsible for what his spouse posts. I seriously doubt whether such a clause would be enforceable.

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James June 9, 2020 at 9:41 pm

I don’t. My wife and I have had a number of discussions about the potential for my behavior to affect her job (she’s a teacher). To give an example: At one point I made a joke about a 17-year-old kid throwing a party while the parents were away, and she was worried that, had a school administrator heard the joke, the administrator would think I was advocating such behavior and fire her. The other that springs to mind is me kissing her in public. I’d just come off a multi-week job where I was working 12 hours a day and nearly killed twice. But PDA is forbidden on school grounds, and my wife was concerned that should an administrator see me kiss her (in a Walmart parking lot) she’d be fired for “giving the students ideas”. I informed her that if those ideas were a committed marriage that’s lasted more than 10 years and includes three kids, any Southern conservative should view that as a good thing.

I’m with you. I think that since I have not signed any contracts with my wife’s employer, have not verbally agreed to anything, have not even been consulted on the matter, I have no obligation to abide by the rules they have for teachers. But my wife has a point. If they want you fired, a manager will get you fired. If they can’t officially fire you for your spouse’s behavior, they’ll find some other excuse.

What you can do by law and what you can get away with are two different things.

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RebelwithMouseyHair June 10, 2020 at 3:18 pm

Your wife has signed a contract, so your wife has to avoid PDA. So you don’t kiss her in public, OK?

I think it’s completely stupid, she should be able to live her life as she sees fit, and children will have seen other people kissing and love is a many-splendour’d thing, but you do see that her being kissed by you is a PDA that violates the agreement she signed?

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Kathy June 8, 2020 at 4:22 pm

Agreed! It’s certainly interesting watching Kelly Ann Conway, the US president’s counselor, and her husband George Conway, who leads in an active anti-Trump movement, demonstrate that a couple can have extremely different opinions both privately and in the public eye.

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grannybunny June 8, 2020 at 4:54 pm

And James Carville and Mary Matalin before the Conways. There is a substantial difference, though, between merely having differing political beliefs and having a spouse engaging in hate speech and activities.

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K. M. June 8, 2020 at 7:01 pm

I agree to an extent. However, “silence is violence”; has Aleksandar denounced his wife’s comments? Also, being the spouse of a celebrity automatically gives you a higher platform to stand on and a louder loudspeaker. I can see how the Galaxy would not want to aid in hate speech.

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Kimberly June 8, 2020 at 11:03 pm

He condemned them after they got called out on them. But it wasn’t real – because he didn’t kick her out. I think he should be fired and banned from playing. Spouses and children are different from parents, siblings, and extended family.

You choose your spouse. The fact this woman is a racist is NOT a surprise to him. He knew that and chooses to associate with her.

You raise children you help form their values when they are under 18 or being supported by you over 18 you are partially responsible for their actions on a sliding scale. (The parent of a 10 yo has more responsibility for the actions of that child than the parent of a 17 yo. )After 18 if you know they are racist and you continue to support them financially you are endorsing their values.

You are not responsible for extended family members’ actions – as long as you disown them. If you continue to associate with them – then again you are making a choice and deserve the consequences.

One of my aunts and her husband were disowned by the whole family over their behavior with COVID-19. we can agree to disagree over Coke Vs Pepsi, over rugby vs American football. You don’t get to endanger people’s lives by not following basic safety procedures or for calling for lynchings. He should have kicked her out and filed for a divorce. He didn’t he deserves to lose everything.

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Anonymous June 9, 2020 at 7:06 pm

Let’s not let intellectual intercourse devolve into sloganeering. “Silence is violence” is nothing more than the BLM and Antifa mantra du jour, which seeks to force whites suffering from the mental disorder of white guilt to kneel and apologize for their “privilege.” Actually, the ancient Roman law was “Qui tacit consenter videtur” or “He who is silent will be seen to consent.” Such mindless recitals are used as justifications for techniques almost identical to theose practiced during the Maoist Cultural Revolution by Red Guard mobs who shaming intellectuals and others who dissented from their mindless destruction and apotheosizing of Mao.

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RebelwithMouseyHair June 10, 2020 at 3:33 pm

Silence equals consent, sure. And silence leads to violence too. Nothing mindless about it all. As for your mumbo jumbo, however…

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Courtney June 8, 2020 at 7:11 pm

Don’t Fire Someone for Their Spouse’s Social Media Posts – that sounds appropriate and rational. But then when you read further to find out someone’s spouse shared hate speech on social media? That complicates matters. This isn’t someone’s far off wacky relative. This is their spouse, arguable the person they are closest to. Having differing political opinions, etc is one thing. But he married someone who is a racist. I would absolutely not be comfortable working with someone who’s spouse would say anything like that. That being said, I’m also Black so her words feel like a personal attack. The words are triggering, and bring feeling of fear, anxiety, etc.

So I’m really torn – what would an appropriate HR solution be? I am unsure of whether I think he should have been fired or not. But, what if I was his coworker? What about protecting my right to feel safe at work, when I could feel incredibly unsafe working next to him?

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BethRA June 8, 2020 at 10:41 pm

On thing a company could do is ban the offending person from company property and company sponsored-events. In this woman’s case, that would mean the stadium, practice facilities, team functions, etc.

My initial thought was that firing someone because of what their spouse says implies/endorses one a level of control for one spouse to have over another that borders on abusive. But you raise an important point about how BIPOC folks would feel working with him, knowing he’s married to someone who posted something that ugly (and those posts really were heinous). So, I don’t know.

