A Minneapolis restaurant has fired two employees who appeared in photos wearing Nazi apparel and displaying white supremacy paraphernalia, an announcement on the restaurant’s Facebook page said.
The Uptown Diner released the two employees after it became aware of the photos, which were making the rounds Tuesday on Facebook.
The restaurant said the photos were severely troubling, especially in light of events last weekend in Charlottesville, Va., where a woman protesting against white supremacy was killed.
“The Uptown Diner unequivocally repudiates the beliefs and ideals of neo-Nazis and white supremacy,” the eatery at 2548 Hennepin Av. S. said in its post. “Hate and bigotry have no place in society. We are committed to fostering an inclusive, welcoming environment at our restaurant and in our community.”
One photo shows a group of five people wearing Nazi uniforms posing in front of a mirror; two of them worked at the diner. Other photos showed the workers holding up a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, which some have co-opted for the white supremacy movement.
“These Nazi tots worked at the Uptown Diner in Uptown in Minneapolis,” Deborah Powell-Porrazzo wrote on Facebook. “They don’t anymore thanks to pictures of them in the Nazi camouflage. I am so grateful to social media for bringing it to the owners’ attention. There is no place for such filth in Minneapolis.”
Some commenters on the restaurant’s Facebook page and their personal pages said the people in the photos were simply historical re-enactors.
Regardless of whether the photos were historical re-enactments, the two have little or no recourse to challenge their termination, two employment and labor law attorneys said Wednesday.
“Minnesota is generally an at-will employment state, which means employees can be terminated for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason at all, just so long as it’s not an illegal reason,” said Joni Thome, an attorney with Baillon, Thome, Jozwiak and Wanta in Minneapolis.
Political affiliations and views are not a protected class. The terminated employees could try to claim religious discrimination, but that would be difficult at best, Thome said.
Attorney Marshall Tanick said the terminated employees also may not be eligible for unemployment compensation.
If an employer claims the firing was due to misconduct — which can include offensive or disruptive postings on social media — the employee cannot collect unemployment.
An employer can refuse to hire someone based on their Facebook or other social media postings, Tanick said. Recruiters often tell young people to scour their social media accounts and scrub any controversial material.
Originally, the diner said the status of the employees was under review. But after the backlash on social media, the restaurant around 7:30 p.m. said, “These individuals are no longer employed at the Uptown Diner.”
The posting said the 27-year-old diner is reviewing its policies to “continue to improve how we can best honor our values as an inclusive and diverse part of the community.”