Eastman Kodak Co.'s recent firing of an employee who criticized a company initiative on behalf of gay workers has touched off a rancorous debate between proponents of corporate diversity and free expression, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The Eastman Kodak dispute began in early October, when Rolf Szabo, a millwright at a Rochester, N.Y., plant, received an E-mail touting National Coming Out Day, October 11. The memo, forwarded by a supervisor, suggested ways to make gay and lesbian workers feel more
comfortable discussing their sexual orientation.
Szabo typed out a terse response: "Please do not send this type of information to me anymore as I find it disgusting and offensive." However, instead of replying only to the supervisor who sent him the E-mail, Szabo's response was sent to all 1,000 employees who had received the original memo.
Gerard Meuchner, a Kodak spokesman, said Szabo wasn't dismissed for holding a particular opinion or belief, which he says Szabo could have expressed to supervisors or the human resources department without fear of recrimination. The problem, he said, was that Szabo sent it as a mass mailing. "In the company's view this act created the potential for a hostile work environment," he said.
Kodak says it fired the 23-year company veteran after he refused to sign papers apologizing for the E-mail and outlining steps he could take to prevent a recurrence of such actions.