HR can never look on and do nothing

Have a white supremacist or neo-Nazi on the payroll? Fire them



It was noted philosopher John Stuart Mill who once said, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends than that good men should look on and do nothing.” This was in 1867 when he was delivering a university address.

A shorter, catchier way to phrase it is the oft-quoted and impossible-to-source “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Yes, I’m talking about white supremacists. And yes, the question of what an employer should do when it finds one of these on the payroll has arisen.

I’m not a fence-sitter on this issue. There is no handwringing necessary over what human resources needs to do with employees who chant slogans such as “Jews will not replace us” or “One people, one nation, end immigration.”

Or the less creative “Go the fuck back to Africa.” Or those who say the killing of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old protester run over by a car allegedly driven by a white supremacist, was “more than justified.”

Fire them.

Their words are not free speech. We don’t need a philosophical discussion about first amendment rights in the United States or charter and human rights in Canada. This language is the realm of Nazis and Klansmen and all types of nonsense that we shouldn’t have to spend any time discussing in 2017.

Passing the torch

If these protesting idiots — be it in Charlottesville, Va., or Quebec City — want to turn back the clock, I’m all for it. Let’s go back to 1942, and climb aboard the Queen Elizabeth as it crashed through the waves of the North Atlantic carrying thousands of young men from Canada to England to fight in the Second World War.

One of them was my grandfather, Joe Hart, who celebrated his 20th birthday crammed in tight and hot quarters on that ship.

He gave up four years of his life — sleeping in the muck, under the stars, away from family and friends — fighting this kind of bigotry and hatred.

He was joined by 1.1 million fellow Canadians who served in the war. More than 44,000 were killed and 54,000 were wounded.

Stand in front of them with your cowardly chants and taunts — I dare you.

But it’s not 1942. The torch has been passed, it is now ours to hold high. My grandfather’s biggest fear was that when the veterans were dead and gone, Canadians might forget about them and their sacrifices, and let this type of thinking rise again.

Here’s the good news: We won’t, and it won’t.

Despite some confusing and tepid statements from the president of the United States, we’ve already seen overwhelming evidence of how little support these knuckleheads actually have — the counterprotests have been much larger in every case.

And on social media, movements have begun to identify the people who marched and chanted racist slogans. There’s no hiding in the digital age.

Legal considerations

Stuart Rudner, a partner at Rudner McDonald in Toronto, wrote a column on our website ( that deals with the specifics of what employers can and can’t do if one of their employees is caught on video chanting racist slogans or supporting racist groups.

He states the legal arguments far more eloquently than I, but sums it up thusly: “What can you do if you discover that one of your employees is a neo-Nazi or white supremacist? In almost all cases, you will be able to terminate the relationship.

“The only question will be whether you have just cause to do so, or whether you will have to do so on a without cause basis and provide them with some severance pay.”

Paying severance pay to a bigot may not feel right, but getting this person off the payroll — and sending a message in the process to employees, their families and the community at large — is well worth the cost.

This is also a good time to review your employee handbook — it should address racist behaviour in a direct and severe manner. Some things go without saying. Sadly, this can’t be one of them.

National HR Awards – Nominations closing soon!

On a lighter note, there is still time to get your nominations in for the 2017 National HR Awards.

This year, we’re celebrating the winners with a gala cocktail reception on Oct. 24 in downtown Toronto. The deadline to get your nomination in is Sept. 8.

For more information visit, and give your HR department the recognition it deserves.

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