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Anonymous June 9, 2020 at 7:11 pm

You just have to swallow your discomfort in working with someone who is married to a racist. You have a right to protection to protection from racist acts and speech directed toward you by a co-worker. You have no right to dictate their thoughts or attitudes, or to dictate whom they choose to associate with as friends or even more intimately. While most employees are at-will, it is utterly inappropriate to fire someone because of the actions of someone else over whom s/he has no control. A dog -yes. A wife, husband or other relative-no.

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Millennial Perspective June 8, 2020 at 7:39 pm

I find this post terrifying. As a first gen highschool and college graduate I already had to fight uphill against the “apple never falls far from the tree” mentality.

Where’s the line? If my parents post racist BS should I get fired even though I’m a supporter of BLM? Are you afraid of me now because my parents are bigots even though I have never done or said anything of the sort?

If not parents, then what about parents that live with you?

And speaking of spouses lots of spouses physically abuse their partners. Should those partners be fired from work because of their spouses behavior?

Yes silence is violence. However Aleksander was not silent. Galaxy could have easily made a statement even a joint one with Aleksander condemning the speech.

Firing someone for anything their family did is just plain wrong. Just like jailing someone for their families crimes was.

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Anonymous June 9, 2020 at 7:20 pm

No “silence is NOT violence.” The complete expression of the Roman law was “Quit tacet consentire videtur ubi loqui debuit ac potuit.” It means: “He who is silent will be seen to consent where he ought to have spoken and was able to” You cannot know or understand what may or may not have caused the other person to remain silent. Original sin is the only instance of collective guilt that can be justified by logic or religion.

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RebelwithMouseyHair June 10, 2020 at 3:37 pm

ah this time you’ve come up with a different Latin quote, did you look it up between messages?
of course nobody knows why people remain silent, but it doesn’t matter.
As for the mumbo-jumbo of your last sentence, let me just point out that religion cannot justify anything.

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MariaRose June 9, 2020 at 2:23 am

Interesting perspective from Millennial equating an employee spouse’s on social media to the actual employee’s fault by association. Is this was so problematic wouldn’t the employee have shown tendencies in their work-related functions, before the present? Why react so incisive now just to keep a public front? This could have been addressed in both written and oral disciplining on the employee’s work record and eliminate the “offensive” spouse from all work-related activities. I am quite sure the posting wasn’t the first time, people who post offensively do so to get reactions to”up their numbers of followers” as if that pays the bills. There’s more to this story than a single posting for the person to be fired. Thanks, Millennial for that perspective from an OK Boomer.

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Dorothy Young June 10, 2020 at 7:54 pm

“Why react so incisive now just to keep a public front?” To keep up a public front. To sell tickets and merch. To avoid backlash.

I spent my career at a Fortune 10 company. They had a rule about “not embarrassing the company” and they enforced it.

My educated guess remains that his contract allows the franchise to boot him if a family member embarrasses the organization. Professional sports contracts are draconian, tilted entirely towards the league and team. And I can guarantee contracts will contain that clause going forward.

Suzanne, I’m not saying he “knows everything“ about his wife. But what does it say about him that he’s married to a stupid, vicious, tasteless woman? Is this his first hint of her character? She’s not American; so she’s downright rude, too.

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Evil HR Lady June 9, 2020 at 7:48 am

It’s amazing how many people think that spouses know everything about each other.

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Johanna Cabal June 9, 2020 at 2:56 pm

I’m surprised no one has brought up domestic abuse (and yes, even male spouses can be abused…something I saw weekly growing up). What if the spouse posting the offensive material is abusive? Losing a job could entrap the victimized spouse even further in a bad relationship.

Also, some states and localities have passed laws to protect domestic violence victims in the workplace. I could see someone making a case that this situation could apply to them and now the company has to deal with legal fallout and bad press.

I know we all want to see people punished for disgusting viewpoints but I don’t want to see outrage directed toward the wrong party. And I know most of us are thinking “he or she should leave” but that’s not always so simple. There’s finance issues and children could be involved.

Just my two cents…

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Bobboccio June 10, 2020 at 4:53 pm

I think we are long past the time when a husband was supposed to keep his wife in line. Now partners aren’t allowed to censor each other’s communications.

Firing someone for something his or her relative did? How was he supposed to prevent her from writing something she wanted to write?

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Anonymous June 14, 2020 at 7:37 am

Late to the party, but for some context, there is a real problem with racism in European soccer that I think plays into this. MLS fans are very serious about cultivating a positive and inclusive fan community particularly because of the horrible abuse players of color have faced abroad and racist actions by soccer fan clubs. Many players have spoken out about their personal experiences with racial abuse from fans and other players on and off the pitch. Frankly it’s difficult to believe he was totally unaware of her views, which is the big problem. How do we know he doesn’t actually agree on some level? At best it’s likely he simply didn’t find it important that they be on the same page. He’s a public figure and expected to be a positive role model and representative of LA Galaxy/MLS, which means that he is appropriately held to a higher standard than you or I. Even when I worked for state government at the lowest possible rung it was explained to me that I would be scrutinized more heavily than others because I was a government employee, fair or not. Bottom line, if he is okay with having a significant other who doesn’t respect the humanity of black people, that’s a glaring problem with his judgment and integrity, and not one that MLS needs to import from Europe.

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